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

By W. David Sievers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
Freudian Drama in Perspective

In the first half of the twentieth century the American drama grew from gawky adolescence to worldly maturity. The remarkable distance it has traversed in fifty years has no parallel in theatrical history unless we go back to the decades preceding Shakespeare. From The Girl With the Green Eyes to The Rose Tattoo, from The Great Divide to The Time of the Cuckoo, and from The Witching Hour to The Crucible, American playwrights have learned their psychology well and through it have found their voice in the theatre of the modern world.

We have seen that the first signs of "change of voice" in the adolescent coincided with the arrival from Paris and Vienna of the "new psychology" in the first decade of the century. Augustus Thomas, David Belasco, Charles Klein, William Vaughn Moody, and Edward Locke sensed that the "subconscious" contained implicit dramatic values, but they were not sure how to deal with them. Lumped with the subconscious were all of the psychic phenomena of hypnosis, transference, telepathy, and faith healing, from which gradually emerged Freud's scientific technique for the exploration and treatment of mental illness.

After Freud's visit to America in 1909, the change began, gathering momentum after the first World War. In spite of the anxieties and hostilities it aroused, psychoanalysis played a central role in our changing standards of sexual conduct, family relations and social

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