Variations on Prometheus: Eugene O?Neill'sDynamo and the John Henry Legend in American Drama [Abstract]

Prometheus, who stole the secret of fire and shared it with man, is often represented as a thinker; his name means ?forethought,? and is credited both with founding civilization and inciting Zeus to curse mankind with the necessity of labor. In 1929 Eugene O?Neill examined the power of both religion and technology in his expressionistic play Dynamo, featuring a young atheist (Reuben Light) who worships the generator at the local power plant because he believes it contains the soul of his dead mother. Three contemporary plays produced by the Federal Theatre Project interpreted the legend of John Henry whose battle with the steam-powered drilling machine (stylized by one of the playwrights as a wrestling match with a robot) rejects the gift of Prometheus, but embraces the curse of Zeus. The John Henry legend, which flourished as technology encroached upon jobs formerly filled by semi-skilled laborers, celebrates back-breaking physical labor as part of man‘snatural and preferred state. Using the Prometheus myth and Henry Adams‘sexploration of the American tendency to let technology fill its spiritual vacuum, I propose to examine O?Neill‘splay and three contemporary dramas inspired by John Henry. —Dennis G. JerzVariations on Prometheus: Eugene O?Neill‘sDynamo and the John Henry Legend in American Drama [Abstract] (Technology and Religion )

This is my proposal for an upcoming conference. I was considering writing a proposal on VeggieTales, but I think I’ll save that for a pop culture venue.

Update: I did get accepted to this conference, but I also got accepted to a bunch of other things I applied for around that time, and I couldn’t attend all of them. So this article remains unwritten.