A Question of Character: Psychology and Performance
Shakespeare tells us that, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances”, and in their time play “many parts." But if all of us are merely players upon a stage, what roles—what characters—do we choose to play? What personas do we adopt as we reveal aspects of self and encounter the world around us?
This program will examine human character through the interdisciplinary perspective of psychology and the performing and visual arts. Our learning activities will include critical reading and writing, seminars and workshops, lectures, creative projects, and field trips to performances. In the process, we will explore the creation, maintenance, and change regarding all aspects of self, ranging from the dark features of humanity to character strengths that can lift, inspire and overcome. While this is not an acting class, we will study diverse expressions of “character” drawn from plays, films and actors’ portrayals, among other sources. We will learn how psychology has become a tool for analyzing and portraying character based on representations from real life, examined in relation to our individual acceptance of the “roles of a lifetime.” We will consider the influences that move us to mindlessly follow group norms, and practices that may allow us to fully engage in thoughtful development of personal values. Our study of psychology will draw on social science from personality, developmental, and social psychology and include readings from Baumeister, Haidt and Peterson. In addition, we will screen films, read plays (ranging from Shakespeare to Tony Kushner), poetry, and literature to determine how character has been imagined through history and in countless incarnations.
Course Reference Numbers
$30 for admission fees