From Ruth Snyder to Young Woman: Sophie Treadwell’s Feminist Rewriting of "The Crime of the Century"

By Rita Filanti.

Published by The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: April 01, 2014 $US5.00

Drawing on recent theoretical scholarship on gender and its relation to language and power (Butler: 1990, Felman: 1985, Irigaray: 1985), I analyze Machinal, by Sophie Treadwell, from a linguistic and literary perspective and demonstrate how the author creates a radically new syntax that disrupts common assumptions on woman’s “place” in society, while providing a powerful representation of patriarchal oppression inherent in language. Through a textual analysis of selected passages, I demonstrate how Treadwell deliberately refuses the appropriative logic implicit in the process of naming, and stages the opposition between silence and language as her privileged way to express Otherness itself. First produced in New York in 1928, Machinal, is based on the infamous Snyder-Gray criminal case. Convicted in 1927 together with her lover, Judd Gray, for the killing of her husband, Ruth Snyder was found guilty of murder in the first degree and electrocuted. Treadwell, an unconventional journalist, actress and playwright, chose to write a play rather than to report on the case, thus offering her audience an alternative view on the woman’s culpability.

Keywords: American Theatre, Gender Studies, Women Crime Narratives

The International Journal of the Humanities: Annual Review, Volume 11, pp.73-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: April 01, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 483.116KB)).

Rita Filanti

PhD Candidate, English Department, University of Bari, Bari, Italy

Rita Filanti holds an M.A. in Foreign Languages and Literatures (English and Spanish) and an M.A. in Arts and Sciences from the Università di Bari, Italy. She has received a postgraduate qualification in Theory and Practice of Translation from Università “La Sapienza”, Rome, with a thesis on Mavis Gallant’s Across the Bridge. She has been a University Lecturer of English and Italian as foreign languages for many years in Italy, Australia and the U.S. She has translated into Italian an anthology of contemporary American poetry published by Medusa, Milan, and edited various translations from Italian into English. Rita is currently working on her PhD dissertation in Translation Studies at the Università di Bari and doing research on the different translations of James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice. Her main interests are in the theory and practice of literary translation, the ethics of translation and the relation between original and second-order creation.