Modes of Illusion in the Plays of Edward Albee

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Author: Daphne Gomez
Pages: 252
Year of Publication: 2011
Price: HB Rs 300, FB Rs 250
HB 978-81-8157-925-6 (9788181579256)
FB 978-81-8157-926-3 (9788181579263)

About the Author:
Daphne Gomez was born on 25 November 1948 in Trivandrum, Kerala. She completed her post-graduation in English and American Literature from Madurai Kamaraj University. She taught the same at Mar Ivanios College, Trivandrum, for twenty-four years. At present, Dr. Gomez is the principal of Lecole Chempaka, an ICSE school founded by her family twenty-five years ago. She is married to Vernon Gomez and has a son and daughter.

“The title, Modes of Illusion in the Plays of Edward Albee may suggest the repetition of a timeworn preoccupation with American writers after the passing of the age of “innocence” and the materialisation of the illusory world of Gatsby. Yet, illusion is America’s albatross, which can never be separated from the American psyche because America itself was born of a ‘Dream’ that has given shape to its destiny. To Edward Albee (b.1928), the ‘American Dream’ becomes a personal metaphor. Albee’s parentage is unknown and he was an adopted child, a fact that made him say: “As an orphan you don’t have forebears. You’re the first person who lived, in a way” (Markowitz Online). If the first part of the statement is a lament, the second manifests the typical Albeean optimism in which lies the potential to transform a loss into a gain. He finds his parentage in the history of his mother country and to which therefore his destiny is umbilically bound by a quirk of fate.

Albee’s entanglement with the ‘Dream’ is not only closely related to the destiny of the nation which gave birth to him, but by an historical inevitability to the wider patterns of illusion as manifest in the history of nations that lived lives of garish opulence in ancient times. They had to suffer the consequences of not redeeming themselves in spite of oracles, soothsayers and prophets warning them of impending doom, if they did not give up their fascination for illusions. Albee’s worshippers of Dionysius, instead of celebrating the joy of life are mired in the dregs of illusion, as they live their “sad, sad, sad” lives playing games in new Carthage (Who’s Afraid? 3.191), or pretending to be Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, as Sam does in The Lady From Dubuque (1.14). George, a history professor in Who’s Afraid? reads from Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West (2.174), as the midnight orgy in his house turns into a ‘Walpurgisnacht’, a Witches’ Sabbath.

Since history and philosophy are closely intertwined, in Albee’s plays there can be seen another historical thread — the repetition of the patterns of philosophical history. Albee establishes the connection between science and history right from the start. If George is a professor of history in Who’s Afraid? Nick is a scientist specialising in genetics. Philosophers from the time of Plato four millenniums ago, and Augustine, two thousand years ago, have shown the connection between science and religion, but as scientific rationalism took over, the divinity in man was forgotten and the basic bond between science and faith snapped. Nevertheless, science in the twentieth century is showing the way to a reconciliation of the two opposites in “unity consciousness” as foreseen by the ancient intuitive philosophers.”

[From Chapter 1]

Foreword / 9
Preface / 11
The Plays / 15
Chapter 1 – The Historical Patterns of Illusion / 17
Chapter 2 – The Death of the Dream: The Zoo Story (1960) to The American Dream (1961) / 37
Chapter 3 – The Corruption Total and Complete: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962) to All Over (1971) / 67
Chapter 4 – A Morality Tale: Seascape (1975) to The Lady from Dubuque (1980) / 115
Chapter 5 – Unity Consciousness: The Man Who Had Three Arms (1982) to Fragments (1993) / 139
Chapter 6 – Albee’s Idea of the Theatre / 168
Chapter 7 – Finding the Sun / 221
Taste of Albee / 233
Works Cited / 240

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