August Wilson

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Fall, 2009


AUGUST WILSON'S PLAYS: A CHRONICLE OF HISTORY

DRA2113.01/HIS2113.01 The most lauded African American playwright in history, August Wilson (1945-2005) received every major theatrical award including two Pulitzer prizes for drama. In an epic series of ten plays, one set in each decade of the twentieth century, Wilson chronicled the complexities of self-creation and vital connection among individuals on the move, as they "search for ways to reconnect, to reassemble, to give clear and luminous meaning to the song which is both a wail and a whelp of joy." Wilson’s unique theatrical voice is simultaneously poetic and musical; his inspirations ranged from blues music to the work of African American visual artists. We will explore the creative artistry and historical context of Wilson's "Century Cycle," through interdisciplinary readings, film screenings, rigorous expository writing, collaborative projects, and periodic field trips.

Class Meeting Time: MTH 2:10-4pm
Location: Deane Carriage Barn--Upper Campus by Jennings

Michael Giannitti
Office: VAPA E312
Office ext. 4535
Email: MGiannitti@bennington.edu
Office Hours Wed. 4-5

Eileen Scully
Office: Deane Carriage Barn 200
Office ext. 2465
Email: EScully@bennington.edu
Office Hours for this class: M/TH 1-2 Carriage Barn

COURSE OVERVIEW

OBJECTIVES

  • Ability to think conceptually and devise a point of view regarding a text
  • Ability to critically read, write about and discuss course materials
  • Ability to clearly and articulately present ideas to the class
  • Ability to analyze historical documents
  • Ability to construct, decode and verify historical narratives
  • Ability to grapple with contradictions and conflicting evidence
  • Ability to grapple with the uses of history for grievances, rights, and reparations claims
  • Ability to constructively respond to others

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

  • Attendance-one absence limit
  • Participation in class
  • Thoroughness of work submitted
  • Effort and engagement with the course
  • Clarity and sophistication of work shown
  • Ability to work collaboratively in a group
  • Letter Grades: Students may submit a request form for a letter grade to the Dean’s Office. For those requesting letter grades, the final grade for the course will be derived using this formula: First five signposts 10% each, Final project 20%; Participation in class (including short written assignments) 30%. Grades will be reduced for each absence beyond the first.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Hand-outs will be distributed in class or links will be emailed to the bennington.edu email address of those enrolled in the class. Please be sure to check that email address or set up automatic email forwarding to an address checked often.

READINGS, MEETINGS

Note: CC listed below = The Cambridge Companion to August Wilson
Complete all reading/assignments listed for each class prior to the class meeting unless “in class” is specified

SEPTEMBER

09/03 THURS: Introduction

  • Read August Wilson statement, NYT, Apr 12, 1992:H5
  • Read CC chapter 2: Been here and gone by John Lahr
  • View DVD in class: August Wilson: The American Dream, in Black and White
  • Listen to 2005 NPR clip on the 10 play cycle in class
  • View Bill Moyers PBS interview clip in class

09/07 MON: Read Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

  • Read CC chapter 4: Music and mythology in August Wilsons Plays
  • Read CC chapter 7: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
  • Read: August Wilson and the Four Bs
  • View VHS in class: Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues

09/09 WED 7pm Film Screening: African American Lives

  • (View independently from library reserve shelf by 9/10 if you cannot attend)

09/10 THURS: Discuss African American Lives

  • View DVD in class: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow #4

09/14 MON View excerpt of The Killing Floor; Discuss Ma Rainey
09/16 WED 7pm Film Screening: Lackawanna Blues

  • (View independently from library reserve shelf by 9/17 if you cannot attend)

09/17 THURS: Read Fences

  • Read CC chapter 10: Safe at home?: August Wilson’s Fences
  • View Jim Lehrer interview of Kenny Leon in class

09/20 SUN: FIELD TRIP: Huntington Theatre in Boston
09/21 MON: Discuss Fences production

  • Explain Historical annotation due on 10/5

09/23 WED: 7pm Film Screening: Sankofa

  • (View independently from library reserve shelf by 10/1 if you cannot attend)

09/24 THURS: View DVD in class: The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow #3

  • Explain Signpost #1: Due Oct 5

09/28 MON: View DVD in class: The Language You Cry In

OCTOBER

10/01 THURS

  • Read Wilson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
  • Read CC chapter 6: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
  • PLAY RESPONSE #3: Due in class [Joe Turners Come and Gone]
  • Listen to Fountain Hughes interview in class

10/05 MON

  • SIGNPOST #1 Due in class [TIMELINE generated from MA RAINEY; FENCES; JOE TURNER]
  • Read Tomkins article 11/28/1977 New Yorker on Romare Bearden
  • View Bearden images in class

10/08 THURS

  • SIGNPOST #2 Due in class [Romare Bearden write-up]
  • Read CC chapter 8: A piano and its history: family and transcending family
  • Read: *NYT ARTICLE
  • In class: View DVD: The Piano Lesson
  • Explain mid-term assignment due on 10/15

10/12 MON

  • View DVD in class: Goin’ To Chicago
  • Read: The Piano Lesson

10/15 THURS

  • View DVD in class: Miles of Smiles, Years of Struggle
  • SIGNPOST #3: Due in class [Given Circumstances]

10/19 MON

  • Long Weekend Break-No Class

10/22 THURS

  • Review guidelines for Evidence Based Observation Work

10/26 MON

  • Read Two Trains Running
  • Read CC chapter 11: Two Trains Running: blood on the tracks
  • PLAY RESPONSE #4: Due in class [Two Trains Running]

10/29 THURS
Where were you in the 1960s?

NOVEMBER

11/02 MON
Read Seven Guitars
Read CC chapter 9: The tragedy of Seven Guitars
View 1996 Charlie Rose interview of August Wilson in class

11/05 THURS
PLAN DAY-NO CLASSES

11/07 SATURDAY
New York Trip: Harlem tour 7:30am-midnight

11/09 MON
Read: The Ground on Which I Stand
Read: Robert Brustein’s response to The Ground on Which I Stand
Read: I Want a Black Director
View 1998 Charlie Rose interview of August Wilson in class
Choose characters for final projects
Evidence Based Observations Due:

11/12 THURS
Read Jitney
Read CC chapter 12: Jitney: folklore and responsibility

11/16 MON
Read King Hedley II
Read CC chapter 13: King Hedley II: In the midst of all this death

11/19 THURS
View DVD in class: Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North

11/23 MON
Read Gem of the Ocean
Read CC chapter 5: Gem of the Ocean and the redemptive power of history

11/26 THUR
Thanksgiving Break-No Class

11/30 MON
Guest: Reggie Life
12/04 THURS
Read Radio Golf
Read CC chapter 14: Radio Golf: the courage of his convictions…
View 2005 Charlie Rose interview of August Wilson in class. Group meetings

12/07 MON
Group meetings

12/10 THURS
Final Projects Due: Historicize a character

ASSIGNMENT SCHEDULE

We will discuss SIGNPOST assignments in class and provide a guidelines sheet in each case

  • Sep 7: PLAY RESPONSE #1: Due in class [Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom]
  • Sep 17: PLAY RESPONSE #2: Due in class [Fences]
  • Sep 28: CHANGE: original due date for SIGNPOST #1, this is now due OCT 5

  • Oct 1: PLAY RESPONSE #3: Due in class [Joe Turner’s Come and Gone]
  • Oct 5: SIGNPOST #1: Due in class [TIMELINE generated from MA RAINEY; FENCES; JOE TURNER]
  • Oct 8: SIGNPOST #2: Due in class [Romare Bearden write-up]
  • Oct 15: SIGNPOST #3: Due in class [Given Circumstances]
  • Oct 26: PLAY RESPONSE #4: Due in class [Two Trains Running]

  • Nov 2: PLAY RESPONSE #5: Due in class [Seven Guitars]
  • Nov 9: SIGNPOST #4: Due in class [Evidence-based Observations]
  • Nov 12: PLAY RESPONSE #6: Due in class [Jitney]
  • Nov 16: PLAY RESPONSE #7: Due in class [King Hedley II]
  • Nov 23: PLAY RESPONSE #8: Due in class [Gem of the Ocean]
  • Dec 4: PLAY RESPONSE #9: Due in class [Radio Golf]
  • Dec 10: SIGNPOST #6: Due in class [Historicize selected character]

SCREENINGS, TRIPS, ETC

Class trip to Boston for performance of FENCES
Sunday: 20 September 2009

USEFUL LINKS

An evolving list, please feel free to add, following the format of what is already posted.

AUGUST WILSON

NEGRO BASEBALL LEAGUE

SLAVERY

HISTORY & GENEALOGY

REPARATIONS ISSUES

ROMARE BEARDEN