The deteriorating family has been a thematic obsession for American playwrights almost since the birth of American drama as a distinct body of writing. American plays, All of the plays that we will read together focus upon familial relationships. In most, though not all of them, these families are suffering from a corrosive misery, one that seems to pass like a contagion from generation to generation as the sadness, self-loathing and (often) alcoholism of the parents is visited upon the children—unless they find a way, however compromised, to escape. Our interest will be to examine the notion of the construction of identity and these portraits of familial distress in the context of the portraits of America that each one offers. What is the relationship between the family drama and the larger cultural drama that our authors are staging? Throughout the term, we will ask ourselves what it is that defines this broad corpus of plays as “American,” apart from the common nationality of their authors. What stylistic and thematic preoccupations (in addition to their interest in diseased families) do they share?  Among plays we will study: Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, Eugene O’Neill, Long Day’s Journey into Night, Edward Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.