Journal of Advances in Humanities and Social Sciences
Journal ISSN: 2414-3111
Article DOI:
Received: 27 February 2016
Accepted: 30 May 2016
Published: 12 August 2016
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  • Political correctness on David Mamet’s Oleanna

Heejoo Kim

Published online: 2016


Since 1992, when David Mamet’s Oleanna was first performed, critics have dealt with a broad range of issues to interpret this provocative play. In general, gender politics was comprehended as the main theme of Oleanna since gender difference was the most visible difference between two confronting characters. The hearing of Anita Hill accusing judge candidate Clarence Thomas for sexual harassment also contributed to narrowing critical framework down toward gender politics in Oleanna. However, if one focuses solely on ‘sexual harassment’ to interpret the significance of the play, he or she might dismiss multilayered problems suggested by David Mamet. It is essential to consider historical context for understanding the play properly. Oleanna was written in the 1990s conflated with political conflicts caused by ideological binary and contension among various communities. The historical context and its cultural conflict between WASP and unprivileged groups are reflected upon John, a middle-class elite white man, and Carol, a woman pupil wanting to be accustomed to rules and terminology of academia. Collision between two separate groups and their struggle to usurp power are encapsulated in the notion of ‘political correctness’. John, who unintentionally uses his authority in academia by pedantic language, reveals the problem of the privileged white man. He constantly fails to communicate with others belonging to different socio-economic strata. Carol, on the other hand, utilizes the issues concerning with political correctness to usurp hegemony from John. The inevitable difference delineated by two characters’ socioeconomic, gender, and academic background is reinforced by their language and actions. In this work, I will explore how the problem of political correctness is raised by certain action and languageand what the problem of political correctness itself depicted in Oleanna