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ENGL.3640.201: African American Drama


black playwright lynn nottage
Lynn Nottage giving a Reading at Occupy Wallstreet
Photo by David Shankbone                    CC BY

Welcome to Professor Mitchell's course, African American Drama

In this class we will study the history and development of African American drama, with emphasis on major aesthetic, political, and social movements in African American culture. 

This is a lecture and student-centered (discussion intense) course geared towards an overview of African American theater through close readings of key texts by African American dramatists from the earliest expressions to the present. We will be reading texts by African American dramatists who represent a variety of movements and trends which will have played significant roles in shaping the African American and American dramatic canon. Clearly, the texts that we read are far from exhaustive in terms of what African American dramatists have contributed to theater, in general. However, these plays are meant to provide a series of useful touchstones for future reading and study. 

Goals of the Course:

  • To develop a familiarity with representative African American drama from its earliest expressions through the late 20th centuries and a working knowledge of several important social and aesthetic turns in African American Drama.
  • To achieve a better understanding of the complex relationship between African American dramatic texts and the cultural and historical forces which shape and influence their production, distribution, and reception (i.e. post-Reconstruction America, The Harlem Renaissance, African American Civil Rights Movements, The Black Power Movement; The Black Feminist Movement, Social Realism, African American Modernism; Post-World War II American Society and the “Second Lost Generations,” and African American Postmodernism, to name a few.
  • To consider the problems and politics involved in defining the African American Dramatic literary canon.
  • To enhance your critical thinking and reading skills through the analysis (close reading) of dramatic texts and your writing skills through a series of formal and informal writing assignments.

Places to Find Plays