Thematic and Lexical Repetition in a Contemporary Screenplay
Several works on film theory and screenwriting practice take up the question of repetition within narrative. However, few if any, have articulated theories about the relationship between the repetition of the words that comprise the screenplay itself and repetition of the themes that lend coherence to the narrative. In this study we address this gap in the screenwriting and film literature. Specifically, we analyze repetition of words and themes in the screenplay of Sunshine Cleaning, a critically-acclaimed independent film. Based on our survey of the literature, we expect and we find several varieties of repetition among words associated with the major themes in Sunshine Cleaning. This repetition includes but is not limited to polyptoton (words formed by inflections, declensions, and conjugations of a common stem), homonymy, paregmenon (words sharing a common derivation), andcompounding (words formed by combining two or more words). We further expect and find that the repetition of words linked to themes is extensive and found in the large majority of the scenes of the screenplay. Finally, we expect and find that words associated with the themes are repeated far more frequently than in a random sample of screenplays contained within the Corpus of Contemporary American English. We conclude the paper with a discussion of our study’s implications for the art and craft of screenwriting.