The Playgoer: 1920s Theatre, Eugene O'Neill, and Jazz

Custom Search

Saturday, May 22, 2010

1920s Theatre, Eugene O'Neill, and Jazz

Sorry I was out of commission the last couple of days.  Among the things I was busy with was guest-blogging over at the CUNY/Martin Segal Center site for an event devoted to Professor David Savran's new book Highbrow/Lowdown: Theater, Jazz, and the Making of the New Middle Class.  David happens also to be my thesis advisor, so obviously I had a vested interest!

But the book genuinely is fantastic, as you can read about in my two blog posts.


Highbrow/Lowdown gives us a fascinating case study of the role of jazz in the formation of American theatrical taste in the 1920s.  In my journey through the book so far, I am most stimulated by the intensity (”symbolic violence” as David’s guiding spirit Pierre Bourdieu calls it) of the cultural battles it relates: between musicals and dramas, between jazz and classical, between populist and elite, and between “legitimate” and “popular” venues of performance.  Most surprising of all is how his narrative marches toward such a foundational moment in US drama as the emergence of Eugene O’Neill–an artist as far from the American Musical Theatre tradition as there is.  But by that point in the argument, O’Neill’s entrance onto the stage makes perfect sense as the triumph of drama over music, as it were, that has come to define the historiogaphic trajectory of “US Modern Drama” ever since.

No comments: