Accelerated Grimace: Expressionism in the American Drama of the 1920s

By Mardi Valgemae | Go to book overview

3
Eugene O'Neill

When Bertolt Brecht told a Danish interviewer in 1934 that "People like Georg Kaiser and his follower O'Neill have successfully applied quite new methods which are good and interesting even if their ideas don't coincide with my own," he had obviously not heard about O'Neill's protestations that he "did not think much" of Kaiser's plays, because they were "too easy" and "would not have influenced" him. 1 Despite his disavowals of Kaiser's influence, O'Neill's attempts to objectify inner experiences by means of the forms of a stylized theatre have much in common with the techniques of the Continental expressionists. Most American critics, however, took O'Neill's remarks at face value and dismissed the possibility of his affinity with the German expressionists by merely quoting his denials. The adjective "expressionistic" has, of course, been applied to several of O'Neill's plays, but the tendency has been to minimize his ties with the Germans and to emphasize his indebtedness to Strindberg. O'Neill's Nobel Prize address, in which he named the Swedish playwright as his chief mentor, has reinforced this point of view. Undeniably, O'Neill's work owes a debt to August Strindberg. Yet failure to account for the influence of the German expressionists in general and Georg Kaiser in particular makes it difficult to evaluate O'Neill's development as an experimenter with dramatic form.

O'Neill's initial acquaintance with the new movement

-27-

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Accelerated Grimace: Expressionism in the American Drama of the 1920s
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page ii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Spell of Expressionism 1
  • 2 - The Provincetown Players 15
  • 3 - Eugene O'Neill 27
  • 4 - The Provincetown Players the Triumvirate and After 41
  • 5 - Elmer Rice 60
  • 6 - John Howard Lawson 72
  • 7 - The New Playwrights' Theatre 84
  • 8 - Broadway and Beyond 97
  • 9 - The Legacy of Expressionism 111
  • Notes 123
  • Selected Bibliography 135
  • Index 137
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