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Porter, Laurin 1945–

PERSONAL: Born June 29, 1945, in St. Louis, MO; daughter of Helmuth John (a high school development director) and Sylvia (a civil servant; maiden name, Bruegmann) Reininga; married Thomas Emmett Porter (a professor of English and dean of liberal arts), August 4, 1978; children: Kate, Molly. Education: University of Missouri, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1967; Harvard University, M.A.T., 1968; University of Detroit, Ph.D., 1976.

ADDRESSES: Home—3008 Pitkin Dr., Arlington, TX 76006-2044. Office—Department of English, Box 19035, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX 76019-00351; fax: 817-272-2718. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, literary critic, and educator. St. Mary's University, San Antonio, TX, assistant professor of English, 1976–78; University of Texas at Dallas, lecturer, 1979–82, assistant professor of English, 1984–86; University of Texas at Arlington, visiting associate professor, 1986–88, adjunct assistant professor, 1988–90, assistant professor, 1990–94, associate professor, 1994–2002, professor of English, 2002–. Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, Fulbright professor of American studies, 2003. Circle Theater, Fort Worth, TX, member of board of directors, 1988–92, member of advisory board, 1995–.

MEMBER: Modern Language Association of America, Eugene O'Neill Society, Society for the Study of American Women Writers, Conference of College Teachers of English, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Beta Delta.

WRITINGS:

The Banished Prince: Time, Memory, and Ritual in the Late Plays of Eugene O'Neill, UMI Research Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1988.

Orphans' Home: The Voice and Vision of Horton Foote, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2003.

Contributor to books, including Critical Essays on Eugene O'Neill, edited by James J. Martine, G.K. Hall, 1984; Horton Foote Casebook, edited by Gerald C. Wood, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1998; The Cambridge Companion to American Women Playwrights, edited by Brenda Murphy, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999; and Companion to American Drama, edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Mary C. Hartig, Facts on File. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Eugene O'Neill Review, Litteraria Pragensia, Studies in Literature and Culture, Resources for American Literary Study, Studies in American Drama, Claudel Studies, Theater Research International, and Modern Drama.

SIDEUGHTS: Laurin Porter told CA: "I first became interested in the work of dramatist and screenwriter Horton Foote when he visited my university in 1988 as the keynote speaker in a lecture series on Texas film and filmmakers. I was particularly intrigued by his nine-play cycle The Orphans' Home, which traces the story of his parents' courtship and marriage through three generations. Set in the early 1900s in fictional Harrison, Texas, counterpart of Foote's hometown of Wharton, the cycle is both a personal and a cultural history, telling the story of his region (southwestern Texas), as well as his family. I had written a book on the intersection of biography and culture in Eugene O'Neill's late plays, both his unfinished eleven-play historical cycle, A Tale of Possessors, Self-Dispossessed, and the more directly autobiographical The Iceman Cometh, Hughie, Long Day's Journey into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten, so I became fascinated with the ways in which individual and collective experience interacted in Foote's cycle. My reading and research revealed that this biographical-cultural interaction precipitates questions in the works of both artists about the nature of time—the relationship of past to present, for example, and the ways in which the past either inhibits or frees us as human beings. It is worth noting, I think, that although in many ways these two playwrights could not be more different in background, temperament, and style, they are the only two American dramatists to date who have attempted (in Foote's case, completed) a play cycle of this magnitude, tracing a single family through multiple generations, set against a backdrop of cultural-historical movements and events.

"I am also interested in Foote's signature style, which virtually all reviewers and critics of his work comment on. While his dramas treat fairly conventional themes—family, love and loss, commitment and betrayal—they do so in most unconventional ways, eschewing all poetical language, foregoing all but the most basic stage directions, and employing plots that seem flat and uneventful. His understatement and self-imposed restraint recast conventional dramatic structures and modes of expression, communicating powerfully through what is left unsaid: through inference and allusion, gaps and spaces in the dialogue, echoes of past events and shadows of the future—in short, through subtext rather than text. While scholars have been slow to recognize his value largely because he doesn't fit easily into the usual dramatic categories, it is precisely the fact that his plays do not operate in conventional ways that interests me. I argue in my book that, since Foote uses language and dramatic structure in unique ways, we need to formulate new paradigms and utilize a different theoretical approach to fully appreciate and understand his work."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

ONLINE

University of Texas at Arlington Web Site: Laurin Porter Home Page, http://www.uta.edu/english/lporter (March 1, 2005).

Porter, Laurin 1945–

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