Religion, in the early forties an annual conference held at Columbia University. The
second conference was held in September, 1941, and in preparation for it Finkelstein
had met through the spring with Anderson, Van Wyck Brooks, and Lewis Mumford to
discuss the part of the program devoted to literature. Joseph Wood Krutch of the Columbia faculty was to present a paper at the conference on the role of the arts in
modern society, and Anderson had said that he would prepare a paper on his own basic
beliefs and how they operated in his plays.
102. TO BROOKS ATKINSON
Hotel Hay-Adams House
[ October 12, 1941]
My wife read me your letter over the 'phone, and I want to thank
you for your quick and open-hearted response to that Rutgers paper.
It was written hastily last Sunday, and I had no chance to revise it,
hence a number of chinks and loop-holes which I'll try to patch up.
Among them the case of Pal Joey, concerning which I have a theory.
As for the main thesis I do believe it with all my heart, though I feel a
bit embarrassed at having spoken so publicly of what might have been
better kept to myself. I've sometimes thought that a religion, like a
vice, was more effective when practised in secret--in the opposite
direction, that is.
But the theatre has more to be proud of than it seems to
realize--and civilization owes it more than it will ever know.
On October 10, 1941, his son Quentin read a paper by Anderson at a Rutgers
University symposium on the arts. The paper, which became the title essay in Off
Broadway ( 1947), developed the thesis that "the theater is a religious institution
devoted entirely to the exaltation of the spirit of man," and that it "is as much a worship
as the theater of the Greeks, and has exactly the same meaning in our lives" ( Off
Broadway, p. 28). Anderson was in Washington with Candle in the Wind, and Atkinson, who attended the Rutgers symposium, immediately wrote to him praising the
paper and requesting it for the New York Times, which published the paper as "By Way
of Preface: The Theatre as Religion," October 26, 1941, sec. 9, p. 1, cols. 5-8) p. 3)