Jerz: Am Lit II (EL 267)

17 March 2005

Midterm Exam

Covers all primary texts, from the beginning of term, including A Streetcar Named Desire.

Theater and Film

Time permitting, we will watch a segment of Marlon Brando's performance in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire, and also look at the ending of the movie.

A Streetcar Named Desire

  • Stage directions, Scene 3: "There is a picture of Van Gogh's of a billiard-parlor at night."
  • Actress Jessica Tandy describes, in a letter to Tennessee Williams: "Eight times a week, and to progressively less sensitive audiences, I have to make clear Blanche's intricate and complex character... her background.. her pathetic elegance... her indomitable spirit... her innate tenderness and honesty... her untruthfulness or manipulation of the truth... her inevitable tragedy."
  • The letter was occasioned by the request by Williams that she pose for a publicity photo reproducing a painting by Thomas Hart Benton depicting the play's poker scene. (Tandy declined.)

    Agenda Item

    Reminder: If you choose to write a detailed response to this play, I welcome your extra effort. But the syllabus simply asks for an "agenda item".

    A good agenda item would include a brief quotation from the text, and a non-obvious observation about that passage. Come to class prepared to talk about your agenda item, if called on.

    Weak agenda item: "Boy, that Stanley sure is a sexist pig."

    Good agenda item:
    Why did Williams go to the trouble to make Stanley so physically attractive at the beginning of the play? Blanche flirts with Stanley, even sprays him with perfume. At the climax, Stanley says, "We've had this date with each other from the beginning." That line really sounds like Stanley is trying to blame the victim -- something that decades of feminist reforms have conditioned Americans not to do. Williams certainly doesn't want us to identify with Stanley by this point in the play, yet there the line is.