Professor Anthony Pennino (Assistant Professor, Literature; Theater & Technology) will be presenting at the Spring 2013 Northeast Modern Language Association Conference in Boson, Massachusetts, on March 22, 2013. His paper, entitled "Hansberry and Norris: A Raisin in the Sun's Legacy in 'Post Racial' America" is a part of the panel "The Vision, Commitment, and Legacy of Lorraine Hansberry," chaired by Cigdem Usekes of Western Connecticut State University.
His paper examines the “conversation” between characters Hansberry and Norris. Of great importance to both works is the intertwining issues of history and identity. Pennino questions where the races stand in relationship to one another, as well as the fabric of American culture. Hansberry’s response, though optimistic, is necessarily subtle and complex. Beneatha has the choice between George, who has fully assimilated into 1950’s American society, and Joseph, who proposes marriage and wants to take her to Nigeria where he will practice medicine. Walter rejects the materialism when he rejects Linder’s offer to buy the family out of the house. No doubt the Youngers promise to try and be good neighbors at the play’s conclusion was a reassuring and optimistic coda in 1959. But seen through the lens of history and the knowledge of what occurred in Chicago in the 1960’s and 1970’s, one cannot help view that promise with trepidation and a sense of an opportunity lost. And clearly the character of Joseph serves to comment on the fixation of the American Dream, particularly as it relates to materialism and ownership.
Pennino employs as a theoretical lens Amy Kaplan’s Cultures of United States Imperialism and explores the force of hegemonic American culture in an intranational context. As the characters of both plays wrestle in their relationship with one another, they do must do so in relationship to a notion of the American Dream that – regardless of whether the year is 1959 or 2009 – still informs the lives, wants, and ambitions of all concerned.
To read the full draft of Prof. Pennino's paper, click here.
Anthony P. Pennino holds a Ph.D. in Drama and Theatre Studies from Royal Holloway and New Bedford College, University of London as well as a B.A. in Literature, an M.A. in Literature, and an M.F.A. in Playwriting from Columbia University. Currently, he is an assistant professor in literature as well as theatre artist-in-residence in the College of Arts and Letters at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ.