Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama

By W. David Sievers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
The Post-War Era -- Transition

ENTER THE MOTHER

The ink was hardly dry on the Armistice before it was clear that the playwrights, seeking for new themes to replace the war, were turning to psychoanalysis as a major topic. With the exception of The Fatted Calf, American plays had been skirting the main issues of psychoanalysis and dangling before the public only the more superficial and palatable of gleanings. Beginning with the 1919 season, however, the critics themselves noted the new era. Heywood Broun proclaimed in his review of La Malquerida, Benavente's powerful Spanish drama of an inverted relationship between a man and his step-daughter:

Into the Freudian aspects of the play we cannot go because it would open up a field which would require columns and columns of twisting and turning. Moreover, it is at least three volumes ahead of us. If things keep up this way no dramatic critic will be properly equipped for the theatre until he has become a highly trained neurologist.

Broun's prophecy was not far wrong, and it was soon apparent that critics were delving into their three volumes to catch up with the changing concept of human relationships. A week later opened an amusing example of the new playwriting, for which several critics had their volumes of Freud on hand. Oliver Morosco had offered a prize for the best play written in George Pierce Baker's classes at

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