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 he 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 study is augmented by a small collection of essays by two other major scholars: Harry Elam and Donald Pease.
Alan Nadel, William T. Bryan Chair in American Literature and Culture at the University of Kentucky, is the author of Invisible Criticism: Ralph Ellison and the American Canon, and has edited two collections of essays on August Wilson, May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson and August Wilson: Completing the Twentieth-Century Cycle. He has written several other books including Television in Black-and-White America: Race and National Identity. His essays on post-World War II American literature, film, drama, and culture have appeared in numerous journals, and he has won prizes for the best essay in Modern Fiction Studies and in PMLA.
Acknowledgements Introduction I Becoming August Wilson II August Wilson and His Critics: His Public Stands and His Private Vision (by Sandra Shannon) III Wilson in Performance (by Harry Elam) IV August Wilson's Blues Catharsis (Vershawn Ashanti Young) V History and/as Performance: August Wilson's Drama and African-American Historiography VI Beginning Again, Again: Business in the Street in Jitney and Gem of the Ocean VII Cutting the Historical Record and Waiting for the Wrap VIII Boundaries, Logistics, and Identity: The Property of Metaphor in Fences and Joe Turner's Come and Gone IX Spirits, Spirituals, and Spirituality X Black Arts and Contractual logics XI Sad Stories of the Death of Kings XII August Wilson's Lazarus Complex (by Donald E. Pease) XIII "Can't Fix Nothing with the Law": Radio Golf and the Lesson of the Color Line Notes Index Notes on Contributors