Race, Class and Gender in Modern American Drama

Race, Class and Gender in Modern American Drama

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Modern American Drama
MA in American Studies II and PhD in Modern Philology

Time & Place: Fri 8. 00 – 9. 40, Mbl 119


Lenke Németh


Office Hours: Tue & Fri 10.00–11.00 Rm. 118 Mbl, Tel.: 512 900/22069

Gabriella Varró

/ Office Hours: Tu. 13.00–14.00, W. 14.00–15.00, Mbl, Rm. 116/1


This course presents a review of the major milestones in American drama history that demonstrate the ways mainstream and ethnic dramatists chose to stage difference in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender. Although the images presented in the plays selected from the twentieth and the first decade of the twenty first centuries might strike one as extremely diverse, all of them highlight a common dilemma: how the white dominant, mainstream, hegemonic society delimits difference of various kinds. The course attempts to chart an evolutionary history of major American dramatists’ representations of the “Other” and assess their contributions to American stages both in terms of theme and form. The selected playwrights represent a diverse group of writers whose voices have already shaped and will continue to shape American drama. This team-taught lecture+seminar course provides a review of the most important theoretical issues related to the representation of Otherness in literature, with a special emphasis on the theater, and aims to provide a close reading of selected primary texts to demonstrate the changing representation of the cultural, racial, social Others in American drama.


Participation in classroom discussion: students are expected to take an active part in classroom discussions. This activity contributes to the seminar grade. The assigned text(s) should be read for the class.

In-class presentation

It is a max. 10-minute talk on a critical or a theoretical essay related to the work on the agenda. It should serve as a good starting point to initiate class discussion. Sign-up for these in-class oral presentations will take place during our orientation session on September 10.

Written assignments

Response paper: Students are required to hand in a one-page response paper (printed) at the beginning of each class. For MA students response papers should summarize the main points of the assigned critical reading that accompanies the work(s) on the agenda. For Ph.D. students these response papers should involve a critical reflection on the secondary work/s read.

Endterm test: An in-class test that assesses your familiarity with the material covered during the semester will commence on December 17. The contents of this test will be specified further as the end of the term is approaching.

Research paper: A take-home essay of about 1,800 to 2,000 words in the case of MA students, and 2,000 to 2,300 words in the case of PhD-students on a topic related to the thematic concerns of the course. The research paper is due on December 10th (Week 13). Please note that topics for these essays should be approved by the instructors, hence essay outlines and proposals (with thesis statement and theoretical concerns specified, as well as potential critical readings to be incorporated), of about a page in length should be handed in by November 26th (Week 11). In case you have questions concerning the choice, tutorial consultation and advice is recommended and available.

The essay should meet the formal and academic requirements of a research paper. The essay is to be submitted by the defined deadline, otherwise the grade will be lowered. Secondary reading and scholarly documentation, conforming to the requirements of the MLA Style Sheet, are required. Plagiarism and academic dishonesty will result in a failure as described in the Academic Handbook of the Institute. Format: 2,5 cm margins, double spaced, full and correct citation, alphabetical works cited (MLA Style), fastened, with student’s name on each page. The cover sheet must also contain the following statement: “Hereby I certify that the essay conforms to international copyright and plagiarism rules and regulations,” and also the signature of the student.


Participation: 10%

Response paper: 10%

Presentation: 20 %

End-term paper:30%

Take-home essay: 30 %

N. B. Absences: no more than three absences are allowed. Each absence counts as one point reduction in the overall achievement. In the case of a longer absence (either due to illness, or official leave), the tutor and the student will come to an agreement of how to solve the problem.


Nov 26th: Topics for the essays

Dec 10th : Take-home essay


Sep 10Registration

Introduction. Definitions of concepts.

(1) Sep 17

Eugene O’Neill, The Emperor Jones (1920)
Diya M. Abdo. “The Emperor Jones: A Struggle for Individuality.” The Eugene O’Neill Review. 24.1.2 (2000):

(2) Sep 24

Luiz Valdez, I Don’t Have to Show You No Stinking Badges! (1986)
Huerta, Jose, “Reclaiming Aztec and Maya Mythology.” 26-40

(3) Oct 1

Eugene O’Neill, All God’s Chillun Got Wings (1924)
Gillett, Peter. “O’Neill and the Racial Myths.” Twentieth-Century Literature.
Shaughnessy, Edward Phillip. “Eugene O’Neill: The Development of Negro Character.” MELUS

(4) Oct 8

Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955)
Arrell, Douglass. “Homosexual Panic in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Modern Drama 51.1 (2008) 60-72.

(5) Oct 15

Arthur Miller, A View from the Bridge (1955)
Brewer, Mary F. “Queering Whiteness: Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.” Staging Whiteness. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 2005. 77-83.

(6) Oct 22

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (1959)
Lipari, Lisbeth. "Fearful of the Written Word": White Fear, Black Writing, and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun screenplay. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 1479-5779, Volume 90, Issue 1, 2004, Pages 81 – 102.

(7) Oct 29

Sam Shepard’s, A Lie of the Mind (1985)
Rosen, Carol. “Sam Shepard Feminist Playwright: The Destination of A Lie of the Mind.” Contemporary Theatre Review. 8.4 (1998): 29-40.



(10) Nov 19

Adrienne Kennedy, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White (1976)
Meigs, E. Susan. “No Place But the Funnyhouse: The Struggle for Identity in Three Adrienne Kennedy Plays.” June Schlueter, ed. Modern American Drama: The Female Canon. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1990. 172-84.

(11) Nov 26

Cherrie Moraga, Giving Up the Ghost (1994)
Huerta, Jorge. “Cherri Moraga’s Transgressive Queers.” Chicano Drama: Performance, Society and Myth. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000. 151-66.

(12) Dec 3

Suzan-Lori Parks, The America Play (1994) (50 pp)
Geis, R. Deborah, “Resurrecting Lincoln.” Suzan-Lori Parks. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P, 2008. 97-126.

(13) Dec 10

David Henry Hwang, Yellow Face (2007)
Park, Samuel, “Yellow Face.” Theatre Journal 60.2 (2008): 280-83.

(14) Dec 17

In-class endterm paper


Case, Sue-Ellen and Janelle Reinelt, eds. The Performance of Power: Theatrical Discourse and Politics. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1991.

Fuchs, Elinor. The Death of Character: Perspectives on Theater after Modernism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996.

Garner, Stanton. B. Jr. Phenomelogy and Performance in Contemporary Drama. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994.

Huerta, Jorge. Chicano Drama: Performance, Society and Myth. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000.

Keyssar, Helene. Feminist Theatre and Theory. London: Macmillan, 1996.

Knowles, Ric, Joanne Tompkins, and W. B. Worthen. Modern Drama: Defining the Field. Toronto: U of Toronto, 2003.

Schmidt, Kerstin. The Theater in Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005.


Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son. Boston, MA: Beacon Hill, 1955.

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Brater, Enoch and Ruby Cohn, eds. Around the Absurd: Essays on Modern and Postmodern Drama. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1990.

Brater, Enoch, ed. The Theatrical Gamut: Notes for a Post-Beckettian Stage. Ann Arbor: The UP of Michigan Press, 1995.

Brewer, Mary F. Staging Whiteness. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan, 2005.

Bryant-Jackson, Paul K. and Lois More Overbeck, eds. Intersecting Boundaries: The Theatre of Adrienne Kennedy. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1992.

Brown, E. Barnsley. The Clash of Verbal and Visual (Con)Texts: Adrienne Kennedy’s (Re)Construction of Racial Polarities in An Evening with Dead Essex and A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White. Kimball King, ed. Hollywood on Stage: Playwrights Evaluate the Culture Industry. New York: Garland, 1997.

Chénetier, Marc, ed. Critical Angles: European Views of Contemporary American Literature. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1986.

Cohn, Ruby. Anglo-American Interplay in Recent Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.

Fuchs, Elinor. The Death of Character: Perspectives on Theater after Modernism. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1996.

Garner, Stanton. B. Jr. Phenomelogy and Performance in Contemporary Drama. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1994.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the ‘Racial’ Self. New York: Oxford UP, 1989.

Geis, Deborah R. Postmodern Theatric(k)s: Monologue in Contemporary American Drama. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1993.

---. Suzan-Lori Parks. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P, 2008.

Gubar, Susan. ”Perpetual Exile: The Curse of Color.” Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 1997.

Hall, Ann C. “A Kind of Alaska”: Women in the Plays of O’Neill, Pinter and Shepard. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1993.

Herman, William. Understanding Contemporary American Drama. Columbia: U of South Carolina, 1987.

Jenckes, Norma. New Readings in American Drama: Something’s Happening Here. New York: Peter Lang, 2002.

Kamm, Jürgen, ed. Twentieth-Century Theatre and Drama in English. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 1999

Knowles, Ric, Joanne Tompkins, and W. B. Worthen. Modern Drama: Defining the Field. Toronto: U of Toronto, 2003.

Mamet, David. Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama. New York: Vintage, 2000.

McDonough, Carla J. Staging Masculinity: Male Identity in Contemporary American Drama. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1997.

---. “Every Fear Hides a Wish: Unstable Masculinity in Mamet’s Drama.” Theatre Journal 44.2 (1992): 195-205.

Macleod, Christine. “The Politics of Gender, Language and Hierarchy in Mamet’s Oleanna.” Journal of American Studies 29.2 (1995): 199-213.

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage, 1993.

Murphy, Brenda, ed. The Cambridge Companion To American Women Playwrights. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.

Ozieblo, Barbara and Maria Dolores Narbona-Carrion, eds. Codifying the National Self: Spectators , Actors and the American Dramatic Text. Brussels: Peter Lang, 2006.

Pavis, Patrice. Theatre at the Crossroads of Culture. Trans. Loran Kruger. London: Routledge, 1992.

Remen, Kathryn. “The Theater of Punishment: David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly and Michael Foucalt’s Discipline and Punish.” Modern Drama 37. 3 (1994): 391-400.

Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage, 1994.

Savran, David. In heir Own Words: Contemporary American Playwrights. New York: Theatre Communication Group, 1988.

---. “Interview with Luiz Valdez.” Worthen 606-613.

Schlueter, June, ed. Modern American Drama: The Female Canon. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1990.

Schmidt, Kerstin. The Theater of Transformation: Postmodernism in American Drama. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2005.

Schmidt, Peter. Postcolonial Theory and the US: Race, Ethnicity and Literature. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2000.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. A Critique of Postcolonial Reason toward a History of the Vanishing Present. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP. 1999

Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Images of Blacks in American Culture: A Reference Guide to Information Sources. New York: Greenwood P, 1988.

Sollors, Werner. Neither Black nor White yet Both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1999.

Wisenthal, Jonathan, Sherril Grace, Melinda Boyd, Brian McILroy, and Vera Micznik, eds. A Vision of the Orient: Texts, Intertexts, and Contexts of Madame Butterfly. Toronto: U of Toronto, 2006.