Rewriting the script: Using rhetorical theory to mitigate the effects of media violence

Lee H Marshall, University of Rhode Island


Statement of problem. The approach that communications researchers have taken to try to combat media violence effects is inadequate. While some promising interventions have been discovered, the complexity of reactions to media and the differences in personal characteristics of viewers make empirical studies of limited use. Rhetorical theory is a more appropriate fit for analyzing media violence. The recent work by composition scholars dealing with the role emotion plays in moving people to action suggests a promising area for the development of theory. Educators can take the lead in responding to the media research findings appropriately, not through unnecessarily restrictive policies, but through language study. Methods used. This is an interdisciplinary study which uses theory from one discipline to explain the experimental procedures of another. First, I conducted a review of the literature and examined communications research which focused on mediating or intervening in the link between media violence and aggressive and violent behavior in children. I identified the behavioral choices present in the literature, and showed how an application of the concepts and terminology from rhetorical theory allowed these choices to be broadened and deepened. I demonstrated how these choices can be treated as sites for rhetorical education and rhetorical intervention. I identified and described how rhetorical education leads to a set of rhetorical interventions that can be implemented to lessen media-aggression effects. Summary of the results. Rhetorical theory is an appropriate fit because television viewing is interactive—at once social and rhetorical. Applying theory from rhetoric and composition allows us to look more carefully at possible sources and incidences of societal violence and aggression, in an attempt to uncover conditions that give rise to anger and rage. Preparing students to become symbol-wise in the classroom may be preferable to parents censoring children's television viewing and identifying specific media violence interventions. This approach will help children reflect on language's contribution to conflict, but also allow children to develop the agency necessary to advocate for their own interests.

Subject Area

Rhetoric|Mass communications

Recommended Citation

Lee H Marshall, "Rewriting the script: Using rhetorical theory to mitigate the effects of media violence" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3430332.