The American Play


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Marc Robinson

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In this brilliant study, Marc Robinson explores more than two hundred years of plays, styles, and stagings of American theater. Mapping the changing cultural landscape from the late eighteenth century to the start of the twenty-first, he explores how theater has—and has not—changed and offers close readings of plays by O’Neill, Stein, Wilder, Miller, and Albee, as well as by important but perhaps lesser known dramatists such as Wallace Stevens, Jean Toomer, Djuna Barnes, and many others. Robinson reads each work in an ambitiously interdisciplinary context, linking advances in theater to developments in American literature, dance, and visual art.


The author is particularly attentive to the continuities in American drama, and expertly teases out recurring themes, such as the significance of visuality. He avoids neatly categorizing nineteenth- and twentieth-century plays and depicts a theater more restive and mercurial than has been recognized before. Robinson proves both a fascinating and thought-provoking critic and a spirited guide to the history of American drama.

Marc Robinson is professor of theater studies, English, and American studies at Yale University and adjunct professor of dramaturgy and dramatic criticism at the Yale School of Drama. He is the author of The Other American Drama and a frequent contributor to theater journals. He lives in Guilford, CT.

"Rarely has such a good writer on drama undertaken such a project, and even more rarely executed it with such panache."—Don B. Wilmeth, Editor, Cambridge Guide to American Theatre

"American Play is a searching and elegant study of American theater by one of its foremost critics."—Martin Puchner, Columbia University

 "The American Play—as the starkness and boldness of its title implies—is decisively remaking the canon of American drama. What makes this book a rare and exhilarating experience is the subtlety, imagination, erudition, and analytical power of Marc Robinson's critical voice."—Ross Posnock, Columbia University

"Both a rich, revealing archaeology and an inspired and startling remapping of the American dramatic landscape, this brilliant, synoptic work will influence the shape of American drama and cultural studies for generations to come."—Una Chaudhuri, author of Staging Place: The Geography of Modern Drama

“Revelatory . . . Robinson's essays fulfill the lofty goal of giving close, interdisciplinary readings that liberally dip into new developments in American literature, dance, and visual art.”--Randy Gener, American Theatre

"[An] inspired reassessment of this nation's theatrical history." —Dramatics

“Marc Robinson is one of the most astute and sensitive critics of American drama, and The American Play is his major work to date . . . powerful and persuasive . . . essential reading for any serious student of US drama.”--Stephen Bottoms, New Theatre Quarterly

“Evocative and compelling . . . a worthy achievement.”

--George Hunka, Performing Arts Journal


"Ambitious. . . fresh, original. . . [and] beautifully written."--Robert Combs, The Arthur Miller Journal

Honorable mention, Association for Theater in Higher Education Outstanding Book Award for 2010

Chosen as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2009 by Choice Magazine

Winner of the 2009 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism organized and directed by the English departments of Cornell, Princeton, and Yale Universities.

Winner of the 2010 George Freedley Special Jury Prize, given by the Theatre Library Association
ISBN: 9780300170047
Publication Date: July 12, 2010
416 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 b/w illus scattered