Cover image for The history of southern drama
The history of southern drama
Watson, Charles S., 1931-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Lexington : University Press of Kentucky, [1997]

Physical Description:
xii, 259 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Nationalism and native culture in Virginia -- Prolific playwriting in Charleston -- The dramatist as humorist in New Orleans -- Drama goes to war -- The modern drama of Espy Williams -- The leadership of Paul Green -- DuBose Heyward's transmutation of black culture -- The Southern Marxism of Lillian Hellman -- Black drama : politics or culture -- Randolph Edmonds and civil rights -- The cultural imagination of Tennessee Williams -- Past and present cultures in recent drama.
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Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PS261 .W356 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Mention southern drama at a cocktail party or in an American literature survey, and you may hear cries for "Stella!" or laments for "gentleman callers." Yet southern drama depends on much more than a menagerie of highly strung spinsters and steel magnolias.

Charles Watson explores this field from its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century roots through the southern Literary Renaissance and Tennessee Williams's triumphs to the plays of Horton Foote, winner of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize. Such well known modern figures as Lillian Hellman and DuBose Heyward earn fresh looks, as does Tennessee Williams's changing depiction of the South -- from sensitive analysis to outraged indictment -- in response to the Civil Rights Movement.

Watson links the work of the early Charleston dramatists and of Espy Williams, first modern dramatist of the South, to later twentieth-century drama. Strong heroines in plays of the Confederacy foreshadow the spunk of Tennessee Williams's Amanda Wingfield. Claiming that Beth Henley matches the satirical brilliance of Eudora Welty and Flannery O'Connor, Watson connects her zany humor to 1840s New Orleans farces.With this work, Watson has at last answered the call for a single-volume, comprehensive history of the South's dramatic literature. With fascinating detail and seasoned perception, he reveals the rich heritage of southern drama.

Author Notes

Charles S. Watson , professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama, is the author of Antebellum Charleston Dramatists and From Nationalism to Secessionism: The Changing Fiction of William Gilmore Simms .

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Watson (English, emeritus, Univ. of Alabama) writes toward the end of this book that Southern drama has not reached maturity until quite recently. Nevertheless, building on his 1976 study of the antebellum dramatists of Charleston, Watson has produced the first comprehensive history of drama by Southern authors. Following an initial chapter laying out distinguishing characteristics of Southern drama, he surveys the antebellum dramatists. A discussion of Confederate drama is followed by chapters on Espy Williams, Paul Green, DuBose Heyward, Lillian Hellman, black drama, Randolph Edmonds, Tennessee Williams, and recent figures, of whom he argues for Horton Foote as the most significant. Throughout, his arguments are frequently fresh and persuasive. Thoroughly researched and stylishly written, this book is recommended for all graduate-level research collections in American literature and larger Southern public and academic libraries.‘Robert W. Melton, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Watson is the first to answer a call for a "comprehensive history of drama in the South." From colonial drama to the 1980s, Watson describes the plays written by southerners that dramatize eight traits: distinctive social types (including blacks), violence, legendry, fundamentalist religion, regional speech, local color, love-hate of the South, and historical revision. Until recently, drama in the South was about sectionalism, slavery, war, race. With the exception of Paul Green, DuBose Heyward, Lillian Hellman, and Tennessee Williams, the 40-plus dramatists included are relatively unknown because their plays were not produced, printed, or anthologized. More important, Watson admits that many of their plays are artless--forgettable even--except for what they demonstrate about the development of southern drama. This chronological, clear, well-documented history with notes and bibliographies is nevertheless a valuable resource. Watson includes pertinent biographical information, summaries of plays, and development of dramatic points of view or themes. Chapters on nationalism in the South's earliest dramas on the African American experience are among Watson's best; the chapter on Williams is not enlightening. Watson concludes with Horton Foote, Beth Henley, Marsha Norman, and Romulus Linney, but this reviewer hopes future studies include work by Alfred Uhry, Thomas Dent, and Pearl Cleage. All collections. P. A. McHaney formerly, Georgia State University