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Middle of it All

MTSU’s is not the only centennial being celebrated in 2011

The Playwright’s the Thing by Bill Lewis


n March, MTSU professor of English Robert Bray, Ph.D., was in New Orleans, serving on two panels discussing the legacy of Tennessee Williams. The event combined serious scholarship and celebration of the playwright’s 100th birthday. “I plan to join others in toasting him with several glasses of champagne that evening,” said Dr. Bray, during an interview earlier this year. Bray has been traveling to New Orleans, where Williams first signed his name as “Tennessee” at a local guesthouse, each March for 17 years to participate in the Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference, of which he is the founding director. Bray also serves on the programming committee and appears on panels for the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. He has written two books and dozens of articles about Williams, and since 1998 has served as the founding editor of the Tennessee Williams Annual Review.

Photo of Tennessee Williams courtesy of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

This year’s events blended scholarship and entertainment. During the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, visitors reenacted the unforgettable scene from the 1951 film version of A Streetcar Named Desire when Marlon Brando bawled out his anguished “Stell-ahhh” at his wife upstairs in their apartment. That combination is an appropriate way to celebrate the centenary of one of the most influential and popular literary figures of the 20th century—and now the 21st. Williams’s 100th birthday will be celebrated with events across the country, proof that his reputation continues to grow. An academic partnership between MTSU and the Historic New Orleans Collection, which maintains the Todd collection of Williams’ work, enables Dr. Bray to edit the Tennessee Williams Annual Review and to participate in the scholars conference and the literary festival each year.

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Spring 2011 | 23 |

MTSU Magazine April 2011  

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