Critical Insights: Tennessee Williams
This volume brings together a variety of essays on William's life and works using both old and new critical essays of the author and his works.
By turns delicately lyrical and shockingly violent, Tennessee Williams burst onto the American stage with The Glass Menagerie in 1944, and over the course of his career continued to write some of the twentieth century's most enduring plays. A two-time Pulitzer winner for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Williams gave America some of its most memorable and fascinating characters in Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, Maggie the Cat and Brick Pollitt, and Tom and Amanda Wingfield. But despite his fame, Williams always remained sensitive to the plight of those trapped at the edges of society and continued to identify with this "fugitive kind" throughout his life, writing an essay titled "The Catastrophe of Success" only a few years after The Glass Menagerie made him into a household name. A boiling mass of contradictions in life, Williams was perhaps most at home in his art, and his best-loved plays display uneasy negotiations between his personal romanticism and the brute realities of American poverty, violence, and corruption.
1.Career, Life, and Influence
The introduction considers Williams' concept of the "fugitive kind," the recurring figure of the persecuted artist, and how they are still granted respite in the temporary homes afforded by love. A brief biography of Williams follows, along with a new essay by Paris Review contributor Sasha Weiss.
A quartet of original essays provide valuable context for understanding his achievements. These essays aim to provide a background to the author that is a cultural, historical, and biographical foundation for the reader.
Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the writer can then move on to other original essays that explore a number of schools of thought. Thirteen previously published essays continue the discussion by offering overviews of Williams' work, studies of individual plays, and considerations of his short stories and nonfiction. Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
The volume's appendices offer a section of useful reference resources, including:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject index