The Country Wife?

Our last discussion in Theater History was taking up the role of the thematics of theatricality in The Country Wife; I wanted to organize our thinking on the theatricality of court culture, the generic features and cultural significance of comedy during the period, and the purpose served by “the playhouse” in Wycherley’s drama. I started with a clip from The Last King, a tool to get a discussion going about court theatricals and innovations in the stage that derived from masque culture, and then I wanted to show another clip from the same film–a contrasting clip that shows Nell Gwyn on the public stage, in a comic performance. I had planned to spend most of the time after that highlighting and discussing the metatheatricality of The Country Wife, reading the play as a partial document of theatrical culture in the Restoration. Sadly, the computer kept hanging! So, I wasn’t able to show the clip that connected the three parts of the lesson plan, and that made me feel very discombobulated. Added to which, folks seemed a little less than invested in commenting on the features of the court masque and what that suggested about Restoration culture. Well, live and learn–I’m working on a collection of video clips that can be streamed over the web or drawn from a data disc, which should help avoid these problems in the future. And yet…

I am also not quite satisfied with the daily summary assignments; I feel they’re incredibly useful, especially in a world where summary skills and accurate observation are being waylaid by opinion and gut response. However, I am beginning to suspect that the class doesn’t quite approach the summary assignments in a fully effective way–making them not useful as study guides, for one. The level of completeness and accuracy I would like to see just isn’t consistently there, and so students don’t seem to be getting much out of the exercise. I’m considering having summaries of each play for the remainder of the term, rather than summaries of each reading assignment as it comes. Perhaps the holistic summary will be more useful for students.

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