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Art of Immortality

Title: The Art of Immortality: Personal, Cultural, and Aesthetic Identity in the Plays of Arthur Kopit.
Name(s): Bostian, Kyle, author
Degen, John, professor directing dissertation
Laughlin, Karen, outside committee member
Sandahl, Carrie, committee member
School of Theatre, degree granting department
Florida State University, degree granting institution
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2003
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: Arthur Kopit's plays express what I believe to be the dominant cultural anxiety of the latter half of the 20th century: the conflict between the human need for order and meaning and our existence in a chaotic and fragmented world. The playwright's works depict the traumatic impact of this conflict on people both individually and collectively; at the bottom of the dilemma is the human inability to accept our inevitable mortality. Kopit's plays also express deep cultural anxieties of their particular social moment. Reductively summarized, the causes of those anxieties are family dysfunction (_Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad_ – 1960), the Vietnam War (_Indians_ – 1969), aging and disability (_Wings_ – 1978), nuclear proliferation (_End of the World With Symposium to Follow_ – 1987), obsessive materialism (_Road to Nirvana_ – 1991), and technological invasions of privacy (_BecauseHeCan_ – 2000). Kopit's works feature breakdowns in personal identity (through characters and action), cultural identity (through themes and settings), and aesthetic identity (through formal elements). At the heart of those breakdowns are the identity components of "commemoration" (memory, history/myth, artistic tradition), perception, and language. Ultimately, those components prove to be insufficient bases for identity – but the only ones available. The playwright puts his protagonists into crises that call into question their senses of self. Those crises expand from the personal to the cultural by virtue of their context in the turbulent late 20th-century U.S. society; individuals in crisis become emblematic of "America" in crisis. And the form reinforces this content. Each play combines and distorts established genres, techniques, and/or other works in ways that break down their aesthetic identities. Further, the theatrical effect of each play parallels the experience undergone by the characters, so that the causes – and cultural dimensions – of their personal crises are felt firsthand by audience members. Kopit's oeuvre thus provides tremendous insight into the complexities of existence in the contemporary age.
Identifier: FSU_migr_etd-3509 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Dissertation submitted to the School of Theatre in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2003.
Date of Defense: April 7, 2003.
Keywords: American Drama, Immortality, Identity, Fear of Death, Memory, Aesthetic Form, Narrative Disruption, Reality and Illusion
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: John Degen, Professor Directing Dissertation; Karen Laughlin, Outside Committee Member; Carrie Sandahl, Committee Member.
Subject(s): Drama -- History and criticism
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

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Bostian, K. (2003). The Art of Immortality: Personal, Cultural, and Aesthetic Identity in the Plays of Arthur Kopit. Retrieved from