Understanding Suzan-Lori Parks
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138 pages

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Understanding Suzan-Lori Parks is a critical study of a playwright and screenwriter who was the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Suzan-Lori Parks is also the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award, a Whiting Writers Award, a CalArts/Alpert Award in the Arts, two Obie Awards, and a Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts. In this book Jennifer Larson examines how Parks, through the innovative language and narratives of her extensive body of work, investigates and invigorates literary and cultural history.

Larson discusses all of Parks's genres—play, screenplay, essay, and novel—closely reading key texts from Parks's more experimental earlier pieces as well as her more linear later narratives. Larson's study begins with a survey of Parks's earliest and most difficult texts including Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World. Larson then analyzes Venus, In the Blood, and the Lincoln Plays: The America Play and the Pulitzer Prize-winning TopDog/Underdog.

Larson also discusses two of Parks's most important screenplays, Girl 6 and Their Eyes Were Watching God. In interpreting these screenplays, Larson examines film's role in the popularization and representation of African American culture and history. These essays suggest an approach to all genres of literature and blend creativity, form, culture, and history into a revisionary aesthetic that allows for no identity or history to remain fixed, with Parks arguing that in order to be relevant they must all be dynamic and democratic.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 novembre 2012
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781611172379
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,2100€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.



Matthew J. Bruccoli, Founding Editor Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
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Jennifer Larson

The University of South Carolina Press
© 2012 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press Columbia, South Carolina 29208
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The Library of Congress has cataloged the print edition as follows:
Larson, Jennifer, 1977–
Understanding Suzan-Lori Parks / Jennifer Larson.
  p. cm.—(Understanding contemporary American literature) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-61117-107-5 1 . Parks, Suzan-Lori—Criticism and interpretation. I. Title. PS3566.A736Z75 2012 812'.54—dc23 2012028936
Chapters 2 and 4 appeared in a different form in Reading Contemporary African American Drama: Fragments of History, Fragments of Self (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).
ISBN 978-1-61117-237-9 (ebook)
Series Editor's Preface
Chapter 1 Understanding Suzan-Lori Parks
Chapter 2 “Three-ness” and “the Space in Between”: Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom and The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World
Chapter 3 “Deliberate Calculation”in Money, Sex, and Black Plays: Venus
Chapter 4 What “Able” and “Angel” Mean to a Welfare Mother: In the Blood
Chapter 5 Folding and Unfolding History, or Identity Fabrication: The Lincoln Plays
Chapter 6 As We Advance Living: Getting Mother's Body
Chapter 7 “This film has been modified from its original version”: Girl 6 and Their Eyes Were Watching God
Chapter 8 The Revolutionary Revised: Essays and 365 Days/365 Plays
The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.
As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.
In the twenty-first century, Professor Bruccoli's prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.
Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor
I wish to thank the following people for guiding and supporting the vision and revision of this project: Trudier Harris, Bill Andrews, James Coleman, Philip Gura, Rebecka Rutledge Fisher, Linda Wagner-Martin, Beverly Taylor, Sandra Govan, Malin Pereira, Jeffrey Leak, Randi Davenport, Natasha Smith, Mary Alice Kirkpatrick, Kristina Bobo, Andei Williams, Molly Westerman, Colleen Thorndike, Leslie Davison, Amy Stitzinger, Rachelle Gold, Ben Sammons, Meredith Malburne-Wade, Joy Cranshaw, John Hannah, Pam Hamilton, Matt Luter, Maura D'Amore, Amy McGuff Skinner, Harry Thomas, Sarah Ficke, Kelly Bezio, Tara Fee, Elizabeth Kiem Harper, Anne Sclater, Katie Rose Guest Pryal, Amy Armbruster, David Darr, Glenda Noel, and Brice and Houston Barnes. I extend special thanks to my family—Doug and Colin Dorney, Nancy and Steve Shapiro, Bob and Bonnie Larson, Debbie Larson, Eli Larson, Meagan Larson, Emily Larson, and Jesse Larson—for their encouragement, patience, and love. And, finally, I must thank Larry Larson, who helped me find my voice; I miss him every day.
Understanding Suzan-Lori Parks
Suzan-Lori Parks wrote in her essay “Possession” (1994) that “the history of Literature is in question. And the history of History is in question too.” She then went on to explain how she sees her work as “a way of creating and rewriting history through the medium of literature.” 1 Thus, Parks's attention to history and her signification on the texts, language, figures, and cultural events that shape our lingering and acquired perceptions of that history, from Abraham Lincoln to George Jefferson to the AIDS epidemic, is not surprising. Her works explore the simultaneously formative and deleterious effects that these texts, linguistic structures, figures, and cultural events tend to have on racial and individual identity.
Parks was born on May 10, 1963 in Fort Knox, Kentucky. 2 Yet her father's army service moved her and her family around the United States and the world to locations such as California, North Carolina, Maryland, and West Germany, where she attended high school. For college Parks chose Mount Holyoke. She majored in English and German, and in 1983 she took a short story-writing class with James Baldwin. Baldwin saw potential in her style and suggested she try writing plays. She therefore began crafting “The Sinner's Place,” which would become her senior thesis project. The English department awarded the play honors, and Parks graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1985. Mount Holyoke refused to stage the play, however, on account of its nonconventional form and content, and it later premiered at Hampshire College.
After college Parks studied acting for a year at the London Drama Studio before moving back to New York. Betting on the Dust Commander premiered a year later at a tiny New York venue called “The Gas Station,” and the International Woman Playwrights Festival staged a reading of “Fishes.” Her first major play was Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom , which premiered at the Brooklyn Arts and Cultural Association (BACA) in New York in 1989 to unprecedented critical acclaim and subsequently won an Obie Award for Best New American Play in 1990.
Over the next decade, six new plays premiered— The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (BACA Theatre, 1990), Devotees in the Garden of Love (Actors Theatre of Louisville, 1992), The America Play (Yale Repertory Theatre/Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival, 1994), Venus (Yale Repertory Theatre, 1996), In The Blood (New York Public Theatre, 1999), and its companion Fucking A (2000, Diverse-Works). In this same period, she wrote three radio plays— Pickling (1990), Locomotive (1993), The Third Kingdom (1993)—and four screenplays— Anemone Me (Apparatus, 1992), Girl 6 (40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 1996), Gal (unproduced, 1997), and God's Country (unproduced, 1997). She also taught at Yale University before becoming the director of CalArts dramatic writing program in 2000.
In July 2001 Topdog/Underdog , starring Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wrig

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