American Drama: The Bastard Art by Susan Harris Smith

By Susan Harris Smith

During this publication, Susan Harris Smith appears on the many usually conflicting cultural and educational purposes for the forget and dismissal of yankee drama as a valid literary shape. masking quite a lot of issues akin to theatrical functionality, the increase of nationalist feeling, the construction of educational disciplines, and the advance of sociology, Smith's learn is a contentious and revisionist historic inquiry into the afflicted cultural and canonical prestige of yankee drama, either as a literary style and as a replicate of yank society.

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But by 1910 the drift was suggested in Eaton's At the New Theater and Others, about half of which was devoted to American themes" ("American" 484-85). Literary historians writing in the thirties, though still contemptuous of American drama, began to make an effort to document the causes for its second-rate status, a status most accepted without question. Charles Angoff, in his four-volume A Literary History of the American People (1931), points an accusatory finger at persistent Puritanism. He notes that Harvard, though it modeled itself after Cambridge and Oxford, did not follow their example in including playwriting in its curriculum.

Perelman, Dorothy Parker, and Woody Allen; and any number of newspaper journalists, such as Howard Bronson. It is also worth noting that Washington Irving (as Jonathan Oldstyle), Edgar Allan Poe, and Walt Whitman all wrote drama criticism for newspapers. Finally, no one should need to be reminded that Henry James, William Dean Howells, and T. S. Eliot contributed to dramatic theory and criticism. One tactic to resist the dominant idea that American drama is not literature would be to invoke verse drama and appreciative studies of it, such as Denis Donoghue's The Third Voice, but to do so would be to capitulate to the narrow, elitist assumptions about what constitutes "literature" and to make an exception for verse drama.

Four or five Europeans of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were both" (106). To be sure, Krutch shot his poisoned dart at American drama before the posthumous productions sparked a revival of interest in O'Neill, but nonetheless O'Neill's work had been much heralded when he was alive. And even the presence of O'Neill did not dispel the dominant strain of dismissiveness. More recently, Morris Freedman in American Drama in Social Context (1971) wrote off American drama as only a form of "public entertainment," offer- 28 GENERIC HEGEMONY ing as proof that "the Ziegfeld Follies were theatrical happenings virtually empty of literary content" (i).

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