Fall 2018

PLUS280

Williams and Miller: Masters of American Theatre (55+)

During the 1940s, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller set Broadway on fire with their Pulitzer Prize–winning work. Through their portrayals of the lives of struggling families, audiences saw the illusion of the American Dream in stark contrast with reality, and realized there is a darker side to its glittering promise.

We will begin by reading together, in class, a one-act play by each playwright to get a taste of each author’s style and to explore his main themes. Then we will delve into the prize-winning play by each master—A Streetcar Named Desire in the case of Williams, Death of a Salesman in the case of Miller—and explore the worlds they create.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Sarah Ferguson $115.00 42 -

What will I learn?

Week 1: Introduction to Williams

We will begin our explorations with a brief introduction to Tennessee Williams’s life, to gain an understanding of how the playwright’s experiences shaped his work. Then we will read one of his short one-act plays together and discuss his style and themes.

Week 2: A Streetcar Named Desire

We will start to explore Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire. We look at the play’s structure and meet its iconic characters. What does the world Williams creates say about America in 1948?

Week 3: Deeper into Streetcar

Having made an initial exploration, we will delve deeper into the work. Together we will talk about the major themes of the play and explore how they have been staged. How have society’s evolving perspectives on gender roles and expectations impacted our reception of the play?

Week 4: Introduction to Miller

After our exploration of Williams’s work, we will move on to Arthur Miller. Again, we share a brief introduction to Miller’s life and how it is reflected in his plays. Then we will read one of Miller’s one-act plays together to discover his voice and to compare and contrast it with Williams’s.

Week 5: Death of a Salesman

Miller’s play is an American gem and, as with Streetcar, we will spend this week looking at the play’s structure and characters, and the world Miller has created. We will also discuss the similarities and differences between Miller’s and Williams’s perspectives of America and what they are trying to say about it in their work.

Week 6: Deeper into Salesman

This week we will look more deeply into Salesman and discuss its main themes. What does Miller hope to achieve through his work? Is his perspective still valid today? We will also continue to compare it to Streetcar as of way of getting deeper into both plays and situate them within America theatre today.

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

There is required reading for this course.

  • Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
  • Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

These books will be available from the SFU Bookstore or at your local or online bookstore.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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