Writing, Media, and Confessional Monologue in the 1980s
This chapter focuses on the solo career of Spalding Gray, who helped popularize confessional monologue in the American theater. Received at first as someone who “talks for a living,” Spalding Gray was rebranded after his death as, in fact, a writer. This simple binary—talk vs. writing—does a disservice to Gray’s monologues, or, as he sometimes called them, his “talking novels.” Placing Gray in his context—as a member of the multimedia experimental theater ensemble the Wooster Group, as an artist poised between theater and performance art, and as a man frankly puzzled by the relationship between theatrical performance and literary authorship—this chapter argues that the tension between writing and talking (and not a choice between the two) defines confessional monologue as a form. Special attention is paid to the way Gray’s monologues have been published, as well as to Gray’s debt to the confessional poet Robert Lowell.
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