Signaling Through the Flames: Theatre Fires and Disaster Sociology
University of Kansas
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“Signaling Through the Flames: Theatre Fires and Disaster Sociology” re-examines archival evidence relevant to three of the most destructive and deadly fires in American theatre history: Richmond, Virginia in 1811, Brooklyn, New York in 1876, and Chicago, Illinois in 1903. Through the use of the theories of disaster sociology, “Signaling Through the Flames” positions disaster as an inherently theatrical process of disruption, after which various parties, constructed as “grass-roots” communities and “elite-level” institutional groups, compete to gain control of the narrative of the disaster event and, in doing so, contribute in significant ways to creating and disseminating an “official” history of the disaster. This official history often comes at the expense of the memories and experiences of the grass-roots group; “Signaling Through the Flames” works to make these acts of remembering and forgetting visible through reclaiming historical accounts that dispute or resist the accepted record. “Signaling Through the Flames” argues that the narrative and rhetorical tropes used to construct these official histories reinforce and reinscribe the systems of social order that were disrupted and made visible by the disaster event, and thus contribute meaningfully and importantly to the necessary negotiation of sociopersonal identity in the post-disaster paradigm. The dissertation is organized chronologically in three parts, each of which is broken down into chapters. Each part provides an analysis of pre-disaster culture, and a recounting of the disaster event; however, the majority of each chapter focuses on cultural production in the post-disaster paradigm, and how that production either serves or resists social or political acts of remembering and forgetting.
- Dissertations 
- Theatre Scholarly Works 
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