Title: “The Wild Thing of Yr Hearts Desire”: Representing Black Venus in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Yi-Chin Shih, Tamkang University, Taiwan
First performed in 1996, Venus earns Suzan-Lori Parks (1963~) an OBIE Award for Playwriting. Venus centers on a real historical African woman Saartjie Baartman (c1789~1815), who was viewed as wild, grotesque, and bizarre, and exhibited in freak shows in Europe in the early 19th century. In Venus, Parks presents an inner play For the Love of the Venus, which is based on a French vaudeville The Hottentot Venus, or The Hatred of French Women (1814), as a contrast to show the exotic fantasy of black women. The device of the play within the play gives Parks a chance to examine different portrayals of Baartman and to further comment on the representation of black womanhood. This paper discusses not only the two Baartmans in the inner and outer plays in Venus but also the Baartman in the French vaudeville. Through a close reading of the play with a special focus on different images of Baartman, this paper explores the exercise of stereotyping and then to claim the stereotype of black womanhood as an oppression to both black and white women, not just for black women only.
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