Memory and suffering in American Drama: Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms (1924) and Sam Shepard’s Buried Child (1978)

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University Mouloud Mammeri of Tizi-Ouzou


This dissertation is entitled Memory and Trauma in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire under the Elms (1924) and Sam Shepard’s Buried Child (1979). It tackles the issue of timelessness and duration of both trauma and memory. It considers the way into which the characters in both plays endure timeless moments of trauma, failure, loss and paralysis but also a moment of awakening, self-realization and spiritual fulfillments outside the chronological time. We have analyzed the theme of memory by referring to Henri Bergson’s theory of Matter and Memory. We have examined the memory and past experiences as witnessed by the characters in both plays by emphasizing on how they tell about their past experiences and their memories through images, remembrances and flashbacks. Bergson’s concept of Duration allowed us discusses and justifies the issue of timelessness. The analysis of the moments of duration in the two plays elucidates their important role in shaping and redefining the real self and identity. In addition, our study explored the theme of trauma by referring to Cathy Caruth’s trauma theory which allows us to demonstrate how the state of experiencing traumatic moments keeps its survivors prisoners of their past, and also how it explains the characters failure to understand and forget their sufferance.





Arts dramatiques et lettres Anglaises