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The Demands of Character: Performances of Authenticity and Virtue in Marginalized Group Street Protests 1976-2000

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The Demands of Character: Performances of Authenticity and Virtue in Marginalized Group Street Protests 1976-2000

Ronis, Eric (2013) The Demands of Character: Performances of Authenticity and Virtue in Marginalized Group Street Protests 1976-2000. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This dissertation investigates the means of persuasion available to marginalized identity groups who protest against the state. “Performances of authenticity and virtue” provide one theoretical framework to explain how a group’s very identity as “marginalized other” can be leveraged rhetorically for claim-making against the state and as a way of creating social/political change. Protest groups frequently harness the power of radical street performance. Because of the theatricality of the protest, a focus on “character” rather than “identity” seems more appropriate. An audience’s judgment of protestor character as “authentic” or “virtuous” requires a horizon against which such evaluation can occur. The street performances therefore require recognizable character “types,” characters inherited from various cultural narratives, and such characters make their own demands on the protestors. Aristotle’s treatment of character as rhetorical ethos (Rhetoric), as dramatis persona (Poetics), and as one’s virtuous or vicious nature (Nichomachean Ethics) serves as a basic division, structurally, in this thesis. Stanislavski’s approach to theatrical performance offers insights into how the inhabiting of character and meeting the demands of a script function for protests. His premises that actors need to be in belief and fully committed to their performances are vital to successful performances of authenticity. Erving Goffman, in sociology, relies on these same premises. Special emphasis is placed on the tactics used by protestors–these are their rhetorical pisteis, the appeals that actually persuade the audience. These tactics are intimately tied to the identities and specific situations of the protestors themselves. There is a clear connection between ethos and logos. I apply Burke’s concept of “impious rhetoric” here. The sense of “what goes with what” is violated according to the rules of the public sphere, but justified in another sense by the collective character of the protesting group.
This dissertation represents an intersection among three academic areas: rhetoric, theatre and sociology. Concepts from one discipline help solve theoretical problems and fill in lacunae existing in the other disciplines.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Concordia University > Research Units > Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Ronis, Eric
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Humanities
Date:30 November 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Charland, Maurice
ID Code:978209
Deposited By: ERIC RONIS
Deposited On:12 Jun 2014 19:50
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:46
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