| || Fantasy Theme Rhetorical Analysis of Fan Fiction in the Xenaverse
In another section of this dissertation I discuss the method of analysis used in this study, but before we begin a direct analysis of some of the "texts" collected in the course of my observations of the Xenaverse, it may be helpful to review some of the technical terms and the mechanics of Fantasy-Theme Analysis. This method gathers fantasy themes that have been dramatized and "chained out" in the Xenaverse culture. According to Bormann, the originator of the method, this chaining process helps to unify rhetorical communities by providing a meaningful context for past actions or projections of future actions. Events or activities themselves, while they are happening, are not fantasy themes as such, but within minutes people can begin speaking about them in the past, making sense of the actions, characters, settings, and put them into a dramatic story that gives them meaning. In this respect, the word "fantasy" is not used in its conventional sense as a wild dream or a wish. Rather, fantasy is "the creative and imaginative interpretation of events" (Bormann, qtd in Foss 123). A fantasy theme is "the means through which the interpretation is accomplished in communication. ...Fantasy themes tell a story that accounts for the group's experience and that is the reality of the participants" (Foss). It is interesting to note a qualification Bormann makes as to how the symbols converge to create the "reality of the participants." He does not say ,"A fantasy theme drama is the social reality." Rather, he says, "The fantasy theme drama when shared is a key to the social reality. It is not by itself the social reality" (author's emphasis 304).
Fantasy-Theme Analysis is a dramaturgical approach to rhetorical criticism. It uses the basic elements of a dramatic story as units of analysis. The elements are setting, characters (dramatis personae), and action (or plot). Some characters can also be identified as "sanctioning agents" in the unfolding drama. Heros and villains have roles to play as multiple fantasy themes chain out into "fantasy types" or families of themes that are often invoked and dramatized as a form of in-group shorthand. According to Bormann, "The presence of a fantasy type in the communication of participants in a rhetorical vision indicates that they have shared the fantasy themes that comprise the type prior to the time they drew the comparisons upon which the abstraction was based" (Ten Years Later 295). A rhetorical vision is a "unified putting together of the various shared fantasies" creating a "credible interpretation of reality" (Foss 125). Numerous fantasy types emerge in the Xenaverse and provide evidence that a great deal of fantasy theme chaining is being carried out, enough to fill several books. In my analysis here, I focus specifically on themes, types, and rhetorical visions relating to power and constructions of authority in the Xenaverse. In doing this, I am not necessarily selecting themes, types, and visions which have the highest frequency of appearance in the Xenaverse (although sometimes they do). Instead, I consider the impact of the rhetorical actions on the Xenaverse, and the ethos that can at times give a speaker greater authority. Sometimes one tiny utterance can have greater impact than screenful after screenful of endless debate on some topic that has already been discussed to death.
In the data sector of my study I provide a context for many of the themes I analyze here and in the nodes of Community and Fan Fiction. This review of the technical terms of Fantasy-Theme Analysis appears at the introduction to those sections as well. The icon of Gabrielle's Staff below takes you to a general description of the primary activities of Fandom Culture in the Xenaverse. The icon of Xena's Sword discusses fantasy themes and types specific to Fandom Culture, and the icon of Xena's Breastplate relates those themes to fantasy types and rhetorical visions which appear throughout other sectors of the Xenaverse as well.
The Ballad of the Internet Nutball: The Xenaverse in Cyberspace