Provides insight into the shared worldview of groups
Ernest G. Bormann
University of Minnesota Currently Professor
Emeritus Department of
Speech-Communication College of Liberal Arts.
Fantasy Theme Analysis is based in
Symbolic Conversion Theory
Symbolic Conversion Theory
• The central formula of the Symbolic Conversion Theory is a process discovered in the study of small group meetings. The discovery occurred as the result of a member making an imaginative comment which suddenly sparked more excited comments, often laughter, and a complete change of the tension and climate in the group. This process resulted in an increase in group cohesion. This process became known as the dynamic sharing of a group “fantasy “
Creates Shared Realities
• Individuals’ meanings for symbols converge to create a shared reality, a community consciousness.
• Consensus and agreement occurs on subjective meanings.
• Community is created to share common experience and build mutual understanding.
• They jointly experience the same emotions.
• They begin to interpret their shared experiences in the same way.
Convergence and Fantasy Theme
• Propaganda campaigns• Advertising campaigns• Social, political and religious groups
and movements• Secret societies• Cultures and sub-cultures• Cults
The Basic Unit of Analysis of Social Convergence & Fantasy
• The Fantasy Theme– “fantasy” is not used here in the popular
sense.– Rather it is “the creative and
imaginative interpretation of events.”– Fantasy themes are words, phrases, and
statements that • interpret the past, • envision the future,• Or depict current events that are removed in
time and space from the group.
Fantasy Themes tell stories about the groups experience
that create reality.• Characters, actions, and settings
removed in space and time from the group.
• Fantasy Themes are dramatic, artistic and organized.
• Fantasy Themes make sense out of chaotic events.
• Shared Fantasies provide good reasons for arguments.
Three types of Fantasy Themes
• The themes are the elements of drama:– Setting themes
• Statements that depict where and describe where the action takes place.
– Character themes• Describe the actors and agents of the drama and their
– Action themes• Called plotlines that deal with the actions in the drama.
• The motives of a group lie in the Rhetorical Vision created by the Fantasy Themes.
• A “unified putting together of the various shared fantasies.”
• The settings, characters, and actions work together to form a symbolic drama, a coherent interpretation of reality.
• People who share a rhetorical vision constitute a Rhetorical Community.– They will cheer and emulate their heroes – They will react with antipathy and despise their
villians.– They will agree on what is evidence, how to
build a case and refute arguments.– The substance of the vision propels the
individuals and their community
Selecting Artifacts for Fantasy Theme Analysis
• Evidence that Symbolic Convergence has occurred.
• That people have shared fantasy themes and a rhetorical vision.
• An advertisement, song, book, or film may show evidence of symbolic convergence.
• Political speeches, comedy monologues, religious sermons can be fantasy themes that divulge rhetorical visions.
Analyzing the Artifact(s)
• Code the artifact for fantasy themes:– Sentence-by-sentence, image-by-image
identify setting, character and action.
• Look for patterns• Construct a rhetorical vision from the
patterns that appear.– There may be more than one.– Together the visions may reveal additional
patterns of a larger vision or reality.
• The construction of a world view.
Formulate a Research Question or
Write the Essay
• Presentation content adapted from:Sonja Foss Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice, 3rd Ed. Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, Illinois: 2004
• Artwork by: Rachael A. Riley, Metaphor, Elwood Gallery,http://elfwood.lysator.liu.se/art/r/a/rachaelar/rachaelar.html