August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle

Critical Perspectives on the Plays


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About the Book

Providing a detailed study of American playwright August Wilson (1945–2005), this collection of new essays explores the development of the author’s ethos across his twenty-five-year creative career—a process that transformed his life as he retraced the lives of his fellow “Africans in America.” While Wilson’s narratives of Pittsburgh and Chicago are microcosms of black life in America, they also reflect the psychological trauma of his disconnection with his biological father, his impassioned efforts to discover and reconnect with the blues, with Africa and with poet/activist Amiri Baraka, and his love for the vernacular of Pittsburgh.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Sandra G. Shannon is a professor of African American Literature in the English department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Two seminal books along with numerous chapters, and articles on Wilson have established her as a leading scholar in Wilson Studies. She was a key consultant for and contributor to the highly acclaimed PBS American Masters documentary, August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand (February 2015). She lives in Bowie, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Sandra G. Shannon

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 220
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7800-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2299-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Introduction 1
“The emancipated century”: Remapping History, Reclaiming Memory in August Wilson’s Dramatic Landscapes of the 20th Century—Joyce Hope Scott 15
“A big bend there, a tree by the shore”: Situated Identity in The Janitor—Jacqueline Zeff 39
Two Trains Running: Bridging Diana Taylor’s “rift” and Narrating Manning Marable’s “living history”—Sarah Saddler and Paul ­Bryant-Jackson 49
World War II History/history: Essential Contexts in Seven Guitars—Ellen Bonds 60
The Use of Stereotype and Archetype in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—Michael Downing 76
Gem of the Ocean’s Fugitive Movements—Isaiah Matthew Wooden 88
Reclaiming the Mother: Women, Documents and the Condition of the Mother in Gem of the Ocean and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom—Jesslyn ­Collins-Frohlich 101
A Century Lacking Progress: The Fractured Community in Gem of the Ocean and King Hedley II—Christopher B. Bell 117
“He gonna give me my ham”: The Use of Food as a Symbol for Social Justice—Psyche ­Williams-Forson 128
Resurrecting “phantom limb[s] of the dismembered slave and god”: Unveiling the Africanisms in Gem of the Ocean—Artisia Green 142
Epiphany and the “drama of souls”—Owen Seda 164
Conjuring Africa in August Wilson’s Plays—Connie Rapoo 175
Re-Evaluating the Legacy of the ­Ten-Play Cycle—Susan C.W. Abbotson 187
About the Contributors 203
Index 205

Book Reviews & Awards

“a clearly written, thoroughly researched, and engaging volume that will resonate with teachers, students, and artists…ideal for a classroom setting…powerfully captures Wilson’s agency as a black male writer, his brilliance as an orator, and his deeply rooted concern for the collective well-being of African Americans”—Theatre Topics.