Date of Award
Billy J. Stratton, Ph.D.
9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kenneth Burke, Scapegoating, War Literature
A rhetorical approach to the fiction of war offers an appropriate vehicle by which one may encounter and interrogate such literature and the cultural metanarratives that exist therein. My project is a critical analysis—one that relies heavily upon Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic method and his concepts of scapegoating, the comic corrective, and hierarchical psychosis—of three war novels published in 2012 (The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, FOBBIT by David Abrams, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain). This analysis assumes a rhetorical screen in order to subvert and redirect the grand narratives the United States perpetuates in art form whenever it goes to war.
Kenneth Burke’s concept of ad bellum purificandum (the purification of war) sought to bridge the gap between war experience and the discourse that it creates in both art and criticism. My work extends that project. I examine the symbolic incongruity of convenient symbols that migrate from war to war (“Geronimo” was used as code for Osama bin Laden’s death during the S.E.A.L team raid; “Indian Country” stands for any dangerous land in Iraq; hajji is this generation’s epithet for the enemy other). Such an examination can weaken our cultural “symbol mongering,” to borrow a phrase from Walker Percy. These three books, examined according to Burke’s methodology, exhibit a wide range of approaches to the soldier’s tale. Notably, however, whether they refigure the grand narratives of modern culture or recast the common redemptive war narrative into more complex representations, this examination shows how one can grasp, contend, and transcend the metanarrative of the typical, redemptive war story.
Buchanan, David Andrew, "Rotten Symbol Mongering: Scapegoating in Post-9/11 American War Literature" (2015). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1014.
Recieved from ProQuest
David Andrew Buchanan
American Literature, Rhetoric, American Studies