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Susan Glaspell in Context

American Theater, Culture, and Politics, 1915-48

J. Ellen Gainor

Publication Year: 2001

Susan Glaspell in Context not only discusses the dramatic work of this key American author -- perhaps best known for her short story "A Jury of Her Peers" and its dramatic counterpart, Trifles -- but also places it within the theatrical, cultural, political, social, historical, and biographical climates in which Glaspell's dramas were created: the worlds of Greenwich Village and Provincetown bohemia, of the American frontier, and of American modernism. J. Ellen Gainor is Professor of Theatre, Women's Studies, and American Studies, Cornell University. Her other books include Performing America: Cultural Nationalism in American Theater (co-edited with Jeffrey D. Mason) from the University of Michigan Press.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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pp. 1-9

I first stumbled across the work of Susan Glaspell in the mid-1980s while reading a brief discussion of her impact on women in the London theater of the early twentieth century, which was the focus of my research at that time. Theater historian Julie Holledge's description of Glaspell's play The Verge, in Innocent Flowers: Women in the Edwardian Theatre, proved tantalizing; why hadn't...

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The One-Act Play in America

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pp. 10-19

The one-act play was central to the development of both Glaspell's dramaturgy and twentieth-century American drama in general. The theatrical longevity and favorable critical reception of Glaspell's first two dramatic efforts, Suppressed Desires (written with her husband George Cram Cook in 1915) and Trifles (1916), attest to her quick mastery of the one-act form of dramaturgy. She followed...

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Suppressed Desires

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pp. 20-36

In the winter of 1914-15 Susan Glaspell and her husband, George Cram ("Jig") Cook, had settled into life in bohemian Greenwich Village. They had moved to New York following their marriage in 1913, eager to join a community of like-minded individuals, many of whom, like themselves, had come back East from other, more conservative parts of the country.1 The couple was surrounded...

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pp. 37-60

After the success of their first dramatic efforts, several members of the Provincetown group, with Cook in the lead, were eager to stage more plays when they returned to Cape Cod in the summer of 1916. Cook saw them as "a whole community working together, developing unsuspected talents" (Glaspell, Road 251). This enterprise exactly captured the spirit of the burgeoning community...

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Other One-Act Plays: The People, Close the Book, The Outside, Woman's Honor, and Tickless Time

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pp. 61-94

The People is Glaspell's homage to the Masses, the radical magazine that was central to Greenwich Village culture as well as to the Provincetown Players, envisioned as having the reach and impact of print journalism. According to historian William O'Neill, the Masses "was not only a national magazine for the radical intelligentsia but also a local institution reflecting some of the...

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pp. 95-111

Near the end of her affiliation with the Provincetown Players, Glaspell gave an interview to the New York Morning Telegraph about her work as a playwright. During the course of that 1921 discussion with reporter Alice Rohe,1 Glaspell divulged that Bernice was "the only thing [she had] written in New York" (Rohe). Glaspell's early stories and novels were composed primarily in the...

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pp. 112-142

The intellectual, social and aesthetic engagement of Village residents in the early 1910s prompted an unprecedented level of creative and political endeavor, exemplified by the dedication and productivity of the first years of the Players' activities. But the outbreak of global violence and the suppression of free expression in the United States prompted a new kind of commitment from Glaspell...

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The Verge

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pp. 143-169

The Verge stands second only to Trifles as the Glaspell play that has stimulated the most lively, sophisticated, and varied contemporary critical responses, recent scholarship that contrasts intriguingly with the bewilderment reflected in many of the reviews of its original productions in New York (1921) and London (1925). What connects these two bodies of criticism are writers' attempts...

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Chains of Dew

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pp. 170-198

In February 1922 Cook, Glaspell, their loyal supporter Edna Kenton, and the rest of the executive committee met to decide on the future of the Provincetown Players. O'Neill's success had greatly strained relations in the group, and Cook no longer felt they were in control of their work. Cook wanted to suspend group activities for a while and fulfill his own ambition of exploring Greek...

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The Comic Artist [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 199-219

In a letter probably written in 1926 to Norman Matson, Glaspell's companion following the death of Jig Cook, she shares an intimate memory of their creation of The Comic Artist, the play that renewed her interest in writing for the stage: I think of you and me, the room at Truro, the strange night, that play growing between us. Will we remember, when we sit together in a New...

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Alison's House

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pp. 220-242

The year 1930 marked the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Emily Dickinson. Celebrations of her life and art occurred throughout that year, including the production of Glaspell's play Alison's House, a fictionalized portrait of the family of the reclusive writer that explored the impact of her artistry. The Dickinson family was notorious for its eccentricities and some outright...

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Springs Eternal

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pp. 243-261

After the 1933 failure of The Comic Artist on Broadway, Glaspell never again had a new play produced, but she did not sever her ties with the theater community, and those within it appear not to have forgotten her. She received an offer of employment from Hallie Flanagan, director of the Federal Theater Project (FTP) in Washington, DC, which had been established in 1935 as a division...

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pp. 263-266

Rather than bring this book to a conclusion by rendering exactly the kind of mastery-assuming synthetic summations or totalizing aesthetic judgments of Glaspell's dramaturgy that I have resisted throughout this study, I prefer simply to leave this project with a reiteration of my original goal: to establish some of the historical and critical contexts for her theatrical writing. In doing...


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pp. 267-285


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pp. 287-305


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pp. 307-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025541
E-ISBN-10: 0472025546
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472030101
Print-ISBN-10: 0472030108

Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2001