Phantom Limbs Dancing Juba Rites in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and The Piano Lesson

  • Reggie Young


In Signifying Monkey, Henry Louis Gates claims “If ‘the Dixie Pike,’ as Jean Toomer put the matter in Cane, ‘has grown from a goat path in Africa,’ then the black vernacular tradition stands as its signpost, at the liminal crossroads of culture contact and ensuing difference at which Africa meets Afro-America” (4). If this figurative path can be looked upon as a cultural corridor that connects African and African American cultures, it has had transported upon it much more than a vernacular tradition of language usage—it is also the thoroughfare used by the people of African descent to transport their spiritual beliefs and ritual practices for use in their everyday American lives. August Wilson, throughout his ever-evolving canon of plays, but more specifically in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and The Piano Lesson, explores what critic and playwright Paul Carter Harrison calls the “bedrock of racial memory and particularity of expression,” one that transcends the Middle Passage. In his plays, Wilson reveals the interrelationship between physical and metaphysical reality in black diasporic culture, a relationship that has been surveyed increasingly by African American expressive artists in various genres over the last several decades and one in which the reconciling of the slave past is an important factor in personal redemption.


Phantom Limb Christian Faith Ritual Practice Master Narrative African American Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. Anderson, Douglas. “Saying Goodbye to the Past: Self-Empowerment and History in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” CLA Journal 40 (1997): 432–457.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, Bernard W. The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.Google Scholar
  3. Bissiri, Amadou. “Aspects of Africanness in August Wilson’s Drama: Reading The Piano Lesson through Wole Soyinka’s Drama.” African American Review 30 (Spring 1996): 99–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Boan, Devon. “Call-and-Response: Parallel ‘Slave Narrative’ in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson.” African American Review 32 (Summer 1998): 263–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dash, Michael J. The Other America: Caribbean Literature in a New World Context. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.Google Scholar
  6. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.Google Scholar
  7. Harris, Trudier. “August Wilson’s Folk Traditions.” August Wilson: A Casebook. Ed. Marilyn Elkins. New York: Garland, 1994. 49–67.Google Scholar
  8. Harrison, Paul Carter. “August Wilson’s Blues Poetics.” Afterword. August Wilson Three Plays. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991. 291–317.Google Scholar
  9. Harrison, Paul Carter. “Mother/Word: Black Theatre in the African Continuum: Word/Song as Method.” Introduction. Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory. Ed. Harrison. New York: Grove, 1989. xi–lxiii.Google Scholar
  10. Levine, Lawrence. Black Culture and Black Consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.Google Scholar
  11. Mackey, Nathaniel. “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol.” Callaloo 10 (Winter 1987 ): 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McDowell, Deborah E. “Negotiating between Tenses: Witnessing Slavery After Freedom.” Dessa Rose. Slavery in the Literary Imagination. Ed. McDowell and Arnold Rampersad. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. 144–163.Google Scholar
  13. Mobley, Marilyn Sanders. “A Different Remembering: Memory, History, and Meaning in Toni Morrison’s Beloved.” Toni Morrison: Modern Critical Views. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1990. 189–199.Google Scholar
  14. Morales, Michael. “Ghosts on the Piano: August Wilson and the Representation of Black American History.” May All Your Fences have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson. Ed. Alan Nadel. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1994. 105–115.Google Scholar
  15. Morrison, Toni. Interview with Bill Moyers. “The World of Ideas.” PBS. WTTW, Chicago, September 14, 1990.Google Scholar
  16. Olson, Ted. “Folklore.” Oxford Companion to African American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
  17. Pereira, Kim. August Wilson and the African-American Odyssey. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  18. Plum, Jay. “Blues, History, and the Dramaturgy of August Wilson.” African American Review 27 (Winter 1993 ): 561–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Shannon, Sandra G. The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  20. Toomer, Jean. Cane. New York: Norton, 1988[1923].Google Scholar
  21. Williams, Dana A. “Making the Bones Live Again: A Look at the ‘Bones People’ in August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone and Henry Dumas’s ‘Ark of Bones.’” CLA Journal 42 (1999): 309–319.Google Scholar
  22. Wolfe, Peter. August Wilson. New York: Twayne, 1999.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sandra Shannon and Dana Williams 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reggie Young

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations