Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Kate Willink


Rhetoric, Narrative, Retail therapy


Retail therapy, or shopping to improve our mood, develops as a rhetorical force that operates quietly, but forcefully in culture to keep capitalism intact. Retail therapy is a compilation of therapeutic narratives about shopping’s ability to give purpose and meaning to life. This dissertation composes a constellation of retail therapy, or rhetorical forces that construct, define, administer, and evaluate capitalistic norms as they engage with other narratives and artifacts (including institutions, space, and messages) in society. To map out the constellation of retail therapy the author examines the relationships between personal narrative (collected through interviews with self-declared avid shoppers who claim to do retail therapy) and master narratives distributed through pop cultures (advertisements, T.V. shows, magazines, blogs, songs etc.). The connections among these narratives operate as rhetorical forces that govern individuals’ lives and cultural norms.

Three themes emerged from the analysis of this data. First, this dissertation illuminates how personal and master narratives frame retail therapy as a natural and necessary facet of human nature. The second theme parses out retail therapy as a means for exercising control over life’s circumstances. The final theme explores how narratives about retail therapy frame shopping as an acceptable addiction. Together these themes illuminate the way shoppers and society frame retail therapy as a constraint and also an essential source of freedom. They also lay the foundation for theorizing social change.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. This work may only be accessed by members of the University of Denver community. The work is provided by permission of the author for individual research purposes only and may not be further copied or distributed. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Keeley Megan Buehler Hunter


Received from author

File Format




File Size

318 pgs