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Manheim, Michael 1928-

Manheim, Michael 1928-

PERSONAL:

Born March 4, 1928, in New York, NY; son of Leonard F. (a professor) and Eleanor (a teacher) Manheim; married Martha Bradshaw (a professor), March 6, 1955; children: James, Daniel. Education: Columbia University, A.B., 1949, M.A., 1951, Ph.D., 1961. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: European travel, playing the tuba.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Strafford, VT. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of Delaware, Newark, instructor in English, 1953-61; University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, assistant professor, 1961-63, associate professor, 1963-67, professor of English, 1967-92, professor emeritus, 1992—, department chair, 1966-72, 1979-82, director of master of liberal studies program, 1984-87. Dartmouth College, member of summer faculty, 1972, and teacher of non-credit courses of Institute for Lifelong Learning.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association of America, Shakespeare Association of America, Eugene O'Neill Society (past president).

AWARDS, HONORS:

Teaching award, Danforth Foundation, 1959-60; research fellow, Huntington Library, 1974.

WRITINGS:

The Weak King Dilemma in the Shakespearean History Play, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1973.

Eugene O'Neill's New Language of Kinship, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1982.

(Editor) The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1998.

Vital Contradictions: Characterization in the Plays of Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, and O'Neill, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 2002.

Contributor to language, literature, and education journals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Michael Manheim once told CA: "I consider myself primarily a student of human beings and the nature of life, secondarily a scholar. I believe the function of humans in the universe may be measured only by what they do in clarifying human relationships, and that clarification may be much aided by the study of great literature."

In 1982 Manheim published a literary study of the "new language of kinship" in the work of playwright Eugene O'Neill. Then he assembled and distilled a comprehensive collection of O'Neill studies from the enormous number of books, monographs, and articles that had been published over a period of some fifty years. The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill was welcomed by critics like Liorah Anne Golomb, who explained in Modern Drama: "After more than fifty years of criticism about the playwright's work, it becomes virtually impossible for anyone to assimilate the bulk of previous scholarship."

According to Golomb, Manheim grouped the essays—from at least a dozen contributors—into general subject areas: external influences on O'Neill's work, the works themselves, and critical analyses of the plays. The selections, wrote Golomb, "represent the finest in recent O'Neill criticism…. they always remain a pleasure to read; they never fail to make us want to turn to O'Neill's plays." Furthermore, they address a broad range of topics.

Contributors to the first section evaluate the biographical background of the playwright himself, identify the literary influences that played a part in his development as a dramatist, and discuss the role of the theater world as an integral factor in his creative achievement. In the second group of essays, Manheim balances the commentary on O'Neill's later plays—his enduring masterpieces—by including studies of the early and intermediate plays, which have been somewhat overlooked in surveys of this type. The plays are discussed in chronological order, from his earliest attempt to the final achievements. Golomb suggested that these essays will be useful to experienced O'Neill scholars as well as to neophytes, a testament to Manheim's achievement of coherence without compromise to the intellectual challenge of the ideas presented. She cited specifically the selections that "examine the relationship between O'Neill's text, the stage, and the screen, from both theoretical and historical perspectives."

The section of the book that Manheim reserved for critical analyses of O'Neill represents varying opinions on a diverse range of topics: his stereotyping of Irish and African Americans, the ambivalent ways in which he tended to portray female characters, the constituent elements of tragedy in plays like Long Day's Journey into Night (contributed by Manheim himself), and O'Neill's place in Western drama in general and American drama in particular. Golomb described these selections variously as "provocative," subtle, persuasive, and "fascinating." Manheim does not exclude O'Neill's detractors from this collection, and he does not restrict the analyses to the playwright's major accomplishments. One essay even discusses fragments of work in progress, uncompleted at the time of O'Neill's death. Manheim also contributed his own review of the critical essays included in this work and compiled a bibliography of books to which the scholar or the student can turn for additional material.

Golomb described the collection as "a major contribution" to the critical literature on Eugene O'Neill. She described The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill as "an indispensable tool" for readers interested in evaluating O'Neill from diverse perspectives of twentieth-century criticism and as "a source of inspiration … [for] new territory to be explored in the future."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Library Journal, May 15, 1982, review of Eugene O'Neill's New Language of Kinship, p. 995.

Modern Drama, Volume 41, number 4, 1998, Liorah Anne Golomb, review of The Cambridge Companion to Eugene O'Neill, pp. 657-658.

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