Southern Women Playwrights: New Essays in Literary History and Criticism

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

1
The Current State of Scholarship on Southern
Women Play wrights

Robert L. McDonald

Indeed it will be a long time still, I think, before a woman can sit
down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock
to be dashed against.

—Virginia Woolf, “Professions for Women”

The woman playwright endeavoring to communicate her vision to
the world is engaged in a radical act.

—Rachel Koenig, Introduction, Interviews
with Contemporary Women Playwrights

As Sally Burke observes at the beginning of American Feminist Playwrights: A Critical History, before the cultural awakenings instigated by the women's movement of the 1960s, American “women writing in any genre were given short shrift. This lack of attention was compounded for the playwright by the difficulty, even near impossibility, of getting her drama produced in a theater ruled by men” (vii). If women are now duly recognized as major voices in fiction, poetry, and such nonfiction genres as the essay, the memoir, and biography, the same still cannot be said for women dramatists. Beyond the offerings of a small number of theater groups and scholars who concentrate on plays by women, drama remains the single literary genre in which women's achievement continues to be wrought piece by piece, performance by performance, as if tradition is being invented on the spot. That American women have written interesting plays since the earliest days of the republic is not something one could know from our literary histories and the bulk of criticism. Women's drama remains conscripted to the margins, rather like a chorus surrounding the dominant voices of our decidedly “major” (i.e., male) playwrights. More attention should be devoted to the question of why.1

-1-

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