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{ 249 } Book Reviews the actress, who abandoned formal education as a teenager, equipped to become a respected author—a tribute to her tenacity, and apparently to her self-­ study. The idea of actress-­ as-­ writer could certainly prompt another study of Morris and others. Grossman’s detailed descriptions coupled with her use of primary documents makes tangible the most ephemeral aspect of theatre history: performance . General Ameri­ can theatre history texts resort to categorizing, swarming with names and labels but little notion of how acting style might have mani­ fested onstage. This study of Clara Morris makes sense of the“Emotional School,”explaining and comparing Morris’s style with those of others, illustrated by specific examples from performance texts. A Spectacle of Suffering is a welcome addition to reading for graduate seminars in Ameri­ can theatre ­ history. While it has illustrations and extensive notes for each chapter, A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the Ameri­ can Stage does not include a bibliography. This omission may be owing to the press and not the author, but as a reader attempting to locate Morris’s works and specific reviews, and as an avid browser of bibliographies, I found using notes alone frustrating and time-­ consuming. I was disappointed about this single aspect of the book, especially as I plan to use it as an example for graduate students. Anne Fletcher — Southern Illinois University Carbondale \ \ Gothic Plays and Ameri­ can Society, 1794–1830. By M. Susan Anthony. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2007. 195 pp. 7 appendices. $39.95 paperback. Gothic Plays and Ameri­ can Society is the first full-­ length study of gothic dramas in early America. Although Susan Anthony uses her study to suggest ways that Ameri­ can playwrights and actors attempted to appropriate and thereby nationalize the genre, the implication that gothic drama was in any meaningful way “Ameri­ can” is itself more than a bit suspect. As her own research proves, there were only seven Ameri­ can playwrights producing gothic dramas during this period, and of those seven, only one or possibly two could be seen as writing new or original works. The other five were clearly recycling standard British gothic fare, such as William Dunlap’s Bluebeard (1801) or J. D. Turnbull’s The Wood Daemon (1808). Nevertheless, this is an interesting study that opens up a curiously neglected area of theatrical history in this country. For instance, { 250 } Book Reviews when Edgar Allan Poe published his only drama, Politian (1835), he could assume that his fellow citizens would have recognized it as a hybridized mix of the gothic, the melodramatic, and the sentimental. The discussions of gothic dramas in this book effectively explain the derivative and anxious theatrical climate of the early Ameri­ can republic. Written in a lively and jargon-­ free voice,Anthony’s study has both strengths and weaknesses, and I will address the former first. Using theatrical memoirs published in contemporary periodicals, and playbills and engravings housed in the Harvard Theatre Collection, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Historical Society, Anthony has assembled a good deal of original research on the four major theatrical centers of early Ameri­ can society: Philadelphia , New York, Charleston, and Boston. Her eleven chapters (six of which have been published in other venues) examine such topics as the construction of maleness and femaleness in the gothic, the evolution of the female “star” in gothic dramas, the use of stage spectacle, the adaptation of British plays for the Ameri­ can stage, and the largely negative critical reception of gothic dramas . Her seven appendices are useful, particularly the one that lists the gothic dramas as they were first performed in the United States (159). This appendix makes it clear that only seven Ameri­ can playwrights were producing gothic dramas in America at this time and that the majority of their works were clearly adaptations of British gothic fare (for example, British dramatist Miles Andrews ’s Mysteries of the Castle was adapted by Ameri­ can dramatist John Blake White). Anthony’s thesis, as she delineates in her preface, is that “Gothic plays reflected the ambivalence of Ameri­ cans. On the one hand, Gothic plays featured a villain who freely transgressed...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2166-9953
Print ISSN
0733-2033
Pages
pp. 249-251
Launched on MUSE
2012-07-11
Open Access
N
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