a bit more on “Clybourne Park”

I refrained from googling this play too much when writing my recent piece about this Pulitzer Prize winning play, but in the past few days it hasn’t taken me long to find quotes that outline the argument I am attempting to engage with. Here is the playwright Bruce Norris in a 2011 interview with the latimes:

“Not to be too grandiose,” Norris says, “but I think in a larger sense, the topic of ‘Clybourne Park’ is war and territoriality and why we fight over territory. And we do so for incredibly personal, inexplicable, ungraspable, indefinable reasons.”

The problem here, as I attempted to elaborate in my previous post is, well, exactly what the playwright is stating. Without wanting to completely deny the force of the irrational in history, by locating the origin of war and territoriality in some nebulous, “personal, inexplicable, ungraspable, indefinable” space of supposed “human nature”, we completely lose the societal, explicable, graspable, definable variables of history, empire and trade; forces whose structures we inhabit and unconsciously replicate. Always historicize. Not to mention that by confusing the dark history of American racism with a supposedly more bleaker vision of the dark heart of man, we not only lose the specificity and diversity of experience of Raisin in the Sun, but also find ourselves needing to untangle ourselves from the false web of human interaction Norris has spun around us, which of course also must be historicized. The etiology of war and territoriality is the fundamental question of foundational works as Thucydides’ history, King Lear, the Iliad, Antigone and these works in particular drill deeper and deeper into the specificity of rival empires, power and hypocrisy, sexual jealousies, emergency law. There is liberation in specificity, which is the way of art, whereas trucking the well-worn and sunken roads of cliche leads us nowhere. Nowhere interesting at least.

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