Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

Christopher C. Hudgins

Number of Pages



The mentor-student relationship is a recurring motif in the work of playwright David Mamet. Mamet's portrayal of this relationship demonstrates a conception of human interaction in ways that closely parallel Jurgen Habermas's theory of "communicative action." Habermas posits his theory as a decentered method of examining human subjects' attempts to establish intersubjective claims of validity with other subjects through the media of communication and argumentation. Within this concept, Habermas defines the "Ideal Speech Situation" (ISS), or rational discourse free of any relations of domination aimed at creating an intersubjective recognition of validity between two speaking subjects; Mamet's own conception of community parallel's Habermas's ideal. The playwright's characters disrupt possibilities for ideal communication in large part through the invocation of the role of mentor, a position understood as one of superiority within the lifeworld of Mamet's characters; Mamet's social context also reflects Paulo Freire's "banking concept of education"; Freire's theory provides a versatile heuristic in which to frame these "educational" relationships for Habermasian analysis. The following plays serve as primary material for this dissertation: Sexual Perversity in Chicago, American Buffalo, A Life in the Theatre, Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, Oleanna, and The Cryptogram. In addition, secondary materials such as Mamet's minor plays, screenplays, fiction writing and essays serve to contextualize the major works and illustrate the broad scope of this motif.


Action; Communicative; Communicative Action; David; Kill; Major; Mamet; Mamet, David; People; Plays; Pedagogy; Teach; Way

Controlled Subject

American literature; Literature, Modern; Theater; Education--Philosophy

File Format


File Size

7618.56 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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