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George Kelly is an American playwright, best known for his plays The Show-Off, Craig’s Wife, and The Torch-Bearers. Born in Pennsylvania in 1887, over the next 87 years he wrote eleven plays, won a Pulitzer Prize, and had a number of film adaptations made of his work.
George Kelly is also well-known for his most famous relative, his niece. Grace Kelly was an actress of great renown, starting her career in the theatre with the support of her uncle, and later moving to work for MGM, where she won an Academy Award for her part in The Country Girl, as well as appearing in notable Hitchcock films such as Rear Window and Dial M For Murder. Because of her role in film, Grace Kelly was appointed head of the US delegation to Cannes, where she met Prince Rainier III. The two were soon married, and Grace Kelly became Princess Grace, eventually giving birth to an heir, Albert II, the grand-nephew of George Kelly.
Although the vogue of the time George Kelly wrote in, throughout the 1920s and 1930s, was towards modernism and more experimental forms of theatre, he tended to stay with traditional structures and styles. His plays were moral plays, with little subtle shading, telling stories simply and with great moral force behind them. The main focus of his work is on egoists, picking them apart and demonstrating the enormous flaws in their character. There is little sentimentality in his plays, little true love or affection, but the plays are rarely overly dark.
The Torch-Bearers, Kelly’s first work, from 1923, picks apart a theatre troupe consisting exclusively of self-obsessed, unprofessional, indulgent actors and an unworkable director. His next work, The Show-Off, from 1924, was by far his most popular work commercially. It follows a businessman who is annoying and unlikable in nearly every way, wearing a toupee, laughing obnoxiously at everything anyone says, lying to everyone he meets, and generally proving a nuisance to everyone he meets.
While the first two plays were fairly farcical, with a relatively light tone, his third piece, Craig’s Wife, abandoned any pretense of gentleness in his critique. Craig’s Wife follows a domestic housewife as she methodically destroys her marriage through her own obsessions. She insists on keeping her house spotless and pristine, in the process driving away her friends, and ultimately driving her doting and protective husband away. The play ends with the woman, Harriet Craig, standing alone in a perfect house. It was made into three distinct movies, in 1928, 1936, and 1950.
Throughout his life George Kelly was a closeted homosexual, keeping up a secret fifty-five year relationship with William Weagley. His sexual orientation was an incredibly closely-guarded secret, and his family, with the exception of his niece Grace, absolutely refused to accept it. Some critics have suggested that his orientation led to his harsh portrayal of women in his plays, which eventually led to a massive loss of popularity in his later plays.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who is George Kelly in the field of psychology?
George Kelly was an influential American psychologist, born on April 28, 1905, and died on March 6, 1967. He is best known for developing the Personal Construct Theory, which suggests that individuals interpret the world through their own mental constructs. This theory has had a significant impact on the fields of clinical psychology and psychotherapy. Kelly's work emphasized the importance of understanding how people make sense of their experiences.
What is the Personal Construct Theory?
The Personal Construct Theory, formulated by George Kelly, posits that people actively endeavor to understand the world around them using personal constructs, which are bipolar dimensions of judgment. According to this theory, individuals anticipate events by the meanings they place on them, essentially constructing their own versions of reality. This framework has been instrumental in cognitive and clinical psychology, influencing therapeutic techniques and the understanding of personality.
How did George Kelly's work influence psychology?
George Kelly's work significantly influenced cognitive and clinical psychology by introducing a new perspective on how individuals perceive and interpret their experiences. His Personal Construct Theory challenged the dominant behaviorist and psychoanalytic paradigms of his time. Kelly's approach to therapy, known as fixed-role therapy, was also innovative, encouraging clients to try out new roles and thereby expand their personal construct systems.
What is fixed-role therapy?
Fixed-role therapy is a therapeutic approach developed by George Kelly, which involves having clients adopt a prescribed role that contrasts with their usual behavior. The idea is to provide clients with an opportunity to experiment with different ways of interacting with the world, thereby gaining insight into their own personal constructs and potentially leading to personal growth and change. This method reflects Kelly's emphasis on personal experimentation and self-discovery.
What are some key publications by George Kelly?
One of George Kelly's most significant publications is the two-volume set "The Psychology of Personal Constructs," released in 1955. This work comprehensively outlines his theory and its applications. Another important publication is "A Theory of Personality: The Psychology of Personal Constructs" (1963), which offers a more concise overview of his ideas. These texts are foundational in the study of personal construct psychology.
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