Eugene O`Neill by Stephen A. Black
Beyond Mourning and Tragedy

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Synopsis

Within little more than three years of the opening of his first successful play on Broadway, Eugene O'Neill endured the deaths of his father, mother, and brother. These devastating losses plunged the young playwright into a period of guilt and profound mourning that consumed two decades of his life. In this enlightening critical biography, deeply informed by the insights of psychoanalysis, Stephen Black presents a new understanding of Eugene O'Neill's life (1888-1953), from his troubled childhood and adolescence through a glacially slow period of mourning for his family to his ultimate emergence from the preoccupation with grief and loss that had pervaded his life and his writings. Black argues that O'Neill consciously and deliberately used playwriting as a medium of self-psychoanalysis—an endeavor that led to the creation of some of the finest American plays ever written and, eventually, to a successful therapeutic outcome.
Through close analysis of O'Neill's plays and literary writings, some five thousand surviving letters, other personal documents, and accounts of people who knew him, Black reaches new conclusions about important aspects of the playwright's life and work. He follows the slow course of O'Neill's mourning by studying the many grieving characters in O'Neill's plays, and when at last the playwright accepts his losses and moves on, his characters do likewise. The changed tone and form of O'Neill's final plays, including Hughie and A Moon for the Misbegotten, reflect the playwright's psychological and artistic growth and his hard-won victory over mourning and tragedy.
 

About Stephen A. Black

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Stephen A. Black is professor of English at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, and a trained psychoanalytic therapist.
 
Published November 10, 1999 by Yale University Press. 568 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Through subtle readings of O’Neill’s plays and extensive research into his life and letters, Black explores how these monstrous losses ravaged O’Neill’s psyche and how the playwright’s mourning perversely inspired his creative processes.

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Publishers Weekly

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In his stimulating consideration of the late plays (Long Day's Journey into Night, The Iceman Cometh and A Moon for the Misbegotten), which he believes contain strong comic elements usually ignored, Black paints a moving portrait of an artist who ""had passed beyond mourning and tragedy."" His th...

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Project MUSE

However, the psychoanalytic thread gets lost within the complex fabric of biographical facts, although it resurfaces later in the chapters “O’Neill’s Analysis” and “Further Analysis.” Throughout, Black reminds us that this is a psychoanalytic study by repeating the phrases “to a psychoanalytic bi...

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Project MUSE

Black relates the O'Neill family to the Tyrone family in Long Day's Journey Into Night and discusses specific issues in that play, such as money and home, which are vital to its interpretation.

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Project MUSE

Eugene O’Neill’s entire life revolved around the stage, and his productivity as a dramatist—some twenty long plays in less than twenty-five years (1920–1943)—remains a remarkable achievement.

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