Making Jokes and History in An Octoroon

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, Slavery, United States on 2016-07-15 01:23Z by Steven

Making Jokes and History in An Octoroon

African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)

Christopher Bonner, Assistant Professor of History
University of Maryland

Last weekend I saw a performance of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins‘ play An Octoroon, which is a reimagining of Dion Boucicault’s The Octoroon, a popular 1859 melodrama set on a Louisiana plantation. There is a kind of humor inherent in using pieces of The Octoroon, with its excessive melodrama and absurd stereotypes, such as the moments when Zoe, the titular octoroon, wallows in the tragedy of her “mulattoness.” But what I found most interesting about the play are the ways that Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins finds and creates humor for his enslaved characters, especially Dido and Minnie, a mismatched pair of enslaved women who are truly the stars of An Octoroon. By imagining these women’s stories, Jacobs-Jenkins transforms a racist play with a minor critique of southern justice into an exploration of enduring problems of racism and injustice and the misremembering of American slavery…

Read the entire article here.

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