Thesis

Lanford Wilson : an American voice

The plays of Lanford Wilson have interested scholars, critics and playgoers for more than three decades . Among other things, critics have focused on Wilson's use of language. Some assert that Wilson's evocative language has captured the voice of the American people, resulting in the generally accepted notion that Lanford Wilson is an �American Voice.� In this study I examined the way Wilson uses language to create characters that speak in an �American� way about "American" concerns. My objective was to develop a criteria by which Wilson's language could be judged "American." This criteria includes three general features: elements of sound in terms of dialect, rhythm and colloquialism( aspects of national personality, identity, experience and mythos; and the themes and associations made available through the expanding signs of Roland Barthes' semiotic codes. This study applies the definition to three of Lanford Wilson's plays: Fifth of July, Talley's Folly, and Talley and Son. These three plays all focus on members of a single Midwestern family, the Talleys, during significant times in American history, and all take place on the uniquely American and semiotically significant Independence Day. Wilson's "American voice" is established linguistically in the elements of "sound" that can be detected through dialect and colloquialism; it is also present in the national identity and perspective as expressed by the characters.

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