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Bloom's Modern Critical Views Tennessee Williams

Bloom's Modern Critical Views Tennessee Williams

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Bloom's Modern Critical Views
Bloom’s Modern Critical Views
tennessee williams
Updated Edition
Edited and with an introduction by 
Harold Bloom
Sterling Professor of the Humanities Yale University
Bloom’s Modern Critical Views: Tennessee Williams—Updated Edition
Copyright ©2007 Infobase PublishingIntroduction © 2007 by Harold BloomAll rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or utilized in any formor by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by anyinformation storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher.For more information contact:Bloom’s Literary CriticismAn imprint of Infobase Publishing132 West 31st StreetNew York NY 10001ISBN-10: 0-7910-9430-8ISBN-13: 978-0-7910-9430-3
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
 Tennessee Williams / Harold Bloom, editor. — Updated ed.p. cm. — (Bloom’s modern critical views)Includes bibliographical references and index.ISBN 0-7910-9430-8 (hardcover)1. Williams, Tennessee, 1911–1983—Criticism and interpretation. 2. Southern States—In literature. I. Bloom, Harold. II. Title. III. Series.PS3545.I5365Z843 2007812’.54--dc22[B] 2006032895Bloom’s Literary Criticism books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulkquantities for businesses, associations, institutions, or sales promotions. Please call ourSpecial Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755. You can find Bloom’s Literary Criticism on the World Wide Webat http://www.chelseahouse.comContributing Editor: Pamela LoosCover designed by Takeshi TakahashiCover photo © Time Life Pictures/Getty ImagesPrinted in the United States of AmericaBang EJB 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper.All links and web addresses were checked and verified to be correct at the time of publication.Because of the dynamic nature of the web, some addresses and links may havechanged since publication and may no longer be valid.
Editor’s Note viiIntroduction 1
Harold Bloom
Babbling Lunatics: Language and Madness 11
 Jacqueline O’Connor 
 The Sacrificial Stud and the Fugitive Femalein
Suddenly Last Summer 
,
Orpheus Descending
,and
Sweet Bird of Youth
27
 John M. Clum
Romantic Textures in Tennessee Williams’s Plays and Short Stories 45
 
Nancy M. Tischler 
 The Blue Rose of St. Louis:Laura, Romanticism, and
The Glass Menagerie
65
Bert Cardullo
“I prefer the ‘mad’ ones”: Tennessee Williams’s Grotesque-Lyric Exegetical Poems 77
Linda Dorff 
“The Transmutation of Experience”: The Aesthetics and Themesof Tennessee Williams’s Nonfiction” 95
D. Dean Shackelford
Contents
Desire, Death, and Laughter: Tragicomic Dramaturgy in
 A Streetcar Named Desire
111
Verna Foster 
Critical Expectations and Assumptions:Williams’ Later Reputation and theAmerican Reception of the Avant-Garde 123
 Annette J. Saddik 
 Two Transient Plays:
 A Streetcar Named Desire
and
Camino Real
143
Frank Bradley 
 The Family of Mitch:(Un)suitable Suitors in Tennessee Williams 157
Philip C. Kolin
“Fifty Percent Illusion”: The Mask of the Southern Belle in Tennessee Williams’s
 A Streetcar Named Desire
,
The Glass Menagerie
, and “Portrait of a Madonna” 171
George Hovis
Afterthought
Harold Bloom
187Chronology 189Contributors 193Bibliography 197Acknowledgments 201Index 203
vi Contentsvii
My Introduction unfashionably first broods on the relative lack of aestheticeminence in American drama when compared to American poetry andprose fiction. Here, and in this volume’s Afterthought, I would now addDavid Mamet and Tony Kushner to our playwrights of true achievement. Tennessee Williams, more even than Eugene O’Neill, seems to me ourmost authentic
literary 
dramatist, as alive on the page as in the theater. Jacqueline O’Connor centers upon Williams’ representations of madness, while John M. Clum analyzes the dialectic of Williams’ heroicfemales and their inadequate men.For Nancy M. Tischler, the Romantic tradition of D. H. Lawrence,Wordsworth, Byron, Scott Fitzgerald, and Hart Crane is the domain of Williams’ drama, after which Bert Cardullo examines the Romanticism of 
The Glass Managerie
.In a shrewd essay, Linda Dorff qualifies the playwright’s Romanticismby way of some of his deliberately grotesque poems, in which Rimbaud isemployed to distance Williams from Hart Crane.D. Dean Shackelford sees Williams’ personal and critical essays asintricate fusions of life and literature, while Verna Foster restores the comicelement to the tragic
 A Streetcar Named Desire
. The decline in reputation of Williams’ later plays is judged by Annette
 
 J. Saddik to be partly the consequence of critical expectations founded uponthe work of Samuel Beckett.
Camino Real
is contrasted sharply to
Streetcar 
by Frank Bradley, afterwhich Philip C. Kolin engages Williams’ most characteristic personae, hisextraordinary Southern belles.My Afterthought returns to Williams’s deep identification with twogreat homoerotic self-destructive poets, Arthur Rimbaud and Hart Crane.
Editor’s Note
IIt is a sad and inexplicable truth that the United States, a dramatic nation,continues to have so limited a literary achievement in the drama. Americanliterature, from Emerson to the present moment, is a distinguished tradition. The poetry of Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Stevens, Eliot, W. C. Williams,Hart Crane, R. P. Warren, Elizabeth Bishop down through the generation of my own contemporaries—John Ashbery, James Merrill, A. R. Ammons, andothers—has an unquestionable eminence, and takes a vital place in Westernliterature. Prose fiction from Hawthorne and Melville on through Mark Twainand Henry James to Cather and Dreiser, Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald,Nathanael West, and Pynchon, has almost a parallel importance. The lineof essayists and critics from Emerson and Thoreau to Kenneth Burke andbeyond constitutes another crucial strand of our national letters. But whereis the American drama in comparison to all this, and in relation to the longcavalcade of western drama from Aeschylus to Beckett? The American theater, by the common estimate of its most eminentcritics, touches an initial strength with Eugene O’Neill, and then proceedsto the more varied excellences of Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams,Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Sam Shepard. That sequence is clearlyHarold B loom
Introduction
Harold Bloom
problematical, and becomes even more worrisome when we move fromplaywrights to plays. Which are our dramatic works that matter most?
LongDay’s Journey Into Night 
, certainly; perhaps
The Iceman Cometh
; evidently
 AStreetcar Named Desire
and
Death of a Salesman
; perhaps again
The Skin of Our Teeth
and
The Zoo Story 
—it is not God’s plenty. And I will venture thespeculation that our drama palpably is not yet literary enough. By this I do not just mean that O’Neill writes very badly, or Miller very baldly; they do, but sodid Dreiser, and
Sister Carrie
and
 An American Tragedy 
prevail nevertheless.Nor do I wish to be an American Matthew Arnold (whom I loathe aboveall other critics) and proclaim that our dramatists simply have not knownenough. They know more than enough, and that is part of the trouble.Literary tradition, as I have come to understand it, masks the agonbetween past and present as a benign relationship, whether personal orsocietal. The actual transferences between the force of the literary past andthe potential of writing in the present tend to be darker, even if they do notalways or altogether follow the defensive patterns of what Sigmund Freudcalled “family romances.” Whether or not an ambivalence, however repressed,towards the past’s force is felt by the new writer and is manifested in his workseems to depend entirely upon the ambition and power of the oncomingartist. If he aspires after strength, and can attain it, then he must strugglewith both a positive and a negative transference, false connections becausenecessarily imagined ones, between a composite precursor and himself. Hisprincipal 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 willcreate 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”

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