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Mythical Universalism and Ritual Africanism in The Darker Face of the Earth

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2016, 29(3), pp.5-35
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Kim JaeKyoung 1

1중앙대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Mythical Universalism and Ritual Africanism in The Darker Face of the Earth Abstract Kim,JaeKyoung Rita Dove’s The Darker Face of the Earth, based on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, transforms the Oedipus myth into an American slavery narrative, adding racial and gender issues between white owners and black slaves on a South Carolina slave plantation in the 1820s. My research investigates The Darker Face of the Earth, focusing on its universal and African characteristics through its mythical and theatrical elements. This research arose from my interest in the play’s intriguing writing history; although Dove published it initially in 1994, she made an extensive revision and published its second edition in 1996. The main reason for her revision was to prepare the play for its premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 1996. Since Dove had no theatrical experience prior to 1996, she needed to make some adjustments to its content and form to tailor it for the stage performance. This research analyzes its evolution from its first (1994) to its second edition (1996) in terms of its textual and theatrical development. In the process of revision, Dove tried to embody both universalism and Africanism on the stage, which not only corresponds to what she has expressed in her poems but also to the contemporary African American playwrights’ movement. To strengthen universalism, Dove gave her main characters, especially Amalia, a more complex personality and expanded Augustus’s tragic fate beyond antagonism between blacks and whites. Meanwhile, Dove infused various African traditions into the play; “Dream Sequence” is an exemplary scene that highlights the play’s theatrical effect with its African and ritualistic atmosphere. By reinforcing its textual and theatrical elements, Dove transformed herself from a ‘poet’ to a ‘playwright’ and developed the play considerably from a ‘verse play’ to a ‘total work of art.’ However, despite Dove’s achievement, the issue of balancing between universalism and Africanism still remains an unsolved but important issue for African playwrights.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.