Central Man traces the evolving dialectic of heroism in modern American drama in the light of the epic tension between the white and the black races. The emergence and subsequent waning of the New England Transcendentalist movement in the nineteenth century provides an apt context for a reappraisal of the heroic impulse in the narrative and dramatic forms that developed in the modern age of American enterprise. Drawing on these theoretical assumptions, this book examines the paradoxical genesis of an indigenous, multicultural and self-reliant voice on the American stage, starting from the beginning of the twentieth century, moving across the tumult of two World Wars and then proceeding on to the Vietnam era in the Sixties.
In its refreshingly new approach,
Central Man not only demystifies the classical and continental notions of heroism in American drama, but also demonstrates the ironic symbiosis of the historically unequal races of a great nation through and beyond the latter’s inherent conflicts on the stage. The idea of the ‘heroic’ thus vindicates a pragmatic and natural discourse of transcendence at the fundamental level of humanity.