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Clifford Odets and American Political Theatre

Clifford Odets and American Political Theatre

by Christopher J. Herr


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Clifford Odets, one of the 20th century's leading American playwrights, was a fervent believer in democracy and the human ability to overcome obstacles. Yet his legacy has been overshadowed by persistent attempts to read him as a thoroughly political playwright. This new consideration reads his career—the work itself and the conditions of its invention—as cultural creations in a time of political, social, and economic change.

Spanning two World Wars, the Depression, and the Cold War, the works of Clifford Odets illuminate a period of tremendous change in American life and theatre. Herr adroitly examines Odets's plays and screenplays against the backdrop of the artistic and economic pressures placed upon him by the Group Theatre, Broadway, Hollywood, and the 1952 HUAC hearings in which he testified. He avers that Odets's experience as a writer in the film and theatre industries is reflected in expressions of economic struggle in his plays. While a culture of abundance in the face of economic catastrophe shaped the structure and content of his early works, political pressures, especially during the Cold War, shaped his later career.

This book illustrates the deeply utopian nature of Odets's vision, which existed alongside a continuing ambivalence toward consumer culture as a means of political and social change. Herr's fresh new look at Odets's works and contributions to the American stage invites readers to reconsider accepted notions about the playwright's importance.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780313315947
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/30/2003
Series: Contributions in Drama and Theatre Studies , #103
Pages: 200
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER J. HERR is Assistant Professor at California State University, Los Angeles. He is a founding member of the North Coast Theatre in Toledo, Ohio. In addition to publishing or presenting papers on political theatre, he has also acted and directed for the stage.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword




Odets and America, 1906-1929

Art and Politics in the Marketplace: Odets, the Group, and America, 1929-1940

"Life Printed on Dollar Bills": The Marketplace in Odets' Group Plays

Odets and the Dwindling Political Theatre, 1940-1954

"A Real Artist of the People": Odets' Post-Group Plays

"The Enemy with a Capital 'E'": Odets' Final Years


Selected Bibliography


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