“the Modern Academy Raging in the Dark”
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,
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The misunderstanding of Mamet’s play as addressing sexual harassment and gender issues further is revealed by the background of the title and Mamet’s own words. The title “Oleanna” refers to an actual “19th century Utopia established in Western Pennsylvania by a Norwegian singer who wanted an ideal, planned housing community in which his fellow countrymen could live.” In Mamet’s own words: “‘The play is about failed Utopia, in this case the failed Utopia of Academia.’” Mamet also said that drama was about “power” and the conflict between the motivations of two people.
By the end of the play, we see details foreboding Carol’s bleak future following the footsteps of her fallen professor. Like John, who despised his teachers and school, Carol’s negative academic experience is likely to make her equally as bitter. In the third act, Carol’s language likewise heightens and takes on an obscurer style. Despite the initial interpretations of Oleanna as handling sexual assault and gender conflict in higher education, “Mamet has shown that he or she who reads best ultimately survives.” Thus, the play deals with the use of specialized language as a tool of power in academia.
I agree with Badenhausen’s main argument and think that he makes a strong case for his point. I also noticed Mamet’s unique use of the language and the