The enduring legacy of lost cause discourses : a generic exploration of shared identity and collective action in movement rhetoric
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation explores the genre of lost cause discourses. It posits that the genre of lost cause discourses has the ability to define heroes and villains as rhetors move audiences by shaping the reality of the social milieu. By reconstructing lived experience and felt injustices of individuals, each case study examined how rhetors utilize the lost cause form to produce counter narratives of hope. Analysis of artifacts drawn from under-examined social movements in the United States over the last 150 years demonstrates the ways in which lost causes exist in the sociopolitical world where effort on behalf of the cause actually takes place. In Chapter One I introduce the social, rhetorical, and theoretical significance of lost cause discourse in a review of literature. I put forth the central argument of this project by suggesting that lost cause discourses are essential to the construction of shared identity and social action within movement groups. In Chapter Two, I demonstrate the formal characteristics and internal dynamic of the genre by exploring post-Civil War discourse. In Chapter Three, I examine how a small scale anti-nuclear movement employed the lost cause form to generate faith in an educated citizenry as a means of engendering change in their community. In Chapter Four, I interrogate how Alcoholics Anonymous frames spirituality as a means of lost cause redemption. Chapter Five synthesizes findings to suggest dimensions for a theory of lost cause discourses.