Susan Glaspell's Poetics and Politics of Rebellion
Publication Year: 2017
Analyzing plays from the early Trifles (1916) through Springs Eternal (1943) and the undated, incomplete Wings, author Emeline Jouve illustrates the way that Glaspell’s dramas addressed issues of sexism, the impact of World War I on American values, and the relationship between individuals and their communities, among other concerns. Jouve argues that Glaspell turns the playhouse into a courthouse, putting the hypocrisy of American democracy on trial. In staging rebels fighting for their rights in fictional worlds that reflect her audience’s extradiegetic reality, she explores the strategies available to individuals to free themselves from oppression. Her works envisage a better future for both her fictive insurgents and her spectators, whom she encourages to consider which modes of revolt are appropriate and effective for improving the society they live in. The playwright defines social reform in terms of collaboration, which she views as an alternative to the dominant, alienating social and political structures. Not simply accusing but proposing solutions in her plays, she wrote dramas that enacted a positive revolt.
A must for students of Glaspell and her contemporaries, as well as scholars of American theatre and literature of the first half of the twentieth century.
Published by: University of Iowa Press
Series: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Epigraph
Susan Glaspell has been my “world” for the past several years. Although researching and writing may often be a very lonely business requiring that you cut yourself off from many things in order to concentrate exclusively on your subject, my world was peopled by gentle souls...
As the United States had now officially gotten involved in the combat against the Axis Powers, Glaspell resumed the Woolfian trope of the hunt to exhort American artists to get involved in the war effort and to “do [their] part in shaping a better world.” Glaspell stressed the performative...
Part I: Susan Glaspell’s Drama of Denunciation
Why indeed? Why did Susan Glaspell write books? As J. Ellen Gainor laments, Glaspell “gave few interviews” and “kept only the sketchiest of diaries” and thus left behind almost no testimony of her creative process (“Woman’s Honor” 70). “On the Subject of Writing,” an unpublished...
1. “A Jury of One’s Peers”: Unjust Justice
during her time at the Des Moines Daily News as reporter, Glaspell, in the words of journalist Edith D. Stiles, learned about “human nature and life in general.” This experience was decisive in the development of Glaspell’s career as a fiction writer. In a bibliographical essay dated from...
2. “The Angel in the House”: Patriarchy, Traditions, and Female Alienation
Through her writing, Susan Glaspell shows her allegiance to feminism by taking up the prison metaphor, which typified the rhetoric of suffrage campaigners and radical Villagers defending women’s emancipation in both the public and private spheres. When, in 1914, Marie Jenny...
3. “A Just War”: The Disintegration of American Values
According to the “just war theory”—notably inspired by Saint Augustine—certain reasons can justify a war. For Woodrow Wilson, the United States had the duty to fight against barbarism, and for that good reason their involvement into the conflict was both legitimate...
Part II: Susan Glaspell’s Drama of Resistance
In The Theatre of Revolt, Robert Brustein reminds his readers that, according to Albert Camus, “rebellion arises from the spectacle of the irrational coupled with an unjust and incomprehensible condition” (Brustein 8; Camus 16). Trapped in a society of the democratic spectacle...
4. The Idealist Rebels: Fighting in the Name of the Community
In his review of the first production of Inheritors, Ludwig Lewisohn,
the influential literary critic of the prestigious American periodical the
Nation, applauds Glaspell’s rendering of contemporary American life:
It is the first American play in which a strong intellect and a ripe artistic...
5. The Individualist Rebels: Standing Up on the Margins of the Community
The bohemian celebration of the individual had made of Greenwich Village the heartland of individualism at the beginning of the twentieth century. Individualism had, however, been a long-standing tradition in America, the first modern liberal state founded on the principles...
6. “The Madwoman in the Tower”: Rebelling against the Community
In his 1921 review of The Verge, Stephen Rathbun introduces Claire as a “heroine striv[ing] for the absolute freedom of the individual . . . , seek[ing] freedom for herself.” Claire’s frantic individualist search for independence from “conventions, family ties and all the other obligations...
Part III: Susan Glaspell’s Drama of Hope
In his afterword to The Theatre of Revolt, Brustein concludes:
Revolt is the energy which drives the modern theatre, just as faith drove the theatre of the past. Revolt, however, is not simply an energy but also a body of ideas, a system of values; and these have both their implicit and explicit...
7. Sharing and Bonding: Sisterhood
In her article “‘The Rules of the Institution’: Susan Glaspell and Sisterhood,” Caroline V. Fletcher notes that in “her life and art,” the playwright “depended on female duos as powerful and important vehicles for [emancipation]” (240). Her closeness to Lucy Huffaker, her Drake college...
8. “Feeling Something Together as Never Before”: National Solidarity
Susan Glaspell envisages collaboration as a fundamental alternative to conventional oppressive hierarchical structures that are based on coercion rather than mutual support. Glaspell’s dramatic commitment is emblematic of her staunch conviction that collaboration, that is...
9. The Paradox of Self-Sacrifice: Self-Sacrifice as Self-Empowerment
Susan Glaspell’s heroes are no mythical figures in the original Greek sense of the term “hero,” but ordinary protagonists waging their realistic revolts in a fictitious world that reflects Glaspell’s extradiegetic reality. If the idealist rebel, scarifying himself or herself in the name of...
Susan Glaspell’s drama is a drama of revolt. It expresses the extent of her discontent with oppressive conventions and governmental policies, stages her protagonists’ insurrections against them, and provides possible alternatives. Glaspell’s drama of denunciation, resistance...
Page Count: 278
Publication Year: 2017
Series Title: Studies Theatre Hist & Culture
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth See more Books in this Series
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