Hellman, Lillian (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)
Lillian Hellman 1906–-1984
(Full name Lillian Florence Hellman) American playwright and autobiographer.
Hellman is considered one of the most acclaimed American dramatists of the first half of the twentieth century. In an era that largely favored lighthearted romantic plays and drawing-room comedies, her works explored the human capacity for malice, the allure of power and money, and the dichotomy between individual interests and social conscience. Hellman's preference for confronting more complex issues of the human condition has earned her a reputation as a leading American female playwright. Hellman also wrote several acclaimed and controversial memoirs that illuminate such historical events as the Spanish Civil War, the Moscow Purge Trials, and the McCarthy hearings.
Born in New Orleans, Hellman was the only child of a southern Jewish shoe manufacturer and a Manhattan socialite. She attended New York University and Columbia University, leaving Columbia after her junior year in 1925 to work as a manuscript reader at the publishing firm of Boni and Liveright. After Hellman resigned her position the following year, she married publicist Arthur Kober and began contributing book reviews to the New York Herald Tribune. In late 1925, Hellman and Kober left New York for Paris, where Kober assumed editorship of a new literary journal, the Paris Comet. During this period, Hellman published short stories and traveled extensively throughout Europe. The couple returned to New York in 1929, and Hellman worked as a reader for several Broadway producers before moving with her husband to Hollywood in 1930. While working in a similar position at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios, Hellman met detective novelist Dashiell Hammett, and their friendship developed into a thirty-one-year personal and professional partnership during which Hammett guided Hellman in her initial attempts as a playwright and supplied her with material that she incorporated into several of her best-known dramas. Hellman subsequently divorced her husband and returned to New York City with Hammett.
In the 1930s two of Hellman's most acclaimed dramas, The Children's Hour (1934) and The Little Foxes (1939), were produced. Both were critically and commercially successful—The Children's Hour was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize—and Hellman continued to pursue a career in the theater for over two more decades. Throughout her writing life, Hellman was also politically active, raising money for the Spanish loyalists fighting the dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco and lending her name to various leftist causes. In addition, she visited Russia and other communist countries and continued to support Soviet premier Joseph Stalin after most American intellectuals and political writers had repudiated his violent regime. In 1947 Hellman wrote a scathing editorial published in the Screen Writers' Guild magazine in response to the Congressional House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings held in Hollywood, in the course of which several writers and film directors were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to identify their peers as members of the Communist Party. Although Hellman was never formally accused of being a communist, she discovered in 1948 that she had been included on the Committee's blacklist. In 1952 she was served with a subpoena to appear before HUAC and responded by writing a letter to the Committee indicating that she would only answer questions related to her political activities. During this time, Hellman wrote and directed Montserrat (1949), the first of several adaptations on which she worked. Taken from a play by Emmanuel Roblès, Montserrat was followed by The Lark (1955), a reworking of Jean Anouilh's drama L'alouette, and Candide (1956), adapted from Voltaire's classic novel. Hellman's last two original dramas were The Autumn Garden (1951) and Toys in the Attic (1960), the latter of which won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play. Following the 1963 production of My Mother, My Father, and Me, adapted from a novel by Burt Blechman, Hellman retired from the theater and renewed her political activities by becoming a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.
In 1969 Hellman published An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir, the first of several autobiographical works that introduced her to a larger, mainstream audience. This book contains sketches of such literary figures as Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker, as well as a poignant tribute to Hammett, who died in 1961. In Pentimento: A Book of Portraits (1974), Hellman similarly provided anecdotes of people and events from various periods of her life. Perhaps Hellman's best-known sketch is “Julia,” which recounts her enduring relationship with a childhood friend whose involvement with the European Resistance during World War II led to her murder by Nazi collaborators. Hellman's next memoir, Scoundrel Time (1976), chronicled her political activities and provided a detailed account of the events that led to her appearance before HUAC. This volume provoked much controversy for Hellman's unflattering portraits of such liberal writers and intellectuals as Lionel and Diana Trilling, Clifford Odets, and Elia Kazan, all of whom, she believed, had compromised their political convictions for fear of retribution from Congress. Scoundrel Time also initiated reassessment of her previous autobiographical works, and many critics subsequently accused Hellman of deliberately distorting facts for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. The most serious threat to Hellman's integrity occurred in 1980, when novelist and critic Mary McCarthy called her “a bad writer and a dishonest writer” on national television. This incident fueled further debate concerning the accuracy of Hellman's nonfiction works, particularly “Julia,” and several writers published detailed essays discrediting the portrait of her friend and her brief participation in the Resistance movement. Hellman responded to these charges by filing a defamation suit against McCarthy that was dismissed following Hellman's death in 1984.
Hellman's first play, The Children's Hour, is based on an actual British court case cited in William Roughead's Bad Companions, in which two headmistresses of a Scottish girls' academy were falsely accused by a student of homosexual behavior. While nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, the play was not awarded the honor, and it was later revealed that one of the Pulitzer judges had not seen the play because he found its subject matter morally offensive. To counteract what they considered artistic censorship, the leading New York City reviewers formed the New York Drama Critics Circle Award committee for the purpose of establishing its own annual prize for theatrical works. The Children's Hour also gained notoriety in other cities in which it was produced. The play was banned in Boston and Chicago and was clandestinely staged at a private theater club in London to avoid government censorship during an international tour. Hellman's next notable play, The Little Foxes, is the first of four dramas in which the author explored the conflict between self-interest and moral responsibility. Set in a small southern town in 1900, The Little Foxes depicts greed and sibling rivalry among members of the affluent Hubbard family, who are offered the opportunity to become even wealthier by investing in a local cotton mill, a venture that ultimately destroys the family. The play received widespread acclaim for its strong characterization, tightly woven plot, and spirited dialogue. Hellman's next play, Watch on the Rhine (1941), for which she won her first New York Drama Critics Circle Award, centers on a family involved in the anti-Nazi movement during World War II. Among Hellman's other major dramatic works is Toys in the Attic, which many critics regard as her best play. The plot of Toys in the Attic was conceived by Dashiell Hammett, who suggested that Hellman write a play about a man who deliberately squanders his fortune when he discovers his family's resentment of his new found wealth. Hellman incorporated Hammett's ideas into a Southern Gothic piece revolving around the destructive relationship between spinster sisters Carrie and Anna Berniers and their younger brother Julian, whose sudden wealth and marriage threaten their domination of him.
Hellman's plays have been analyzed from various critical perspectives, most prominently from the viewpoint of her politics, her concern with the corrosive effect of power and money on the lives of individuals, and her disaffection with the American capitalist system. While early evaluations of Hellman's plays placed her in the tradition of nineteenth-century dramatists Anton Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen, later assessments more often group her among such modern playwrights as Bertold Brecht, Eugene O'Neill, Arthur Miller, and Tennessee Williams. Commentators have also examined Hellman's dramatic works as forerunners of feminist theater. Regardless of the critical slant imposed on her works, Hellman retains her importance as a significant contributor to twentieth-century American theater.
The Children's Hour (play) 1934
Days to Come (play) 1936
The Little Foxes (play) 1939
Watch on the Rhine (play) 1941
The Searching Wind (play) 1944
Another Part of the Forest (play) 1946
Montserrat [adapted from the play by Emmanuel Roblès] (play) 1949
The Autumn Garden (play) 1951
The Lark [adapted from the play by Jean Anouilh] (play) 1955
Candide [adapted from the novel by Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire] (play) 1956
Toys in the Attic (play) 1960
My Mother, My Father, and Me [adapted from the novel How Much? by Burt Blechman] (play) 1963
The Lillian Hellman Collection at the University of Texas (notebooks) 1968
An Unfinished Woman: A Memoir (memoir) 1969
The Collected Plays (collected works) 1972
Pentimento: A Book of Portraits (memoir) 1974
Scoundrel Time (memoir) 1976
Three (collected works) 1979
Maybe: A Story (memoir) 1980
Eating Together: Recipes and Recollections (conversations) 1984
Conversations with Lillian Hellman (conversations)...
(The entire section is 132 words.)
SOURCE: Howe, Irving. “Lillian Hellman and the McCarthy Years.” In Irving Howe: Selected Writings, 1950-1990, pp. 340-46. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990.
[In the following essay, originally published in Dissent in 1976, Howe argues that Hellman's depiction of 1950s America in her memoirs is more mythology than fact.]
There are writers with so enticing a style that, in their own behalf, they must stop themselves and ask: “Is what I am saying true? Charming yes, persuasive also; but true?” This has, or should, become a problem for Lillian Hellman. Her three recent memoirs recalling her life with Dashiell Hammett and, in Scoundrel Time, her 1952 clash with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), all make attractive reading. By the same token, however, Miss Hellman has reached a point where she risks mythologizing her own life, transfiguring the story of a taciturn Dash and the peppery Lillian into a popular literary romance.
But let that pass, and let us turn to the claim of Miss Hellman and her admirers that in her latest book she provides an accurate and balanced record of the McCarthy years. My contention is that she does not. What she provides is half the story, a vivid and useful half, but no more.
Nothing, to be sure, in her book is as false and certainly nothing as vulgar as the Introduction Garry Wills has written...
(The entire section is 2589 words.)
SOURCE: Hook, Sidney. “The Scoundrel in the Looking Glass.” In Critical Essays on Lillian Hellman, edited by Mark W. Estrin, pp. 148-65. Boston: G. K. Hall and Co., 1989.
[In the following essay, originally published in Philosophy and Public Policy in 1980, Hook excoriates what he considers Hellman's total misrepresentation of history in her memoir Scoundrel Time, in particular her paradoxical vindication of Stalinism and vocal stand against McCarthyism.]
Lillian Hellman enjoys a wide reputation: students pay her homage, reviewers praise her books. A recent play on the McCarthy era presents her as a martyred heroine, radiant in the glow of the spotlight. She is also a brilliant polemicist, skilled in moralizing even at the expense of truth, honor, and common sense. And she has spun a myth about her past that has misled the reading public of at least two countries.
Let us imagine the following case.
A woman of some literary talent and reputation who, although not a cardholding member of the Nazi German-American Bund, which flourished in the 1930s, is the mistress of one of its leading figures, and hobnobs with its political leaders in the circles in which she moves. She signs denunciations of the victims of Hitler's purges and frame-up trials as “spies and wreckers” whose degenerate character has been established, and characterizes the Nazi...
(The entire section is 8619 words.)
SOURCE: Brown, Maurice F. “Autobiography and Memory: The Case of Lillian Hellman.” Biography 8, no. 1 (winter 1985): 1-11.
[In the following essay, Brown argues that Hellman's dependence on memory rather than factual evidence in her autobiographies helped to transform the genre into a specific literary form.]
Lillian Hellman's autobiographical writing is of interest because it extends the range of the form and explores significant theoretical issues. Hellman presents herself as both human being and writer in process, exposing her methods of recall, probing the multiple meanings of the past, and commenting on her problems as investigator and writer. Her focus has been on the nature of her personal involvement with herself and others, not on her career as dramatist nor on herself as a political person. Hellman's “life-record” is a full one: among her documents are the many detailed notebooks she began keeping when she was fourteen. While she turned to a fully-documented autobiographical format in Scoundrel Time, the body of her work presents a quest for the truth of life as experienced—for the poetic and philosophical life. Hellman confronts the tension in her motives in this passage from the Dashiell Hammett chapter of her first volume, An Unfinished Woman:
Thirty years is a long time, I guess, and yet as I come now to write about them the...
(The entire section is 4352 words.)
SOURCE: Grossman, Anita Susan. “Art versus Truth in Autobiography: The Case of Lillian Hellman.” CLIO 14, no. 3 (spring 1985): 289-308.
[In the following essay, Grossman examines the common technique of autobiographers and memoirists deliberately dramatizing and occasionally falsifying information for the sake of artistic integrity and the ways Hellman used this method in her own memoirs.]
The forthcoming appearance of Lillian Hellman's biography by her longtime editor, William Abrahams, promises to shed some new light on a literary figure who has frequently been a subject of controversy. The outline of her long career which ended in June 1984 is now well known: the years as a successful playwright in the 1930s, beginning with The Children's Hour and continuing with The Little Foxes and Watch on the Rhine; her thirty-year on-again off-again relationship with Dashiell Hammett; her appearance in 1952 before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which led to years of being blacklisted for refusing to testify; her comeback on Broadway with the production of her play Toys in the Attic; and, beginning in 1969 in her seventh decade of life, her new success as a writer of memoirs with An Unfinished Woman (1969), Pentimento (1972), and Scoundrel Time (1974). The publication of the last-named account of her life during the McCarthy era raised a storm of...
(The entire section is 8680 words.)
SOURCE: Holditch, W. Kenneth. “Another Part of the Country: Lillian Hellman as Southern Playwright.” Southern Quarterly 25, no. 3 (spring 1987): 11-35.
[In the following essay, Holditch discusses elements of Hellman's life in the South that are reflected in her dramas.]
It seems strange, to say the least, that the last volume Lillian Hellman published before her death was a cookbook. The woman in the kitchen practicing the skills of the gourmet is an image decidedly at odds with that of the strong, independent writer, smoking and drinking with “tough guy” Dashiell Hammett, confronting the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in what may have been her finest moment (“I can't cut my conscience to fit this year's fashion”), hurling sarcastic barbs at a multitude of enemies, and finally, nearly blind and suffering from emphysema, undertaking the rigors of a lawsuit against that other iron-willed and indomitable lady of letters, Mary McCarthy, over a gratuitous and insulting but trivial remark that should, for the good of all concerned, have been ignored.
Significantly, many of the recipes in Eating Together are southern in origin, specifically from New Orleans or other parts of Louisiana (gumbo, red beans and rice, seafood dishes), a circumstance which attests to Hellman's never having lost touch with her origins, early in this century, in that region of the country that...
(The entire section is 10353 words.)
SOURCE: Barranger, Milly S. “Lillian Hellman: Standing in the Minefields.” New Orleans Review 15, no. 1 (spring 1988): 62-68.
[In the following essay, Barranger discusses Hellman's influence on later women playwrights.]
Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) was a complex individual of great personal and professional courage. Born a Southerner in New Orleans in 1905 on the fringe of the Garden District at 1718 Prytania Street, she migrated between New Orleans and New York for the first sixteen years of her life between the Hellman and Newhouse families.
The environments were diametrical opposites: life in a Prytania Street boardinghouse (at 1718, then 4631 Prytania) run by her father's two unmarried sisters and the “lovely oval rooms” of her maternal grandmother's upper West Side Manhattan apartment in New York City.1 Her itinerant girlhood—described by her biographer, William Wright—finally settled upon the Northeast out of professional and personal interests. Nevertheless, her artistic roots remained for the most part with the Alabama Newhouse merchant/banking families and the colorful Hellman relatives in New Orleans and were realized over thirty years later in her four major plays about the South.
In her adulthood, after her marriage to screenwriter Arthur Kober failed, she resided in New York, Los Angeles, Connecticut, and on Martha's Vineyard, living...
(The entire section is 4757 words.)
SOURCE: Patraka, Vivian M. “Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine: Realism, Gender, and Historical Crisis.” Modern Drama 32, no. 1 (March 1989): 128-45.
[In the following essay, Patraka discusses “how gender is thematized” in Watch on the Rhine.]
To historicize a drama means understanding it in its changing socio-historical context and accounting for one's own critical stance toward that context. To historicize a drama also means understanding the role of its contemporary spectator as well as the spectator in our own time. According to Brecht, who first theorized this problem for the theatre, historicized works construct the spectator as an historian who is able to look objectively at the complex material conditions and human contradictions within the play's events and, by extension, within their own history. Brecht, however, had no interest in gender as a specific social phenomenon, so gender was not a historical context for him. In contrast, I assume that there is no ungendered history and seek to investigate not only how gender is thematized in Watch on the Rhine but also how it is inscribed in the conditions of the play's production.1 A gendered reading is not simply one option among many but a necessity if a play is to be fully historicized. In assuming this, I locate myself as part of an ongoing feminist project2 to historicize gendered subjectivity as...
(The entire section is 8746 words.)
SOURCE: Wiles, Timothy J. “Lillian Hellman's American Political Theater: The Thirties and Beyond.” In Critical Essays on Lillian Hellman, edited by Mark W. Estrin, pp. 90-112. Boston: G. K. Hall and Company, 1989.
[In the following essay, Wiles explores Hellman's political plays written from the Depression through the 1940s.]
Along with many American writers from the generation of the 1930s, our “red decade,”1 Lillian Hellman addressed the Great Depression in her plays of the period, and reflected on its aftermath and her own political awakening throughout her career. Her analysis of American society is essentially Marxist, since it is based on the primacy of material and economic conditions to explain social relations, and emphasizes environmental conditioning, conflict among classes, and the hope that a new person, socialist man, would be born of the conflict through the dialectical collision of opposites.
Her view of her involvement with actual politics of the time changed considerably over the years, particularly her affiliation with Stalin, and in her volumes of memoirs she presents a more ambiguous and complex portrait of the artist engaged with her age than she had presented earlier through the spokesmen for socialism in her plays. But she never recanted her belief in the visionary goal to which socialism aspires, and she came to admire Bertolt Brecht as the...
(The entire section is 11575 words.)
SOURCE: Georgoudaki, Ekaterini. “Women in Lillian Hellman's Plays, 1930-1950.” In Women and War: The Changing Status of American Women from the 1930s to the 1950s, edited by Maria Diedrich, pp. 69-86. New York: Berg, 1990.
[In the following essay, Georgoudaki discusses Hellman's portrayal of women in her major plays during the 1930s through 1950s.]
During the period from 1930 to 1950 Lillian Hellman wrote six original plays in the realistic mode. Three of these 1930s plays and one drama of the 1940s are set in and reflect the values of small American towns: The Children's Hour (1934) in Lancet, Massachusetts; Days to Come (1936) in Callom, Ohio; The Little Foxes (1939) and Another Part of the Forest (1946) in Bowden, Alabama. Her two wartime plays, Watch on the Rhine (1941) and The Searching Wind (1944), are broader in scope, however, and utilize other types of characters and settings and address different issues. All plays take place during the period from 1880 to 1944, and the events of the characters' lives are set against appropriate historical backgrounds that reflect the socioeconomic changes resulting from the Civil War, the Great Depression, the rise of Fascism, the Spanish Civil War, the two world wars, and the effects of these events on European and American lives and values. Hellman interweaves the individual and the social, skillfully depicting...
(The entire section is 7444 words.)
SOURCE: Lenker, Lagretta Tallent. “The Foxes in Hellman's Family Forest.” The Aching Hearth: Family Violence in Life and Literature, edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker, pp. 241-53. New York: Insight Books, 1991.
[In the following essay, Lenker argues that the major theme of The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest is the crippling effects of family violence.]
American literature's reliance on themes and situations of family life to weave stories that graphically reflect the human condition has become legendary. Lillian Hellman's entry into the ranks of “cultural familiars” such as William Faulkner's Snopeses and John Steinbeck's Joads is the Hubbards (Wright 1986, 143), a family bonded by mutual greed, distrust, and manipulation. Hellman presents this clan in The Little Foxes [hereafter abbreviated as LF] (1939) and Another Part of the Forest (1946), plays that constitute an unfinished trilogy1 set in Bowden, Alabama, beginning in 1880. Hellman emphatically denied that these dramas contain social messages or polemical motives (Wright 1986, 305). Yet time has taught even Hellman's many admirers that this dramatic genius could not be trusted to account accurately for her motives and actions (Wright 1986, 394). We are certain that Hellman conducted extensive research to gain just the right “sense of the period” that she...
(The entire section is 4301 words.)
SOURCE: Titus, Mary. “Murdering the Lesbian: Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour.” Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 10, no. 2 (fall 1991): 215-32.
[In the following essay, Titus discusses the ways The Children's Hour reflected changing thoughts about women's sexuality in the early to mid-twentieth century.]
American theaters in the late 1920s and early 1930s presented several more or less controversial plays exploring the dangerous attraction of lesbianism, particularly to young women in all-female environments. Between 1926 and 1933, for example, New York saw productions of The Captive (1926), Winter Bound (1928), and Girls in Uniform (1933).1 Certainly the best known of such works is Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour (1934). Hellman's play, like the other explorations of lesbianism, both reflects and participates in the cultural revision of women's sexuality that occurred in the early twentieth century. Read in historical and biographical contexts, The Children's Hour emerges as a crucial document, for it not only provides insight into Lillian Hellman's complex response to contemporary sexual ideology, it also illuminates the struggles of her female contemporaries.
During Hellman's childhood, adolescence, and young womanhood (she was born in 1905), the independent New Woman of the late nineteenth century, who...
(The entire section is 7724 words.)
SOURCE: Brantley, Will. “Lillian Hellman and Katherine Anne Porter: Memoirs from Outside the Shelter.” In Feminine Sense in Southern Memoir: Smith, Glasgow, Welty, Hellman, Porter, and Hurston, pp. 133-84. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993.
[In the following essay, Brantley examines similarities between Hellman's and Porter's attempts in their respective memoirs to portray themselves in the highly politicized atmosphere in which they lived.]
Lillian Hellman and Katherine Anne Porter did not produce autobiographies on the order of The Woman Within or One Writer's Beginnings, though, like Lillian Smith, they did attempt to represent themselves within works that combine self-analysis and cultural critique.
… Smith, Hellman, and Porter were each drawn to one important theme—the dangers of a passive collusion with evil—and each has used her self-writing to explore her own motives while venting scorn on those who, through passivity, ignorance, or their own refusal to explore themselves, allow reactionary leaders and masses to perpetrate their own forms of evil. Neither Hellman nor Porter suffered Smith's ostracism for their liberal commitments. Their acceptance by a large number of readers should not suggest, however, that their memoirs, especially Scoundrel Time (1976) and The Never-Ending Wrong (1977), have been read and interpreted in the...
(The entire section is 23333 words.)
SOURCE: Fleche, Anne. “The Lesbian Rule: Lillian Hellman and the Measures of Realism.” Modern Drama 39, no. 1 (spring 1996): 16-30.
[In the following essay, Fleche explores the representation of lesbianism in language in The Children's Hour.]
Lesbian rule: a mason's rule made of lead, which could be bent to fit the curves of a moulding; hence fig., A principle of judgement that is pliant and accommodating. (Very common in 17thc., but app. not always correctly understood.)
Politics is deployed as the final measuring stick for assessing the present utility, and thus the final relevance, of theories of gay identity.1
The invisible lesbian has posed difficulties for writers of queer history and criticism, in part just because she's a woman. We have seen, for example, how historian John Boswell accounted for the relative absence of women in his classic study Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Women, he explained, mostly didn't write the history he was talking about, so they were necessarily underrepresented in his book as well.2 Meanwhile, in literary criticism, texts in which the lesbian is ignored or ambiguously or negatively represented have called for drastic measures, requiring either a political approach, as...
(The entire section is 7457 words.)
SOURCE: Watson, Ritchie D. Jr. “Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes and the New South Creed: An Ironic View of Southern History.” Southern Literary Journal 28, no. 2 (spring 1996): 59-68.
[In the following essay, Watson argues against the prevailing contemporary judgement of The Little Foxes as oversentimentalizing the postbellum American South, noting instead that the play is an astute critique of the New South's ultimate sterility of spirit.]
If one looks for a copy of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes in a chain or suburban mall bookstore he is not likely to find it. More often than not, however, the clerk will produce one of the author's memoirs, such as Pentimento or An Unfinished Woman. The ready availability in bookstores of what critic John Lahr describes as Hellman's “quasi autobiography” testifies to the success with which, beginning in the late 1960s, she transformed herself from a playwright into a prose writer, thus gaining in the final stage of her career “both a new public and new fame” (Lahr 93). By contrast, the relative scarcity of her plays reflects the decline of her reputation in this genre during the 1970s and 1980s. In recent years there has been a modest resurgence of interest in Hellman's plays. For example, during its 1993-94 season, the Royal National Theater in England mounted a very successful production of The Children's...
(The entire section is 3844 words.)
SOURCE: Barlow, Judith E. “Into the Foxhole: Feminism, Realism, and Lillian Hellman.” In Realism and the American Dramatic Tradition, edited by William W. Demastes, pp. 156-71. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1996.
[In the following essay, Barlow contends, against widespread opinions to the contrary, that dramatic realism is a useful mode for social commentary and criticism, using Hellman's The Little Foxes as an example.]
Realism has been under attack almost since it become the dominant mode of playwriting around the turn of the century—whether from Eugene O'Neill, who claimed that “most of the so-called realistic plays deal only with the appearance of things,”1 or Thornton Wilder, who complained that realism robs drama of its magic by binding it to a particular “time and place.”2 But realism has come under perhaps its greatest assault in recent years from materialist feminist critics who, following a variety of postmodern theories, question the nature and value of both representation and narrative. Sue-Ellen Case has presented the point perhaps most strongly: “Cast the realism aside—its consequences for women are deadly.”3
This attack would seem to sound the death knell for Lillian Hellman's work; in fact, at one point Jill Dolan refers to the “realist, Hellmanesque model of” Jane Chambers's early plays, thus making...
(The entire section is 6706 words.)
Horn, Barbara Lee. Lillian Hellman: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998, 170 p.
Provides summaries of Hellman's plays and adaptations, along with production histories, and critical overviews, as well as comprehensive primary and secondary bibliographies devoted to all of Hellman's writings.
Newman, Robert P. The Cold War Romance of Lillian Hellman and John Melby. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989, 375 p.
Account of Hellman's longtime love affair that began in 1944 with John Fremont Melby, who worked for the State Department of the United States government.
Rollyson, Carol. Lillian Hellman: Her Legend and Her Legacy. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989, 613 p.
Most complete biography of Hellman.
Abbott, Phillip. “‘Life Had Changed and There Were Many People Who Did Not Call Me.’” In States of Perfect Freedom: Autobiography and American Political Thought, pp. 110-24. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.
Considers Hellman's four volumes of memoirs to be of questionable value as documents of her life and the lives of others who figure in those works.
Austin, Gayle. “The...
(The entire section is 401 words.)