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A: David Mamet Pf: 1992, New York Pb: 1992 G: Drama in 3 acts S: College professor's room, USA, 1990s C: 1m, 1fJohn, a college professor who has been promised tenure, agrees to discuss a failed paper with Carol, one of his students. After phoning his wife about the purchase of their new house, he tries to explain to Carol where she has gone wrong. She is eager but not very bright; he tries to help but is inarticulate. She apologizes for not understanding; he apologizes for not making himself understood. Because he is guilty about the nature of higher education, John suggests that they do a deal: they will ‘start over’ the class, and she will get an ‘A’, because he likes her, and puts a reassuring arm round her shoulder. Carol registers a formal complaint against him, denying him approval of his tenure, accusing him of sexism, of embracing her, and of offering her better grades in exchange for regular meetings. Aware that she is using language fed to her by her ‘Group’, he pleads with her to communicate her true feelings. As she tries to leave, in desperation he restrains her, and she shouts for help. At their final meeting, John is now suspended from his post and has lost the new house. Still begging Carol to explain what he has done wrong, she offers to get her Group to treat him more favourably if he agrees to ban books of which they disapprove. Furious, he tells her to get out, then learns from a phone call that she has filed an accusation of attempted rape against him. Finally losing all control, he knocks her to the floor and calls her ‘a little cunt’. ‘That's right,’ she replies.

A: David Mamet Pf: 1992, New York Pb: 1992 G: Drama in 3 acts S: College professor's room, USA, 1990s C: 1m, 1f

This controversial play is the most searing examination in contemporary theatre of ‘political correctness’. Ironically, it is John's well-meaning but clumsy efforts to undermine the elitist division between tutor and student that embroils him in the difficulties engineered by the Stalinist feminists of the ‘Group’. Carol herself moves from inarticulacy via platitudes to her own insights into gender conflict.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Theatre.

Reference entries

David Mamet (b. 1947) American dramatist, director, and screenwriter

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