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The History of Southern Drama

by Charles S. Watson

Availableweb pdf$30.00x 978-0-8131-4999-8
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304 pages  Pubdate: 07/11/2014  6 x 9  photos

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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.

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.

Provides both a catalog of dramatists and plays ripe for further investigation and significant insight into southern politics, social issues, and cultural resources, topics that should be of interest to any serious student of drama or southern history. -- Alabama Review

Provides, finally, the first comprehensive survey of the genre. This landmark volume stands as a corrective to the exclusionary politics within the critical enterprise that have long made dramatists ‘the stepchildren of southern literature.’ -- American Literature

The materials extensively uncovered here, and the lines of connection between them, are certainly such as to bear out Watson's claims for southern drama as 'a valuable body of knowledge.' -- American Studies

Such a volume has not previously existed. -- Canadian Review of Comparative Literature

A valuable resource. -- Choice

Watson demonstrates the link between southern dramatists and other writers and shows that from the earliest days drama has been a significant element in the South's cultural and political history. -- Georgia Historical Quarterly

Watson has masterfully mixed the history of more than two hundred years of southern drama with a lifetime of careful reading and thoughtful observation. -- In-Between

An indispensable genesis for students of southern culture, high and low. -- Journal of Southern History

Throughout, his arguments are frequently fresh and persuasive. Thoroughly researched and stylishly written. -- Library Journal

It is the first job of literary history to provide such guidance into the past, and Charles Watson's History of Southern Drama provides it with refreshing thoroughness and clarity. -- Mississippi Quarterly

Watson has performed a significant service to drama scholars. -- Modern Drama

Brings to our attention many facts and figures we otherwise might have overlooked. -- Nineteenth-Century Literature

An important contribution to literary history. -- North Carolina Historical Review

Watson's study covers a lot of ground and a great many figures. -- Sewanee Review

The depth of his research, the diversity of his approach, and the wealth of the material he presents make this an invaluable resource for anyone interested in dramatic history and Southern culture. -- Southern Register

The first general introduction to the subject, and the local detail he provides is sharp and revealing. -- Year’s Work in English Studies

How grateful we should be to Charles Watson reminding us, once again, of the diversity of southern drama. Reminding us, too, of our indebtedness to early playwrights like Paul Green, and teachers of playwriting like Frederick Koch, and making vividly clear how southern dramatists, both black and white, responded each in his own way to an ever changing South. -- Horton Foote

Watson's book gathers together in one place for the first time an enormous amount of primary information about this badly understudied topic. Watson has a masterful command of the sources he uses. -- Jackson Bryer