Codifying the National Self: Spectators, Actors, and the by Barbara Ozieblo, Maria Dolores Narbona-Carrion, Marc Maufort

By Barbara Ozieblo, Maria Dolores Narbona-Carrion, Marc Maufort

The theatre has regularly been the positioning of visionary hopes for a reformed nationwide destiny and an area for propagating rules, either cultural and political. The essays during this quantity deal with the strategies of 'Americanness' and the perceptions of the 'alien' - as handled within the paintings of Anna Cora Mowatt to Nilo Cruz.

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Of the one hundred and twenty plays, fifty-one were written by women and most of these were American. Thirty-two plays are set in the past (Biblical, Anglo-Saxon “England,” Puritan America, Ancient Greece, and France during the Revolution), eighty-two are set in the present, and five in the future. Of the sixty-nine which are set in America, with one exception (Hamlin Garland’s Under the Wheel), all have urban settings; the rest are set elsewhere (usually Europe). Twentyseven plays are in verse and sixty-six are illustrated.

In particular, I want to examine a hitherto neglected body of work, the plays published in the periodicals. To put it simply, between 1890 and 1918 over one hundred and twenty dramatic texts, the work of seventy dramatists, were published in fourteen American general interest periodicals. Many of the periodicals which published drama fall under the aegis of what is known as “The Atlantic Group”: The Atlantic Monthly, The Critic, Forum, Harper’s Monthly, Lippincott’s, The North American Review, Scribner’s Magazine, and Century.

By 1897 Barrett Wendell (1855-1921) had been teaching at Harvard since 1880 where he championed a general humanist education over a scholarly one for the students. Kim Townsend in Manhood at Harvard details Wendell’s concerns: that American literature was not worth serious attention, that the manly texts were from the English sixteenth century, that America’s young men were becoming feminized, and that moral action rather than “‘introspection [... and] idealistic inaction’ was the only path to a noble and successful life” (138-39).

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