Henrik Ibsen (DRA4391.01)

Maya Cantu

“All around is stone/And all is soft inside.” –Aurora Aksnes

Described as the second most frequently produced playwright in the world after William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen continues to provoke, challenge and inspire contemporary audiences with the contradictions in his work. This course explores Ibsen’s immense influence and innovations as an architect of modern drama. The Norwegian playwright restlessly experimented with the theatrical genre while relentlessly pursuing themes of personal freedom. From early works such as Brand to his final play When We Dead Awaken, Ibsen’s plays urge the individual’s imperative toward moral autonomy and the challenging of repressive societal institutions: whether marriage, the church, or the corruption of a free press. As Ivo de Figueiredo observes, “Ibsen captured his own times with astonishing power,” even as his works, written between 1850 and 1899, have inspired a diverse array of twentieth and twenty-first century playwrights and adaptors, ranging from Owen Dodson and Charles Ludlam, to Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Amy Herzog, and Charles Busch. Setting Ibsen’s plays in contexts of nineteenth-century Romantic nationalism, the dawn of continental Realist and Naturalist movements, and the rise of the “New Woman,” this course will span Ibsen’s epic verse dramas (e.g. Peer Gynt); his social and feminist problem plays (e.g. A Doll’s House, Hedda Gabler, An Enemy of the People); and his theatrical explorations into subconscious drives (e.g. The Master Builder) in late works that influenced new movements of Symbolism and Expressionism, and paralleled the dream-plays of August Strindberg, Ibsen’s peer and rival in Sweden.


Learning Outcomes:
• Understand the dramatic development of Ibsen across multiple theatrical and literary movements and genres from the 1850s through the turn of the twentieth century.

• Understand the development of Ibsen’s plays in relationship to historical transformations in Norway, Scandinavia and continental Europe; and connect the plays to their nineteenth-century social, artistic, and political contexts.

• Engage with the work and ideas of Ibsen’s peers and influences across multiple disciplines, including the visual arts, literature, and Scandinavian folk culture.

• Understand Ibsen’s plays as works in translation and adaptation. Through studying an array of Ibsen adaptations, understand how modern and contemporary playwrights have re-contextualized Ibsen’s themes, stories and characters.

• Strengthen research, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills through a variety of class discussions and activities, reports, and essays.


Delivery Method: Fully in-person
Prerequisites: By permission of instructor. Please email mayacantu@bennington.edu with a statement of interest and an analytical writing sample by Monday, May 13.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
W 8:30AM - 12:10PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency: Every 2-3 years

Categories: 4000 , All courses , Drama , Four Credit , Fully In-Person
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