Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Stucky, Nathan


This dissertation considers the rhetorical use of the term “spontaneity” and action affiliated with it from the perspective of ethnomethodology, as a dynamic social practice emergent from concrete interactions among people. I first consider a variety of existing operationalizations of “spontaneity” in academic research from the perspective of what is ethnomethodologically accomplished by these operationalizations, i.e., what questions do they answer or attempt to answer? I then turn to a detailed rhetorical analysis of the term “spontaneity” as an ideograph in improvisational theatre, a social practice in which enactment of spontaneity is treated as criterial to identity and recognition of the practice. In this ideographic analysis, I consider both a set of popular improv method texts and a collection of interviews with improviers who relate narratives about their experiences or observations of spontaneity. I assess the rhetorical practices in these artifacts both through the operationalization framework I identify and from a critical perspective, asking how practices of spontaneity in improv relate to social structures and practices of privilege, oppression and power.




This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.