Social movements theory: A Burkean approach to the rhetoric of abolition

Elena Maytee Cruz, Florida International University


Inspired by Kenneth Burke's dramatism, this thesis examined the viability of social movements rhetorical theory in its application to literature by focusing on the 19th century abolitionist movement in the United States and moving from the analysis of public speeches to fictional works. Chapter one applied the rhetorical analysis of social movements to noteworthy speeches by William Lloyd Garrison and Francis Maria W. Stewart. Chapter two examined social movements rhetoric in The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Chapter three considered Uncle Tom's Cabin and determined whether social movements rhetorical theory could illuminate this persuasive work of fiction. Dramatistically speaking, each of these works attempted to persuade the reader or auditor to join the abolitionist cause through symbolic action in their rhetoric. This thesis concluded that the social movements approach derived from Burkean dramatism is indeed powerful in its application to literature as it unpacks the rhetoric of abolition.

Subject Area

American literature|Rhetoric|Composition

Recommended Citation

Cruz, Elena Maytee, "Social movements theory: A Burkean approach to the rhetoric of abolition" (2003). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI1413552.