Document Type

Thesis

Publication Date

2019

Conference Name

(It was submitted to the National Communication Association Conference, but acceptance is pending)

First Advisor

Peter Simonson

Second Advisor

Donna Mejia

Third Advisor

Cindy H. White

Abstract

The moments of terror, emergency, and helplessness that unfold during a crisis extend beyond their initial occurrence through narrative. The stories that emerged from the December 13, 2013, Arapahoe High School shooting in news articles written by The Denver Post and in the survivor-authored play Thirteen provided different narratives about crisis and offered different ways to make sense of a traumatic event. Brummett (1984) highlighted the importance of communication in making sense of crisis by tasking the Burkean rhetorical critic to identify “the modes of discourse enjoying currency in a society and to link discourse to the real situations for which it is symbolic equipment” (p. 161). Thus, the study of representational narratives matters in the context of crises because these narratives function as post-crisis discourse that equips individuals to make sense of disturbing situations and respond. By exploring news media portrayals and a theatrical representation of the Arapahoe High School shooting using dramatistic pentadic analysis, this study seeks to discover narratives that mediate society’s experience with the Arapahoe High School shooting and to respond with art. The artistic response aimed to encourage empathy and activism through an installation dance performance and discussion event called Equipment for Living: An Artistic Exploration of School Shootings. Performance was used to address the passivity media consumers often adopt when encountering crises in the news. By creating a space to actively engage the issue, Equipment for Living led to conversation about school shootings and the need to collectively mitigate them. Rhetorical analysis and dance thus complemented each other as vehicles for investigating school shootings in the study to reveal that news provides a foundation for information about crises and that art can be a way to understand them at a deeper level of emotional intelligence and to address them with activism.

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