Understanding Sam Shepard

Understanding Sam Shepard

Understanding Sam Shepard

Understanding Sam Shepard

Synopsis

Understanding Sam Shepard investigates the notoriously complex and confusing dramatic world of Sam Shepard, one of America's most prolific, thoughtful, and challenging contemporary playwrights. During his nearly fifty-year career as a writer, actor, director, and producer, Shepard has consistently focused his work on the ever-changing American cultural landscape. James A. Crank's comprehensive study of Shepard offers scholars and students of the dramatist a means of understanding Shephard's frequent experimentation with language, setting, characters, and theme.
Beginning with a brief biography of Shepard, Crank shows how experiences in Shepard's life eventually resonate in his work by exploring the major themes, unique style, and history of Shepard's productions. Focusing first on Shepard's early plays, which showcase highly experimental, frenetic explorations of fractured worlds, Crank discusses how the techniques from these works evolve and translate into the major works in his "family trilogy": Curse of the Starving Class, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Buried Child, and True West. Shepard often uses elements from his past--his relationship with his father, his struggle for control within the family, and the breakdown of the suburban American dream--as major starting points in his plays.
Shepard is a recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, eleven Obie Awards, and a Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for Lifetime Achievement. Augmented with an extensive bibliography, Understanding Sam Shepard is an ideal point of entrance into complex and compelling dramas of this acclaimed playwright.

Excerpt

The Understanding Contemporary American Literature series was founded by the estimable Matthew J. Bruccoli (1931–2008), who envisioned these volumes as guides or companions for students as well as good nonacademic readers, a legacy which will continue as new volumes are developed to fill in gaps among the nearly one hundred series volumes published to date and to embrace a host of new writers only now making their marks on our literature.

As Professor Bruccoli explained in his preface to the volumes he edited, because much influential contemporary literature makes special demands, “the word understanding in the titles was chosen deliberately. Many willing readers lack an adequate understanding of how contemporary literature works; that is, of what the author is attempting to express and the means by which it is conveyed.” Aimed at fostering this understanding of good literature and good writers, the criticism and analysis in the series provide instruction in how to read certain contemporary writers—explicating their material, language, structures, themes, and perspectives—and facilitate a more profitable experience of the works under discussion.

In the twenty-first century Professor Bruccoli’s prescience gives us an avenue to publish expert critiques of significant contemporary American writing. The series continues to map the literary landscape, and provide both instruction and enjoyment. Future volumes will seek to introduce new voices alongside canonized favorites, to chronicle the changing literature of our times, and to remain, as Professor Bruccoli conceived, contemporary in the best sense of the word.

Linda Wagner-Martin, Series Editor . . .

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