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Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre
Bodies, Voices, Words

Part of Cambridge Studies in American Theatre and Drama

  • Date Published: February 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521108911

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  • Although often dismissed as a minor offshoot of the better-known German movement, expressionism on the American stage represents a critical phase in the development of American dramatic modernism. Situating expressionism within the context of early twentieth-century American culture, Walker demonstrates how playwrights who wrote in this mode were responding both to new communications technologies and to the perceived threat they posed to the embodied act of meaning. At a time when mute bodies gesticulated on the silver screen, ghostly voices emanated from tin horns, and inked words stamped out the personality of the hand that composed them, expressionist playwrights began to represent these new cultural experiences by disarticulating the theatrical languages of bodies, voices and words. In doing so, they not only innovated a new dramatic form, but redefined playwriting from a theatrical craft to a literary art form, heralding the birth of American dramatic modernism.

    • Introduces a new aspect to performance theory by identifying three modes of theatrical signification: verbal, vocal and pantomimic 'languages'
    • Includes an original account of O'Neill's early plays, and considers less well-known dramatists Rice, Lawson and Treadwell
    • Considers theatrical movements alongside American cultural history
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Julie A. Walker has … done a great service for perplexed scholars like myself in demonstrating a much more plausible heritage for these key American plays … Walker's book is clearly structured, forcefully argued, and generally very well written. … this is a compelling, intriguing book to be recommended to anyone with an interest in American theatrical modernism.' New Theatre Quarterly

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521108911
    • length: 316 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • contains: 12 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    Acknowledgements
    Introduction
    Part I:
    1. Bodies: actors and artistic agency on the nineteenth century stage
    2. Voices: oratory, expression and the text/performance split
    3. Words: copyright and the creation of the performance 'text'
    Part II: Introduction
    4. The 'unconscious autobiography' of Eugene O'Neill
    5. Elmer Rice and the cinematic imagination
    6. 'I love a parade!' John Howard Lawson's minstrel burlesque of the American dream
    7. Sophie Treadwell's 'pretty hands'
    Epilogue. 'Modern Times'
    Works cited.

  • Author

    Julia A. Walker, Washington University, St Louis
    Julia Walker is Assistant Professor of English and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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