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DRAMA 582 A: Analysis of Dramatic Texts

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:50pm
HUT 150
Stefka Mihaylova
Stefka Mihaylova

Syllabus Description:

African American Performance

­­Drama 582 A

African American Performance

Spring 2018


Class meeting times: Tuesday, Thursday 2:30-4:45 pm

Location: Hutchinson 150


Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Office Hours: Tuesday, Thursday 1:30-2:20; Hutchinson 112C




This course explores how African American performance contributed to the emergence and development of a black public. Topics include the opening of the African Company in 1821, the first African American theatre company in New York city; black drama and abolitionism; the Harlem Renaissance; black performance during the Great Depression; the Black Arts Movement; performance and post-racial utopias at the turn of the 21st century; and the Black Lives Matter movement, among others. In trying to understand how African American performance helped create a black public sphere, we will be engaging with theories of the public sphere and critical race theories.


Assessment                                                    Due

Response Papers        30%                             weekly

Two Presentations      30% (15% each)          times vary


Research Paper           40%                             June 6

  • Abstract and bibliography May 1




Weekly Response Papers: These are two-to-four-page reflections on the readings and/or in-class discussions. Reflections should be connected to your own interests and explore ideas that may be extended into your final paper. You may address questions that arise in class discussions or questions that you would like to discuss but were not addressed in class. These are informal papers; hence they do not need to be formatted like a term paper.

Presentations: Each student will lead discussion twice during the course. Based on the readings assigned for the class, prepare a list of learning objectives and assignments to achieve them. The assignments may include a discussion based on a few (up to three) strong questions; analysis of documents or videos; acting demonstrations, or anything else you that will help you fulfill your learning goals. The assignments will engage with theoretical, methodological, and/or historical issues. While the presentation should be engaging primarily with the readings for the specific class, you are encouraged to make connections with topics and material studied in previous classes.

Research Paper: This twelve-to-fifteen-page paper should analyze in further depth one of the topics studied in the course or explore a related topic not covered in the course. The response papers should help you identify your topic and develop it. While I will be providing continuous feedback through my comments on your response papers, you are also welcome to discuss topics with me in office hours. Your bibliography should include at least eight secondary sources.


Class schedule (by week number):


Week One

March 27, Tue What is “the public sphere”?

Read: Habermas, introduction to The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962), pp. 1-26 at


March 29, Thu What is the public sphere?, cont.

Read: Habermas, chapter two from The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, pp. 27-56 at ; and Michael Warner, “Publics and Counterpublics,” Public Culture 14.1 (2002): 49-90 (electronically available); Joanna Brooks, “The Early American Public Sphere and the Emergence of a Black Print Counterpublic,” The William and Mary Quarterly, 62.1 (2005): 67-92 (available through JSTOR)


Week Two

April 3, Tue Black Publics and Black Spaces

Read: Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, “Introduction: The Performative Commons and the Aesthetic Atlantic,” in New World Drama (2014), 1-30 (electronically available through UW library); Douglas A. Jones chapter one from The Captive Stage (2014), pp. 21-49 (electronically available through UW library); and chapter one from Marvin McAllister, White People Do Not Know How to Behave at Entertainments Designed for Ladies and Gentlemen of Color (2003), 11-37 (electronically available)


April 5, Thu William Brown’s African and American Theatre

Read: Michael Warner, et al., “A Soliloquy Lately Spoken at the African Theatre,” American Literature 73.1 (2001): 1-46 (electronically available); chapter two from McAllister, White People Do Not Know How to Behave, 39-66 (electronically available); and Dillon, chapter six from New World Drama, 215-61. If you have not read it: Richard III, by Shakespeare.


Week Three

April 10, Tue The Haitian Revolution and the Minstrel Show

Read: “American Minstrelsy in Black and White,” in Errol G. Hill and James V. Hatch A History of African American Theatre (2003); and Eric Lott, “The Racial Unconscious of Blackface Minstrelsy,” Representations 39 (1992): 23-50 (electronically available).

(Recommended) Watch: PBS Egalite for All: Tousssaint L’Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution (available on youtube)


April 12, Thu Sentimentalism, Melodrama, and the Abolitionist Movement

Read: (Recommended) Watch: The Abolitionists, PBS documentary ( (also available on youtube in three parts)

Read: George Aiken, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (electronically available); Margaret Cohen, “Sentimental Communities,” in The Literary Channel: The International Invention of the Novel, 106-32 (electronically available); and Gay Gibson Cima, “From Sentimental Sympathy to Activist Self-Judgment,” in Performing Anti-Slavery (2014), pp. 39-90.


Week Four

April 17, Tue Sentimentalism, cont.

Read: chapters one and two from Daphne Brooks, Bodies in Dissent (2006), pp. 14-130.


April 19, Thu The Harlem Renaissance

Read: Part I “Foundations of the Harlem Renaissance,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance, ed. George Hutchinson, pp. 13-54 (electronically available); W.E.B. DuBois, “Criteria of Negro Art,” at; W.E.B. DuBois, The Star of Ethiopia (electronically available); Willis Richardson, “The Hope of a Negro Drama,” Crisis 19.1 (November 1919), 338 at; Willis Richardson, The Chip Woman’s Fortune (electronically available); Alain Locke, “Art or Propaganda?”; and Alain Locke, “The Negro and the American Stage” and “The Drama of negro Life,” in The Works of Alain Locke, ed. Charles Molesworth and henry Louis Gates Jr. (electronically available)


Week Five

April 24, Tue The Harlem Renaissance, cont.

Read: Jonathan Shandell, “The Negro Little Theatre Movement,” in The Cambridge Companion to African American Theatre (2013), ed. Harvey Young; Carla Kaplan, “Zora Neale Hurston, Folk Performance, and ‘The Margarine Negro,’” in The Cambridge Companion to the Harlem Renaissance, ed. George Hutchinson, 213-35 (electronically available); Zora Neale Hurston, “Characteristics of Negro Expression” (1934) at and Zora Neale Hurston, Spunk (1934), in Zora Neale Hurston: Collected Plays (electronically available).


April 26, Thu Black Women and Modernism

Read: Introduction and chapters three, five, and six from Jayna Brown, Babylon Girls: Black Women Performers and the Shaping of the Modern (2008), pp. 1-17; 92-127; 156-88; 189-237 (electronically available)


Week Six

May 1, Tue The Black Body in the White Gaze: Lynching and Performance

Read: chapters 2 and 5 in Harvey Young, Embodying Black Experience (2010) (electronically available); Angelina Grimke, Rachel (1916) (electronically available)


May 3, Thu Black Broadway and A Raisin in the Sun

Read: Paul Laurence Dunbar, In Dahomey (1902) (electronically available);

Monica White Ndounou, “Early Black Americans on Broadway,” in The Cambridge Companion to African American Theatre (2013); and Daphne Brooks, “Alien/Nation: Re-Imagining the Black Body (Politic) in Williams and Walker’s In Dahomey,” in Brooks, Bodies in Dissent, 207-280.


Week Seven

May 8, Tue Black Broadway and A Raisin in the Sun

Read: Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959); Michelle Gordon, “‘Somewhat like War’: The Aesthetics of Segregation, Black Liberation, and A Raisin in the SunAfrican American Review 42.1 (2008): 121-33 (electronically available through International Bibliography of Theater & Dance); and Kristin L. Matthews,The Politics of "Home" in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun," 556-78, (electronically available through International Bibliography of Theater & Dance)


May 10, Thu The Black Arts Movement

Read: Amiri Baraka, The Toilet (1964) (electronically available); Amiri Baraka, “The Revolutionary Theatre,”;

Chapters one and two from James Smethurst, The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (2005), 23-99.

(Recommended) Watch: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, streaming through for $4.99.


Week Eight

May 15, Tue The Black Arts Movement, cont.

Read: Introduction and chapters three and four from New Thoughts on the Black Arts Movement, ed. Lisa Gail Collins and Margo Natalie Crawford (2006) (electronically available).


May 17, Thu Staging the Postracial Society

Read: Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus (1995); Parks, “Elements of Style” and “The Equation for Black People on Stage”; Paul Gilroy, chapters one, two, three and five, in Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line (2000).


Week Nine

May 22, Tue The Dream of a Postracial Society and the Politics of Casting

Watch: Young Jean Lee, The Shipment at On the Boards TV

Read: Hortense Spillers, “Destiny’s Child: Obama and Election ’08,” Boundary 39.2 (2012): 3-32 (electronically available); and Brandi Wilkins Catanese, chapters one and two from The Problem of the Color[bind] (2011) (electronically available)


May 24, Thu The Black Lives Matter Movement

Read: Jeffrey C. Alexander, “Seizing the Stage: Social Performances from Mao Zedong to Martin Luther King Jr., and Black Lives Matter Today,” TDR 61.1 (2017): 14-42 (electronically available); and Michael J. Morris, “Team Vicious: Four Sections and a Coda, or #BlackLivesMatter,” TDR 60.3 (2016): 110-35 (electronically available)


Week Ten

May 29, Tue Conclusion


Your final papers are due on June 6.







Catalog Description: 
Analytic approaches to dramatic materials, concentrating on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, or a related critical theory.
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:04pm