Styan, J(ohn) L(ouis) 1923-2002

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STYAN, J(ohn) L(ouis) 1923-2002

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born July 6, 1923, in London, England; died July 1, 2002, in Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire, England. Educator and author. Styan was a renowned scholar of drama criticism whose textbooks about the theater became standard reading at universities around the world. During World War II he served in the Mediterranean as a lieutenant in the British Seventh Mountain Regiment of the Royal Artillery. After the war he studied at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he earned a master's degree in 1948. His first job was as a grammar school teacher in Falmouth, England. He then became a tutor in literature and drama at the University of Hull during the 1950s and early 1960s. It was while here that Styan wrote his influential books The Elements of Drama (1960) and The Dramatic Experience (1965). In these and other early works he propounded that theater criticism should be centered on the live performance, rather than just the text, because that was how plays were meant to be appreciated. Although not an entirely original thesis, Styan's ideas were written in such a clear and convincing way that his writings became very influential. His early work also led to his appointment as professor of English at the University of Michigan in 1965, where he was chair of the department from 1973 to 1974. Styan next became Andrew Mellon Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh during the mid-1970s and Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English Literature at Northwestern University from 1977 until his retirement in 1987 as professor of theater emeritus. Among Styan's other books are The Challenge of the Theater (1972), Modern Drama in Theory and Practice (1981), The English Stage: A History of Drama and Performance, and Drama: A Guide to the Study of Plays (2000). Styan's favorite playwrights were Shakespeare and Anton Chekhov, about whose works he wrote in such books as Chekhov in Performance: A Commentary on the Major Plays (1971) and The Shakespeare Revolution (1977). His love of Shakespeare also carried over to his support of the International Shakespeare's Globe Center and the reconstruction of the Globe Theatre in London, which was opened in 1996.



Writers Directory, 16th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.


Independent (London, England), August 2, 2002, p. 18.