In Defense of American Drama
Keywords:American drama, the canon, universality, human condition
AbstractA colleague of mine claimed that he read somewhere that a former secretary of the Swedish Institute, which awards the Nobel prizes— commented that American writers were less likely to win the award since their work was isolated and not representative of universal experience. But Eugene O’Neil and other American playwrights were named Nobel Laureates. Thus, I write this article in defense of the universality of American drama. Beginning with a discussion of what might be regarded as defining elements of universality as it has been rendered in literature, and more specifically how it operates to make drama relevant and significant for world literature, I examine the work of prominent American playwrights as Arthur Miller, O’Neil, Tennessee Williams, Susan Glaspell, and Edward Albee. I argue that their work establishes a precedent for American drama as a particularly representative expression of aspects of a universal human condition. I relate their work to universal contexts. I shed light on the historical background of some of the plays discussed to argue that American writers are no less talented than other international playwrights who dramatized some historical precedents in their work and their plays present no less universal aspects.
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