Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Eric Eisenberg, Ph.D.


Burke, Guilt, Purification, Rhetoric, Illness narratives


This dissertation explores four narrative texts written about AIDS/HIV and evaluates each one by applying Kenneth Burke's redemption drama, consisting of guilt, purification, and redemption. The methodology is a close textual analysis using rhetorical analysis as a way to highlight the use of the redemption drama in language. The first chapter explores the history of AIDS/HIV and makes the argument for using Burke's rhetorical approach. The second chapter briefly highlights the plot of the four narratives and provides background information and context for each book. The third chapter applies the concept of guilt to all four narratives. The fourth chapter uses purification, breaking it down into mortification and victimage. Chapter five explains the way each protagonist and reader has found redemption. Chapter six concludes the research and offers limits and possible areas for future study. This research shows that with illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV/AIDS, those ill often feel the need to defend themselves and their mode of infection to others. Using Burke's redemption drama, an analyst can study language use to show how these individuals defend their medical status to others, and how this allows them to redefine both themselves and their ailments.