AMERICAN DRAMA. E.O’NEILL, A.MILLER



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AMERICAN DRAMA. E.O’NEILL, A.MILLER



American drama imitated English & European theater until well into the 20th century. Often, plays from England or translated from European l-ges dominated theater seasons. An inadequate copyright law that failed to protect & promote American dramatists worked against genuinely original drama. So did the "star system," in which actors & actresses, rather than the actual plays, were given most acclaim. Americans flocked to see European actors who toured theaters in the US. In addition, imported drama, like imported wine, enjoyed higher status than indigenous productions. During the 19th century, melodramas with exemplary democratic figures & clear contrasts b/n good & evil had been popular. Plays about social problems such as slavery also drew large audiences. Not until the 20th century would serious plays attempt aesthetic innovation. Popular culture showed vital developments, however, especially in vaudeville (popular variety theater involving skits, clowning, music, and the like). Minstrel shows, based on African-American music and folkways – performed by white characters using "blackface" makeup – also developed original forms & expressions.

The American "Big theatre" of the 19th century was focused on entertainment & melodrama. The little Theatre movement started at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a revolt against big theatres whose main interest was making money. Among the most important of them was a regular theatrical group the Provincetown players because it was connected withEugene O'Neill (1888-1953) – was a Nobel-prize winning American playwright (1936). O'Neill made American drama a form of literature, introducing deep psychological treatment of human characters & also new type of characters, themes & styles to the stage. His father was an actor playing practically one melodramatic role all his life. O'Neill despised such type of commercial theatre the success of which mostly depended upon spectacular effects, large casts & melodramatic plots. He turned away from his family & became a sailor for a couple of years. His first play is "Bound East for Cardiff" (1916). The mood of his plays is dark and heavy. Fate is shown as one of the forces governing our life. By the end of the 1920s he got interested in Freud's psychoanalysis & became one of the first playwrights to study the struggle inside a character's mind b/n conscious & unconscious needs. He also takes the stream-of-consciousness technique from the novel & adapts it to drama. Techniques drawn from Greek tragedy & psychoanalysis characterize his trilogy "Mourning Becomes Electra" (1931) & "Strange Interlude" (1928). His last plays become increasingly autobiographical. “Long Day’s Journey into Night” (1956) is one of his best plays. It is about spiritual & physical problems of a family which is obviously the author’s family. The action takes place in a single day. The mood is bitter & gloomy. Each member of the family is unhappy & guilty of making the rest of the family unhappy. His plays involve characters who inhabit the fringes of society, engaging in depraved behavior, where they struggle to maintain their hopes & aspirations but ultimately slide into disillusionment & despair.

The world of Arthur Miller (1915) is realistic & his plays are intellectual, created to prove an intellectual point. The problem of an individual's responsibility is raised: it is said that we all have to pay for our mistakes. Miller's plays show a deep faith & conviction that moral truth can be found in the human world. The play "Death of a salesman" (1949) proves that life is a failure because of the falseness of American dream, the dream of success. One of his wives was Marilyn Monro.

 

44. WOMEN WRITERS IN THE 2ND HALF OF THE 20TH CENT. S.PLATH, T.MORRISON, A.WALKER

Literature in the US was long evaluated on standards that often overlooked women's contributions. Before the 1960s, most women poets had adhered to an androgynous ideal, believing that gender made no difference in artistic excellence. This gender-blind position was, in effect, an early form of feminism that allowed women to argue for equal rights. By the late l960s, American women -- many active in the civil rights struggle & protests against the Vietnam conflict, or influenced by the counterculture -- had begun to recognize their own marginalization. Betty Friedan'soutspoken “The Feminine Mystique” (1963) decried women's low status. In the l970s, a second wave of feminist criticism emerged following the founding of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in l966. Elaine Showalter's “A Literature of Their Own” (1977) identified a major tradition of British and American women authors. Feminist critics of the second wave challenged the accepted canon of great works on the basis that aesthetic standards were not timeless & universal but rather arbitrary, culture bound, & patriarchal. Feminism became in the 1970s a driving force for equal rights, not only in literature but in the larger culture as well.

The feminist movement of the 1960s & 1970s gave creative energies to many women writers: poets such as Sylvia Plath, novelists such as Erica Jong & many others. As the women's movement gained more acceptance, women wrote less in protest & more in affirmation – particularly Black women such as Toni Morrison & Alice Walker. They portrayed strong black women as the preserves of values in black culture. In the 1970s other ethnic groups began to find their literary voice. Chinese-American Maxine Hong Kingston emotionally wrote about her Chinese ancestors.

^ ; A poetSylvia Plath (1932-1963) committed suicide because she badly needed support & understanding on the part of other people including her husband. But there was no one nearby to help her to cope with the difficulties of her existence. Plath belongs to the trend of "confessional poetry" in American literature. She may be compared to Emily Dickinson of the 20th century. She wrote about loneliness, pain, death, problems of being a woman who has to carry a load of multiple responsibilities in the world of patriarchy. Her only novel "The Bell Jar" (1963) is about a young mentally ill woman who chooses b/n life & death. In heroine chooses to live in the end.

Toni Morrison is one of the most significant figures among African-American writers. She has a long list of awards including Nobel Prize (1993). Her talent received worldwide acclaim as well as commercial success. She is a representative of the so-called "'magic realism" which means that her writing combines realistic & unrealistic features (reality is shown as if in a dream). "The Bluest Eye" (1970) is a dramatic story of an ugly black girl who is a crazy survivor of rape. The poor girl dreams of having blue eyes that symbolize beauty according to the traditional concept of female attractiveness. In Tar Baby” (1981) Morrison deals with black and white relations. "The novel "Beloved" (1987) is a wrenching story of a woman who murdered her own daughter so as to free her from slavery. The mysterious Beloved (the name of the girl) appears again after her death & returns to her mother. The novel uses elements of black folklore. All her works are politically charged & touch upon serious social issues. "Sula" (1973) describes the strong friendship of 2 women. Morrison paints African-American women as unique, fully individual characters rather than as stereotypes. In her accessible nonfiction book “Playing in the Dark”: “Whiteness & the Literary Imagination” (1992), Morrison discerns a defining current of racial consciousness in American literature.

Alice Walker (1944) African-American and the child of a sharecropper family in rural Georgia, graduated from Sarah Lawrence College, where one of her teachers was the politically committed female poet Muriel Rukeyser. Other influences on her work have been Flannery O'Connor and Zora Neale Hurston. She calls herself a "womanist" writer because she has long been associated with feminism, presenting black existence from the female perspective. Walker uses heightened, lyrical realism to center on the dreams & failures of accessible, credible people. Her work underscores the quest for dignity in human life. A fine stylist, particularly in her epistolary dialect novel The Color Purple, her work seeks to educate. Her best known novel "The Color purple'' (1982) is an epistolary work comprising letters of a black woman Celia addressed to her sister & God. The author shows how a common uneducated woman, abused by her father & unloving husband, manages to survive & become an independent personality full of strength & self-respect. It happens because of support offered to her by other women, because of women's friendship & solidarity. The theme of the support women give each other recalls Maya Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which celebrates the mother-daughter connection, and the work of white feminists such as Adrienne Rich. Although many critics find Walker's work too didactic or ideological, a large general readership appreciates her bold explorations of African-American womanhood. Her novels shed light on festering issues such as the harsh legacy of sharecropping (The Third Life of Grange Copeland, 1970) & female circumcision (Possessing the Secret Joy, 1992).

Both Alice Walker & Toni Morrison often portray black males in a critical light. F.e., they reveal such cases as the rape of children by their own fathers, the cruelty & violence displayed by black males.



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