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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

16. The Search For Identity

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Toni Cade Bambara
- Sandra Cisneros
- Judith Ortiz Cofer
- Leslie Feinberg
- Diane Glancy
- Maxine Hong Kingston
- David Mamet
- Toni Morrison
- Thomas Pynchon
- Alice Walker
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: David Mamet (b. 1947)

Map of Chicago, 1970
[9072] U.S. Department of the Interior, Map of Chicago, 1970, from the National Atlas of the United States of America, U.S. Geological Survey (1970), courtesy of the General Libraries, University of Texas at Austin.

David Mamet Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
David Mamet was born on the Jewish south side of Chicago. His plays have been performed throughout the country, in his hometown as well as in New York City, where Mamet studied the Stanislavsky method of acting. He has said that this method made him aware of how "the language we use, its rhythm, actually determines the way we behave, more than the other way around." It is important, then, for Mamet's audiences and readers to pay close attention to his use of language.

David Mamet's language in his plays and films is so distinctive that it is now known as "Mametspeak." His characters talk through, around, and over each other, sometimes clarifying and sometimes obliterating meaning, and his works have been described as perfect for "people who love words." In Glengarry Glen Ross, for which he received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize, Mamet tells the story of a desperate man attempting to keep his job in a profession that, for better or worse, has passed him by. The play uses the business of sales as a metaphor for the American condition, as characters jostle for position in an office where there are only so many "leads" to go around. For these men, who have been defined by their work, the end of a career could necessitate a new search for identity in a world that may seem as if it no longer has room for them.

In 1988's play Speed the Plow, in which Madonna was the original lead actress, Mamet used his experience as a screenwriter to stage a scathing critique of the truth behind Hollywood's glamorous facade. The film world has nonetheless treated him well. Since beginning his screenwriting career in 1981, Mamet has succeeded equally in films and in theater. Unlike many other writers who have attempted to "go Hollywood," Mamet has maintained his reputation as a legitimate writer. His film credits include The Untouchables (1987), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), The Edge (1997), and Wag the Dog (1997). Mamet's plays include The Duck Variations (1972), Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974), American Buffalo (1977), and Oleanna (1992).

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