U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Clyde Fitch

From our self promotions desk, I just published an article in a journal that’s friendly to USIH and that we have discussed several times on this blog, The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. The article, on a beginning of the 20th century playwright, Clyde Fitch, moves from his spectacular popularity at the turn of the century to his obscurity in death with the emergence of Eugene O’Neill. The argument might be of interest to readers of this blog for a practical example of my claim that intellectual and cultural history are necessarily fused. Here’s the abstract:

Clyde Fitch was the most famous playwright of the early twentieth century, but today no one studies him. The disconnect between his fame in his lifetime and his obscurity after death points to a major historiographical problem, a problem that began in Fitch’s own day. Fitch’s numerous contemporary critics, many of whom were early proponents of theatrical realism, criticized his plays as effeminate, bound by the narrow conventions of the legitimate theater that relied on women as its predominant patrons. By contrast, realism, as the critics understood it, was masculine, bringing the gritty reality of what contemporary commentators regarded as the real world to the stage. Criticizing Fitch’s feminine dramatic sensibilities became a way of prodding him toward a strained realism in his own plays. Fitch’s story illustrates the close connection of realism to the gendered hierarchy that became an unconscious element in the determination of literary value. In dismissing Fitch as worthy of scholarly attention, current theatrical historians have followed Fitch’s contemporary critics. Even as they have eviscerated the gendered standards of the early twentieth century, present-day scholars have retained the critical judgments and the generic categories that the gendered standards produced.

The above link requires a subscription, so if you do not have access and want to read it, send me an email, and I’ll forward you a copy. Next up is Tim’s article in the same journal. Photo comes from the Theatrical Poster Collection, Prints and Manuscripts Division, Library of Congress. Digital ID# 0069. For more click here.

3 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Thanks, Mike. I wrote the paper in a seminar six years ago, so I’m glad to have it out.

    Leonard, I’ve been intrigued by your blog and would love to talk to you. Send me an email at the address in my blogger profile.

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