cover of book

The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson
by Harry J. Elam
University of Michigan Press, 2004
eISBN: 978-0-472-02184-0 | Paper: 978-0-472-03163-4 | Cloth: 978-0-472-11368-2
Library of Congress Classification PS3573.I45677Z65 2004
Dewey Decimal Classification 812.54


Pulitzer-prizewinning playwright August Wilson, author of Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and The Piano Lesson, among other dramatic works, is one of the most well respected American playwrights on the contemporary stage. The founder of the Black Horizon Theater Company, his self-defined dramatic project is to review twentieth-century African American history by creating a play for each decade.
Theater scholar and critic Harry J. Elam examines Wilson's published plays within the context of contemporary African American literature and in relation to concepts of memory and history, culture and resistance, race and representation. Elam finds that each of Wilson's plays recaptures narratives lost, ignored, or avoided to create a new experience of the past that questions the historical categories of race and the meanings of blackness.
Harry J. Elam, Jr. is Professor of Drama at Stanford University and author of Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka (The University of Michigan Press).
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