Queen's University

Sex and Violence in Performance [MUTH 201]

This winter, The Dan School of Drama and Music presents an exclusively online course in music/theatre: Sex & Violence in Performance, taught by Craig Walker. 

Sample Lecture: Course Introduction


This course is structured around a series of case studies of particular moments in the history of the representation of sex and violence in dramatic and musical performances.  While these themes have been often regarded as taboo, the history of performance shows that we have never been able to resist these themes for long.  Indeed, considering and exploring dangerous ideas through the medium of performance is one of the most valuable contributions music and drama can make to civilization. 

Twelve modules covering drama and comedy, musicals, opera, ballet and popular music, drawn from across the centuries, 405 BCE to 2017:

1. Objections to Sex and Violence

   Playwrights Caryl Churchill and Sarah Kane; philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

2. The Dionysian and the Apollonian

  • Euripides, The Bacchae; Nietzsche and Camille Paglia

3. Orientalism, Sex and Violence

  • Pussycat Dolls; Walker & Burge, One Last Night with Mata Hari

4. Medieval and Renaissance Sublimation

  • Northrop Frye; Hrotsvitha; and William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

5. Restoration Licentiousness

  • William Wycherly, The Country Wife

6. Dangerous Desire

  • Georges Bizet, Carmen

7. Modernism and Atavism

  • Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring

8. Provoking Tyranny

  • Shostakovich, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk; Pussy Riot; Petr Pavlensky.

9. Conformity and Subversion

  • Kander & Ebb/Fosse, Cabaret

10. Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll

  • From Joni Mitchell and the Woodstock Festival to the Rolling Stones at Altamont

11. Pushing Social Change

  • Michael Jackson, NWA, Eminem & Dr Dre, Tori Amos, Nicki Minaj, Hozier, Bob Dylan, Amanda Palmer and Questlove, etc.

12. Contemporary Sexual Mores

  • Hannah Moscovitch, Bunny; and the sex lives of “Millennials.”

Warning: Given the subject matter of this course, which deals with the deliberate confrontation and controversial treatment of taboo subjects, we need to offer one very comprehensive "TRIGGER WARNING": sexual activities, violence and, occasionally, sexualized violence will all be represented both visually and textually, and they will be discussed extensively in this course. Students who have any apprehension that they will find certain kinds of treatment of any given subject pertaining to sex and/or violence personally traumatic are advised not to attempt the course.

Please note: MUTH courses can also count as Drama or STSC MUSC/ART option