Assesses the contributions of the award-winning African American dramatist
August Wilson counts among America's greatest playwrights, having garnered commercial success on Broadway and critical acclaim from literary and theater critics. He has won the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Tony Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. Understanding August Wilson provides readers with a comprehensive view of the thematic structure of Wilson's plays, the placement of his plays within the context of American drama, and the distinctively African American experiences and traditions that Wilson dramatizes.
In this critical study Mary L. Bogumil argues that Wilson gives voice to disfranchised and marginalized African Americans who have been promised a place and a stake in the American dream but find their access blocked to the rights and freedoms promised to all Americans. The author maintains that Wilson wishes not only to portray African Americans and the predicaments of American life but also to shed light on the atavistic connection African Americans have to their African ancestors. Bogumil explains that the playwright both perpetuates and subverts the tradition of American drama in order to expose the distinct differences between the white American and the African American experiences.
Included here are chapters on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, and Seven Guitars. Bogumil asserts that in these works Wilson presents readers with a decade-by-decade portrait of African American life, capturing this culture's spirit and voice. She brings out how Wilson harkens to the African oral tradition in his plays, often telling stories of spiritual reconciliation.
Mary L. Bogumil teaches English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Her previous scholarship on African American literature has appeared in College English, Theatre Journal, and the American Journal of Semiotics.