Doctoral dissertation (monograph) (G4)

Quest/ion of Identities in African American Feminist Postmodern Drama: A Study of Selected Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks

List of Authors: Ghasemi Mehdi

Publisher: Turun yliopisto

Place: Turku

Publication year: 2016

ISBN: 978-951-29-6495-6

eISBN: 978-951-29-6496-3



Innovative and unconventional, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks belongs to the continuum of African American playwrights who have contributed to the quest/ion – the quest for and question – of identities for African Americans. Her plays are sites in which the quest/ion of identities for African Americans is pursued, raised and enacted. She makes use of both page and stage to emphasize the exigency of reshaping African Americans’ identities through questioning the dominant ideologies and metanarratives, delegitimizing some of the prevailing stereotypes imposed on them, drawing out the complicity of the media in perpetuating racism, evoking slavery, lynching and their aftereffects, rehistoricizing African American history, catalyzing reflections on the various intersections of sex, race, class and gender orientations, and proffering alternative perspectives to help readers think more critically about issues facing African Americans.

In my dissertation, I approach three plays by Parks – The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (1990), Venus (1996) and Fucking A (2000) – from the standpoints of postmodern drama and African American feminism with a focus on the terrains that reflect the quest/ion of identities for African Americans, especially African American women. I argue that postmodern drama and African American feminism provide the ground for Parks to promote the development of a political agenda in order to call into question a number of dominant ideologies and metanarratives with regard to African Americans and draw upon the roles of those metanarratives as a powerful apparatus of racial and sexual oppressions.

I also explore how Parks engages with postmodern drama and African American feminism to incorporate her own mininarratives in the dominant discourses. I argue that Parks in these plays uses postmodern drama and African American feminism to encourage reflections on intersectionality in order to reveal the concerns of African Americans, particularly African American women. Her plays challenge the dominant order of hierarchy and patriarchy, while in some cases urging unity and solidarity between African American men and women by showing how unity and solidarity can help them confront race, class and gender oppressions. Furthermore, I discuss how the utilization of postmodern techniques and devices helps Parks to transform the conventional features of playwriting, to create incredulity toward the dominant systems of oppression and to incorporate her mininarratives within the context of dominant discourses.

Last updated on 2021-24-06 at 10:02