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Settler Colonial Disease and Dis-Ease in August: Osage County

M. Elise Marubbio

Abstract

Tracy Letts’s screenplay, August: Osage County (2013), and John Wells’s film adaptation (2013) offer a compelling critique of American racism towards Native Americans which demands that viewers consider their own inculcation into ongoing settler-nation colonialism. The film layers the history of place (Oklahoma) with the Cheyenne character Johnna, whose Indigenous heritage is negotiated throughout by liberal academics, conservative rural matriarchs, and Johnna herself. The role is small but essential to the film’s allegorical analysis of settler-colonialism and racism. The Weston family’s secrets, addictions, and dysfunction starkly contrast with Johnna’s health and stability. Through Johnna, the film questions the toll colonialism takes on the mental and physical health of the American people. This paper analyzes the metanarrative association of the Weston family’s dysfunction and racism with ongoing colonialism that results in disease of the settler-colonial space as it emerges in the screenplay and film.


Corresponding author: Prof. M. Elise Marubbio, Department of American Indian Studies, Augsburg University, Minneapolis, CB 115, 2211 Riverside Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA,

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Published Online: 2020-04-02
Published in Print: 2020-03-26

©2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston