Document Type


Date of Award



College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (COLABS)

Degree Name

MA in English

First Advisor

Professor Michael D. Sollars


In modem society individuals continually reshape and reinvent themselves rendering identity problematic. Regardless of myriad possibilities of accidental transformations, the person never ceases being essentially human. The power of myth provides a spiritual blueprint along which the deeper structures of the human consciousness activate to form an identity. The power of myth to reshape, re-invent and guide humanity is central to understanding the depths of modem -identity in the theatre of Jean Genet, Luigi Pirandello, and David Henry Hwang. The dominant themes of sacrifice, martyrdom, and ritualized death exemplify modernist tendencies toward stripping the veneer of tradition and prejudice from the modem notions of self and world. A civilization and its constituent institutions represent a physical order, or form of deeper antecedent ideals that are vestiges of ancient codes, models, and patterns of goal-directed consciousness that are also present in the imagery and mythology and in the works under consideration. The implications of Genet's The Balcony (1956), Pirandello's Henry IV (1922), and Hwang's M Butterfly (1988, when examined in relation to the works-of Sir James Frazer, Martin Esslin, and Joseph Campbell, reveal a dramatic trend toward adapting universal myths to personal myths, creating environments that affirm a cultural basis for the supremacy of individual consciousness and free will, and subjectively reconstructing the mythic images at the root of modem civilization.