Writing the absent potential: Drama, performance, and the canon of African-American literature

Sandra L. Richards*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

11 Scopus citations


When one reviews anthologies of African-American literature and criticism, it would seem as though drama is not a species of literature, for seldom is it included. The critical tradition within African American literature locates “authentic” cultural expression on the terrain of the folk, but the folk have articulated their presence most brilliantly in those realms with which literature is uncomfortable, namely in arenas centered in performance. The chapter aims to engage one of the fundamental challenges constituted by the folk insistence upon the importance of performance and the literary inheritance of a written, hence seemingly stable text. It argues that in confronting this challenge, one must write the absent potential into criticism; that is, in addition to analysis of the written text, one must offer informed accounts of the latent intertexts likely to be produced in performance, increasing and complicating meaning. In dancing, the performers enact a history that has been preserved and taught to younger generations kinesthetically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPerformativity and Performance
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781135207571
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Writing the absent potential: Drama, performance, and the canon of African-American literature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this