August Wilson's Century Cycle: Archetypes of Black Womanhood as Feminist Iconography
August Wilson's Century Cycle has been lauded as one of the most prolific introspective into the lived experiences of African Americans. His collective seminal work, speaks directly to the very unique and precise embodiment of Blackness and its tangential culturally nuanced American identity. The Century Cycle adeptly illuminates the precariousness of what it means to have been born both hued and gendered within the confines and geo-spatiality of the continental United States. Wilson's thoughtfully dimensioned characterizations of Black American women deconstructs the lives and lived experiences of the illegitimate daughters of the Great American Project. Wilson meticulously crafted a century's long ethnographic sketch of Black womanhood and its myriad of embodiments; embodiments which dare to both exist and persist in direct defiance to their denigration and oppression. His work serves as the foundational spark for a much needed dialogue and generative discourse surrounding the ascribed identity of the 'Black Woman' within the context of a much larger American society. Employing Wilson's canon of theatrical prose as an archive the proposed task at hand is to first, examine the identity of "Black Woman' and secondly, expand upon the pre-existing archetypes reimagining them as Black Feminist iconography -- a roadmap to liberation, autonomy and agency in the contemporary millennial moment.
This panel's goal is to reclaim the ascriptive archetypes of Black Womanhood through the arduous yet rewarding process of painstakingly re-fashioning them into articulations of Black womanhood which embolden, empower and invigorate Black women and undergird their just claims to both womanhood and femininity. As a playwright and cultural historian, August Wilson loving compiled of historiography of Black Womanhood which expertly articulates and expresses their humanity, dignity and vulnerability in a manner which today still goes unrivaled.
Rationale: Though there exists a wealth of scholarship surrounding the archetypes associated with Black Womanhood, there does however, unfortunately exist a dearth of scholarship which engages literature and/or theatrical prose as an ethnographic archive or repository canon which can be utilized to extrapolate a dimensioned understanding of Black womanhood in all of its fullness. It remains a hope that through an in-depth inquiry of the fictionalized prose authored by August Wilson that insight will ring forth revealing truisms pertaining to Black womanhood, which may have otherwise lain dormant and interred amid atypical archive.
University of California, Los Angeles