Course Spotlight!

This course will study the iconic works of America’s two greatest dramatists of the midtwentieth century, examining their plays of the post-war period (1947-1960). In 1957 Arthur Miller was unjustly found guilty of contempt of Congress. He would not give the House Committee on Un-American Activities the names of ‘Communists’ who attended meetings with him in the 1930s. Behind the conviction was Senator Joseph McCarthy who had been witch-hunting communists and telling the country how ‘normal’ Americans behaved. (He even tried to identify being gay with communism.) Nearly complicit with the McCarthyism at this time were the television and movie industries. They were, according to eminent critic and Williams authority, John Lahr, trying to “reinvent America as Superbia—a God-fearing, family-oriented land of blessing, where right and wrong were clear, progress was certain, and goodness prevailed.” Meanwhile Miller and Williams were writing their masterpieces, asking Americans to challenge these clichéd illusions about this perfect America. The great plays of these two authors made this challenge in sharply different ways. While Miller, attacked social values and broad ideas, such as an unqualified devotion to the American Dream, Williams looked deep into the souls of his characters, studying the tragedy of the individual; the struggling person who is seeking the consolidation of self and trying to reconcile their own world view while facing hostile adversaries. Adversaries who pose as speakers for the ‘normal’ in American society. The content of this course will include All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, and The Crucible by Miller and A Streetcar Named Desire and The Night of the Iguana by Williams. The classroom activities will include lecture, discussion, and video watching. If a Chicago company is performing a play related to our course, we will attend it. This, of course, would be an optional extra-credit opportunity.