Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



This dissertation presents a dramatistic critique of the various crises and challenges assaulting United States soldiers and the current U.S. construction of warrior heroism through the theoretical lens of “Equipment for Dying.” Equipment for Dying theorizes that each specific crisis or challenge faced is a contemporary incarnation of an archetypal challenged faced by all soldiers and the societies that send them to war. Therefore, the dramatic form of the myth of the heroic warrior provides models and guidelines for interpreting and responding to the “deaths” of the soldier: physical, psychological, or economic. As a theoretical frame, Equipment for Dying seeks to answer the question: “How are we to respond when Johnny doesn’t come marching home but is instead carried home on a stretcher, wheeled home while wearing a straightjacket, or borne home in a casket”. To accomplish this ambitious task, this dissertation discusses various discourses that speak about heroism and the crises surrounding U.S. soldiers – the cinematic trope of the shell-shocked soldier, the TALOS suit project, the argument to private veteran health care, the move to rename Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and the suicide of Daniel Somers – setting each alongside a particular episode in heroic myth, using the Anglo-Saxon epic of Beowulf as a model, to show how the heroic myth both prepares society for the probability of such situations but provides a rhetorical strategy for responding to these situations in keeping with society’s values.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Grey, Stephanie Houston



Included in

Communication Commons