Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communication

Major Professor

Roxanne Watson, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Justin Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Justin Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Scott Liu, Ph.D.


Arthurian legend, British history, Chivalry, Rhetoric, Tennyson


This study uses Winston Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech, delivered to the House of Commons following the evacuation of Dunkirk, France in June 1940, as a source text by which to examine Churchill's use of British cultural narratives in political communication. Narrative and heuristic theories are proposed as means by which listeners process such messages. A number of rhetorical devices are defined, in order to inform a discussion of the narratives identified, particularly the means by which those narratives were rhetorically embedded in the text. After a careful examination of the source text, the narratives of knighthood and chivalric values, as well as King Arthur and the Arthurian legend, specifically as presented in Tennyson's Idylls of the King, were identified as primary cultural narratives from which Churchill draws much meaning. A thorough critical history of each of these narratives is undertaken, revealing sentiments of oath-bound civic duty tracing back to Britain's historical founding as a culture and a nation, following the fall of Rome in the fifth century, and persisting up until Churchill's use of those sentiments in his historic 1940 speech.