Menu Bar

 

Editor: Frederick Wilkins
Suffolk University, Boston

Vol. III, No. 2
September, 1979


(IN THIS ISSUE)

NEW BOOK ON O'NEILL: A PREVIEW

The Frederick Ungar Publishing Company has announced an October publication date for Eugene O'Neill: A World View, a new collection of essays edited by Virginia Floyd. (Its contents and contributors were listed on pages 24-25 of the May issue of the Newsletter.) The following information, offered as a preview for prospective purchasers, was gleaned from correspondence with Professor Floyd, who was recently selected by Donald Gallup, curator of the O'Neill Collection at Yale, to write a second book--Eugene O'Neill's Ideas for Plays--using material that had been totally restricted since the playwright's death in 1953. Dr. Gallup has permitted Professor Floyd to include excerpts from the restricted notes and notebooks and the Work Diary, which he transcribed, in her introduction to Eugene O'Neill: A World View.

Using material from these sources, she shows, for example, in the section "Performers on O'Neill," how statements made by Florence Eldridge and Geraldine Fitzgerald, expressing their views of Long Day's Journey into Night and their interpretation of Mary Tyrone, actually reflect those of the dramatist as recorded in his notes for the play. The introduction to Ingrid Bergman's "A Meeting With O'Neill," in which the actress provides new insights into the playwright's concept of the Cycle and his plans to organize a repertory company to stage it, reveals the favorable impression the Swedish star made on the dramatist and his wife Carlotta during their historic "meeting."

In the first two sections of the book, O'Neill scholars provide plausible answers to some hitherto unanswered questions: What were the reasons for the years of the so-called "great O'Neill silence," when for a period of twenty-two years--from 1934 to 1956--America's greatest dramatist was a dramaturgic pariah in his native land? In contrast, why was he consistently produced and appreciated in Europe from the 1920s to the present? The contributors demonstrate O'Neill's universality, his power and ability to transcend national boundaries and his own cultural heritage to become a prime force in world theatre and literature. The title, Eugene O'Neill: A World View, is particularly appropriate as the book offers a global view of O'Neill, world dramatist and native son--with essays by distinguished experts from both Western and Eastern Europe and various regions in our own country.

The first section, "A European Perspective," shows the dramatist turning to the Old World for theatrical, literary and philosophical inspiration; provides information about the many European productions during the past fifty years; and suggests reasons why he is rejected in this country and respected abroad. Because O'Neill was able to transcend international language and cultural barriers with a universal vision of man, it is incomprehensible to the Europeans represented why the dramatist has not received the recognition he deserves in this country. "Perhaps," writes Dr. Floyd, "what Americans are really rejecting is the playwright's message to them, for he shows the dichotomy in the American character--that while it has idealistic longings, it reaches out for material possessions. O'Neill says, 'Its main idea is that everlasting game of trying to possess your own soul by the possession of something outside it.'" In "A Russian View: One Hundred Percent American Tragedy," a perceptive analysis of O'Neill's development and efforts to write in terms of American life and experience, Maya Koreneva of the Gorky Institute of World Literature defines the dramatist's recurring theme as the "hostility of bourgeois society imposing dull utilitarianism through the tyranny of the moneybag, to art and artist, to the spiritual aspirations of man in general." She also discusses Tairov's Kamerny productions of the plays, which O'Neill saw and praised when they were presented in Paris. Tairov's affinity with O'Neill was also shared by other European directors: Olof Molander and Karl Ragnar Gierow of the Royal Dramatic in Stockholm, and Karel Hugo Hilar of the National Theatre in Prague, as Tom Olsson and Josef Jarab point out in their essays.

While O'Neill was the son of an Irish immigrant, he was an American Irishman and influenced by the social and cultural environment of the New World. The essays in the second section of the book, "An American Perspective," examine four aspects that contributed to his formation: Irish Catholicism, New England Puritanism, mysticism, and humanism. In their totality, the essays in Professor Floyd's book present a world view--scholarly and theatrical--of O'Neill; the American and European influences that affected his work; and the evaluation of that work in the playwright's own country and abroad.

(IN THIS ISSUE)

 

Copyright 1999-2007 eOneill.com