The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia
Millichap, Joseph, Southern Quarterly
The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia. Edited by Philip C. Kolin. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004. 350pp. Cloth: $89.95, ISBN: 0-313-32101-9).
Like several other titles in this helpful series of reference works from Greenwood Press, The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia presents a comprehensive overview of its subject, Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), one of America's most important dramatists known for icons of world theater such as The Glass Menagerie (1945), A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), and Cat on a hot Tin Roof( 1955). Williams remains the primary southern playwright, despite the further flowering of theater in the South over recent decades. Although Williams's critical reputation languished at the time of his death, the continued publication of his apprentice work, his later experimental plays, and a number of important scholarly books on his life and art has established a posthumous, critical renaissance.
Philip C. Kolin's The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia contributes to this positive reassessment as the first universal reference work concerned primarily with Williams. Many of the leading authorities on Williams and his work contributed more than one hundred and fifty detailed entries to the project. The greatest number of essays concern Williams's individual efforts, including all of his full-length plays, many of the one-acts and screenplays, as well as general entries on his poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and the many movies adapted from his texts. The most thorough entries are on Williams's classic titles. For example, Jackson Bryer's four thousand word essay on The Glass Menagerie provides not just a solid summary of the play but an insightful discussion of its sources in Williams's biography and in the classics of modem drama. Williams's ambivalent symbolism that conflates reality and illusion in A Streetcar Named Desire is fully analyzed in a long essay coauthored by Maureen Curley and the volume's editor. George W. Crandell does a fine job in showing the dramatic and theatrical importance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
Other groupings of entries within The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia include the places and people most important to Williams's development as a man and as an artist. Many of these we would anticipate, such as the editor's brief entry on "Clarksdale, Mississippi" or Richard E. …