Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Chairman of the Committee Character Analysis

The Chairman of the Committee, a thinly veiled reference to the American academic Richard McKeon, oversees the interdisciplinary study program at the University of Chicago, in which Phaedrus enrolls. The Chairman is a staunch Aristotelian, which puts him in opposition to Phaedrus’s ideas on Quality. He is therefore a chief antagonist to Phaedrus, and the two clash in the classroom on several occasions.
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The Chairman of the Committee Character Timeline in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The timeline below shows where the character The Chairman of the Committee appears in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 28
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Identity Theme Icon
Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
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...to the program by its interim acting chairman based on his résumé. When the program’s Chairman returns, Phaedrus interviews with him for a scholarship, but the Chairman distinguishes between substance and... (full context)
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The narrator recollects a fragmented memory of Phaedrus commenting to the Assistant Chairman that he hadn’t noticed Aristotle in the committee’s curriculum. The Assistant Chairman was aghast that... (full context)
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Zen Theme Icon
Phaedrus’s letter to the Chairman comes across as deluded and megalomaniacal. The interdisciplinary committee suggests that he study with the... (full context)
Chapter 30
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Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
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After several weeks, Phaedrus’s class meets again, this time taught by the Chairman of the Committee. Phaedrus understands that this is the time when his ideas will be... (full context)
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Rationality and Irrationality Theme Icon
In the next class, Phaedrus tries to defer to the Chairman, but the Chairman snaps at him nastily. After this class, Phaedrus stops attending. His lectures... (full context)