Academic journal article The Arthur Miller Journal

An Unpublished Interview with Arthur Miller

Academic journal article The Arthur Miller Journal

An Unpublished Interview with Arthur Miller

Article excerpt

[Editor's Note: Arthur Miller has the distinction of being one of the most interviewed literary figures of his time. During his long career, he was open to sitting down with print and broadcast journalists, theater critics, and scholars to discuss his views on his own work, the state of the theater, American and international politics, and social issues. The inaugural issue of The Arthur Miller Journal (Spring 2006) included one of Millers final interviews before his death, a conversation with his biographer Christopher Bigsby. I am pleased that this issue contains a previously unpublished interview with Miller by Rupendra Guha Majumdar of the University of Delhi. Conducted in Millers New York apartment on 27 April 1993, the interview is a lively exchange with Majumdar who was a Fulbright Fellow at Yale at the time. The edited conversation includes Millers views on his famous plays, nineteenth-century American writers, Eugene O'Neill, theatrical realism, and his plays of the 1990s. I have included Majumdars introduction that details the unique circumstances that led to the interview. The photos that Majumdar has provided include what may be the only Miller "selfie" on record!

Stephen Marino]


When Arthur Miller graduated from Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School in 1932, his most satisfying accomplishment came as a football player on the second squad of the school's team. He certainly was exposed to the football "heroes" on the "A" squad whose personalities he would use in fashioning Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman. Miller's youthful athletic shape was recognizable in his robust appearance at seventy-seven. In fact, if it had not been for his white hair, he could have passed for a man in his early sixties, Willy Loman's age in the selfsame play. Over six feet tall, broad-shouldered, straight-backed, walking briskly, his speech equally focused, though with contemplative pauses, the hint of a smile on his face-Miller presented the picture of a man on his intellectual toes, leading a very active social and professional life; a man respected by serious theatergoers the world over for many decades. This was what I saw when I met him in New York in 1993.

Miller's international image is rooted in his alignment with an American tradition further complicated by his being Jewish. This is similar to Eugene O'Neill and his Irish background. From the beginning of Miller's career in the forties to the start of the twenty-first century, he acknowledged the vital presence of his (fellow-Connecticut) precursor, O'Neill, without having been, in any sense, under the latter's artistic shadow. It is quite an amazing coincidence, therefore, that a character in O'Neill's lone comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, set in 1906, and published and produced in 1933, not only should be called "Arthur Miller," but also turns out to be a football champion and university student.1

I forgot to ask Miller about this piquant connection between his name and that of his precursor's protagonist when I met him in Manhattan. I presume he must have been aware of it, because I later came across his own reference to the O'Neill play in his discussion of the Great Depression in the introduction to The American Clock (1980), set in 1930s America. Miller is likely to have had his share of surprise in meeting a stage doppelganger of sorts: yet the nostalgia for a lost frontier-suggested in a title like Ah, Wilderness!-and the sense of alienation and transcendence that defines the problematic angst of many of O'Neill's protagonists can also be seen in Miller's heroes. Indeed, Miller himself upholds the "noble quest" and the "fabulous appetite for greatness" that he attributes so magnanimously to his pathbreaking precursor, in his New York Times review (6 November 1988) of Selected Letters of Eugene O'Neill.2

On 15 February 1993, I wrote Arthur Miller a letter from Yale University, where I was spending an academic year in the English Department as a postdoctoral Fulbright Fellow from Delhi University, India. …

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