Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
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.
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