Rhetoric in the Disaster Genre

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Dan Roemer. Eastern Washington University Student Research & Creative Works Symposium. May 16, 2012. Genre Theory: . Kathleen Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson 1978 Genre Theory: . Listed four essential standards for a genre analysis…. ID: 430834 Download Presentation

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Rhetoric in the Disaster Genre

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Rhetoric in the Disaster Genre

Dan Roemer

Eastern Washington University Student Research & Creative Works Symposium

May 16, 2012


Genre Theory:

Kathleen Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson 1978 Genre Theory:

Listed four essential standards for a genre analysis…“Classification is justified only by the critical illumination it produces, not by the neatness of a classificatory schema.”“Genre Criticism taken as a mean towards systematic, closed textual analysis.”“A genre is a complex, an amalgam , a constellation of substantive, situational, and stylistic elements.”“Generic analysis reveals both the conventions and affinities that a work shares with others; it uncovers the unique elements in the rhetorical act, the particular means by which a genre is individuated in a given case.”


Independence Day (1996)

The Situation:An alien invasion with the invaders fiercely determined to steal our resources and take over the earth.The Heroes: Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), and President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman). The Villains: The aliens and the Secretary of DefenseThe Government Underling who Inadvertently Sabotages the Heroes:Secretary of Defense Albert Nimzicki (James Reborn). The Resolution: The U.S and the rest of the world successfully hold back an alien invasion and brings victory to humankind.


Dante Peak (1997)

The Situation:The possible eruption of Dante’s Peak a fictional volcano in the Cascade Range. The Heroes:Volcanologist Harry Dalton (Pierce Brosnan), Mayor Rachel Wando (Linda Hamilton), and Harry’s fellow volcanologists. The Government Underling: Paul Dreyfuss (Charles Hallahan), who opposes Harry evacuating the town earlier. The Resolution: The volcano erupts, but with only a small number of casualties and the heroes survive.


2012 (2009)

The Situation:An increase in the Earth’s core temperature resulting in wide spread global cataclysm. The Heroes :Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), Adrian Helmsley (Chiewetel Ejiofor), and Dr. Satnam Tsurutani (Jimi Mistri). The Government Underling: Secretary of State Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt). The Resolution: The government shepherds the world to safety with a large number of casualties, but a renewed chance at survival.


Hollywood Disaster Themes and Trends:

The Hero

Government as the Savior

Finding love amidst the rubble

The Conspiracy Theorist

Government underling


President Whitmore’s Independence Day Speech



"Good morning. Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world, and you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. Mankind, that word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed by our petty differences any more. We will be united in our common interest. Perhaps it's fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution, but from annihilation. We're fighting for our right to live, to exist. And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice, 'We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on, we're going to survive.' Today we celebrate our independence day!" 

President Thomas Whitmore

July 4th, 1996


Kenneth Burke and Dramatism

Kenneth Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad:

All of human life is drama


Seeking Speaker (Movie Director) Motive

SCENE: What is the context in which the interaction occurs?

PURPOSE: What is the goal of the act?

ACT: What is the act that is being done?

AGENCY: What is the means through which the act is being accomplished?

AGENT: Who is performing the action?




The Dramatistic Pentad:

Act: The act is the fighting. Scene: the worldAgent: We is the agent as in the people who are fighting. (second most predominant part of the pentad).Agency: The agency in which the act is occurring is through human will. (most important part of the pentad).Purpose To live to fight for survival



Introduce the topic and why you came to it

Introduce genre theory (or Pentad)

Introduce each movie’s particular generic components (3)

Summary of disaster film generic components

Pullman speech (as anomaly, as gap the genre theory couldn’t explain, as rhetorical criticism opportunity)

Introduce Pentad as method to discover President Whitmore’s motive for speaking



Work Cited:

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