Playwriting as Civic Inquiry – The Supreme Court and the Corporate Person (DRA4408.01)

Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig

Over the past two centuries U.S. business corporations have gained civil rights originally intended for flesh-and-blood people. In this course we will work as a team of artist-investigators to (1) understand how this happened; (2) what some of the downstream consequences have been; (3) review ways artists and activists have tried to intervene with this development through storytelling or civic action; and (3) design new interventions grounded in scripted or applied theatre.

Alongside our central text, Adam Winkler’s, “We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights,” we will wrestle with the texts of Supreme Court decisions that gave corporations some of the same rights as living people. We will also view documentaries on the development of the business corporation and corporate propaganda (Manufacturing Consent, The Corporation & The New Corporation) and explore ways environmental activists are trying to use corporate personhood arguments to establish Rights of Nature.

All but three class sessions will be delivered remotely over zoom. The three in-person sessions will be spread throughout the semester.


Learning Outcomes:
Students will engage in a Research-to-Design Intervention mode of artistic inquiry that will illuminate a mode of working that they can bring to future research-based creative projects. They will have crafted short theatrical adaptations of Supreme Court decisions, dissenting opinions and oral arguments. They will also develop pathways into story design that are grounded in a clear articulation of the intended intervention, awareness of who their audience is, and the storytelling forms that might be useful for capturing and maintaining their attention.



Delivery Method: Remotely accessible
Prerequisites: Pre-Requisites: Permission of Instructor. Submit a short statement of interest along with two 5-10 page writing samples—one critical writing, one creative writing in any genre—by Thursday November 11 to francescowhig@bennington.edu. As part of your statement of interest, please provide your answers to the following questions: (1) Why do you want to take this class? (2) What skills, areas of knowledge and other relevant experiences would you bring to this learning community? Visual Artists engaged in narrative and representative work are welcome, and may submit 5-10 images of their work in lieu of the creative writing sample, but must still submit a critical writing sample. The instructor will notify all applicants of their accepted or wait-listed status by Tuesday November 16.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
W 8:30AM - 12:10PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: Remotely Accessible , All courses , Drama , Advancement of Public Action
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