Tennessee Williams: A Guide to Research and Performance (Bibliographies and Indexes in)
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David Roessel and Nicholas Moschovakis.
NY: New Directions, Nicholas Moschovakis and David Roessel. Notebooks: Tennessee Williams. Thornton, Margaret B. Top Selected Bibliography Present.
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Bak, John. Tennessee Williams: A Literary Life. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, Bloom, Harold, ed.
Tennessee Williams. Broomall, PA: Chelsea House, Devlin, Albert J. Gilbert, James.
Men in the Middle: Searching for Masculinity in the s. Chicago: U of Chicago P Gross, Robert F. Tennessee Williams: A Casebook. NY: Garland, Holditch, Kenneth and Richard F. Tennessee Williams and the South. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, Kolin, Philip C. Westport: Greenwood, The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia.
Westport, CT: Greenwood, Lutz, Jean, and Harold Bloom. Tennessee Williams: Bloom's Bio Critiques. Broomall, PA: Chelsea, Murphy, Brenda.
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NY: Cambridge UP, Palgrave Macmillan, Palmer, R. Austin: U of Texas P, Poteet, William M. NY: Peter Lang, Prosser, William. The Late Plays of Tennessee Williams. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, Saddik, Annette. Smith, William. Jackson: U of Mississippi P, Sofer, Andrew. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, Spoto, Donald.
Boston: Little, Brown, Thompson, Judith J. Tischler, Nancy M. The Student Companion to Tennessee Williams. Vannatta, Dennis P. Boston: Twayne, Williams, Hart Crane, R. Ammons, and othershas an unquestionable eminence, and takes a vital place in Western literature. The line of essayists and critics from Emerson and Thoreau to Kenneth Burke and beyond constitutes another crucial strand of our national letters. But where is the American drama in comparison to all this, and in relation to the long cavalcade of western drama from Aeschylus to Beckett?
The American theater, by the common estimate of its most eminent critics, touches an initial strength with Eugene ONeill, and then proceeds to the more varied excellences of Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Sam Shepard. That sequence is clearly Harold B loom. Which are our dramatic works that matter most? And I will venture the speculation that our drama palpably is not yet literary enough. Nor do I wish to be an American Matthew Arnold whom I loathe above all other critics and proclaim that our dramatists simply have not known enough.
They know more than enough, and that is part of the trouble. Literary tradition, as I have come to understand it, masks the agon between past and present as a benign relationship, whether personal or societal. The actual transferences between the force of the literary past and the potential of writing in the present tend to be darker, even if they do not always or altogether follow the defensive patterns of what Sigmund Freud called family romances. Whether or not an ambivalence, however repressed, towards the pasts force is felt by the new writer and is manifested in his work seems to depend entirely upon the ambition and power of the oncoming artist.
If he aspires after strength, and can attain it, then he must struggle with both a positive and a negative transference, false connections because necessarily imagined ones, between a composite precursor and himself. His principal resource in that agon will be his own native gift for interpretation, or as I am inclined to call it, strong misreading. Revising his precursor, he will create himself, make himself into a kind of changeling, and so he will become, in an illusory but highly pragmatic way, his own father.
The most literary of our major dramatists, and clearly I mean literary. Wilder, with his intimate connections to Finnegans Wake and Gertrude Stein, might seem to dispute this placement, and Wilder was certainly more literate than Williams.
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But Wilder had a benign relation to his crucial precursor, Joyce, and did not aspire after a destructive strength. Williams did, and suffered the fate he prophesied and desired; the strength destroyed his later work, and his later life, and thus joined itself to the American tradition of self-destructive genius.
Williams truly had one precursor only: Hart Crane, the greatest of our lyrical poets, after Whitman and Dickinson, and the most self-destructive figure in our national literature, surpassing all others in this, as in so many regards. Williams asserted he had other precursors also: D.
Lawrence, and Chekhov in drama. These were outward influences, and benefited Williams well enough, but they were essentially formal, and so not the personal and Introduction. Hart Crane made Williams into more of a dramatic lyrist, though writing in prose, than the lyrical dramatist that Williams is supposed to have been.
Though this influenceperhaps more nearly an identificationhelped form The Glass Menagerie and less overtly A Streetcar Named Desire, and in a lesser mode Summer and Smoke and Suddenly Last Summer, it also led to such disasters of misplaced lyricism as the dreadful Camino Real and the dreary The Night of the Iguana. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of Williamss best plays, does not seem to me to show any influence of Crane.
Williamss long aesthetic decline covered thirty years, from to , and reflected the sorrows of a seer who, by his early forties, had outlived his own vision. Hart Crane, self-slain at thirty-two, had set for Williams a High Romantic paradigm that helped cause Williams, his heart as dry as summer dust, to burn to the socket. II It is difficult to argue for the aesthetic achievement of Tennessee Williamss long, final phase as a dramatist. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was a popular and critical success, on stage and as a film. I have just reread it in the definitive Library of America edition, which prints both versions of Act III, the original, which Williams greatly preferred, and the Broadway revision, made to accommodate the director Elia Kazan.
Here is the ambiguous original conclusion, followed by the revision: margaret: And so tonight were going to make the lie true, and when thats done, Ill bring the liquor back here and well get drunk together, here, tonight, in this place that death has come into What do you say? I guess theres nothing to say. What you want is someone to She turns out the rose-silk lamp. Gently, gently, with love! And The curtain begins to fall slowly. I do love you, Brick, I do! And you lost your drivers license! Id phone ahead and have you stopped on the highway before you got halfway to Ruby Lightfoots gin mill.