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Comedy as cure for tragedy: Act up and the rhetoric of aids
Quarterly Journal of Speech (1996)
  • Adrienne Christiansen
  • Jeremy J Hanson
The rhetorical strategies of the direct action AIDS organization, ACT UP, are analyzed using Kenneth Burke's concept of the comic frame. Commentators have criticized ACT UP for its rude, angry, irreverent, and indecorous demonstrations. The group's actions reflect the immediate danger of AIDS‐related sickness and death that many ACT UP protesters face; they also reflect the group's reliance on the comic frame as a way of contending with the onus of being named the scapegoats for introducing AIDS to the United States. In contrast to the prevailing tragic frame, comic rhetoric is hopeful and humane because it invites reconciliation and affirms the importance of rationality and community. ACT UP's challenge to the prevailing tragic frame of guilt‐victimage‐redemption‐purification was designed to reposition its members as part of the community and reframe the AIDS crisis in realistic, humane, and pragmatic terms. The study suggests conditions under which other despised and oppressed groups may respond after having been scapegoated by society.
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Citation Information
Adrienne Christiansen and Jeremy J Hanson. "Comedy as cure for tragedy: Act up and the rhetoric of aids" Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 82 Iss. 2 (1996) p. 157 - 170
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