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Understanding August Wilson

Mary L. Bogumil

An assessment of 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 including New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Tony Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. Understanding August Wilson provides a comprehensive view of the thematic structure of Wilson's plays, the placement of his work within the context of American drama, and the distinctively African American experiences and traditions that he dramatizes.

Mary L. Bogumil argues that Wilson gives voice to disfranchised and marginalized African Americans who have been promised a stake in the American dream but find their access blocked. The author maintains that Wilson wishes not only to portray the predicaments of African 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 white American and 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.

Mary L. Bogumil is an associate professor of 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. Bogumil is a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to August Wilson.

"Bogumil's discussion of such topics as Wilson's use of symbolism, the blues, and African American history is clearly conveyed. A good beginning for study of Wilson, especially for undergraduates."—Choice


new in paperback

book jacket for Understanding  August Wilson


5 x 8
184 pages
ISBN 978-1-57003-879-2
paper, $21.95s
Understanding Contemporary
American Literature
Matthew J. Bruccoli, series editor


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