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Preface to the Second Edition

NO MODERN man of letters has aroused a wider range of critical interest than has Eugene O'Neill. This is as true in the field of scholarly criticism as it is in the publications addressed to the popular reader. The list of scholars who have undertaken the serious study of his plays increases with each passing year. Two books devoted to a detailed study have appeared recently; others, are near completion. Biographical study is growing in volume. At least three books dealing with his life are at present being written. This year the whole issue of Modern Drama, a magazine devoted exclusively to the criticism of this genre was given over to articles on O'Neill's plays.

Now that all of O'Neill's work is published, the errors of an interpretation based on a single play need not occur. When Days Without End first appeared there were many predictions made that O'Neill had returned to the bosom of the Mother Church. This amused him, but he was also a trifle disappointed that the critics couldn't understand that he was not writing a confession of faith but a modern version of a morality play. He did not return to his childhood faith. His intellectual frame of reference out of which he created his dramas was the poetry and the philosophy of the

Nineteenth Century. The books that expressed best for him the meaning of life are listed in the stage directions for A Long Day's Journey Into Night. They are referred to often and in many plays, but more often in the strictly autobiographical dramas.

Throughout the years I have followed the work of the many writers who have made critical studies of O'Neill. In the final chapter on the four plays published since the first edition of this book I owe much to other critics and to at least two biographers, C. Bowen and Agnes Bolton. I am indebted to the books on O'Neill by Edward A. Engel, Doris V. Falk, Horst Frenz and the scholarly studies in professional journals by Doris Alexander. I must mention especially the friendly interest of Professor Cyrus Day, and the serious critical studies of Joseph Wood Krutch.

All that has been done so far is a mere introduction. In every graduate school in the country young students are working on O'Neill. There are hundreds of Master's Theses filed in graduate libraries, and there is a growing number of Doctor's Theses under development here and abroad. The life and dramas of O'Neill invite the analysis of serious literary criticism.

University of Washington, 1961 S.K.W.
 
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