A Rhetoric of Outcasts in the Plays of Tennessee Williams

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More than a half century has passed since critics and theater-goers recognized Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) as an important American playwright, whose plays fellow dramaturge David Mamet calls "the greatest dramatic poetry in the American language" (qtd. in Griffin 13). Williams's repertoire includes some 30 full-length plays, numerous short plays, two volumes of poetry, and five volumes of essays and short stories. He won two Pulitzer Prizes (for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947 and Cat on a Hot …

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…homosexuality" (61). He reports that John Crowe Ransom, possibly the most influential scholar in the new critical movement, accepted for publication a poem from Robert Duncan and then, discovering the poet was gay, withdrew his acceptance. "Ransom thought homosexuals such as Duncan should 'sublimate' their problem, let the delicacy of subtlety of their sensibility come out in the innocent regions of life and literature" (65). 4) For Williams, "sensitive non-conformist," "outcast," and "fugitive" appear to be interchangeable terms.