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282Comparative Drama Steiner account for this by invoking the power of the myths on which the dramas are based. I would suggest that it is even more the compelling concentration and power of the dramatic form, inseparable from the original terms of the performance. These cannot and perhaps should not be accurately recreated in the modern theater, but neither should they be lost sight of. BRIAN JOHNSTON Carnegie-Mellon University Marc Maufort, ed. Eugene O'Neill and the Emergence of American Drama. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1989. Pp. 207. $32.50. Gilbert Debusscher and Henry I. Schvey, eds. New Essays on American Drama. Amsterdam and Atlanta: Rodopi, 1989. Pp. 230. $32.50. Both volumes considered here are anthologies of papers presented at two conferences in Belgium on the topics reflected in the volumes' seemingly transparent titles. These titles, however, require clarification, for both have the potential to mislead unsuspecting readers. Eugene O'Neill and the Emergence of American Drama, a carefully organized collection of fourteen essays and an original one-act play about O'Neill in bis later years, actually contains relatively few discussions of O'Neill's position in or impact on an emergent American drama in the twentieth century. Misreadings of the title New Essays on American Drama, by contrast, would almost surely originate in a single problematic adjective: "new." The twelve essays and one bibliography in this volume are doubtless '"new" in that they are previously unpublished, yet taken as a whole they also tell a rather old and, in light of C. W. E. Bigsby's essay with which the collection begins, ironic story. In his pose as an attorney defending the cultural value of American drama ("Why American Drama Is Literature") against allegations to the contrary, Bigsby levels the counter-accusation that the study of this drama by "academic critics," as evidenced by the publication histories of such leading journals as Modern Drama, has been too narrowly confined to examination of four playwrights: Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Edward Albee. Bigsby calculates, for example, that between 1958 and 1989 over two-thirds of the articles on American topics in Modern Drama concerned one of these four writers, and throughout his brief he accuses "those concerned with the intellectual and literary life of the nation" of a conspicuous "disregard of American drama" (p. 8). Oddly enough, given this pointed and in my view justified indictment, the editors of this anthology repeat this very crime of critical reductionism, almost by the same proportions as Bigsby compiles: of the eleven essays that follow his, seven concern one of these four dramatists. It should be noted, however, that contributors such as Henry Schvey, Sy M. Kahn, and Liliane Kerjan treat seldom-discussed plays in Williams', Miller's, and Albee's oeuvres—and that Luther S. Luedtke's study of Sam Shepard's plays and Johan Callens' close reading of Lanford Wilson's The Mound Builders (1975) are especially good. Still, New Essays on American Drama tends to replicate the very history of exclusion Bigsby finds so Reviews283 objectionable, and readers expecting to find even a single essay on women's theater in America will be similarly disappointed. The organization of Eugene O'Neill and the Emergence of American Drama seems more effective, beginning with examinations of the earliest moments of O'Neill's career and concluding with three attempts to locate O'Neill within the context of both absurdist and postmodernist drama: James A. Robinson's "Buried Children: Fathers and Sons in O'Neill and Shepard"; Bigsby's "O'Neill's Endgame," which positions Hughie in the context of Beckettian absurdism; and Susan Harris Smith's "Actors Constructing an Audience: Hughie's Post-Modern Aura," an ambitious attempt to read O'Neill's play in light of recent theoretical ruminations on postmodernist art, in this case Charles Newman's The Post-Modern Aura: The Art of Fiction in an Age of Inflation (1985). Smith's ambition is registered in her essay's early claims: "All the evidence suggests that O'Neill would have moved naturally into post-modern dramaturgy" (p. 170); Hughie "straddles that interesting and ambiguous moment at which the subtle shift from modern to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 282-284
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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