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Codifying the National Self

Spectators, Actors and the American Dramatic Text


Edited By Barbara Ozieblo and María Dolores Narbona-Carrión

Theater has always been the site of visionary hopes for a reformed national future and a space for propagating ideas, both cultural and political, and such a conceptualization of the histrionic art is all the more valuable in the post-9/11 era. The essays in this volume address the concept of «Americanness» and the perceptions of the «alien» – as ethnic, class or gendered minorities – as dealt with in the work of American playwrights from Anna Cora Mowatt, through Rachel Crothers or Susan Glaspell, and on to Sam Shepard, David Mamet, Nilo Cruz or Wallace Shawn. The authors of the essays come from a multi-national university background that includes the United States, the United Arab Emirates and various countries of the European Community. In recognition of the multiple components of drama, the essays for the volume were selected in order to exemplify different aspects and theories of theater studies: the playwright, the play, the audience and the actor are all examined as part of the theatrical experience that serves to formulate American national identity.


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Artistic Expression, Intimacy and Primal Holon in Sam Shepard 137


Artistic Expression, Intimacy and the Primal Holon in Sam Shepard William S. HANEY II American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates I. Creative Transcendence As the eccentric genius in Suicide in B-Flat, Niles tries to create a form of “visual music” that parallels Shepard’s own pursuit of a poly- sensory theatrical form. Obsessed with liberating himself from the Other, Niles seeks a purely aesthetic realm closed off from community and its intrusive voices. In the end, however, he has no choice but to reconcile himself with communal consciousness, partly because the Other also inheres in the mind of the artist. Similarly, in The Tooth of Crime, Hoss, the king of rock music, finds his aesthetic realm under attack by an arrogant young rival, Crow. In their ultimate showdown, their weapon of choice is not guns or music but language. Like all artists, Niles and Hoss produce through creative transcendence, but find that communicating with an audience also involves a dialogic relation between artist, art expression, and community. This dialogic relation, moreover, depends on the intimacy between the artist and his/her most inward self. As Michael Goldman notes, “Intimacy comes from the Latin superlative intimus, ‘most inward,’ and the impulse, the desire, perhaps the need to achieve a superlative degree of inwardness, has haunted European thought since who-knows-when” (77; emphasis in original). Intimacy between self and other thus depends on the intimacy between two aspects of the self: self as constructed identity, and self as one’s “superlative degree of inwardness...

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