Article Title

Double Exposures: On the Reciprocity of Influence between Tennessee Williams and Jean Cocteau


Centered around a continuous exploration of boundaries between media, genres, and referential frameworks, this essay seeks to present the work of playwrights Jean Cocteau and Tennessee Williams as reciprocally influenced. After introducing their shared reliance on rewrites, translations, and adaptations, it retraces a relation of artistic attraction and resistance that spanned three decades across theatre, films, and poetry. From a shared fascination with the Orpheus-myth and its overtones of reality’s transformability, over the transgressive symbolism of the two-headed eagle or its subversive embodiment live on stage, to a tentative play with hybridity and liminality, Cocteau and Williams kept wavering between referential clarity and metaphoric obscurity – a tenuous duality here addressed both as common denominator and aesthetic throughline. After all, the kind of sensitivity so implied evokes an intrinsically integrative perspective wholly in line with the principle of influence itself, which to Harold Bloom (1973) revolves round the interplay of admiration and anxiety. Hence the textual analyses and conceptual overtures here presented intend to highlight both the meandering nature as well as the mediated quality of artistic reciprocity. Ultimately, therefore, our insistence on the creational act as part and parcel of a constellation of influences should allow us to demonstrate the broader relevance of process-based approaches to authorship.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.