Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Rita Jacobs

Committee Member

Daniel Bronson

Committee Member

Emily Isaacs


David Mamet's ’style is remarkably minimal; there is little in the way of stage direction and his dialogue is often a staccato vernacular. At the same time, within the apparently loose frameworks of his plays lie the seeds of their own destruction: Mamet makes up for the lack of obvious, literal stage direction with the subtle downward spiral of the plot; the coarse frankness of the language depicts worlds nearly devoid of - or at least rapidly losing - their sense of morality or whatever implicit ideas and ideals are central to maintaining the appearance of the status quo. Whether the characters are academics, businessmen, or thieves, Mamet possesses them communicate his fundamental lack of faith in all of humanity, a fate inextricably linked with what he sees as poor choices and values, a fate from which we may never recover. The overall effect of this world view is Mamet's signature brand of what I have termed "Devolving Theater," in which the unraveling of the circumstances within the plays themselves lead the characters perpetually downward, away from any sense of resolution or absolution. To this end, the purpose of this thesis is to explore in-depth the devolution in the plays of David Mamet, focusing specifically on three of his plays: A Life in the Theatre (1977), Oleanna (1992), and Romance (2005). I will be focusing on character relationships and the use of language, as these are the areas in which the devolution is manifested.

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