Main Content

EN 363 - American Playwrights since 1945


This is a guide to selected sources of information related to drama criticism on American Playwrights since World War II at the Geisel Library. It is meant as a starting point for your research and an aid for searching and locating relevant information sources. You may also view the general Drama Criticism Guide for other resources. For further research assistance, please stop by the Reference Desk in person or pose your question online at Ask a Librarian.


Reference Sources for Background Information

Reference books are shelved by call number in the reference stacks near the reference desk on the Main Level of the library. They may not be checked out, but photocopiers are available on the lower level of the Library. Use reference resources to find background information on authors and literary works, as well as the social issues, historical periods, and themes being addressed in this course. A few selected titles are listed below.

Select Indexes and Encyclopedias in the Reference Collection

Critical Survey of Drama.
     Ref PN1625 .C68

The Columbia Encyclopedia of Modern Drama.
     Ref PN1861 .C65

The Cambridge History of American Theatre.
     Ref PN2221 .C37, V.3

American Drama Criticism 1890-1977 (also supplement)
     Ref PS332.E33
Lists critical material found in books and periodical articles on American dramatists.

American Playwrights Since 1945: A Guide to Scholarship, Criticism, and Performance.
     Ref PS350.A54

King, Kimball. Ten Modern American Playwrights: An Annotated Bibliography.
     Ref PS351 .K55

General Criticism

Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism
     Ref PN94 .T83
Though this only provides excerpts of critical works, it is a good starting point to discover patterns of thought on authors and movements and criticism on selected works. Use the bibliographies to explore relevant criticism in other publications.

Online Reference Resources

Online reference sources can be found in the library catalog or listed on the E-Reference Resources page.

The Concise Oxford Companion to the Theatre
This database "contains entries on a vast range of theatrical styles, dramatists, performers, and directors, as well as information on theatres, festivals, and such technical topics as lighting, sound, and method acting." The database is part of the larger Oxford Reference Online which enables you to search within many of Oxford's highly-regarded reference works in the fields of literature and history.

Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature
This resource provides essays on major American authors, literary works, literary movements, periods, and themes. The encyclopedia's articles offer "historical perspective and social context along with a range of possibilities with regard to critical approach." The entry on "Theater in America" will also guide you to many of the playwrights covered in this course.


Return to top


Find Journal Articles

Below are several databases that may yield useful journal articles for your research. Some of the resources focus on drama criticism, while others provide historical and socio-cultural context for the works and authors.

In the results screen, if there is no full-text link readily available, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available in the Geisel Library or in full-text via another electronic database. If the article isn't available, click on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a PDF copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be sent to your college email address within 3-7 business days. To learn how to use WebBridge, please watch our video tutorial (3.5 minutes; includes audio).

Theatre Research Databases

Literature Resource Center
Find biographical information on authors, as well as bibliographies, plot summaries, and literary criticism of their works. This resource provides the full text of articles from more than 100 literary journals.

MLA International Bibliography
Produced by the Modern Language Association of America, this electronic index consists of bibliographic records pertaining to literature, language, linguistics, and folklore. (1963–present)

Arts & Humanities Citation Index
This index provides citations to more than 1,300 arts and humanities journals, including articles, bibliographies, editorials, letters, and reviews. Note the cited references feature, which may enhance your search.

Academic Search Premier
Gain access to full-text as well as indexing and abstracting for a wide range of journal titles covering business, social sciences, humanities, general science, and education. Includes publications such as Theatre, Theatre History Studies, and Theatre Research International.

Other Theatre Research Databases

JSTOR contains the full text of back issues of major journals in the humanities and social sciences. Use this to find articles in selected scholarly literature journals. You can set limiters, such as selecting the 'Performing Arts' check box for journals covering theatre and criticism. Coverage is generally from the beginning of publication to within 5 years of the current issue. JSTOR is an archive of back issues of selected journals.   User Guide

Project MUSE
"Project MUSE provides online, worldwide, institutional subscription access to the full text of more than 200 scholarly journals in arts and humanities, social sciences, and mathematics." Includes relevant journals in drama research such as Theatre Journal and Modern Drama.

Print Journals

American Theatre
This popular journal provides current articles about productions and other relevant information on the American theatre. Available in both print and electronic versions:  the Print version covers 1985 through the present issue; the Electronic version covers 1992 through the present issue.


Return to top


Find Books/Secondary Sources

Examples of subject headings to search in the Catalog:

Try searching some of the phrases below as Subject Headings in the catalog. This method often finds a higher percentage of books that are directly relevant to a particular topic. If you are researching a particular author or work, try searching the author's name as a Subject to locate biographies and literary criticism.

  • Mamet, David
  • Hansberry, Lorraine, 1930-1965 - Criticism and interpretation
  • American drama - 20th century - History and criticism

Examples of keyword searches to use in the Catalog:

  • america* drama
  • criticism and (shepard, sam)
  • drama AND criticism AND america* AND modern*
  • theatre AND criticism AND (miller, arthur)

Use the * (asterisk) as a truncation symbol to retrieve variant forms of a word root; for example, text* will catch books with the words "text" or "textual" in the catalog record. Use the Boolean AND to combine together multiple concepts, and use the Boolean OR to expand your search with synonyms and related terms. Use AND NOT to eliminate any instances of a term or phrase. AND NOT is particularly useful if you notice in search results multiple instances of terms appearing in titles or entries that are not relevant to your topic.


If you are unable to locate enough materials in the Geisel Library catalog, search the collections of libraries worldwide using WorldCat. This enables you to identify relevant books owned by other colleges and have them delivered to Geisel Library for your use, via our Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. Try searching on the same keywords and subject headings that you used in the library catalog. If you find a relevant book, click on the title and look for the Request ILL link.

Selected Titles

The following books are a representative sample of the books at the Geisel Library for each playwright. Use the library catalog and  WorldCat to search for more books on each playwright. Most works on theatre that will be relevant to this course are classified within the PN-PT range of call numbers and are located on the Upper Level of the Geisel Library.

Select Books on American Drama in the Library's General Collection

The Cambridge Companion to David Mamet.
     PS3563.A4345 Z59

Interrogating America Through Theatre and Performance.
     PN2266 .I58

Sam Shepard:  A Casebook.
     PS3569.H394 Z87

Staging Difference:  Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama.
     PS352 .S73

Women Who Write Plays:  Interviews With American Dramatists.
     PS352 .W66

Bigsby, C.W.E. Modern American Drama, 1945-1990.
     PS350 .B54

Fisher, James. The Theater of Tony Kushner:  Living Past Hope.
     PS3561.U778 Z64

Otten, Terry. The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller.
     PS3525.I5156 Z84

Shannon, Sandra Garrett. The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson.
     PS3573.I45677 Z88

Selected Websites

These websites were picked for their potential relevance to your course topic. You may also want to conduct keyword searching on your topics in a search engine such as Google, but be sure to look for indications that the site's information is authoritative, objective, and reliable.

AmericanTheaterWeb Top News
An up-to-date blog highlighting theatrical performances across the country. This aggregator is a good choice for exploring recent productions.

The David Mamet Society
The David Mamet Society is an international organization of scholars, students, and others who share an interest in the work of David Mamet. This Society studies the works of the playwright, filmmaker, director, essayist and author David Mamet.

The Sam Shepard Website
This website is maintained by Gary M. Grant, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theatre, Department of Theatre and Dance, Bucknell University. There is an extensive bibliography of resources on various themes surrounding Sam Shepard's work.

Tony Kushner
Profile of Tony Kushner by the agency that represents him (Steven Barclay Agency). Search through the 'Links' to find a variety of publications and interviews of Kushner on his work.


Return to top


Citing Sources

Geisel Library has both print and electronic resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


Return to top