In an effort to define what constitutes a feminist reading of literary works, Ann C. Hall offers an analytic technique that is both a feminist and a psychoanalytic approach, applying this technique to her study of women characters in the modern dramatic texts of Eugene O’Neill, Harold Pinter, and Sam Shepard.
This is the first study to treat these three writers in tandem, and while Hall uses the work of Jacques Lacan, Luce Irigaray, and other psychoanalytic feminist critics in her close readings of specific dramatic texts, she also brings in commentaries by critics, directors, performers, and historians. Her technique thereby provides us with a new and significant method for addressing female characters as written by male playwrights, a task that she argues is not only a valid and necessary part of feminist dramatic criticism but a part of theatrical production as well.
From Pinter’s play A Kind of Alaska, Hall extracts a metaphor for the patriarchal oppression of women, contextualizing such oppression through an examination of O’Neill’s madonnas, Pinter’s whores, and Shepard’s female saviors as they are represented in O’Neill’s Iceman Cometh, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and A Moon for theMisbegotten; Pinter’s Homecoming, No Man’s Land, Betrayal, and A Kind of Alaska; and Shepard’s Buried Child, True West, and A LieoftheMind.
Since the works of O’Neill, Pinter, and Shepard continue to be performed to popular acclaim, Hall hopes that a better understanding of the female characters in these plays will influence the performances themselves.