Date of Award

1995

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theatre

First Advisor

Les Wade

Abstract

This study examines the full scope of Guare's plays, from his Off-Off Broadway experimentation in the sixties through his 1992 play Four Baboons Adoring the Sun, and their place in America's cultural landscape. Set against the framework of modern cultural history, the investigation attempts to reveal Guare's vision of modern America's quest for fulfillment through the correlation of textual and stylistic analysis, critical response, and Guare's stated views. The study contends that Guare's portrayal of American desire unmasks the mass media's contamination of the American dream. From the very inception of his dramatic imagination, Guare has mixed fantasy and reality in ways that reveal the particular confusion of modern Americans, a bewilderment enlarged by the lure of the American dream and its seductive depiction in the mass media. Guare's characters always seem to find that they have been sold a ridiculous bill of goods; the media encourage middle-class Americans to aspire to unattainable heights (and luxuries) which only seems to intensify desire and frustration. Nearly every play presents a scenario where the protagonists have miscalculated the potential of the American dream for providing story book success. Chapter 1 addresses Guare's thematic and stylistic development as a young playwright during the sixties. Chapter 2 focuses on the merger of the American dream and the mass media in two plays of the seventies, The House of Blue Leaves and Rich and Famous. Chapter 3 explores the disintegration of families and the seventies' "radical" focus on the individual (in Landscape of the Body and Bosoms and Neglect). Chapter 4 delineates the modern American national identity with a study of the futuristic Marco Polo Sings a Solo and a reassessment of America's idealism in the Lydie Breeze Tetralogy. In Chapter 5, an examination of Six Degrees of Separation and Four Baboons Adoring the Sun analyses recent modulations in the influence of the mass media on American society in the nineties. The epilogue discusses some of the artistic and social implications that follow from David Hampton's harassment of Guare over Six Degrees of Separation; it concludes with a brief status report on American culture in 1995.

Pages

267

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