Book Summary: The Modern Academy Raging in the Dark

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  • Topic: David Mamet, Oleanna, William H. Macy
  • Pages : 3 (966 words )
  • Download(s) : 80
  • Published : August 14, 2012
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Summary of “The Modern Academy Raging In The Dark” by Richard Badenhausen
In David Mamet’s Oleanna, the inclusion of the controversial topics of gender conflict, sexual harassment and political correctness in colleges led most critics to point to these as the main themes of the play. A year before it the play appeared, the Clarence Thomas-Hill controversy had occurred, helping push these issues in the play to the forefront of reader’s minds. However, the “difficulties of acquiring and controlling language, particularly in the specialized environment of the academy” and the lack of understanding between the two characters as a result show to be the underlying focuses of this play. Though not an exciting conclusion for most readers, Oleanna’s message is one concerning higher education in America.

Mamet set’s up the plays structure and plot in order to create ambiguity and allow the reader to interpret the conflict’s resolution as well as make their own judgments about the play’s topics and characters. The ambiguity comes from the confusion between John and Carol and the unclear division between protagonist and antagonist. Each character possesses faults and sympathy shifts between characters. John fails to communicate successfully with Carol because of the “specialized language that assigns status according to an individual’s ability to employ that discourse,” while Carol finds herself frustrated by her obvious inability to understand his lofty, alienating speech. Carol’s original motivation is to understand this world of language, while John’s motivation is ultimately the power and ego gained through his mastery of this world. The first act, often not given much attention by critics, “explores what is means to teach.”

The following two acts deal with the results of John’s inability to teach. John has succumbed to the lust for power, making him serve himself rather than his students. He controls the action in the office and dominates over Carol...
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