4 Credit Hours
This course will explore the many facets of performativity, exhibition, and exploitation in the circus through a series of texts told from multiple perspectives: ringmasters, sideshow acts, animal tamers, and acrobats. Moving back and forth in time, we'll examine Roman circuses and expectations of entertainment in ancient civilizations as well as Victorian circuses, with an emphasis on female acrobats; we'll also possibly feature Sleary's Circus from Charles Dickens's HARD TIMES. Also included will be an examination of Toulouse-Lautrec's depictions of the circuses of Molier and Fernando and the Nouveau Cirque, as well as excerpts from P.T. Barnum's extraordinary autobiography, THE ART OF GETTING MONEY, OR HINTS AND HELPS TO MAKE A FORTUNE. Contemporary carnivals will be studied using the collection, STEP RIGHT UP: STORIES OF CARNIVALS, SIDESHOWS, AND THE CIRCUS, which features works by Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, Angela Carter, Flannery O'Connor, and Franz Kafka. Other possible texts that may be used include Katherine Dunn's GEEK LOVE, Cathy Day's THE CIRCUS IN WINTER, Sara Gruen's WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, and Erin Morgenstern's THE NIGHT CIRCUS. The writing load for this course is a minimum of 15 pages of formal revised writing. Prerequisite: ENGL 121.