Postmodernism and Language in Sam Shepard's True West and Tooth of Crime

Bahar Mehrabi, Parvin Ghasemi, Mehdi Abbasi


Sam Shepard has gained a reputation as one of America's foremost living playwrights. In over forty plays, Shepard has broken down traditional notions of dramaturgy in combining both modernist notions of the absurd and familiar icons from the American cultural landscape with an energy tinged by anarchy and violence. Moreover, Shepard has been considered by many critics as a postmodern dramatist. Hassan (1987) piles up a lengthy list of artists from various disciplines whose names epitomize postmodernism for him. The playwrights are: Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter and only Sam Shepard and August Wilson from America. One characteristic of postmodern literature in general, is a focus on the instability of meaning and the inadequacy of language to completely and accurately represent truth, along with an irony and playfulness in the treatment of linguistic constructs. In other words, there is a questioning of language as a medium of perception and communication. Language can name the pain but it can’t be the pain; language cannot reach the actual individual feeling. Language is not strong enough to convey the intense emotion.  In postmodern poetics, there is a paradigmatic shift from the idea that language is transparent to the disclosure of its physicality, its intimacy, its obdurate persistence, and its paradoxical fragility. Thus, language is an insufficient means for transforming the ideas that exist in one's mind. The aim of the present article would be to present the ways in which the dramatic language of Sam Shepard, as a postmodern drama, demonstrates inadequacy of language in communication. In order to reach this goal, however, a number of his early dramas will be brought under scrutiny with regard to their language and style from the postmodern point of view.



Fragmentation, Postmodernism, Language, Grand Narratives, American Drama

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