Trifles (play), or A Jury of Her Peers (story)
Trifles (play), orA Jury of Her Peers (story)By Susan Glaspell 1916Performed by the Provincetown Players, including Susan Glaspell and George Cram CookSusan Glaspell: born in Iowa, died in Massachusetts
ACTORS ARE ALSO NEW CRITICSFor New Criticism, the complexity of a text is created by the multiple and often conflicting meanings woven through it. And these meanings are a product primarily of four kinds of linguistic devices: paradox, irony, ambiguity, and tension (Tyson 132 ).
[C]omplexity of a literary text is created by its tension which, broadly defined, means the linking together of opposites. In its simplest form, tension is created by the integration of the abstract and the concrete, of general ideas embodied in specific images (Tyson 134).
George Cram Cook, Susan Glaspell, and 3 others
We are going to talk about the Trifles and about theory, but first lets not talk. Lets watch your fellow classmates perform the opening of Trifles. While you watch, put down some words or phrases to remind yourself of ideas that come to you. DO NOT READ along. Pretend that you are in 1916, in Provincetown, Massachusetts and you are watching Susan Glaspell and George Cram and 3 other people perform this play for the very first time. The actors(in alphabetical order)Jacob Sheriff PetersKiara Mrs. Hale (neighbor)Matthew County AttorneyRandi Mrs. Peters married to the lawReggie Mr. Hale (neighbor)After the Second sceneCompliments?What does the performance achieve that reading the play did not do for you?What did reading the play achieve that watching it did not?To each actor: What emotions did you have while acting? What thoughts?
Details countCherries broken jars and the one unbroken jarCage with broken doorCanary with its neck brokenCrazy stitching on quilt Cold temperature in the houseLack of a telephoneUnfinished chores (roller towels, bread, etc.)
Delphy: all relationships between men and women are based on powerOne of many thinkers influenced by Beauvoir, Christine Delphy offers a feminist critique of patriarchy based on Marxist principles. Delphy, who coined the phrase materialist feminism in the early 1970s, focuses her analysis on the family as economic unit. Just as the lower classes are oppressed by the upper classes in society as a whole, she explains, women are the subordinates within families. As such, women constitute a separate oppressed class, based on their oppression as women, regardless of the socioeconomic class to which they belong. For Delphy, marriage is a labor contract that ties women to unpaid domestic labor, commonly trivialized as housework, not considered important enough to be seriously analyzed as a topic, or a problem, in its own right. An understanding of the implications of this situation is central, she notes, to an understanding of womens oppression (Tyson 93)Where does profit come from, according to Marx?
Connect to TriflesPower relationships?Oppression?Housework?
Helene Cixous and Luce IrigarayWe therefore need a new feminine language that undermines or eliminates the patriarchal binary thinking that oppresses and silences women. This kind of language, which Cixous believes best expresses itself in writing, is called criture fminine (feminine writing). It is fluidly organized and freely associative (Tyson 96). Irigaray is not saying that women speak incoherently but that this is how it seems to patriarchal people, programmed to attribute meaning only to language that conforms to patriarchal rules of logic, that is, to linear, thesis-oriented language (Tyson 98).Examples from the play?_________________________________
An exampleCounty Attorney: As one turning from serious things to little pleasantries.]Well, ladies, have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?
Mrs. Peters: We think she was going to -- knot it.
County Attorney: Well, that's interesting, I'm sure. [Seeing the birdcage.]Has the bird flown?
Mrs. Hale: [Putting more quilt pieces over the box.]We think the -- cat got it. (Glaspell 247)
questionsIrony and paradox?Verbal play?Double layers of meaning?Rope vs. threadLanguage vs. actionMind/ heart vs. lawWhat is justice in this situation?What does Jury of Her Peers imply?Why is it appropriate to have the empty rocking chair in the room?Would you have put Minnie Wright in the chair?The Facts?Mrs. Hossack [ Glaspells original for Minnie Wright] was found guilty, but somehow she was able to get a second trial. The jurors did not agree, so she was set free.
country girl or city sophisticate?Glaspell was aware of Native American literature, including writings by Black Hawk, a writer from the Sauk nation that had previously owned the land of the Glaspell family farm (Susan Glaspell). Glaspell started off as a newspaper story writer, especially thinking about the audience for The Ladies Home Journal and Harpers. She began to write fiction, including The Glory of the Conquered (1909), which became a New York Times best-seller, allowing her to tour Europe for a year, extending her artistic range and influences (Susan Glaspell). Start of American theater?Glaspell and George Cram Cook quickly became central figures in the life of Greenwich Village in New York City. In 1915 she published Fidelity, a novel, and together with her husband Suppressed Desires, a satirical one-act play on popular Freudianism. These works show a wide stylistic range, from psychological realism to Symbolism and Expressionism. (Encyclopedia Britannica) In 1915, at their summer home in Provincetown on Cape Cod, the couple organized a group of local artists as an amateur theatre group and staged a number of one-act plays in a converted fish warehouse. The next year Eugene ONeill was introduced to the group, which soon became more formally organized as the Provincetown Players. They began presenting a winter season of performances at the Playwrights Theatre in Greenwich Village. (Encyclopedia Britannica)Think of the the Provincetown Players as typical of New Yorkers: partly performing in the city (New York City Greenwich Village) and partly out at the extreme tip of Cape Cod. This is similar to the Gatsby crowd both in NYC and also out on East and West Egg. Group also included Edna St. Vincent Millay, John Reed, and Theodore Dreiser.
A radicalWhile pursuing her artistic career, Glaspell also founded Heterodoxy, a group of radical feminists. She did this together with Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Remember her?
Womens history in 20th century
You might think that Susan Glaspell was writing this play in a world in which women had little power. In general true, but there were some exceptions. In fact, women were doing better around 1916-19 than at any previous time in history. My grandmother in 1912 became the youngest licensed doctor in California of any gender. Many women were moving into the professions. There was huge feminist agitation, including protests and arrests, for the right to vote which came in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment. After that, for reasons that are hard to fathom, the womens movement went way downhill during the 20s (the Flapper Era), and didnt come back in full force until WWII (Rosie the Riveter, etc.) and then the 70s, when the birth control pill became the most popular birth control method and Roe vs. Wade and Ms. Magazine all happened in 3 years. What about now? When looking for materials on Susan Glaspell, I found this: professors view on the Provincetown Players:
Lets go back for a minute
This could have been Susan Glaspell.Womens suffrage march
Women marched in favor of the right to vote.They themselves were not allowed to vote on the issue.All legislatures and the Congress and all U. S. voters were male. Arrest
Thus women participated in the grand tradition of civil disobedience. Forced Feeding during hunger strike
Note that other women did not always support the suffragettes. Glaspell in 1921: The VergeTom: Claire stop this! (to Harry) This is wrong.Claire (excitedly) No; Im going on. They [her weird plants] have been shocked out of what they were into something they were not; theyve broken from the forms in which they found themselves. They are alien. Outside. Thats it, outside; if you -- know what I mean.Elizabeth: (not shocked) But of course, the object of it all is to make them better plants. Otherwise, what would be the sense of doing it?Claire: Out there lies all thats not been touched lies life that waits. Back here the old pattern, done again, and again and again. So long done it doesnt even know itself for a pattern --- in immensity. But this has invaded. Crept a little way into what wasnt. . . . Other ways of looking at TriflesObjective correlatives: So far from being Shakespeares masterpiece, [Hamlet] is most certainly an artistic failure. . . . The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an objective correlative; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked. . . . Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible (T. S. Eliot)
The House as Metaphor
Luis Valdez on TheatreInspire the audience to social actions. Illuminate specific points about social problems. Satirize the opposition. Show or hint at a solution. Express what people are feeling (Valdez and Teatro Campesino 6)
What is theatre?Here is Augusto Boal (Theatre of the Oppressed)Theater is the capacity possessed by human beings, and not by animals, to observe themselves in action.All human beings are Actors (they act!) and Spectators (they observe!) (Augusto B