Great American Writers: Twentieth Century - Vol. 9

Great American Writers: Twentieth Century - Vol. 9

Great American Writers: Twentieth Century - Vol. 9

Great American Writers: Twentieth Century - Vol. 9

Excerpt

BORN: October 16, 1888, New York, New York

DIED: November 27, 1953, Boston, Massachusetts

IDENTIFICATION: Early twentieth-century playwright who raised the level of American drama from parochial entertainment to world stature.

In power, insight, scale, and ambition, Eugene O'Neill is unsurpassed among American dramatists. He began as a realist-naturalist in the tradition of the novelists Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, and Theodore Dreiser. O'Neill's middle period is marked by intermittently effective plays influenced by many European modes, particularly expressionist melodrama, and by the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung. His last work is both his best and his most characteristically American: It digs beneath the illusions and lies of everyday behavior to assert a profoundly tragic sense of human shortcomings and to reconcile his protagonists to a flawed and often unjust universe. The winner of the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature, O'Neill is the only American writer to rank among the century's greatest dramatists.

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