English 253 (3269): Opera as Literature, Spring 2017. Humanities 105. Mon. 6: 50 – 10: 00 p m

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ENGLISH 253 (3269): Opera as Literature, Spring 2017. Humanities 105.

Mon. 6:50 – 10:00 p.m. William Wallis, Ph.D. Office H121E, Telephone (818) 947-2343,

Cell (323) 573-1946, walliswg@lavc.edu. Office Hours: MTW 1-3 p.m. and by appointment.

Course Description: English 253 is a course designed to introduce the student to the elements of opera, a complex multi-disciplinary melding of poetry, drama, music, and visual art. Further, opera generally draws on literary sources that serve as its inspiration and aesthetic underpinning. An understanding of these sources gives the student a firm basis for understanding this complex art form.
Course Objectives: Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

1. To read and analyze the source of four operas; e.g. Prosper Merimee’s novella Carmen.

2. To analyze and understand the poetic text (libretto) derived from the source material.

3. To study the relationship between the source and the libretto in terms of character and theme.

4. To distinguish the literary elements of imagery, character, meaning, and scene.

5. To identify and describe the dramatic elements of character, plot, theme, and setting.

6. To recognize and demonstrate the use of the musical elements of melody, rhythm, and harmony and their role in mood, characterization, and dramatic meaning.

7. To assess and appraise the importance of visual art in the setting and scene of music drama.

8. Analyze operatic arias and scenes in four operas in two essays -- one interpretive, one analytic -- and corresponding in-class presentations of the content of those essays.

9. Demonstrate an understanding of this eclectic, multidisciplinary art form in terms of the balance of its literary, dramatic, musical, and visual elements.

Student Learning Outcomes: As a result of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Write focused, coherently organized, well-developed texts, appropriate to the transfer level, that effectively integrate, synthesize, and document sources.

  2. Demonstrate critical reading, thinking, and research skills through analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of important ideas encompassing multiple points of view.

  3. Analyze examples of this complex art form in terms of their constituent disciplines: literature, drama, music, and visual art.

Texts: A Dream of Love Fulfilled: An Introduction of Lyric Opera (Wallis). Poetics (Aristotle). A Selection of Texts: La Boheme, Carmen, La Traviata, and The Rake’s Progress. Copies of each book are available in the LAVC Bookstore and are on reserve in the library. If you do not have access to texts, see me.
The Approach of this course is as follows: (1) Read the text, usually an act per week, of the opera’s libretto, (2) Listen to the musical setting of that text, text or score in hand, and only then (3) Watch a visual recording of a staged performance or a film of the opera. We will attend two operatic performances at the L.A. Opera.

Requirements: Students will read, listen to, and write all assignments, attend class regularly and punctually, and observe classroom etiquette when class is in session. The product of the course is the student’s Portfolio, which includes all literary, compositional, musical, or visual work produced for the course. The portfolio will consist of two essays and a journal with two components: (1) class notes, and (2) weekly entry on out-of-class reading and listening assignments. The student will turn in his/her Portfolio on Monday, May 22, 2017. Portfolios will be returned when the final exam is given on Wednesday, May 31, 7-9pm. Honors Students are to study an additional work—choice should be cleared with instructor—and write a critical essay on it.

Grades: Grades will be determined by both form and content of the writing assignments, evidence in the portfolio of cognitive participation and reading comprehension, by class participation, and the final in-class presentation. The in-class presentation of the dramatic, musical, and visual content of an operatic scene will be the climax of the course: each student should present their vision of what opera is for them. Plagiarism—the use of others’ words or ideas in your work without acknowledgment—will not be tolerated and will affect the student’s grade negatively.
Financial Aid: Financial Aid is available. Call (818) 947-2412. Go to Financial Aid in the new Student Services Center, first floor. For more info: http://www.lavc.edu/financialaid/index.htmlindex.html.
Statement of Access: If you are a student with a disability requiring classroom accommodations, contact SSD in the Student Services Annex, Room 175, or call (818) 947-2681 or (818) 947-2680 to meet with a counselor. If SSD has notified the instructor, please meet with the instructor to confirm arrangements. Email: ssd@lavc.edu. If SSD has already sent the memo to instructor confirming accommodations required by the student for this class, please meet with him to discuss arrangements. This syllabus can be made available in alternate format upon request.
Investigate Student Health Services, either physical or psychological. The Student Health Center is located in the Student Union Building adjacent to the cafeteria. The office is open M-TH 8am-6pm. Call (818)778-5708. There are walk-in appointments. See also Student Psychological Services at http://www.lavc.edu/studenthealth/psychological-services.aspx. Each student is eligible for up to 12 visits per semester at no cost. If you are experiencing emotional difficulties or stress and Psychological Services is not available, contact the Mental Health Information Line, a 240hour hotline and crisis intervention service at (800) 854-7771.
Support for AB540 Students: To determine if you meet the AB540 requirements and are eligible for financial aid, visit http://www.lavc.edu/financialaid/dream-act.aspx and contact the LAVC Admissions and Records Office at (818) 947-2412 or email the office at financialaid@lavc.edu. (Provide your student ID# with your email message.) Single parents receiving cash aid may qualify for CARE. Please Visit the EOPS Office in the Student Services Center or contact Barbara Schneider at (818) 947-2483 or schneib@lavc.edu. First generation college students may be eligible for TRiO SSS. Visit the EOPS Office in the Student Services Center or call (818) 947-2432. Students receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) should contact the CalWORKS Program in Bungalow 14 or call (818) 947-2976. This program assists students in successfully transitioning to academic life by providing assistance with career counseling, childcare, tutoring, work-study internships, job placement workshops, mentoring, and other resources.
This is an open-mindset class and a LGTBQ-friendly class. The teacher of this class is CORA-educated. Students should at all times adapt a tone that is respectful of others’ racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds; religious and political beliefs; sexual orientation; and gender. LAVC will not tolerate verbal or written abuse.
Veterans: Thank you for your service. See me if you need help with anything. There is an active Veteran’s Program at LAVC, which I co-sponsor. Visit the Veteran’s Resource Center on the first floor of the Student Services Center or call (818) 778-5627.

1. Feb. 6: Introduction to Opera as Literature: La Bohème: Act 1 duet. The Elements of Opera.

2. Feb. 13: Puccini’s La Boheme, Act 1. Look through the Poetics. Dream of Love Fulfilled (DLF): pp. 1-40 “The Sources and Elements of Opera.”

3. Feb. 20: La Boheme, Act 2: handouts. DLF: 41-50

4. Mar. 27: La Boheme. Act 3, DLF: 51-58.

5. Mar. 6: La Boheme, Act 4, DLF: 59-74.

6. Mar. 13: Bizet’s Carmen, Act 1, DLF: 75-86.

7. Mar. 20: Carmen, Act 2, DLF: 87-93.

8. Mar. 27: Carmen, Act 3, DLF: 94-98.

9. Apr. 3: Spring Vacation. Have a wonderful time in Baja. Maybe take “your” aria with you.

10. Apr. 10: Carmen, Act 4, DLF: 99-110.

11. Apr. 17: Verdi’s La Traviata, Act 1, DLF: 111-116. Aria analysis due.

12. Apr. 24: La Traviata, Act 2, DLF: 117-129.

13. May 1: La Traviata, Acts 3 and 4, DLF: 130-146.

14. May 8: Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, Act 1, DLF: 147-155.

15. May 15: The Rake’s Progress, Act 2, DLF: 156-186.

16. May 22: Portfolios due. The Rake’s Progress, Acts 3 and 4. (Begin Scene Analysis Presentations?)
Final Exam: Monday, May 29, 7-9pm. Portfolios returned. Scene Analysis Presentations

1. Talk to people about opera, literature and critical thinking; apply what you learn to everyday matters in your life.

2. Be on time to class; don’t leave early. Stay the course. See me about difficulties with work and family. Be discreet, but share when it gets to be too much.

3. Look for recurring themes—in operatic literature and in life. They form patterns and paradigms. Consider adapting each of our operas to your own cinematic or television treatment.

4. Bring all your textbooks to class every day. Ask questions. Kick ass with your intelligence.

5. For information on Plagiarism, go to www.lavc.edu/WCweb/Plagiarism.html. Just don’t cheat.

6. If you have to drop the class, be sure to drop the class in Academic Affairs. But stay the course if you can. Talk to me: we can probably work something out.

7. Homework: Read the assigned readings before coming to class. If there are passages or ideas of especial interest to you, bring them up for discussion in class. You may lead the discussion.

8. Methodology: This course stresses reading, listening, and visualization—in that order.

9. Listen and re-listen as often as you can. Great operas grow richer with each listening.
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