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“The Ground on Which I Stand is I, too, Am America”: African American Cycle Dramatists, Dramas, and the Voice of Inclusion

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Part of the Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History book series (PSTPH)

Abstract

The cycle drama genre may be traced back to the Greek, medieval, and Renaissance cultures where dramatists composed church and cultural histories for presentation to diverse (literate, illiterate, rich, poor, peasant, noble) theatre audiences. These early dramas sought to instruct their audiences in the culturally endorsed historical and religious doctrines of thought and behavior of a given period. That the cycle drama has been useful throughout history is a given. However, the cycle dramas adoption by African American theatre is a discussion that theatre and drama critics have duly noted, but not closely examined as a form that simultaneously adheres to the thematic tenets established by early cycle dramatists while it effectively revisits and represents the established histories of African American and American histories. African American dramatists August Wilson and Ed Bullins have adopted this dominant-culture cycle drama format and have utilized it as a tool to explore the intricacies of African American culture within white American culture. Moreover, and most importantly, Wilson and Bullins have utilized this form in a manner that echoes the sentiment of inclusion expressed in what I call the “America poems”—“Let America Be America Again,” “I, too, sing America,” and “Theme for English B”—authored by poet-novelist-dramatist Langston Hughes.

Keywords

  • American Culture
  • Black Middle Class
  • Cycle Form
  • African American Culture
  • American Writer

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.

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Langston Hughes, “I, Too, Sing America

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Notes

  1. August Wilson, “The Ground on Which I Stand,” Callallo 20.3 (1997): 493.

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© 2007 William W. Demastes and Iris Smith Fischer

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Menson-Furr, L. (2007). “The Ground on Which I Stand is I, too, Am America”: African American Cycle Dramatists, Dramas, and the Voice of Inclusion. In: Demastes, W.W., Fischer, I.S. (eds) Interrogating America through Theatre and Performance. Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230100787_13

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