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The African American Theatrical Body
Reception, Performance, and the Stage

$29.99 (F)

  • Date Published: December 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781009310581

$ 29.99 (F)

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About the Authors
  • Presenting an innovative approach to performance studies and literary history, Soyica Colbert argues for the centrality of black performance traditions to African American literature, including preaching, dancing, blues and gospel, and theatre itself, showing how these performance traditions create the 'performative ground' of African American literary texts. Across a century of literary production using the physical space of the theatre and the discursive space of the page, W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, August Wilson and others deploy performances to re-situate black people in time and space. The study examines African American plays past and present, including A Raisin in the Sun, Blues for Mister Charlie and Joe Turner's Come and Gone, demonstrating how African American dramatists stage black performances in their plays as acts of recuperation and restoration, creating sites that have the potential to repair the damage caused by slavery and its aftermath.

    • Relates important African American plays to significant works of African American literature, presenting a more expansive conception of the African American literary tradition
    • Incorporates psychoanalytic and social theories, providing an innovative framework for readers interested in theories of social and psychic trauma
    • Fosters a broad understanding of the reparative capabilities of black performance, relating black performance studies to political and social movements
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "‘Soyica Colbert’s exciting new book, The African American Theatrical Body, celebrates as it insightfully explores the power of African American drama. While foregrounding the space and place of drama within the black literary canon, Colbert compellingly argues that black plays and performance have the potential not simply to reproduce but to repair and even to revise history. In making her case, Colbert analyzes seminal texts of African American drama and theater, but also notably turns to earlier African American dramas that have received far too little critical attention. This is a book of amazing historical scope and impressive critical imagination."
    -Harry J. Elam, Jr., Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities, Stanford University

    "In this bold and rigorous study, Soyica Colbert reveals the crucial reparative work of African American drama as a dynamic, collaborative site for responding to legacies of historical and material trauma.  Through a series of lively and illuminating readings of works by Hansberry, Hurston and Hughes as well as Du Bois, Baldwin, Baraka, Wilson, and Parks, The African American Theatrical Body travels across a century of black performance in order to show how, time and again, black theater actively and radically manages and re-imagines space, time and movement for African American communities."
    -Daphne A. Brooks, Professor of English & African American Studies, Princeton University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781009310581
    • length: 343 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.498kg
    • contains: 11 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Overture: rites that render repairing: Suzan-Lori Parks' The America Play
    1. Repetition/reproduction: the DNA of black expressive culture: Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun
    2. Recuperating black diasporic history: W. E. B. Du Bois' The Star of Ethiopia
    3. Re-enacting the Harlem Renaissance: Zora Neale Hurston's Color Struck
    4. Resisting shame, offering praise and worship: Langston Hughes's Tambourines to Glory
    5. Resisting death: the blues bravado of a ghost: James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie
    6. Rituals of repair: August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone
    7. Reconstitution: Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog
    Epilogue: Black movements: Tarell Alvin McCraney's In the Red and Brown Water

  • Author

    Soyica Diggs Colbert, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
    Soyica Colbert is an Assistant Professor of English at Dartmouth College. She is currently working on two book projects entitled Black Movements: Performance, Politics, and Migration and Lorraine Hansberry: Activist and Artist. She has published articles on James Baldwin, Alice Childress, August Wilson, Lynn Nottage and Suzan-Lori Parks. President of the Black Theater Association, Founder of the New England Black Scholars Collective and member of the Modern Language Association, the Association of Theater in Higher Education, the American Studies Association and the American Society of Theater Research, Colbert is the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship (2010–2011), Walter and Constance Burke Research Awards (2007 and 2010), a Stanford Humanities Postdoctoral Fellowship (2006–2007), a Mellon Summer Research Grant (2005) and the Robert W. Woodruff Library Fellowship (2005). Recent undergraduate classes include Black Theatre USA, Modern Black Literature, American Drama, Introduction to African American Studies, the Drama of August Wilson and Suzan-Lori Parks, Contemporary Playwrights of Color, and Race and Performance. Her research interests span the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries, from William Wells Brown to Beyoncé, and from poetics to performance.

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