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Week 11

Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman (1949)

Remember that we also have a workshop in the Capital Rehearsal Room at IATL (previously known as the Capital Centre) on Friday morning this week. Friday 10.00-12.00.


Please consult David Reynolds. Empire of Liberty. week 13. View the accompanying audio slideshow: Houses and highways, and also the "Life in America" archive clip.

Check out "Detroit in Ruins" photo gallery, discovered by Lauren. Challenge: write a haiku about one or more of the images!


Points for Discussion
  • In what ways can US postwar development of suburbia be described as "American pastoral"? Please bring your answer to this question to the seminar!
  • "Miller wanted to formulate a dramatic structure that would allow the play textually and theatrically to capture the simultaneity of the human mind as that mind registers outer experience through its own inner subjectivity." (Matthew C. Roudané). Consider the implications of this statement.
  • "Miller presents Death of a Salesman in a spirit of puzzled, anguished analysis but does not suggest to his Broadway audience that anything so radical as revolutionary change in American terminal society might be necessary. [...]  the "attention" in Death of a Salesman [is] a gesture of liberal hesitation to go through with the needed radical criticism of the society which permitted and therefore encouraged this killing, this waste and this chaos.  Miller's plays are a warning cry from his warm, uncertain heart detached from the economic and social implications which his head hesitates to act upon."  (Eric Mottram)  Do you agree with Mottram's analysis of Miller's liberal failure to act fully upon his perceptions of American ideology of "self-help within an economic structure which limits or denies the hero’s self-fulfilment”?
  • "A paradox attaches to loneliness in drama.  Loneliness is the very essence of tragedy [...] yet the dramatic form of expression – the dialogue – presupposes, if it is to be many voiced, truly dialogic, dramatic, a high degree of communion among these solitaries.  The language of the absolutely lonely man is lyrical, i.e. monological; in the dialogue, the incognito of  his soul becomes too pronounced, it overloads and swamps the clarity and definition of the words exchanged.  Such loneliness is more profound than that required by the tragic form, which deals with the relationship to destiny [...] ; loneliness has to become a problem unto itself, deepening and confusing the tragic problem and ultimately taking its place.  Such loneliness is not simply the intoxication of a soul gripped by destiny and so made song; it is also the torment of a creature condemned to solitude and devoured by a longing for community." (George Lukacs). Analyse the dramatic devices that Arthur Miller employs to represent the paradox that attaches to loneliness in drama.
Further Reading

Matthew C. Roudané. "Death of a Salesman and the poetics of Arthur Miller." Christopher Bigsby ed. The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller. Cambridge University Press, 1997.


Eric Mottram. "Arthur Miller: the Development of a Political Dramatist in America." John Russell Brown & Bernard Harris eds. American Theatre. London: Edward Arnold, 1967. 127-162.


 Suggestion: compare Death of a Salesman with David Mamet's  Glencarry Glen Ross. 1984.

Death of a Salesman diagram

OSL workshop 10.00-12.00 on 14/01/11 in Capital Rehearsal Room.

In this workshop we shall concentrate on the ways in which literary techniques reflect point of view. 
We shall work on one or two texts depending on demand:
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Toni Morrison’s Jazz.
Please bring your copy of Death of a Salesman
and Jazz (optional) with you.


Please look at Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan's chapter on Narration before the workshop session.