Dr. Philip C. Kolin, University Distinguished Professor of English in The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Arts and Letters, along with Dr. Douglas Chambers, associate professor of history at Southern Miss, have edited a special issue of The Southern Quarterly (Summer 2011) celebrating Tennessee Williams’ 100th birthday (1911-2011).
Entitled “The Legacy of Tennessee Williams,” the special issue of the Southern Quarterly contains seven scholarly articles, five original poems on Williams and an “Appreciation” by three-time Pulitzer playwright Edward Albee (of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? fame).
Williams is considered by many scholars to be Mississippi’s, and America’s, most famous and prolific playwright. In more than six decades he wrote numerous plays, screenplays, memoirs, essays, stories and poems, and close to 20 of his plays were made into famous movies, among them A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer.
The issue opens with a beautifully illustrated essay written by Mark Cave, an archivist at the Historic New Orleans Collection, describing the documents—playbills, photographs, letters, rare editions—that symbolized Williams’ early struggles and triumphs.
Kolin contributed the introduction as well as an essay of his own on an early, unpublished poem Williams wrote when he was only 14 on the Armistice (signaling the end of World War I). In addition to printing the poem for the first time, Kolin shows how Williams’ treatment of the indomitable soldiers and the futility of war surface in later works, including Williams’ poems, essays and short plays.
James Fisher writes about the tempestuous relationship Williams had with his friend/foe, deep voiced actress Tallulah Bankhead, who performed in several of his plays and who exerted a tremendous influence on Williams. Unfortunately, when she asked him to critique her interpretation of Blanche Du Bois in Streetcar, he said “It was the worst I have seen.”
Another essay in the collection focuses on how Camino Real, Williams’ most political play, used popular themes and characters from Americana - comics, skid row locations, bars, street Arabs and B movies. Camino was also heavily indebted to the film Casa Blanca, starring Ingrid Bergman.
This special issue of the Quarterly also contains articles on Williams and the German philosopher, Frederic Nietzsche, and how Williams’ films have been received in Europe, as well as a study by Southern Miss assistant professor of biology Dr. Sandra Leal on the ways Williams incorporated scientific information into Glass Menagerie and Suddenly Last Summer from his visits to the botanical exhibits at the Jewel Box in Forest Park in St. Louis.
Kolin is regarded as an international expert on the works of Tennessee Williams; Chambers has written extensively on the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The Southern Quarterly, an independent journal of the arts in the South published by The University of Southern Mississippi since 1962, is one of the first journals devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Southern culture. Copies of the “Legacy of Tennessee Williams” are available from the Southern Quarterly office, 118 College Drive, #5078, Box 5078, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-5078. The Southern Quarterly can also be found online at http://www.usm.edu/soq/index.htm