Date of Award

12-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Gray, Jonathan

Abstract

Environmentalists are accustomed to using the rhetorical appeals of guilt and sacrifice to advocate their agendas. I argue that the motivations of guilt and sacrifice do not mirror the goals of sustainability, and are easy for anthropocentric-resourcist ideology (ARI) agendas to counter. When it comes to actual environmental policy change, however, the rhetorical means in which guilt and sacrifice appeals arise are valid and sustainable: the melodramatic frame and dialogic engagement. I use these rhetorical tools to inform my readings of two eco-comedic artifacts: Earth to America! and my own performance work with "The Composters." Through these analyses, I argue that comedy is a viable method that matches the message of environmentalism. Comedy becomes a kind of discursive biomimicry that mirrors, as a predator does a prey, the language of ARI. Since comedy is dependent on contradiction and juxtaposition, it becomes an adequate tool for calling the bluff on ARI agendas that are based on illogical claims that sound ecologically savvy (e.g., "clean coal"). In this dissertation I undertake an examination of these informative overlaps. I place eco-comedy on the line in order to map a more sustainable environmental rhetoric between the intersections of melodrama, dialogic engagement, environmentalism, comedy, and advocacy.

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