Brenda Murphy

Twentieth-Century American Drama
Journal Articles
CV/ Resume
After the Voyage
Becoming Carlotta
Theatre of Tennessee Williams


Brenda Murphy with Laurie J. C. Cella, Twentieth-Century American Drama.  Critical Concepts in American Literary and Cultural Studies Series.  4 Volumes.  London and New York: Routledge, Taylor, and Francis, 2006. 


This collection of 20th American drama criticism offers a broad spectrum of critical perspectives on significant American plays, playwrights, and critical issues that were published throughout the 20th century.  Besides providing representative selections of criticism on the significant playwrights of the 20th century, it also focuses on broader topics that generated critical interest and controversy, such as realism, absurdism, feminism, sexuality, war, and ethnicity.

Volume 1 covers the period from 1900 to 1939, with the greatest representation devoted to Eugene O'Neill.  Other playwrights represented include Susan Glaspell, Sophie Treadwell, Zora Neale Hurston, Maxwell Anderson, Philip Barry, Langston Hughes, Gertrude Stein, and Lillian Hellman.

Volume 2 is devoted to the period from 1945 to 1960, when most of the American plays that have become classics in the world repertory were produced.  The articles span the careers of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, from Miller's own "Tragedy and the Common Man" (1949) to Christopher Bigsby's 2005 article on Resurrection Blues.

 The major playwright represented in Volume 3 is Edward Albee.  The 1960s are represented by essays on Performance Theatre and the drama that addressed the Viet Nam War; the 1970s by essays on feminist drama and on playwrights Maria Irene Fornés, Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, John Guare, Arthur Kopit, and Lanford Wilson. 

Volume 4 includes representative criticism on Sam Shepard, David Mamet, August Wilson, Marsha Norman, and Tony Kushner, as well as a section on Issues of Ethnicity.  The final section offers a variety of points of view on significant plays by five different playwrights: Wendy Wasserstein, George C. Wolfe, Suzan-Lori Parks, A. R. Gurney, and Paula Vogel.

Link to more information on this book at the Routledge, Taylor and Francis website

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Volume 1 1900-1939             

Critical Overviews    


William Dean Howells, ‘Some New American Plays', Harper's Weekly, 48, January 16, 1904, pp. 88, 90.


Florence Kiper, ‘Some American Plays from the Feminist Viewpoint', Forum, 51, 1914, pp. 921-931.

W. E. B. Du Bois, ‘The Negro and the American Stage', The Crisis, June 1924, pp. 56-57.

Alain Locke, ‘The Drama of Negro Life', Theatre Arts Monthly, October 1926, pp. 701-706.

Eulalie Spence, ‘A Criticism of the Negro Drama as it Relates to the Negro Dramatist and Artist' Opportunity, June 1928, p. 188.

Mary McCarthy, ‘The American Realist Playwrights', Mary McCarthy's Theatre Chronicles:

1937-1962 (New York: Farrar Straus, 1963) pp. 209-229.


Eric Bentley, ‘Comedy and the Comic Spirit in America', in What Is Theatre? (New York: Atheneum, 1968), pp. 404-414.

Susan Glaspell

Linda Ben-Zvi, ‘"Murder, She Wrote": The Genesis of Susan Glaspell's Trifles', Theatre Journal  44, May 1992, pp. 141-162.

J. Ellen Gainor, ‘The Verge', in Susan Glaspell in Context: American Theater, Culture, and Politics, 1915-48 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2001), pp. 143-170.    

The Twenties

Martha Gilman Bower, Zora Neale Hurston in "Color Struck": Under the Gaze: Ethnicity and the Pathology of Being in the Plays of Johnson, Hurston, Childress, Hansberry, and Kennedy  (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003), pp. 39-62.

Dennis G. Jerz, Machinal in Technology in American Drama, 1920-1950 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003), pp. 33-53.

Eugene O'Neill

Eric Bentley, ‘Trying to Like O'Neill', The Kenyon Review, 14, July 1952, pp. 476-492.

Timo Tiusanen, The Hairy Ape in O'Neill's Scenic Images (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), pp. 112-127.

Travis Bogard, Long Day's Journey Into Night in Contour in Time: The Plays of Eugene O'Neill, rev. ed (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 422-445.

Kurt Eisen, Strange Interlude in The Inner Strength of Opposities: O'Neill's Novelistic Drama and the Melodramatic Imagination (Athens: U of Georgia P, 1994), pp. 105-115.


Laurin Porter, ‘The Banished Prince Revisited: A Feminist Reading of More Stately Mansions', The Eugene O'Neill Review, 19, Spring/Fall 1995, pp. 7-28.

Philip J. Hanson, ‘The Emperor Jones: Naturalistic Tragedy in Hemispheric Perspective', American Drama  5, Spring 1996, pp.  23-43.

Mark A. Mossman, ‘Eugene O'Neill and "The Myth of America": Ephraim Cabot as the American Adam', The Eugene O'Neill Review, 23, Spring/Fall 1999, pp. 49-59.

The Thirties

Arthur Arent, ‘The Technique of the Living Newspaper', Theatre Arts November 1938, pp. 820-825 .

R. Baird Shuman, ‘The Shifting Pacifism of Robert E. Sherwood', South Atlantic Quarterly, 65 1966, pp. 382-389.

David C. Gild, ‘Psychodrama on Broadway: Three Plays of Psychodrama by Philip Barry', Markham Review, 1970, pp. 65-74.

Gerald Weales, ‘The Very High Comedy of Philip Barry,' Commonweal, 103, August 1976, pp. 564-566.

Jeffrey D. Mason, ‘Maxwell Anderson's Dramatic Theory and Key Largo', North Dakota Quarterly  48, Summer 1980, pp. 38-42.

Mark Fearnow, ‘Chaos and Cruelty in the Theatrical Space: Horse Eats Hat, Hellzapoppin' and the Pleasure of Farce in Depression America' The Journal of American Drama and Theatre , 4, Spring 1992, pp. 5-21.

Joseph McLaren, ‘From Protest to Soul Fest: Langston Hughes' Gospel Plays' Langston Hughes Review,  15 Spring 1998, pp. 49-61.

Sarah Bay-Cheng, ‘Atom and Eve: A Consideration of Gertrude Stein's Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights', The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 12, Spring 2000, pp. 46-59.

Lillian Hellman

Vivian M. Patraka, ‘Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine: Realism, Gender, and Historical Crisis,' Modern Drama,  32, 1, 1989, pp. 128-145.

Mary Titus, ‘Murdering the Lesbian: Lillian Hellman's the Children's Hour,' Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature,  10, 2, 1991, pp. 215-232.

Volume 2 1940-1959


Charles A. Carpenter, ‘American Playwrights and the Birth of the Atomic Age' in Dramatists and the Bomb: American and British Playwrights Confront the Nuclear Age, 1945-1964 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999), pp.  27-52.

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller, ‘Tragedy and the Common Man', New York Times, Feb. 27,1949, sec. 2, pp.

1, 3.

Raymond Williams, ‘The Realism of Arthur Miller', Critical Quarterly 1, Summer 1959, pp. 140-149.

Thomas E. Porter, ‘Acres of Diamonds: Death of a Salesman' in Myth and Modern American Drama (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1969), pp. 127-152.

Lawrence D. Lowenthal, ‘Arthur Miller's Incident at Vichy: A Sartrean Interpretation', Modern Drama, 1, 1975, pp. 29-41.

Robert A. Martin, ‘Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Backgrounds and Sources' Modern Drama, 20, 1977, pp. 279-292.

Steven R. Centola, ‘Unblessed Rage for Order: Arthur Miller's After the Fall', Arizona Quarterly, 39, 1, Spring 1983, pp. 62-70.

Wendy Schissel, ‘Re(dis)covering the Witches in Arthur Miller's The Crucible, A Feminist Reading', Modern Drama  37, 1994, pp. 461-473.

Brenda Murphy, ‘Informers' in Congressional Theatre: Dramatizing McCarthyism on Stage, Film, and Television (Cambridge: CUP, 1999), pp. 206-225.

Susan C. W. Abbotson, ‘Issues of Identity in Broken Glass: A Humanist Response to a Postmodern World', Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 11, Winter 1999, pp. 67-80.

Terry Otten, ‘The Price' in The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), pp. 145-158.

Christopher Bigsby, ‘"Resurrection Blues"', in Arthur Miller: A Critical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 421-436.

Tennessee Williams

Esther Merle Jackson, ‘The Synthetic Myth' in The Broken World of Tennessee Williams (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1965), pp. 43-67.

Nancy M. Tischler, ‘The Distorted Mirror: Tennessee Williams' Self-Portraits', Mississippi Quarterly, 25, 1972, pp. 389-403.

Mary Ann Corrigan, ‘Realism and Theatricalism in A Streetcar Named Desire', Modern Drama, 19, 1976, pp. 385-396.

Thomas P. Adler, ‘When Ghosts Supplant Memories: Tennessee Williams' Clothes for a Summer Hotel', Southern Literary Journal, 19, 2, Spring 1987, 5-19.

Philip C. Kolin, ‘Sleeping with Caliban: The Politics of Race in Tennessee Williams's Kingdom of Earth', Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present, 8, 2, 1993, pp. 140-162.


Robert F. Gross, ‘The Pleasures of Brick: Eros and the Gay Spectator in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 1, 9, Winter 1997, pp. 11-25.

John M. Clum,'Williams: Masculinity and Homophobia', in Still Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2000), pp. 122-135.

Annette J. Saddik, ‘"The Inexpressible Regret of All Her Regrets": Tennessee Williams's Late Plays as Artaudian Theater of Cruelty', in Philip C. Kolin, ed., The Undiscovered Country: The Later Plays of Tennessee Williams (New York: Peter Lang, 2002), pp. 5-24.

Michael Paller, ‘A True Story of Our Time', in Gentlemen Callers: Tennessee Williams, Homosexuality, and Mid-Twentieth Century Broadway Drama (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 130-155.

Selected Playwrights

Jane Courant, ‘Social and Cultural Prophecy in the Works of William Inge', Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present, 6, 2, 1991, pp. 135-151.

Helene Keyssar, ‘Sounding the Rumble of Dreams Deferred: Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun', in The Curtain and the Veil: Strategies in Black Drama (New York: Burt Franklin, 1981), pp. 113-146.

Brooke Horvath and Lisa Logan, ‘Nobody Knows Best: Carson McCullers's Plays as Social Criticism', Southern Quarterly, 33, 1995, pp. 23-33.

Volume 3 1960-1979


Edward Albee, ‘Which Theatre is the Absurd One?'  New York Times Magazine  25 February 1962, pp. 31, 64, 66.

Stanley Kauffmann, ‘Homosexual Drama and Its Disguises', New York Times, 23 January 1966, sec. 2, p. 1

Larry Neal, ‘The Black Arts Movement', TDR, 12, 1968, pp. 29-39.

Margaret B. Wilkerson, ‘Redefining Black Theatre', Black Studies , 10, 1979, pp. 32-42.

Jeanie Forte, ‘Realism, Narrative, and the Feminist Playwright-A Problem of Reception' Modern Drama, 32, March 1989, pp. 115-127.

Patricia R. Schroeder, ‘American Drama, Feminist Discourse, and Dramatic Form: In Defense of

Critical Pluralism', Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism  7, 1993, pp. 103-118.

Edward Albee          

Richard Schechner, ‘Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?', Drama Review, 7, 3, 1963, pp. 7-10.

Alan Schneider, ‘Who So Afraid', Drama Review, 7, 3, 1963, pp. 10-13.

Ruby Cohn, ‘The Verbal Murders of Edward Albee' in Dialogue in American Drama (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1971), pp. 130-149.

Thomas P. Adler, ‘Albee's Seascape: Humanity at the Second Threshold', Renascence, 31, 1979,  pp. 107-114.

Matthew C. Roudané, ‘Thematic Unity in the Theater of Edward Albee', Publications of the Mississippi Philological Association, 1986, pp. 93-100.

Gene A. Plunka, ‘Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance: A Rite of Passage from Sterility to Tranquility,' Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 9, 1-2, March 1988, pp. 87-95.

Deborah R. Geis, ‘Staging Hypereloquence: Edward Albee and the Monologic Voice', American Drama,  2, Spring 1993, pp. 1-11.

Jill R. Deans.  "Albee's Substitute Children: Reading Adoption as a Performative." Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 13 (1999): 57-78.

The Sixties

Foster Hirsch, ‘Performance Theatre: Dionysus in 69 and The Serpent,' Kansas Quarterly,  3, 2, 1971, pp. 32-40.

Lance Jeffers, ‘Bullins, Baraka, and Elder: The Dawn of Grandeur in Black Drama' CLA Journal  16,1972, pp. 32-48.

Robert Tener, ‘The Corrupted Warrior Heroes: Amiri Baraka's The Toilet', Modern Drama,  17, 2,  1974, pp. 207-215.

W. D. E. Andrews, ‘Theater of Black Reality: The Blues Drama of Ed Bullins',  Southwest Review,  65, 1979, pp.  78-90.

J. W. Fenn, ‘Viet Rock' in Levitating the Pentagon: Evolutions in the American Theatre of the Viet Nam Era (Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1992) pp. 38-43.

Maria Irene Fornes

Deborah Geis, ‘Wordscapes of the Body: Performative Language as Gestus in Maria Irene Fornes's Plays', Theatre Journal,  42, 1990, pp. 291-307.

Diane Lynn Moroff, ‘Fefu and Her Friends' in Fornes: Theater in the Present Tense (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996), 33-57.

The Seventies

Toby Silverman Zinman, ‘Search and Destroy: The Drama of the Vietnam War', Theatre Journal,  42, 1, 1990, pp. 5-26.

Elin Diamond, ‘Rethinking Identification: Kennedy, Freud, Brecht', The Kenyon Review,  15, 1993, , pp. 86-99.

Tejumola Olaniyan, ‘Ntozake Shange' in Scars of Conquest/Masks of Resistance: The Invention of Cultural Identities in African, African-American, and Caribbean Drama (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 116-138.

Carla J. McDonough, ‘David Rabe' in Staging Masculinity: Male Identity in Contemporary American Drama (New York: Garland, 1997), pp. 103-132.

Martin J. Jacobi, ‘The Comic Vision of Lanford Wilson', Studies in the Literary Imagination, 21, Fall 1998, pp. 119-134.

Gene A. Plunka ‘The Black Comedy of Urban Neurosis: John Guare's The House of Blue Leaves', Studies in the Humanities,  25, 1-2, 1998, pp. 38-52.

Konstantinos Blatanis, ‘Arthur Kopit, Indians' in Popular Culture Icons in Contemporary American Drama (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2003), pp. 143-151.

Volume 4 1980-2000

Issues of Ethnicity

W. B. Worthen, ‘Staging América: The Subject of History in Chicano/a Theatre', Theatre Journal,  49, May 1997, pp. 101-120.

Catherine Wiley, ‘Teatro Chicano and the Seduction of Nostalgia', MELUS, 23, 1998, pp. 99-


Jon D. Rossini, ‘Marisol, Angels, and Apocalyptic Migrations', American Drama, 10, 2001, pp. 1-20.

James S. Moy, ‘David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly and Philip Kan Gotanda's Yankee Dawg You Die: Repositioning Chinese American Marginality on the American Stage', Theatre Journal,  42, 1, 1990, pp. 48-56.


Sam Shepard

Tucker Orbison, ‘Mythic Levels in Shepard's True West', Modern Drama  27, 1984, pp. 506-519.

Lynda Hart, ‘Sam Shepard's Pornographic Visions', Studies in the Literary Imagination,  21, Fall 1988, pp. 69-82.


Marc Robinson, ‘Sam Shepard' in The Other American Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 60-88.

David Mamet

Christine Mac Leod, ‘The Politics of Gender, Language, and Hierarchy in Mamet's Oleanna' Journal of American Studies,  29, 1995,  pp. 199-213.

Robert Vorlicky, ‘Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet' in Act Like a Man: Challenging Masculinities in American Drama (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1995), pp. 25-56.

Janet V. Haedicke, ‘Decoding Cipher Space: David Mamet's The Cryptogram and America's Dramatic Legacy', American Drama,  9, Fall 1999, pp. 1-20.

August Wilson

Kim Pereira, ‘Fences' in August Wilson and the African-American Odyssey (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), pp. 35-54.       

Harry J. Elam, Jr.  ‘Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: Singing Wilson's Blues', American Drama,  5, Spring 1996,  pp. 76-99.

Sandra G. Shannon, ‘A Transplant That Did Not Take: August Wilson's Views on the Great Migration', African American Review, 31, 4, Winter 1997, pp. 659-666.

Marsha Norman

Jill Dolan, ‘Feminism and the Canon: The Question of Universality', in The Feminist Spectator as Critic (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1988), pp. 19-40.

William Demastes, ‘Jessie and Thelma Revisited: Marsha Norman's Conceptual Challenge in ‘night Mother', Modern Drama, 36, 1993, pp. 109-19.

Tony Kushner


David Savran, ‘Ambivalence, Utopia, and a Queer Sort of Materialism: How Angels in America Reconstructs the Nation' Theatre Journal, 47, May 1995, pp. 207-227.

Jonathan Freedman, ‘Angels, Monsters, and Jews: Intersections of Queer and Jewish Identity in Kushner's Angels in America', PMLA,  113, 1998, pp. 90-102.

Selected Playwrights


Bette Mandl, ‘Feminism, Postfeminism, and The Heidi Chronicles', Studies in the Humanities,  17, 1990, pp. 120-128.

Marc Silverstein, ‘Any Baggage You Don't Claim, We Trash: Living With(in) History in Wolfe's The Colored Museum', American Drama,  8, Fall 1998, pp. 95-121.

Bruce McConachie, ‘The Dining Room: A Tocquevillian Take on the Decline of WASP Culture', Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 10, 1998, pp.  39-50.


Robert M. Post, ‘The Sexual World of Paula Vogel', The Journal of American Drama and Theatre, 13, Fall 2001, pp. 42-54.

Heike Frank, ‘The Instability of Meaning in Suzan-Lori Parks's The America Play', American Drama, 11, 2002, pp. 4-20.

Robert J. Andreach, ‘Richard Foreman' in Drawing Upon the Past: Classical Theatre in the Contemporary American Theatre (New York: Peter Lang, 2003), pp. 166-187.

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