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Clybourne Park: The Inefficacy of ‘Jim Crow’ and ‘Post-race’

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2013, 26(3), pp.135-159
  • DOI :
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

JUN, JOON-TAEK 1

1고려대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park (2010), the first American drama to win the triumvirate of an Olivier (2010), a Pulitzer (2011) and a Tony (2012), functions both as a prequel and sequel of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959). Act One of the play begins in 1959, in the midst of the age of Jim Crow, as a white couple sell their home in Clybourne Park to the Youngers, who are depicted in A Raisin in the Sun. The couple receive a visit from Karl, another character in Hansberry’s work, informing them that the Youngers are black, and pleading with the couple to back out of the deal, for fear that local property values will fall if black residents move in. Act Two is set in the same house in 2009, the first year of post-racial Obama’s presidency. In the intervening years, Clybourne Park has become an all-black neighborhood, but now gentrification is setting in. A white couple seeking to buy and renovate the house are being forced by local housing regulations to negotiate with a black couple representing a neighborhood organization. The female spouse is Lena, named after her great aunt Lena, who purchased the house in A Raisin in the Sun. While Hansberry’s drama was a serious statement about black pride, Norris’s play, by contrast, shows that good manners and political correctness enshrine and repress racism, maintaining race as a category of truth. Though the story is definitely about racial territoriality, both acts delve into the problem of class, gender and sexuality as well. As the same actors play different characters in both acts, Norris finally suggests that America has changed but not evolved at all, reflecting the playwright’s pessimistic views inspired by John Gray and Alexis de Tocqueville. This paper aims to investigate this side of America and envisions the future of American racial drama, when Clybourne Park’s treatment of race issues, which counters Obama’s hollow policies, has gone mainstream.

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