Department of Theory and Criticism

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About the department

The Department of Theory and Criticism was founded in 1996 out of the need to create a platform for theoretical research on the dramatic arts right on the grounds of a university. The department offers Bachelors’ and Masters’ programmes of the field of theory and criticism at DAMU, and it is also the supervisor of doctoral studies in the field of theory and practice of theatrical creativity. The basic point of departure is examining dramatic and theatrical creation not as a result, but as a process. Instruction takes place in close union with creation, the concrete practical aspects of which the department’s students can also learn through their own creative experiments.

Field of theory and criticism (regular on-campus programme)

Bachelors’ studies:

Prerequisites and requirements: school leaving examination, interest in theatre and the arts in general, overview of current events in Czech theatre, knowledge of the basic theatrical technical literature, some reading experience with dramatic literature, literary ability, ability to understand an image, knowledge of one language.

Students are introduced to all components of theatrical creation: directing, dramaturgy, acting, stage design, production; they are introduced to the problems of puppet theatre and the problems specific to translating a dramatic text. During their studies they have the chance to view and even get involved in the creative process so as to learn and try out its dynamics, functioning and problems and to be able to reflect on in an appropriate, informed manner. The programme includes creative writing, during which they may master the principles of dramatic creativity, and the emphasis is on learning the important trends of the contemporary European dramatic and theatrical arts.

The mainstay of the Bachelors’ programme is the criticism seminar, in which students learn to perceive and reflect on specific theatrical works in various genres and learn about the development of Czech theatrical criticism and the principles of critical writing. Theory fostered at the department likewise views theatrical creativity as a process and tries to look at it “from within,” i.e. through its concrete and practical aspects that are later generalized. Theory and criticism are understood as a creative discipline that reflects on and respects creativity. The history of the theatre is examined in the context of subjects throughout the school and also in a selective form in several seminars. In the structure of instruction, however, it is a supporting discipline that is supposed to help students understand contexts in the development of theatre, the overlapping and mutual influence of theatrical cultures on the European continent, and last but not least, to learn to perceive the status of contemporary theatrical culture as the necessary and logical result of that development.

After students get a firm foundation and an overview of the functioning of theatre as a specific kind of art during the first and second years, in the third year they go through an internship, where they can verify their knowledge and apply it in practice. One internship takes place at the DISK school theatre during preparations of graduation productions of students at the Department of Dramatic Theatre or the Department of Alternative and Puppet Theatre, and the second internship is at one of the Prague theatres that the school collaborates with. The outcome of both internships is a detailed process of critical reflection focusing on all components and their interaction.

Masters’ studies

Prerequisites and requirements: a Bachelors’ degree in the field of theory and criticism, theatrical science or related humanities fields, a Masters’ project, some experience with practical theatrical creativity (dramaturgy, translating etc.), ability to think critically, and experience with publication is welcome (newspaper criticism, festival criticism, journalism etc.)

Masters’ studies go into theory of interpretation and theory of criticism; the continuing criticism seminar is no longer conceived as direct critical reflection of viewed productions, bur as encountering personalities from the area of journalism, cultural studies etc., leading to thinking of the theatre in broader contexts (artistic, societal etc.). Students can also delve into problems of translating a technical text and learning the principles, procedures and trends of theatrology research.

An important part of students’ study plans and also the creative output of the Masters’ programme is the conception and realization of a technical theatrical journal, reflecting on both artistic and pedagogical events at the school, and on contemporary creativity at theatres in (and elsewhere when possible). The journal is to express argued generative opinions and stances, and through essays it should also deal with broader questions going beyond the borders of the theatrical arts and involving more general problems of today’s culture and society.

Part of the instruction in the Masters’ cycle takes place in the form of  individual consultations leading to the preparation of a thesis; according to their thesis topics, students may choose elective courses from the broader offerings of the school and its affiliated faculties. As agreed they may take part in specialized internships or courses offered at schools with which the department collaborates. The department also supports the specific interests of each student by trying to allow consultation with external experts; in the last years of study, instruction is individualized to the maximum degree.

Providing of pedagogy and other possibilities during studies:

Instruction is provided by internal and external pedagogues – important Czech theorists, publishing theatrical critics, experienced dramaturges, directors and translators; the department also intensively collaborates with the faculty’s other departments (e.g. with the Department of Dramatic Theatre, the Department of Alternative and Puppet Theatre, the Department of Stage Design and the Department of Authorial Creativity and Pedagogy). Instruction is offered mainly in the form of seminars in small groups. Students are encouraged to express their own opinions and attitudes and to think for themselves. The standard course offerings are supplemented with foreign projects: the department arranges one-time workshops by foreign experts, and as part of the programmes Erasmus or Free Movers, students may go on study visits or working internships (e.g. to foreign theatres etc.). Students become a part of the schools’ artistic life, and selected interested students will be able to participate, for example, in the creation of websites (reviews of productions etc.), the holding of expert discussions on performances at the DISK theatre (DISK-USE) or in preparation of the Zlomvaz students festival.

Profile of the graduate:

The department trains creative experts able to reflect on current dramatic and performance arts in broader cultural and societal contexts. Graduates find careers both in professions directly connected with theatrical creation (including the forming of the conditions for its creation and operation – dramaturgy, production, methodology, animation of culture) and with critical reflection, in culture administration, in institutions of cultural policy, in the media, in journalism, on editorial staffs and in activities for agencies, in education etc.