Postmodern Historiography in Suicide in B-Flat: Sam Shepard’s Myth of the Artist
Sam Shepard is one of the most popular postmodern playwrights. His plays have a mythic quality; they figure characters in search of their identities in their past. “Myth of the artist” is highlighted in many of his plays concerned with art. In Suicide in B-Flat --a postmodern play with surrealist techniques-- Shepard focuses on the new forms of art—pop art-- namely jazz music. He demythifies the past myth of the “artist” as “originator” and remythifies it as a confused figure in search of a true identity. Sam Shepard’s plays are historiographic in that they deal with the past representations and the ex-centric, marginal figures; they are parodic and have a critical attitude towards the past. Apart from the critical aspects, some of his plays are marked with the nostalgia of the American dream which is a popular theme in contemporary American drama. This article addresses the historiographic quality of Shepard’s Suicide in B-Flat, with emphasis on Linda Hutcheon's poetics of postmodern historiography and Roland Barth’s conception of modern myths in relation to patterns of culture. The aim is to show how the ex-centric pop cultural icons become central in postmodern historiography and how the old myths of hero turn into myths of anti-hero. The parodic aspect of the play, it is argued, poses a critical stance vis-à-vis the past representations of the myths and the elitist approach of modernist art. Key words: Sam Shepard; Suicide in B-Flat; Historiography; Myth of the Artist; The Postmodern
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