Understanding David Henry Hwang

Understanding David Henry Hwang

Understanding David Henry Hwang

Understanding David Henry Hwang


David Henry Hwang is best known as the author of M. Butterfly, which won a 1988 Tony Award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and he has written the Obie Award-winners Golden Child and FOB, as well as Family Devotions, Sound and Beauty, Rich Relations, and a revised version of Flower Drum Song. His Yellow Face won a 2008 Obie Award and was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.Understanding David Henry Hwang is a critical study of Hwang's playwriting process as well as the role of identity in each one of Hwang's major theatrical works. A first-generation Asian American, Hwang intrinsically understands the complications surrounding the competing attractiveness of an American identity with its freedoms in contrast to the importance of a cultural and ethnic identity connected to another country's culture. William C. Boles examines Hwang's plays by exploring the perplexing struggles surrounding Asian and Asian American stereotypes, values, and identity. Boles argues that Hwang deliberately uses stereotypes in order to subvert them, while at other times he embraces the dual complexity of ethnicity when it is tied to national identity and ethnic history. In addition to the individual questions of identity as they pertain to ethnicity, Boles discusses how Hwang's plays explore identity issues of gender, religion, profession, and sexuality. The volume concludes with a treatment of Chinglish, both in the context of rising Chinese economic prominence and in the context of Hwang's previous work.Hwang has written ten short plays including The Dance and the Railroad, five screenplays, and many librettos for musical theater. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, Hwang was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.


The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy that will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape and to provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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