Susan Glaspell Glaspell, Susan (Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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Principal Works

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

The Glory of the Conquered (novel) 1909

The Visioning (novel) 1911

Lifted Masks (short stories) 1912

Fidelity (novel) 1915

Suppressed Desires [with George Cram Cook] (drama) 1915

Trifles (drama) 1916

Close the Book (drama) 1917

The Outside (drama) 1917

The People (drama) 1917

Tickless Time [with George Cram Cook] (drama) 1918

Woman's Honor (drama) 1918

Bernice (drama) 1919

Inheritors (drama) 1921

The Verge (drama) 1921

Chains of Dew (drama) 1922

The Road to the Temple (biography) 1926

A Jury of Her Peers (short story) 1927

Brook Evans (novel) 1928

The Comic Artist [with Norman Matson] (drama) 1928

Fugitive's Return (novel) 1929

Alison's House (drama) 1930

Ambrose Holt and Family (novel) 1931

Cherished and Shared of Old (juvenilia) 1940

The Morning Is Near Us (novel) 1940

Norma Ashe (novel) 1942

Judd Rankin's Daughter (novel) 1945

Ludwig Lewisohn (essay date 1922)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

[A German-born American novelist and critic, Lewisohn was an authority on German literature, and his translations of Gerhart Hauptmann, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Jakob Wassermann are widely respected. In 1919 he became the drama critic for the Nation, serving as its associate editor until 1924, when he joined a group of expatriates in Paris. In the essay below, originally published in the Nation, Lewisohn provides a mixed assessment ofGlaspell's early plays. ]

In the rude little auditorium of the Provincetown Players on MacDougall Street there is an iron ring in the wall, and a legend informs you that the ring was designed for the tethering of Pegasus. But the winged horse has never been seen. An occasional play might have allured him; the acting of it would invariably have driven him to indignant flight. For, contrary to what one would expect, the acting of the Players has been not only crude and unequal; it has been without energy, without freshness, without the natural stir and eloquence that come from within. This is the circumstance which has tended to obscure the notable talent of Susan Glaspell. The Washington Square Players produced Trifles and thus gave a wide repute to what is by no means her best work. Bernice, not only her masterpiece but one of the indisputably important dramas of the modern English or American theatre, was again played by the Provincetown Players with more than their accustomed feebleness and lack of artistic lucidity. The publication of Miss Glaspell's collected plays at last lifts them out of the tawdriness of their original production and lets them live by their own inherent life.

That life is strong, though it is never rich. In truth, it is thin. Only it is thin not like a wisp of straw, but like a tongue of flame. Miss Glaspell is morbidly frugal in expression, but nakedly candid in substance. There are no terrors for her in the world of thought; she thinks her way clearly and hardily through a problem and always thinks in strictly dramatic terms. But her form and, more specifically, her dialogue, have something of the helplessness and the numb pathos of the "twisted things that grow in unfavoring places" which employ her imagination. She is a dramatist, but a dramatist who is a little afraid of speech. Her dialogue is so spare that it often becomes arid; at times, as in The Outside, her attempt to lend a stunted utterance to her silenced creatures makes for a hopeless obscurity. The bleak farmsteads of Iowa, the stagnant villages of New England, have touched her work with penury and chill. She wants to speak out and to let her people speak out. But neither she nor they can conquer a sense that free and intimate and vigorous expression is a little shameless. To uncover one's soul seems almost like uncovering one's body. Behind Miss Glaspell's hardihood of thought hover the fear and self-torment of the Puritan. She is a modern radical and a New England school teacher; she is a woman of intrepid thought and also the cramped and aproned wife on some Iowa farm. She is a composite, and that composite is intensely American. She is never quite spontaneous and unconscious and free, never the unquestioning servant of her art. She broods and...

(The entire section is 40,824 words.)