Books by Mississippi Writers 1996-2010
Edited by Philip C. Kolin Peter Lang (Hardcover, $32.95, ISBN: 0820451304, 11/2002) Tennessee Williams’s foray into “dragon country with some new dramatic armor” during the fading decades of his career may have displeased some fans, but many scholars believe the playwright's later works contributed mightily to the American theatre. The Undiscovered Country: The Later Plays of Tennessee Williams is a collection of 15 original essays by Dr. Philip C. Kolin, professor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, and 14 other Williams scholars. The book—published by the international house of Peter Lang in New York, Berlin and Bern, Switzerland—is the first book exclusively devoted to Williams’s plays written and produced after Night of the Iguana, from 1961 to his death in 1983. It argues that Williams was a rarely gifted experimental artist at work and that his later plays are vital to the American theatre, although they radically depart from his earlier works of psychological realism. “Williams was not simply static, not just recreating earlier successes or repeating them,” said Kolin, a Chicago native who has been a member of the Southern Miss faculty for 29 years. “He wanted to enter what he called ‘dragon country’with new dramatic armor. His later plays are very, very different in the way they represent or misrepresent reality. They are not as familiar (as his earlier works) but that doesn’t mean they are inferior.… But some people attacked him for being a different playwright, for attempting new dramatic forms. They wanted him to remain with the same type of realism that characterized his Broadway successes in the 1940s and ’50s.” Rather than focusing on his earlier, more popular works such as The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Streetcar Named Desire and Night of the Iguana, essays in Kolin’s book address Williams’s later plays, which include Seven Descents of Myrtle, Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, Small Craft Warnings, Red Devil Battery Sign, Clothes for a Summer Hotel, and the first essay written on Williams’s still unpublished play, A House Not Meant to Stand. “With the exception of Small Craft Warnings, most of the later plays had very limited or no Broadway runs,” said Kolin. “This book is the first one to look at Williams’s accomplishments apart from simple autobiographical readings and judges the plays on their own merits.… Some represented the theatre of the absurd, some were post-modern memory plays, some were theological inquiries, and some focused on Williams and contemporary art.” The professor said Williams, a native of Columbus, Miss., was a prolific writer who penned more than 80 full-length plays during his lifetime, most of them written from 1961-1983. He acted in one of his plays only once, playing the role of the drunken “Doc” in Small Craft Warnings. A photo of Williams in that role graces the front cover of Undiscovered Country. “I think he wanted to become one with his script,” Kolin said of Williams’s lone venture onto the stage. Other contributors to the book include Annette J. Saddik, Michael Paller, Allean Hale, Una Chaudhuri, Gene D. Phillips, Terri Smith Ruckel, Felicia Hardison Londré, Robert F. Gross, Robert Bray, Verna Foster, George W. Crandell, Norma Jenckes, James Fisher and Thomas Keith. A widely respected authority on Williams’s plays, Kolin has published four other books on the playwright. He also has published more than 20 books and 180 articles on Shakespeare, Edward Albee, David Rabe, contemporary American theatre history, and business and technical writing. He is the general editor for the Routledge Shakespeare Criticism series and is founding co-editor of Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present.