The first comprehensive study of August Wilson's drama introduces the major themes and motifs that unite Wilson's ten-play cycle about African American life in each decade of the twentieth century. Framed by Wilson's life experiences and informed by his extensive interviews, this book provides fresh, coherent, detailed readings of each play, well-situated in the extant scholarship. It also provides an overview of the cycle as a whole, demonstrating how it comprises a compelling interrogation of American culture and historiography.
Keenly aware of the musical paradigms informing Wilson's dramatic technique, Nadel shows how jazz and, particularly, the blues provide the structural mechanisms that allow Wilson to examine alternative notions of time, property, and law. Wilson's improvisational logics become crucial to expressing his notions of black identity and resituating the relationship of literal to figurative in the African American community.
The final two chapters include contributions by scholars Harry J. Elam, Jr. and Donald E. Pease
About the Author
Alan Nadel is William T. Bryan Chair of America Literature and Culture at the University of Kentucky. In addition to several books on postwar American literature and media, including Invisible Criticism: Ralph Ellison and the American Canon (1988) and Television in Black-and-White America: Race and National Identity (2006), he is the editor/contributor for two volumes of essays on the drama of August Wilson: May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson (1994) and August Wilson: Completing the Twentieth-Century Cycle (2010). His poetry has appeared in numerous jourbanals, including Georgia Review, Partisan Review, Paris Review, and Shenandoah.
Table of Contents
1 Becoming August Wilson 3
2 History and/as Performance: The Drama of African American Historiography 17
3 Cutting the Historical Record, Recording the Blues: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom 37
4 Beginning Again, Again: Gem of the Ocean and Jitney 51
5 The Boundaries of Property and the Properties of Humanity: Fences and Joe Turbaner’s Come and Gone 67
6 The Properties of the Piano and the Legacy of Human Property: The Piano Lesson 87
7 Urban Renewal by Any Means Necessary: Two Trains Running 109
8 “Sad Stories of the Death of Kings”: Seven Guitars and King Hedley II 127
9 The Century That Can’t Fix Nothing with the Law: Radio Golf 139
10 Critical and Performance Perspectives 159
Seven Guitars and King Hedley II: August Wilson’s Lazarus Complex Donald E. Pease 159
Performance Politics and Authenticity: Joe Turbaner’s Come and Gone and Jitney Harry J. Elam, Jr. 179
Notes on Contributors 215