Research Paper on David Henry Hwang

Published 27 Feb 2017

David Henry Hwang as an American Playwright

David Henry Hwang was born on August 11, 1957. He was born in Los Angeles, California (“M. Butterfly: Author Biography”). He took his education at the Stanford University and at the Yale School of Drama. He is commonly known of being an American playwright. He specializes in writing dramatic literature or drama which also branded him as a dramatist.

Most of the plays done by David Henry Hwang were concentrated to the role of the Chinese-American and Asian American in the modern day world. His first play entitled “Fresh-Off the Boat” won the Off-Broadway Theater Awards. The play had portrayed the conflicts between the Asian American and the “Fresh-Off the Boat” novice immigrants. Many more plays were produced by Hwang after the successful “Fresh-Off the Boat”. The play entitled “The Dance and the Railroad” was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. The drama is all about the story of former Chinese opera star who worked as a coolie laborer in the mid 1800’s. The drama entitled “Family Endeavor” focused on the darkly comic take on the effects of the Western religion on a Chinese family.

Among the many awards he have received throughout his life an a playwright are the awards from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the association for Asian Pacific American Artists, the Museums of Chinese in the America, the East West Players and the Organization of the Chinese Americans, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans and many other important awards from many institutions.
He had also played the role as spokesmen for the community he had grown up. As a spokesman for the Asian American community, he was somewhat considered it as an opportunity at the same time a burden. The reason for this is that he was compared to Maxine Hong Kingston. People always thought that he knows everything about what Asians really feel (Albert 2).

Inclusion of David Henry Hwang in today’s Literary Canon Literary canon is defined as a body of literature and art that is considered to characterize the civilization by a widespread agreement. Moreover, literary canon also is referred to as the established body of works which are known to be the major or the best and as acknowledged to as literary classics by agreement of critics, scholars and teachers (Goodvin 1).The inclusion of a particular author say for example of the American playwright David Henry Hwang means that he had certain privileges that seemed to be obvious. The board of decision makers of the literary canon includes people like influential critics, directors of the museums together with their board of trustees. Lowly teachers and scholars also made up the gatekeepers of the stronghold culture included in the literary canon. The inclusion to the canon means that an author is awarded the assurance of quality and most specially assurance of high artistic quality. The author being assured of high artistic quality means that he had also gained a promise and an agreement that his piece is something to be acknowledged as an artistic one as announced to the all the viewers. A drama, poem, sonata, or dance that had been included in the literary canon had already established a powerful division from the others since it will survive in the any situation (Landow 3-4).

The literary canon is considered to be a deep flawed. This is one important argument in the courses of the debates against the literary canon. The canon had many flaws such that it only includes works done by the male. To where will the important works of the female writers will go if they are abandoned by the canon. Another important flaw of the literary canon is that it is only concentrated in the Western culture. How about the important works that was done in the South America, India or China? The bias between the literary canons which is simply referred to as the Western culture had created a notion that the Western culture is above other cultures since it was greatly popularized than the other cultures.

The inclusion of David Henry Hwang in the literary canon is I think valid enough (at least in the gatekeepers of high culture’s point of view) since the Southern culture is what is included in most of the works he had done. But the argument that I will present regarding the inclusion of such a very good playwright in the literary canon is that it is not appropriate to include him in the literary canon (as my point of view). The reason behind this thinking is that when an author is included in the literary canon, his works will be appreciated mostly by all the viewers since it is the ones recommended only for reading and viewing. It was also stated earlier that the literary canon is most commonly referred to as the Western culture. This means that his works will only be circulating upon the walls of the Western culture. Since the Southern culture, the Indian, and all the other culture had been considering that the literary canon is the Western culture, they will not be able to read or view the works done by those authors included in the canon. The reason for this is they will not patronize the culture that had shown unbiased judging to their culture. Another reason why I don’t agree to the inclusion of David Henry Hwang in the literary canon is that the feminist who question the inclusion of only white male authors in the canon. I agree to the point of the many believers about the inclusion of anyone’s work in the literary canon should be the thing to happen and bias of choosing who are in the canon should be eliminated. Everybody’s works no matter what race and gender they belong should be fairly treated by the gatekeepers of the literary canon.

Another important tissue that I would like to include in the disagreement of the inclusion of Henry David Hwang in the literary canon is that the entrance and exit of the works in the literary canon is continuously happening. This is because when a new one (new piece) is included in the canon, an old one which is already in the canon should be removed to give a place to the new one. The works done by David Henry Hwang were one the best in terms of drama that should be kept in the literary canon for a lifetime and not to be removed when something new will arrive. The works done by this author should be acknowledged for a lifetime since they are created without any hesitations of combining the Chinese and the American culture. In my point of view, even though that the works of David Henry Hwang were not being able to included in the literary canon, the works can still stand alone because it will be patronize by many viewers and readers. The name of David Henry Hwang is already established in the society of arts so he will not have any problems in promoting his works. It was stated in the aims of the literary canon that if a work is being included in the canon, it is secured that it will be the ones prioritized for reading and viewing. The literary canon had been somewhat mistaken in these insight. The people are the readers and the viewers, and as for me, I am a viewer or maybe a reader, I will choose neither the books I will read nor the plays I will view that would suit my likes. I don’t agree by the claim that when someone authoritatively recommended a book or a play to a particular person, that person will follow what is recommended. For the intelligent and educated readers and viewers, their choice will not only cover those in the recommended books or plays but their choice will focus a wide array despite if it is included or not in the literary canon.

As a contribution to the ethnic theater, the plays created by David Henry Hwang had showcased a radiant and multifaceted analysis which was purely centered to issues concerning race and gender. Most of the plays written by David Henry Hwang depict an ideological duality with each other. Critics have always identified his plays as a confrontation between two opposing characters or sometimes two opposing cultures that emphasizes that one is weaker and the other one is stronger. David Henry Hwang justified that his plays were not depicting the confrontation of two opposing characters but it is more than that. He has said in his one of the interview that “In The Dance and the Railroad” play, the issue that was prevalent is that the trading positions of the two characters. In the play, the two positions were not clearly defined but they are related in terms of their power. His plays were almost concentrated with two cultures, the American and the Chinese culture. This is not one of the aim or objective of the literary canon. The literary canon is simply branded as the Western Culture and Chinese culture is not included in the works chosen to be included in the canon. But David Henry Hwang had successfully included the two cultures in his plays, whereas, his work should not be included in the literary canon for that reason alone.

Most of the plays done by David Henry Hwang were also very sympathetic to the gender (women characteristics) and were conscious of se and gender issues. This is another issue that is with conflict with the literary canon inclusion of the works of Hwang. The literary canon is sensitive in the issues regarding gender and racism. Thus, literary canon is not very considerate when it comes to the issues regarding sex and race. The justification that David Henry Hwang had given by this claim is that he grew up surrounded with a lot of strong women. He also pointed out that the traditional culture of the Chinese were really cruel to women. This is the reason why he doesn’t believe that women are submissive to men. Even though the culture of the Chinese is oppressive to women, the Chinese women in return have survival ways on how to suppress the cruelty they have experienced. These background of the Chinese cultures have pushed him to include about the characters that portrays the women and that is why he became sensitive of the issues regarding the sexism and even gender. He aimed to his plays that women should be given respect as compared to the respect he is gaining as an American (Albert 4-5).

Works Cited:

  • Albert, Michael. “The Canon”. Fairleigh Dickinson University. (1999)
  • Goodvin, Renee. “A Canon of Classic Novels”. The Literary Explorer. (2005)
  • Landow, George. “ The Literary Canon”. (1989). 29 July 2007.
  • Lyons, Bonnie. “Making His Muscles Work for Himself”: An Interview with David Henry Hwang. (Asian American Playwright). The Literary Review (1999).
  • “M. Butterfly: Author Biography.” Drama for Students. Ed. Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 11. Detroit: Gale, 1998.
Did it help you?