Mule Bone Syllabus

In 1930, two giants of African-American literature, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, joined forces to create a lively, insightful, often wildly farcical look inside a rural Southern black community—the three-act play Mule Bone. In this hilarious story, Jim and Dave are a struggling song-and-dance team, and when a woman comes between them, chaos ensues in their tiny Florida hometown. This theatrical work broke new ground while triggering a bitter controversy between the collaborators that kept it out of the public eye for sixty years.

This edition of the classic features Zora Neale Hurston’s original story, “The Bone of Contention,” as well as the complete recounting of the acrimonious literary dispute that prevented Mule Bone from being produced or published until decades after the authors’ deaths.

Suggested Course Use

Women have been writing plays for centuries—but most of your students will be able to name only a very few female playwrights. A course entitled “Women in the American Theater” should correct this, and the curriculum will also allow students to study women’s history in the United States as well as feminist and gender theories as they have influenced and been reflected back by American theater.

Anchoring the class with Helen Krich Chinoy and Linda Walsh Jenkins’s Women in American Theatre will give students insight into the heritage of women in American theater through interviews and essays that address the contributions of women to theater as well as the problems and successes they have encountered in developing their careers.

In addition to Zora Neale Hurston’s Mule Bone, plays such as Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, Marsha Norman’s Getting Out, Alice Childress’s Wedding Band, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles, and Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive will allow students to become familiar with women who have been instrumental in American theater; further understand the ways in which gender, class, race, and politics have influenced women’s access to careers in the theater; and contemplate how women in American theater have challenged conventional attitudes towards women.

Example Syllabus
American Drama: Cornell University
The Harlem Renaissance: Western Illinois University