American Drama: The Bastard Art by Susan Harris Smith

By Susan Harris Smith

During this ebook, Susan Harris Smith appears to be like on the many frequently conflicting cultural and educational purposes for the overlook and dismissal of yank drama as a valid literary shape. masking quite a lot of themes corresponding to theatrical functionality, the increase of nationalist feeling, the production of educational disciplines, and the improvement of sociology, Smith's learn is a contentious and revisionist ancient inquiry into the stricken cultural and canonical prestige of yank drama, either as a literary style and as a replicate of yank society.

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Additional info for American Drama: The Bastard Art

Sample text

One might argue that the tradition of skepticism about drama, dating back to colonial America, suggests that the well-documented Puritan distaste for theatre and drama continues to hold strong sway over the general populace as well as academic institutions. But because Puritan strictures applied to other literary forms as well, this explanation does not adequately explain the drama's predicament. One could also look to the biases of early American critics who were instrumental in laying down patterns of taste in prominent journals and papers.

Of the others writing during the preceding fifteen years, Wilson says that "they forget critical standards in their devotion to the great common cause - the cause of an American national literature in independence of English literature, and of the contemporary American mind as against the mind of the last generation" (158-59). Homer Woodbridge, who in 1938 included O'Neill in the canon with trepidation, warned that "this is not as high praise as it sounds; for drama has always been the weak spot in American literature.

Even Montrose Moses's contribution to the Cambridge History of American Literature (1918) wrote off the drama as tainted by journalism in the 1880s and by melodrama in the 1900s, and as a consequence either academic and aloof or commercial and popular. Its greatest fault was that it had "no philosophical body of ideas" (294). Even American critics who devoted themselves to the drama tended to focus on LITERARY HISTORY 35 foreign playwrights. Percy Boynton documented the gradual shift in 1931: "In 1905 Hunecker's Iconoclasts dealt with Norwegian, French, German, Russian, Italian, Belgian and English dramatists, and Hale's Dramatists of To-day was of the same complexion.

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