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Songs of American Experience

The Vision of O'Neill and Melville

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Marc Maufort

This comparative literature study examines Eugene O'Neill's long neglected link with the 19th century American literary tradition. It is the first scholarly work to focus exclusively on O'Neill's kinship with novelist Herman Melville. Thus, it sheds new light on aspects of O'Neill's craftsmanship that had hitherto been considered through a European looking-glass. With Melville, the playwright shared a satirical view of American Puritanism. Like the author of Moby Dick, he developed an intensely personal concept of tragedy and was fascinated by the sea. In other words, both writers attempted, through a strikingly similar sense of vision, to define the reality with which their contemporaries were confronted and thus to create compelling songs of American experience.