Portrait of the Artist: Sam Shepard and the Anxiety of Identity

Blackburn, John Ashley, Jr., Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia

Sam Shepard has displayed a highly consistent concern for identity, both in his written texts and through his public personae. Following what may be seen as a template, Shepard's characters, and indeed Shepard himself, seem bent on a quest which displays three distinct features: the need to enact a role; the necessity to question and appraise the authenticity of the role and its context; then a struggle with the often dissatisfying results. Dissatisfaction and its consequent ambivalence often lead to rejection of the role, revision of the experience, or to yet another, different role. This never-ending quest for a satisfying identity fuels Shepard's art; it also provides the subtext for the artist's own life-as-dramaturgy, in which the public Sam Shepard appears to be one more creation of the very same authorial mind.

The most recent manifestation of Shepard's quest appeared in the New Yorker of March 25th, 1996. In "Three Stories," the protean playwright-actor once again revisits the form of his earlier Motel Chronicles (1982) in three thinly-veiled autobiographical accounts of his involvement with the movies.  

MA (Master of Arts)

Originally published on the XRoads site for the UVA American Studies program. Years range from 1995-2005. Content is captured at the level of functionality available on the date of capture.

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