Southern Women Playwrights: New Essays in Literary History and Criticism

By Robert L. McDonald; Linda Rohrer Paige | Go to book overview

Introduction

We decided to initiate this collection after discovering in conversation that we had experienced similar frustrations in trying to locate either primary or secondary materials that would help us to teach and write about drama by Southern women in context, in perspective. For our courses and research in modern drama, Southern literature, and women's literature and gender studies, no collections of Southern women's plays existed. Nor could we locate much in the way of scholarship about these playwrights, despite the fact that some had very active and visible careers. We did find substantive work on Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, and, of course, Lillian Hellman—a kind of artistic Trinity, we came to feel. They apparently represent the extent to which critics and historians, with few exceptions, have acknowledged the achievements of Southern women playwrights.

Of course, we knew other voices existed. In our searches for basic information other names surfaced, some of them familiar, many not: Valetta Anderson, Sallie Bingham, Sharon Bridgeforth, Ada Jack Carver, Jo Carson, Jane Chambers, Alice Childress, Pearl Cleage, Sandra Deer, Elizabeth Dewberry, Margaret Edson, Margery Evernden, Julia Fields, Martha Ayers Fuentes, Amparo Garcia, Rebecca Gilman, Barbara Guest, Bernice Kelly Harris, Nancy Wallace Henderson, Shirlene Holmes, Zora Neale Hurston, Marsha A. Jackson-Randolph, Georgia Johnson, Gayl Jones, Barbara Lebow, Jane Martin, Carson McCullers, Sally Ordway, Regina Porter, Rebecca Ranson, Patricia Resnick, Sonia Sanchez, Nicky Silver, Regina Taylor, Naomi Wallace, Paula Vogel, Billie Jean Young, Shay Youngblood. From what we could see, some of these writers wore their Southernness like a virtue, while others tended to value it less. Certainly, though, location bound these women together—the fact of their having been born in the region or having settled there to live and write—and they were connected further by neglect. Despite their impressive collective body of work, and in some instances, considerable local acclaim, why weren't their plays being

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