Afram 320

Previous Iterations

Black Women in Drama
Sonnet Retman

This class will explore the politics of performance in various plays by black women playwrights, from the Harlem Renaissance to the present. Throughout the quarter, we will pursue a number of questions: how do these playwrights invoke and transform genre to dramatize particular experiences, stories and questions? Within these plays, who carries the burden of embodiment in the public sphere? If some people are designated as hyper-visible, who and what remains "neutral," unseen? How is the private sphere constructed in relation to gender, race, class and sexuality? How do particular modes of performance and genre affirm or call into question conventional notions of citizenship and the nation? Many of these plays open up new avenues for envisioning black identity as it intersects with gender, sexuality and class; alternative conceptions of community; and fresh ways of narrating individual and collective histories. As we read, we will delineate the intertwined aesthetic and political aspects of this dramatic tradition. Possible playwrights include Zora Neale Hurston, Marita Boner, Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, Suzi Lori Parks, Anna Deveare Smith, Lynn Nottage, Deal Orlandersmith, Charlynne Woodward and Lisa Thompson.