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Codifying the National Self

Spectators, Actors and the American Dramatic Text


Edited By Barbara Ozieblo and María Dolores Narbona-Carrión

Theater has always been the site of visionary hopes for a reformed national future and a space for propagating ideas, both cultural and political, and such a conceptualization of the histrionic art is all the more valuable in the post-9/11 era. The essays in this volume address the concept of «Americanness» and the perceptions of the «alien» – as ethnic, class or gendered minorities – as dealt with in the work of American playwrights from Anna Cora Mowatt, through Rachel Crothers or Susan Glaspell, and on to Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Nilo Cruz or Wallace Shawn. The authors of the essays come from a multi-national university background that includes the United States, the United Arab Emirates and various countries of the European Community. In recognition of the multiple components of drama, the essays for the volume were selected in order to exemplify different aspects and theories of theater studies: the playwright, the play, the audience and the actor are all examined as part of the theatrical experience that serves to formulate American national identity.


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Politics in Paratextual and Textual Elements in Fences 201


Politics in Paratextual and Textual Elements in Fences Thierry DUBOST University of Caen Basse-Normandie Thinking of politics and drama in an American context, thesis drama may come to mind as part of an African-American dramatic tradition. One may, for instance, think of what Matthew Roudané wrote about Amiri Baraka: “In virtually all of his plays, Baraka explores, with wildly differing measures of success, his unwavering conviction that white America forever wishes to demonize the African-American and that this demonization can thereby justify white racism” (61). The same would be true for Ed Bullins about whom Matthew Roudané writes: “He remains acutely aware of what he calls ‘the dialectic of change’ and has written plays that are deliberately political statements calling for change” (74). This genre implies that a political, moral or philosophical standpoint is clearly exposed to the audience, in the hope that they will eventually agree with the playwright’s ideas and views. August Wilson’s plays – like any dramatic work – contain some political theses, but they do not quite correspond to thesis drama. In some respects, one might even hesitate to classify Fences as a political play. However, the pur- pose of this study is to analyze how, beyond Wilson’s apparent prime focus on family relationships, individuals and their ordinary lives as African Americans in the United States, political perspectives appear in Fences. Bearing in mind August Wilson’s general historic purpose, one may think of didactic theater to characterize his work, but obviously not in simplistic terms. Brecht’s definition of...

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