A survey of one of America's most prolific
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.
James A. Crank is an associate professor of English
and the director of undergraduate studies at Northwestern
State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Crank has written on artists as diverse as James Agee,
Sherman Alexie, and Eudora Welty.
"Written with great lucidity and wearing its considerable erudition lightly, Understanding Sam Shepard is the perfect introduction to Shepard for both beginning and advanced students of American drama. Because of its subtlety and depth of textual analysis, the book is equally valuable for the scholar. James A. Crank unearths Shepard's buried children and their cursed families in all their complexity and mystery, making a compelling case for the unity and profundity of Shepard's mythic vision of America."—Henry I. Schvey, professor of drama and comparative literature, Washington University in St. Louis