From the Individual to the Collective: Community in August Wilson and Tony Kushner
University of Kansas
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My study examines the playwrights August Wilson and Tony Kushner as "political" artists whose work, while positing very different definitions of "community," offers a similar critique of an American tendency toward a kind of misguided, dangerous individualism that precludes "interconnection." I begin with a look at how "community" is defined by each author through interviews and personal statements. My approach to the plays which follow is thematic as opposed to chronological. The organization, in fact, mirrors a pattern often found in the plays themselves: I begin with individuals who are cut off from their respective communities, turn to individuals who "reconnect" through encounters with communal history and memory, and conclude by examining various "successful" visions of community and examples of communities in crisis and decay. My work is informed especially by Pierre Nora's definitions of "history" and "memory" and his thoughts on "collective memory" as embodied in particular sites, lieux de memoires. Studies of ghosts and "cultural haunting" by Avery Gordon, Kathleen Brogan, and David Savran are used throughout to illuminate Wilson's and Kushner's use of the "supernatural" to illustrate the necessity of "communal memory." Both Wilson and Kushner view "community" as a source of collective strength, a tool for change, and I conclude by arguing for the necessity of a more interconnected community of politically-minded playwrights.
- Dissertations 
- English Dissertations and Theses 
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