The Metatheater of Tennessee Williams

Tracing the Artistic Process Through Seven Plays

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About the Book

Tennessee Williams’ characters set the stage for their own dramas. Blanche DuBois (A Streetcar Named Desire), arrived at her sister’s apartment with an entire trunk of costumes and props. Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie) directed her son on how to eat and tries to make her daughter act like a Southern Belle.

This book argues for the persistence of one metatheatrical strategy running throughout Williams’ entire oeuvre: each play stages the process through which it came into being–and this process consists of a variation on repetition combined with transformation. Each chapter takes a detailed reading of one play and its variation on repetition and transformation. Specific topics include reproduction in Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), mediation in Something Cloudy, Something Clear (1981), and how the playwright frequently recycled previous works of art, including his own.

About the Author(s)

Laura Michiels is an English lecturer at Erasmus Brussels University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Belgium. Articles and reviews by her have appeared in Arcadia: International Journal of Literary Culture, Amerikastudien, Journal of Contemporary Drama in English and Theatre Journal. Her research currently focuses on contemporary American political theatre.

Bibliographic Details

Laura Michiels
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 261
Bibliographic Info: 7 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6646-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4258-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Abstract vi
Acknowledgments vii
List of Abbreviations xi
Introduction 1
1. Mythic Metatheater: Battle of Angels/Orpheus Descending 13
Mimesis 15
Grotesque (and) Generic Transformations 29
2. Multiplying Metatheater: Sweet Bird of Youth 67
(Pro)creation 71
Mechanical Reproduction 82
3. Esoteric Metatheater: Out Cry/The Two-Character Play 104
Esoteric Endeavors 108
Transmuting Performance 117
4. Marauding Metatheater: Clothes for a Summer Hotel 131
Authors, Businessmen, Celebrities 137
Primitivists, Exoticists, Imperialists 158
5. Negotiating Metatheater: Something Cloudy, Something Clear 169
Quoting Poetry, Translating Music (and Vice Versa) 173
Mediating Memory 201
Conclusion 219
Chapter Notes 227
Works Cited 229
Index 245

Book Reviews & Awards

“This stimulating and provocative study fulfills the promise of its title—and more: there’s a wealth of illuminating literary and cultural context. Laura Michiels makes an important contribution to more nuanced appreciation of Tennessee Williams’s great plays.”—Felicia Hardison Londré, Curators’ Distinguished Professor Emerita of Theatre, University of Missouri-Kansas City