August Wilson

August Wilson, 1945–2005, American playwright and poet, b. Pittsburgh as Frederick August Kittel. Largely self-educated, Wilson first attracted wide critical attention with his Broadway debut, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984), a play set in 1927 that dramatizes the clash between the blues diva and a member of her band and the larger conflicts brought about by racist American society. Wilson's plays center on the struggles and identity of African Americans and the deleterious effect of white American institutions on black American life. His works draw heavily on Wilson's own experience growing up in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, a black ghetto where nearly all of his plays are set. His characters are ordinary people whose histories, frustrations, and aspirations Wilson astutely portrays. His cycle of ten dramas written over a period of more than 20 years include various overlapping characters and themes. In addition to Ma Rainey, it includes Jitney (1982), Fences (1987; Pulitzer Prize, Tony Award), Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988), The Piano Lesson (1990; Pulitzer Prize), Two Trains Running (1992), Seven Guitars (1995), King Hedley II (2001), Gem of the Ocean (2003), and Radio Golf (2005). Acclaimed as landmarks in the history of black American culture, these works focus on the major issues confronting African Americans during each of the decades of the 20th cent. In 2003, Wilson starred in a production of his autobiographical one-man play How I Learned What I Learned.

See studies by M. Elkins, ed. (1994), A. Nadel, ed. (1994), K. Pereira (1995), S. G. Shannon (1995), J. Herrington (1998), Y. Shafer (1998), M. L. Bogumil (1999), Q. Wang (1999), P. Wolfe (1999), H. Bloom, ed. (2002), H. J. Elam, Jr. (2004), and M. E. Snodgrass (2004).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

August Wilson: Selected full-text books and articles

August Wilson on Playwriting: An Interview By Heard, Elisabeth J African American Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Search for a Postmodern Theater: Interviews with Contemporary Playwrights By John L. DiGaetani Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "August Wilson" begins on p. 275
August Wilson's Fences: A Reference Guide By Sandra G. Shannon Greenwood Press, 2003
Realism and the American Dramatic Tradition By William W. Demastes University of Alabama Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Fourteen "The Limits of African-American Political Realism: Baraka's Dutchman and Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom"
African-American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader By Harry J. Elam Jr.; David Krasner Oxford University Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Audience and Africanisms in August Wilson's Dramaturgy: A Case Study"
Blues, History and the Dramaturgy of August Wilson By Plum, Jay African American Review, Vol. 27, No. 4, Winter 1993
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama By Marc Maufort Peter Lang, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Breaking Barriers: August Wilson" begins on p. 267
Call-and-Response: Parallel "Slave Narrative" in August Wilson's 'The Piano Lesson.' (African American Author) By Boan, Devon African American Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, Summer 1998
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Aspects of Africanness in August Wilson's Drama: Reading 'The Piano Lesson' through Wole Soyinka's Drama By Bissiri, Amadou African American Review, Vol. 30, No. 1, Spring 1996
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Shaman's Apprentice: Ecstasy and Economy in Wilson's Joe Turner By Keller, James R African American Review, Vol. 35, No. 3, Fall 2001
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
"We's the Leftovers": Whiteness as Economic Power and Exploitation in August Wilson's Twentieth-Century Cycle of Plays By Usekes, Cigdem African American Review, Vol. 37, No. 1, Spring 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
A Transplant That Did Not Take: August Wilson's Views on the Great Migration By Shannon, Sandra G African American Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter 1997
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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