The second one is a riskier proposition: Sarah Kane's Blasted was famously reviewed by British drama critic Jack Tinker as a "disgusting feast of filth," (many reviewers have since recanted their initial negative reviews after Kane's death, after the positive enduring reception of her work, and after the revival of her small body of work) and is not only sexually brutal but also graphically violent.
I do have a point, and a major one, to make with these two plays, since the whole theme of the course is to think about the social function of the genre of drama, particularly as it contrasts with fiction and film. The liveness of explicit material, treated humorously or gruesomely as the case may be, exemplifies the mindsets of two major thinkers of 20th century theatre, Brecht and Artaud, both of whom were deeply concerned with theatre's ability to change minds. And remember, the title of this space is "To Delight and To Instruct." That very tension will run through the course.
But. BRU's average student is hardly cosmopolitan (though it certainly has some sophisticated students). This is an undergrad course, with slightly fewer than half of the students as majors. This is not a population just waiting to read texts like this. I don't want to move the plays from the syllabus, but I want to give them fair warning.
After a conversation with a close friend who is a magnificent teacher, I polished up a statement I want to include on my syllabus:
The goal here is to let people know that I'm not teaching these texts blithely, that I am not trying to trick them into reading something they object to terribly, but also that I do want to introduce them to new viewpoints, and Kane's, though brutal, is also important. I do not want to set up the "I'd like an alternate text to read" scenario, though, which strikes me as intellectually cowardly.
For a few of the works later in the semester, notably Sarah Kane’s Blasted, and Caryl Churchill’s Cloud 9, you will encounter some images that you may find shocking or even disturbing. Both plays contain some taboo sexuality (although they treat it differently), and Blasted in particular contains some very graphic violence. As you approach these texts, I ask that you do your best to first try them out with an open mind. The point of including them on the syllabus is in part to explore how such material functions on the page vs. on the stage, and we’ll need to work toward having as open a conversation about these pieces as possible.
I know that there are those of you out there who teach explicit material to a variety of populations (cough), and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter.