The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller

The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller

The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller

The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller

Synopsis

For more than fifty years Arthur Miller has been a dramatist. He has been a chronicler of American culture, which he has both celebrated and criticized. The Temptation of Innocence in the dramas of Arthur Miller examines all of Miller's plays, from his unpublished undergraduate dramas written at the University of Michigan to Mr. Peter's Connections, his last performed play. Terry Otten offers a broad critical review and assessment of Miller's plays in light of the major revival of Miller's work in the past decade and a growing critical reassessment of his work by the scholarly community.

Focusing on the temptation of innocence, a recurrent theme in Miller's work, Otten explores the conflict between innocence and personal responsibility from such widely acclaimed early plays as Death of a Salesman, which forges a "tragedy of the common man, " to his later, near postmodern texts, which treat memory in very different ways. Still locating the presentness of the past as a center of meaning in characters who follow Willy Loman, Miller continues to investigate the role innocence plays in the lives of his more modern characters.

Otten contends that, for over a half century, Miller examined the relationship between self and society in remarkably consistent terms while adapting his art to contemporary changes in concepts of reality. Fully documented and thoroughly researched, this book will prove a valuable source for later studies of Miller and a standard reference for examining the entire range of the plays. Otten avoids critical jargon, making this book an appealing choice for a general audience interested in literature and American culture.

Excerpt

“Innocence kills.”

Timebends

For more than fifty years, Arthur Miller has been more than a dramatist. He has been a chronicler of American culture, which he has both characterized and criticized. Though subject to the vagaries and vicissitudes of theater criticism—virtually disowned by many sixties reviewers for the seeming “bad taste” and self-pity of After the Fall, deemed hopelessly out of fashion by the new intellectuals devoted to the avant garde in the seventies, spurned by current postmodern academic theorists for his supposed sexism and naive belief in individual responsibility—he has somehow persevered, in his eighties still writing and producing works that reflect the transformation and yet consistency of his major themes. Until the recent revivals on Broadway, Miller suffered the near disregard of his work from the mid fifties to the last decade of the century by most of the New York theater world, even though he has remained among the most performed American playwrights in Europe, especially England, and other parts of the world. Surprisingly to some, no doubt, he was voted the most important English language playwright of the twentieth century, and Death of a Salesman and The Crucible were ranked the second and sixth best plays, according to a 1999 poll of playwrights, actors, journalists, and other theater professionals, conducted by the Royal National Theatre in London. Yet even when his recent play Broken Glass won the Olivier Award for the best . . .

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