The representation of women in the plays of Sam Shepard

Volks, Carolyn Dana (1994) The representation of women in the plays of Sam Shepard. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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Abstract

In the endeavour to abolish from society all forms of ideologies that prescribe the domination of one sex over another, it has become increasingly important to analyse the representation of women in dramatic literature because dramatic literature reflects the philosophies and codes of behaviour which enable individuals to dominate one another in society, and assists in either reinforcing old ideologies or shaping new ones. Although Sam Shepard has been an influential force in the creation of modern drama, his plays reflect a patriarchal ideology that dictates that women are subordinate to men. Shepard's plays dramatise various male predicaments and his female characters are constructed and utilised to express men's experience, not women's. One of the conflicts which besets the male characters is that they desire to return to the womb of the mother, but simultaneously fear that their identities will be engulfed by the mother. In The Rock Garden, Red Cross and Fourteen Hundred Thousand, these desires and fears are demonstrated through the female characters, who are manipulated to represent objects of male desire and/or objects onto which devouring images are projected. Women are therefore represented in a manner in which they are best able to express the male characters' identity related conflicts. In Curse of the Starving Class and Buried Child, characters suffer from receiving insufficient nurture, are spiritually and emotionally impoverished or cursed and appear unable to transform their lives. The female characters are presented as being partly responsible for causing these predicaments since their nurturing, generative and transformative abilities are presented in a negative light. Women are also represented as objects of blame in the male characters' attempts and failures to undergo rebirths and are once again created to express male predicaments. In Fool for Love and A Lie of the Mind, Shepard focuses on the relationships between men and women, but is only able to present the male characters' perspectives and represent male desire. The female characters are regarded, and engaged with, as reflections of the male characters' selves and are frequently utilised to express male desire. If Shepard's plays are persistently applauded and seen as examples to be emulated, we need to closely analyse these dramas that represent women in a manner which expresses male predicaments and which places them in roles that allow men to dominate them.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Sam Shepard, Women
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1600 Drama
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Drama
Supervisors:Reardon, Reza
ID Code:3692
Deposited By: Ms Chantel Clack
Deposited On:17 Oct 2012 13:07
Last Modified:17 Oct 2012 13:07
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