Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Suzan-Lori Parks has explored the relationship between Blackness, slavery, and capitalism throughout her career. I argue that Parks’s three works—The America Play (1995), Topdog/Underdog (2001), and Father Comes Home from the Wars (2015)—should receive critical attention as her Civil War plays. By this phrase, I mean that Parks embeds her critiques of racial capitalism in historical narratives about America’s bloodiest conflict. In these three plays, she takes up several white supremacist Civil War tropes—tropes like what scholar Cody Marrs calls the “Father Abraham” story and the “Agrarian Imagination” myth—and criticizes them as narratives that deny African American history. To do so, Parks uses her original historical approach called “Repetition and Revision” (or “Rep & Rev”) to stage various characters who struggle to break from commercialism’s grip. In TAP, she portrays a Lincoln look-alike who cannot shake his obsession with a history theme park. T/U pits two brothers, named Booth and Lincoln, against one another, and their financial struggles lead the two to share the fate of their namesakes. Lastly, Father casts a Black Confederate soldier who cannot find a way to escape slavery; he remains unable to “own himself.” Together, these plays demonstrate Parks’s concern for America’s discourse about the Civil War and Blackness. If we are to indeed believe that Black lives matter, her plays argue, we must remove the symbolic price tags racist stories place on Black lives.
Fisher, Brandon Eric, "“People Like They Historical Shit in a Certain Way”: The Civil War Plays of Suzan-Lori Parks, or Commercialized Memory and Black Lives" (2022). All Theses. 3779.