Cover

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Half Title, Series Page, Title Page, Copyright

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Acknowledgments

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pp. v-vi

This book became one of those emblematic projects in the life of a scholar, the kind that gets snagged on the shoals of career and geographical transitions that force it to wallow and flounder, because you just can’t give it the time it deserves. ...

Contents

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pp. vii-vi

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Preface - The Context

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pp. ix-xii

This book offers a critical analysis of Wendy Wasserstein’s major plays. When I became a feminist theater and performance critic and theorist in the early 1980s, feminist theater and performance studies privileged collective theater work and radical strategies that saw theater as an agent of social change. ...

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Chapter One - Wendy Wasserstein: A Feminist Reconsideration

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pp. 1-22

Wendy Wasserstein’s status as a canonical female American playwright remains intact, years after her untimely death from cancer in 2006 at the age of fifty-five. Born in 1950, Wasserstein lived through the contemporary feminist era in the United States, when much attention was paid to women’s equality across society and culture. ...

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Chapter Two - Uncommon Women and Others

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pp. 23-40

This chapter analyzes Uncommon Women and Others, in which Wasserstein sets the stage for themes that echo throughout her career, sketching a group of women characters about to graduate from one of the Seven Sister colleges just as feminist concerns began to make the teas and niceties of their sheltered existence anachronistic. ...

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Chapter Three - Isn’t It Romantic

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pp. 41-56

Isn’t It Romantic (1981, rev. 1983) focuses on a pair of postcollege-aged women about to make choices that will determine the rest of their lives. The play also illustrates Wasserstein’s first use of ethnic humor, pitting the Jewish cadences of Janie Blumberg, her heroine, against the non-Jewish, WASPish standard of Harriet Cornwall, ...

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Chapter Four - The Heidi Chronicles

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pp. 57-82

The Heidi Chronicles (1989) proved to be Wasserstein’s first breakout success and remains the play most associated with her career and her concerns. The play could be seen as a companion piece to Isn’t It Romantic, as it describes the travails of Heidi Holland, a Janie Blumberg–style feminist professor ...

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Chapter Five - The Sisters Rosensweig

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pp. 83-98

The Sisters Rosensweig, too, became a popular choice for regional theaters after it was produced on Broadway in 1993. The play demonstrates Wasserstein’s affinity for the theater of Chekhov, Kaufman and Hart, and Noel Coward, as it mingles the angst and immobility of the Russian dramatist’s characters with the farcical family maneuverings of the American duo ...

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Chapter Six - An American Daughter

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pp. 99-118

Wasserstein’s play An American Daughter, which premiered on Broadway in 1997, is probably her most effective in terms of addressing national issues and melding them with personal questions about identity. Its politics and theatrical form fit comfortably into the liberal feminist canon in which most of her plays reside, ...

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Chapter Seven - Third

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pp. 119-132

Wasserstein’s last play, Third (2005), in many ways repeats the themes of The Heidi Chronicles, revisiting a feminist professor (now of literature) safely tenured at a small, elite college in New England of the sort that the playwright once attended. But this time, a male student, called Third, has his say, launching a liberal critique of Professor Laurie Jameson’s ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 133-146

What remains remarkable about Wendy Wasserstein’s career and the enduring popularity of her work is how few playwrights before or since her death attempted a discussion of contemporary feminism—or more generally, the status of women in American society—in the public forum of popular theater. ...

Wendy Wasserstein: A Timeline

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pp. 147-150

Notes

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pp. 151-168

Bibliography

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pp. 169-186

Index

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pp. 187-194