Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, Bentley attended Oxford University, receiving his degree in 1938, and subsequently attended Yale University (B.Litt, 1939 and PhD., 1941), where he received the John Addison Porter Prize.
Beginning in 1953, Bentley taught at Columbia University and simultaneously was a theatre critic for The New Republic. Known for his blunt style of theatre criticism, Bentley incurred the wrath of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, both of whom threatened to sue him for his unfavorable reviews of their work. From 1960-1961, Bentley was the Norton professor at Harvard University.
Bentley is considered one of the preeminent experts on Bertolt Brecht, whom he met at UCLA as a young man and whose works he has translated extensively. He edited the Grove Press issue of Brecht's work, and recorded two albums of Brecht's songs for Folkways Records, most of which had never before been recorded in English.
In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
Bentley was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1969. That same year, he declared his homosexuality. In an interview in the New York Times on November 12, 2006, he claimed he was married twice before coming out at age 53, at which time he left his post as the Brander Matthews Professor of Dramatic Literature at Columbia to concentrate on writing. He has cited his homosexuality as an influence on his theater work, especially his play Lord Alfred's Lover, based on the life of Oscar Wilde.
He has written many critical books, including A Century of Hero-Worship, The Playwright as Thinker, Bernard Shaw, What Is Theatre?, The Life of the Drama, Theatre of War, Brecht Commentaries, and Thinking About the Playwright. In addition, he edited The Importance Of Scrutiny (1964), a collection of pieces from Scrutiny: A Quarterly Review, the noted critical periodical, and Thirty Years of Treason: Excerpts from Hearings Before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1938–1968 (1971). His most-produced play, 1972's Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been: The Investigations of Show-Business by the Un-American Activities Committee 1947-1958, was based on the transcripts collected in Thirty Years of Treason.
He won a Robert Chesley Award in 2007.
Bentley became an American citizen in 1948, and currently lives in New York City.
Eric Bentley, 1986, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1123725)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
The Playwright as Thinker: A Study of Drama in Modern Times, Fourth Edition by Eric Bentley
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; 4 edition (September 14, 2010)
Amazon: The Playwright as Thinker: A Study of Drama in Modern Times
First published in 1946, The Playwright as Thinker is a classic work of drama criticism that helped create the intellectual environment in which serious American theater would thrive in the second half of the twentieth century. At the time of publishing, most drama critics believed dramatic art deserved no intellectual status; Eric Bentley set out to prove them wrong. Focusing on the canonic playwrights Strindberg, Ibsen, Pirandello, Sartre, and Brecht, Bentley viewed the playwright as thinker, and his survey of over 150 years of dramatic art provided, in essence, an intellectual history of Europe. This edition not only contains the original, long-suppressed foreword, in which Bentley lambastes the climate of Broadway at the time, but also the author's 1987 afterword.
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
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