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Exorcism: A Play in One Act

Eugene O’Neill
FOREWORD BY Edward Albee
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 96
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Shortly after the debut ofExorcismin 1920, Eugene O'Neill suddenly canceled production and ordered all extant copies of the drama destroyed. For over ninety years, it was believed that the play was irrevocably lost, until it was recently discovered that O'Neill's second wife had in fact retained a copy, which she later gave to the prolific screenwriter and producer Philip Yordan. In early 2011, Yordan's widow discovered the typescript ofExorcism-complete with edits in O'Neill's own hand-in her late husband's vast trove of papers. The discovery and publication ofExorcism, a relatively early play in the O'Neill corpus, furthers our knowledge of O'Neill's dramatic development and reveals a pivotal point in the career of this great American playwright.

    Revolving around a suicide attempt,Exorcismdraws on a dark incident in O'Neill's own life. This defining event led to his first serious efforts to write.Exorcismdisplays early examples of O'Neill's unparalleled skills of capturing deeply personal human drama, and it explores major themes-mourning and melancholia, addiction and sobriety, tensions between fathers and sons-that would permeate his later work. According to Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library curator Louise Bernard, who acquired the play from a New York bookseller, "Exorcismmight be read as a preparatory sketch that resonates powerfully withLong Day's Journey into Night,one that brings the O'Neill family drama full circle in ways at once intimate and grandly conceived."

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18605-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD Exorcism—the Play O’Neill Tried to Destroy
    (pp. vii-x)

    In the middle 1950s, while I was still safely in my twenties, I wrote my first play. It was calledThe Zoo Story; it involved a meeting in New York City’s Central Park of two men, one of whom had come there to read on a Sunday afternoon. By the end of the play one of the men was dead, the action of the play concerning itself much more with the why of the event than the event itself.

    The play had its world premiere in West Berlin, Germany, at the Werkstatt of the Schiller Theater on September 28, 1959...

  4. INTRODUCTION Time and the Archive
    (pp. xi-xxvi)

    There is much to be said for the relationship between Time and the Archive, each term capitalized here as befitting its symbolic function. Time—that ineffable thing which signifies the broad sweep of history—is at once deep and long and granular, an (in)finite string of fleeting moments that constitute something like duration. Although human endeavor appears to follow a teleological thrust, chronology is equally tied to happenstance and hence to a host of disjointed patterns that refuse easy coherence. Even as we break down time into digestible parts (days, years, centuries, or broad, expansive eras), such arbitrary units necessarily...

  5. Exorcism
    (pp. 1-58)

    A small bedroom on the top story of a squalid rooming house occupying the three upper floors of a building on a side street near the downtown waterfront, New York City—the ground floor being a saloon of the lowest type of grog shop. On the left of the room, forward, a rickety chest of drawers. Farther back, a window looking out on a fire escape. To the rear of the window, a washstand with bowl and pitcher, and then another window. A pile of books, stacked up against the wall, lies on the floor in the left corner. In...

  6. Typescript Facsimile
    (pp. 59-85)

    Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (1888–1953) was born in New York City, the son of James O’Neill, a popular actor, and Ella Quinlan. During his childhood years he lived mainly in hotels with his family, following the touring schedule of his father’s company. The only permanent home the young O’Neill knew was a summer cottage in New London, Connecticut, which later became the setting forLong Day’s Journey into Night.

    As an adolescent, O’Neill attended eastern preparatory schools and Princeton University, which he decided to leave before the end of his first year. During the next five years he worked as...

  7. Back Matter
    (pp. 86-86)