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Aging and Death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
Published June 28, 2020

With focus on the tropes of aging and death in Edward Albee’s The Sandbox (1960) and Tennessee Williams’s The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1963), the essay investigates the negotiation of the protagonists’ identity through specters of age and the means of encountering death, and it analyzes the representation o...f the dramas’ senior citizens with special regard to the ways in which these characters challenge mainstream cultural constructions of aging. On their deathbed, both Albee’s and Williams’s protagonists are reconnecting with their pasts in idiosyncratic ways: they build up a conscious “age autobiography” (Margaret Morgenroth Gulette) in an inventory of events and feelings assessing a complete(d) life and achieve an “agewise” (Gulette) identity that comes full circle in the very moment of grace. The characters who escort these two elderly women on their last journey reconceptualize the sense of intimacy between people. The dialogic potential of their empathy, care, and unconditional support during the end-game of the protagonists accommodates difference in various contexts by blurring the boundary between the old and the young as well as the one between men and women, because death has neither age nor gender. Thus, these intergenerational exchanges help elder characters’ agewise enterprises into the unknown gain a cathartic sense of freedom. (RMC)

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The Art of Erasure: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Olympias
Published June 26, 2020

This essay discusses the visual shift of race and gender representation in a selection of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings. The Brooklyn graffiti artist, who was known for elevating the street energy of vernacular inscriptions into high art, reinterpreted Édouard Manet’s Olympia (1863) in Three-Quarters of Olympia Minus the Serva...nt (1982) by erasing racial difference and challenging gender stereotypes in a work devoid of gender markers. In Untitled (Maid from Olympia) (1982), another version of the modernist painting, Basquiat places the figure of the black servant, formerly a colonized subject, in the center of the work; as a result, the servant “talks back” in a visual narrative functioning as a critique of colonization. Both paintings thus recast and reinterpret Manet’s Olympia and her world in a contemporary signification of race and gender by emphasis, or lack thereof, of such markers. (RMC)

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