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post war feelings and attitudes of the American citizens include: sense of disillusionment

• and anxiety (Dos Passos’ and E. E. Cummings’s poetry, Faulkner’s novels)

1917 Russian revolution triggers an anti-communist hysteria (Red Scare), which lasts until the

• 50s. communism is perceived as a limitation to American freedom

1919 prohibitionism: Volstead Act forbids selling and transporting spirits

• 1919-21 salaries tend to increase, even if labour exploitation does.

• The Great Gatsby tomorrow we

Fitzgerald’s described the mentality of living for the day “for

• →

may die” even though they can have everything void in the soul

men and artists alike seek a sense and a place after such catastrophe and devastation

US “ “ 20 — age of jazz


gilded age 10 year period following the American Civil War

• period of apparent optimism: desire to change the world, excessive and frenetic desire of

• carpe diem

enjoying life, with a philosophy

cocktail parties, bootleggers (people who illegally sold alcohol), rise of Hollywood (Rodolfo

• Valentino), birth of the radio. years of easy profits in Wall Street and Big Business

lost generation — American intellectuals and artists who moved to Europe, where they thought

• there were fresher ideas. normally they moved either to London or Paris, back then considered

the capitals of new literary and artistic movements

US 30 S

24th October 1929 Black Monday, Wall Street Crash: beginning of a long crisis that will last up

• →

until the end of WW2 unemployment increases, Hoovervilles appear (villages for very poor

people who are made of huts and houses made of wood)

• →


hobos: young adolescents who start roaming around they can’t find a job and

don’t believe in institutions

Steinbeck, Dos Passos, Guthrie represent these realities and figures

1933 New Deal: president Roosevelt adopts special measures to absorb part of the unemployed

• citizens (social work programs to reduce the crisis)

1936-7 new crisis: unemployment increases, strikes and social disorders up to the US

• participation in WW2

US 40 S →

1941 US enters war war as a solution for the crisis. it partially works: industries can produce

• items for army →

sense of being under threat from outside Red Scare of communism, fascism, nazism

• Bellow and Dos Passos write novels that revolve around the anxiety of the time

1945 end of WW2

• struggle to come out of the new trauma. the reconstruction of the post-war gives new impulse

to US economy

US “ 50 ”


economic boom, improvement of the quality of life, particularly middle-class families

• called “tranquilized” even though lots of conflict remain underneath

• Intro to theater


theater: from greek word “performance”, a number of arts through which stories

• (dramas) could be represented

now theater’s representations are seen as only held in theaters, but in the past it wasn’t true: the

• mere fact of speaking is not necessarily theater. theatrical representations could also be made

from one person on stage who just moves around, mimes something, dances, sings, speaks.

the stage doesn’t need to be a real one for something to be considered “theater”, it needs

someone who performs and someone who watches


(1) — serious drama + aim: make people think about themselves/morality + tragic,


negative ending (hero dies)

protagonist (hero) copes with events/consequences of his own actions

Romeo and Juliet

ex. Shakespeare’s

(2) — light themes + aim: make people laugh + happy ending


way of escaping reality: weaknesses of characters are exposed in a way that make people

laugh laughter as a complicity between actors and audience

(3) — musical comedy + positive ending


action carried on by music, singing, dancing. becomes a trope in 20th century US.

(4) — representation of actions and characters without words. only gestural arts and


mimicry, meaning and communication conveyed without verbiage

(5) ’ — 18th century trope, Italian theatrical style: improvised + no real scripts,


only a rough draft (canovaccio, with guidelines). use of masks, singing, dancing, acrobatics

(Carlo Gozzi). inspired by everyday life episodes.




evidence of some sort of representation only verbal, some sort of initiation rites

— tragedy,

• comedy


6th century before Christ, a man called Tespi comes to Athen with a cart; in there he transports

some objects (scene objects, costumes, masks). at the time, theater meant actors who went

around from one city to the other and performed in front of the public born as a popular art

form. the origin of Western theater goes back to this time.

tragedy is considered the highest form of theater, with playwrights such as Aeschylus,

• Sophocles, Euripides: use of masks, chorus (a number of people who wore masks, that had

the function of giving the impression that the chorus was an impersonal entity they gave

people moral instruction, presenting the plot, making a preview of what was gonna happen

and commenting what was happening) + 3 unities (action, place, time: 1 main action + 1

location + action develops itself throughout 14 hours)

comedy is a lower form of theater Aristphanes’ and Menander’s interludes

paradigms of Greek theater are main points for all EU and US theater


continues Greek traditions with Seneca’s tragedies and Livius’ and Plautus’ comedies

after the fall of the roman empire, theater tends to disappear church doesn’t appreciate it, as

it makes mass seem like a theater (in the sense that people had to understand through words

and sermons what the preacher was saying and it gave people a lesson), a kind of sacred

representation that view theater as a rival. church also doesn’t approve of men and women

living together, something that actors needed to do as they travels actors are

excommunicated by church. only are performances exist and they are offered by the church

itself: they are usually played near them and are miracle, mystery and morality plays that narrate

episodes from the Bible or deal with particular virtues or sins.


golden century of theater: new theaters are built, classics rediscovered

Italy: Macchiavelli’s and Ariosto’s comedies, Tasso’s tragedies



golden age of British theater: from the anglican reformation to the closing of theaters in 1642

[closed by Puritans; after the closure: civil war], authors like Marlowe, Kyd, Johnson,




France: late renaissance — classic theater: 3 aristotelian unities respected. Corneille’s and

• commedia dell’arte

Racine’s tragedies, Molière’s inspired comedies

Spain: Lope de Vega, de la Barca



weak century for theater La Merope.

Italy: pre-Goldoni playwrights, inspired by Molière — memorable tragedy: Maffei’s

• with the advent of Goldoni comedies are restored, and with Metastasio so are melodramas.

England: Augustan age (George 1) — decline of theater. middle-class tragedies produced by

• Lillo and Steele. 1730 plays by Fielding.

• →

Beggar’s Opera ante-litteram

memorable production of Gay’s (1728), a musical US

musical are drawn to this production, a satire of Italian operas, is dissimilar from other plays

produced in the same century

1737 Licensing Act: every play has to pass through censorship before being staged. wide

• development of comedies of sentimentality, particularly with Goldsmith and Sheridan.

France — theoretical texts concerning theater with Diderot and revolutionary theater with

• Beaumarchais

(1st half 19th century)


romantic drama new conception of culture based on passion, proximity to nature, sublime +

things aren’t to be objectively described

Germany: Goethe, Schiller

• Carmagnola), da Rimini)

Italy: Manzoni (Adelchi, Pellico (Francesca

• England: Shelley, Keats, Byron

• (2nd half of the 19th century)


realism takes the place of great tragedies sticks to reality, recognizes that there is objectivity

in reality and that everyone has to acknowledge this objectivity: age of positivism, scientific era

England: middle-class dramas, Wilde’s parodies, Shaw’s theater

• France: Hugo, although still influenced by romanticism

• Italy: Verga and verism

• US theater

DAWN Ye Bare And Ye Cubb

1665 1st documented instance of theater in the US: William Darby’s (“the

• →

beat and the cub”) the representation ends badly when 3 actors are arrested

1716 1st professional theater founded in Williamsburg, later closed in 1723

• 1749 theatrical company founded in Philadelphia, then moved to NYC

• The Prince of Parthia,

1767 1st American tragedy: Thomas Godfrey’s following the Elizabethan’s


A (1776)


1787 1st important and successful US comedy: Royal Tyler’s

• to avoid censorship, he presented the comedy not merely as escapism, but as a moral lecture

• that could support a Puritan kind of morality. it was performed in both Boston and NYC.


Jonathan, the “ ” — becomes a in US theater typical American, doesn’t


have a wide culture, he’s right and smart, with practical knowledge and intelligence that allow

him to survive (American pragmatism). in the play, Jonathan is a servant but he knows how to

talk and behave. he manages to go to a theater but then describes it in a negative way, saying

what Puritans would say (devilish place), but in an ironic way


starts to have considerable relevance

• heavily influenced by EU theater, in particular with authors like Noah, Bird, Boker

• A W

emerges the


myth of the frontier

• “tall” tales — tales that contain exaggeration, usually told by miners when they found each

• other in the saloon. tend to tell episodes in an unrealistic way (~ Mark Twain)

prairies — contain ideas of vastness, territories, open-air life

• stage yankee

• James Nelson Barker

The Indian Princess, Pocahontas

1808 which inspired Disney’s

• Superstition,

1824 about witch hunts in England

William Dunlap

A Trip to Niagara, Or Travelers To America,

1828 thematizes conflict between EU-US.

• →

use of diorama stage scenery/support that looks like a poster at the back of the stage; it

is enlighten from behind so that it can show a landscape or the interior of a room (~ slide)

Anna Cora Mowatt


1845 an ironic comedy against excessive love of foreign things, typical of rich New

• →

Yorkers represents the excessive desire of New Yorkers to become similar to EU.

stage yankee: Adam Trueman


idea of change comes later in US than in EU. Fitch and Belasco, adapters and representatives of

melodramatic strain between the 2 centuries, adapt many EU plays and write their own original


David Belasco gives representation to 2 contrasting ideas of women:

Madame Butterfly,

1900 adapted from a short story and from which Puccini adapted another

• →

play — exotic, submissive and sensual woman transgression of Puritan standards

The Girl of the Golden West,

1905 also adapted from a short story and from which Puccini

• →

adapted another play — androgenic woman (~ men), ideal companion to the prairie man a

woman on the same level of man, she can ride a horse, make decisions →

expansion of urbanization and growing importance of the imaginary of the city immigration

• (people from the countryside come to the city for jobs), new cultures (people coming from other

states), technological innovations (industrialization), change in life rhythms (people coming from

rural background are accustomed to working with nature’s rhythms idea of variation and

changeability, different from people in the city, who work the same hours all day every day

idea of oppression) psychological and cultural consequences of the idea of the city

in this background were born modern performances with dichotomies:

• Our Town

city vs. small town — different dimensions, Wilder’s

• reality vs. imaginary dimension — reality as a negative dimension, playwrights and artists try

• →

to find and create a different reality through imagination importance of imagination in

Tennessee Williams and Mowatt

modernity vs. past

• 1- 2


4 main themes:

(1) Trifles:

— represented mainly by Susan Glaspell, creator of play masked as a


detective story where 3 women notice different details that makes them understand how a

man has killed and his motive. while their men talk more rhetorically but understand nothing,

the women stay in the kitchen and by observing details they solve the case.

type of play that has to do with small and internal spaces.

Glaspell brings together a number of playwrights during summer and creates a group of

Provincetown Players.

theater people, the

(2) — in particular Philip Barry’s. not quite as important at the time


(3) / — takes place on the streets or, if represented in a theater, the



setting is an external space. form of political (leftist) theater that deals with the problems of

real life close to working and poor people, as well as women. two main groups were

founded after this: Mercury Theater and Group Theater.

• Waiting for Lefty

Clifford Odet’s — group of workers who have organized a strike and are all

waiting together for a person who is politically their boss and should speak for them. they

Waiting For Godot

wait for Lefty in the same way the protagonist of Beckett’s waits for him

→ he’s not coming: he’s killed on the street. another man pretends to (be him) talk, but he’s


Elmer Rice, author against political autocracy: he believes that men from the lower classes

have to rebel, that everyone has to be the same, that we should keep ourselves free from all

influences all his work has something to do with freedom:

The Adding Machine — an accountant expired form his office and he is now redundant

• →

because there is a machine he’s treated like one

Street Scene — set in NY, lower middle-classes buildings where buildings that are close to

• one another create some kind of a village (“temnents”). killing out of jealousy, 2 children

remain without parents: the older one sacrifices his life to take care of his young brother.

coral theater: not performed by a limited number of actors but by a great one. gives

audience the idea of collectivity, in which Rice believes

(4) — few decor and stage objects they want the audience to focus their attention


not on the setting, but on the actors: their speeches are the focus of the play.

Thornton Wilder, mainly influenced by EU playwrights such as Pirandello

Our Town, set in a very small village and its cemetery, it displays 2 different dimensions: the

• real and the after-death one. Emily, citizen of the village, dies after giving birth to her child

and goes from the cemetery back to the village to tell them stories of other people

message: people tend to live without thinking and appreciating the moment, so Emily points

out that people complain and are focused solely on their problems when they should

instead concentrate on the good aspects of their lives, as life's short. she talks from an

after-life perspective, tells a lot of stories that are intermingled.

Lilian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour — story of a private school where children go to, kept by

• 2 women-teachers: when her grandma visits her, one of the children tells her that she saw

the 2 women having intimate attitudes with each other. her Puritan grandma is scandalized:

she goes to talk to them and legally sues them (at the time being accused of being lesbian

was a strong social mark): tragic ending as one of the women commits suicide. all social

measures are understated we don’t know for sure if the charge is real, the important thing

is to point out the bad behavior of accusing people out of moral roots.

Eugene O’Neill


1st American playwright

lived a long life: family problems in his first years, traveled as a sailor and got to know many


different people. his father, James O’Neill was an actor who became famous thanks to his

The Count of Montecristo

interpretation of he had the possibility of earning money regularly

and to support his family, so he renounced a richer artistic career and choose the surest option of

always being the count for all his life. theater was always a part of Eugene’s life, as he followed his

father behind the stage. →

Provincetown Players,

started it with the before moving on classical frame, even


though he didn’t complete his academic studies. he’s interested in how people act and react

they don’t follow their rationality, they tend to follow a deterministic destiny that is above them. in

his plays, sensual passion is represented as something you can’t escape, in a negative sense: it

always brings about negative consequences

influenced by Naturalism and Expressionism (Ibsen, Strindberg), Freud’s psychoanalysis,

• Schopenhauer’s philosophy


1922 — political play, set in a cruise where rich people are having holidays.


amongst them there is a woman who thinks she's a good person: she decides to go

underneath, where the [farmers/firemen?], people who put coal in the furnace in order to seep

the ship going, work this part of the ship has a very low roof, so these people have to bend

all they time. they also have long and muscular arms that make them look like apes. when the

rich woman sees them she’s so shocked she almost faints when she sees the protagonist


“hairy ape”, she urges the “filthy to stay away from her.

exposition of hate between lower and upper classes — upper class pretends to care for lower

class but actually doesn’t


1924 — fate, psychoanalytical play. an old man had married twice and


both younger wives had died, after being treated like slaves. both wives gave him a sons (2 from

the 1st one and 1 from the 2nd one) and his sons are now living in the 2nd wife’s barn the 3rd

son is the real heir of the farm, gives money to their elder brothers so they can leave while he

stays behind with his father. his father decides to marry yet again another younger woman but

she’s more attracted to the son than to her husband affair: a son is born, but the step-

mother/mistress kills him. they are slave of this passion: they know it will only bring about

tragedy but they can’t escape it. the 2 lovers meet in the upper-stage, below the roof, which is

described as being so low people have to bend symbol of oppression, fate is choosing for

them S I

1927 — long play. uses the stage device of dialogues between actors and


mixes it with long asides of stream of consciousness we hear what they say in dialogues, but

only in the asides we understand what they really mean and are unable to say because of social

rules: difference between who you are and who you need to be because of social rules (~


30s-40s goes back to classic themes:

• Mourning Becomes Electra

1931 — sense of faith

• Long Day’s Journey Into Night

1940 — performed only after his death

1936 Nobel Prize in Literature

40 — decline of American theater


theatrical dissemination before everything big happened in Broadway, now other cities such

• as San Francisco and Chicago start to become important

Williams and Miller work in this background — both their careers are shaped by he

• contradictions that are typical of this age: outside vs. inside, truth vs. reality.

influenced by radio dramas, with monologues influenced by psychoanalysis

• idea that truth becomes the atmosphere of memories — when characters give monologues

• they speak their own truth (relativization of truth), which often clashes with reality. reality is

something crude, that you don’t want but are forced to see.

less distance between stage and audience — interiority of the characters can be shared with

• →

the audience stage at the center of the theater with the audience around it

Thomas Lanier Williams, a.k.a. Tennesse Williams

(1911-1983, Mississippi)

born by a Puritan sexophobic mother and an absent, alcoholic father. his mother was sweet


but very protective. his father was violent, always out of town, he came home only on weekends.

he often called Thomas a “sissy”, as he preferred playing with his younger sister Rose to playing

with other kids his age. at age 5 he was diagnosed with diphtheria, an illness that left his legs

temporarily paralyzed and from which he risked to die. as an adolescent, his family moved to St.

Louis (Missouri): he and Rose can’t integrate with other children and live an isolated life. at 18 he

moves to college, where he becomes aware of his homosexuality: he can’t accept it perhaps

because of his Puritanism and tried to repress it for some time. he has a heart attack on the way

back from a cinema where he went with his sister. Rose was left traumatized by this experience

and had a hysterical crisis: she was hospitalized (she had already been hospitalized before as she

suffered from depression) in the psychiatric ward. during one of their mother’s visits to her, Rose

tells her an obscene episode regarding her school friends her Puritan mother is so shocked by

what Rose tells her that she convinces the doctor to lobotomize her. Rose will never recover from

the treatment. the whole episodes leaves a sense of guilt that will never abandon Tennessee: he

feels like his heart attack is the indirect fault of everything


1958 — autobiographical episodic book, a mixture of medical emergencies, adventures

with alcohol, drugs and sex. as a result of all the trauma he went through, he became an alcoholic

and a drug addict, as well as started to think people were conspiring against him this

happened particularly during his late career years, when critics wouldn’t give him positive reviews.

he died alone in a hotel room in February 1983 after a long period of depression, caused mainly

by the death of his lover Frank Merlo.


successful years — from 1944 to late 50s. after his creative vein starts to decline, along with his

• mental and physical health →

• style — basically a romantic writer, torn between reality and idealism he feels like what is true

isn’t defined by reality, so he tries to find a way out thanks to dreams and romanticism

influences — Rilke, Yates, Chekhov, Keats, Hart Crane; Fitzgerald, Elmer Rice

• conflicting relationship with critics and audience — he’s dependent on both because if critics

• write bad reviews no one will go see his plays

wrote a lot

• uncanny ability to write both women and men

• T G M


autobiographical play, deals with a low-work middle class family ~ to his own

set between reality and lyricism/dreams (typical contradiction of the 40).

1 act play, divided in 7 scenes. the script is preceded by a long characters’ description and

production notes →


• title references to a collection of class animals, a zoo made of animals that

belongs to Laura

leading theme — sense of guilt, expressed in various ways depending on the character

• →

The Front Porch / The Gentlemen Caller

• origins — traced back to a 1 act play, a woman,

sitting on her porch, waits for a gentleman caller (people who call in order to court women). the

protagonist of the play is Miriam Wingfiels and owns a glass menagerie, used to symbolize

human fragility the glass is as frail and as easily broken as she is [and as Laura/Rose is]

about the play — works on it for 6 months before it was performed in Chicago in 1944: at first it

• was a success only from the POV of critics, as the audience didn’t like it particularly. it can

nevertheless move to Broadway in 1945 1st satisfactory moment of Tennessee’s life: it

becomes a success for both critics and audience and Tennessee himself becomes famous and

rich. he devolves 50% of the rights of the play to his mother in spite of her oppressive and

controlling character, as he feels guilty because just like his father he too has abandoned her.

production notes — he describes the play as a memory play, with references to the plastic

• theater: there is no need for a realistic theater, only to talk about the interiority of people, about

their dreams, their desires to escape and their ambitions

use of different devices:

a modern slide with words to comment what is happening on scene

• music and lighting — important in particular during monologues, as they underline the mood

• of the moments of truth of the characters. recurring tunes underline the tragic element in the

play it calls us back from reality (life is sorrow) to imagination (vivacity of life) and vice-

versa, while creating the unity of the play. the most important tune and the one we hear the

Laura’s Theme.

most is lighting isn’t realistic as the stage is dim to recreate the mood of

memories in particular, lights are different on Laura, giving her the aura of a saint or a

victim. transparency

• emphasis on the word — past and present at once, the characters themselves

become transparent, they’re transparent walls, separating past and present “transparent”



main: Wingfield family, composed by 3 people + 1:

• →

• A W — mother; was abandoned by her husband she feels fragile and alone,


and becomes selfish, trying to control her son’s ambitions: she doesn’t want him to become a

poet because she needs him and she’s afraid of being abandoned by him too. omnipresent

figure of the mother that wants to control everything. she’s a paranoid, she is not living in the

present, she’s obsessed with the past: she keeps recalling how beautiful she was in the past

and how all men would give her compliments, how she was a perfect southern lady with a lot

of gentlemen callers.

ambivalent attitude regarding Laura — she’s affectionate and protective but also cruel, as

she’s afraid she’s always gonna have to provide for her and tries to sell her off as a wife to

prevent it.

her character is to be pieties but also ridicule what she does and how she does it


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+1 anno fa

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in lingue e letterature straniere
Università: Bologna - Unibo
A.A.: 2017-2018

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher ironlux di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura anglo-americana e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Bologna - Unibo o del prof Gardellini Giuliana.

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