Staging a New Literary History: Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus, In the Blood, and Fucking A


Carol Schafer


Suzan-Lori Parks consciously utilizes form and content to reconfigure perceptions of an androcentric white European Western literary canon in her plays Venus, In the Blood, and Fucking A. Each play is modeled upon a traditional form because Parks would position them alongside canonical works of literature from the past. Venus can be read as a Classical epic poem that adheres to an Aristotelian definition of epic form. The play’s structure compares with Homeric epics, particularly The Iliad, and the life of its hero, The Venus, embodies the pattern of the monomyth. Parks has formulated In the Blood as an example of Classical tragedy. It also adheres to an Aristotelian definition of form, and its hero, Hester La Negrita, is an archetypal tragic hero. Both In the Blood and Fucking A draw inspiration from an American classic, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, but Parks skillfully manipulates their positioning within the traditional canon. Where she would have In the Blood precede Hawthorne’s novel,Parks models Fucking Aon existential Brechtian epic theatre. All three plays center upon the experiences of an African or African-American woman. Parks manipulates spectator empathy and voyeurism in order to raise audience awareness of their complicity in acts of objectification. By challenging audiences to subjectify her heroes and by utilizing definitive styles, Parks hopes to insert these stories into a literary tradition alongside those that had been considered pillars of a Western literary canon. By doing so, she forces us to interrogate and reconfigure notions of a Western canon.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.