Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Steven Schwarze

Commitee Members

Dr. Sara Hayden, Dr. Nicky Phear


Environmental Communication, Rhetoric, Climate Change, Sublime


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Speech and Rhetorical Studies


Environmental communication scholarship has not significantly advanced the fundamental theories of sublime discourse since their introduction with John Muir and his advocacy for Yosemite National Park. Such a lacuna is problematic, as humanity is entering the age of the Anthropocene where vast ecological destruction is becoming increasingly relevant, and audience engagement is essential if we are to mitigate the worst to come. This essay seeks to remedy the lack of inquiry into how sublime discourse is used to engage audiences with elements of the Anthropocene, in particular, climate change. Based on the analysis of two documentaries, Chasing Ice and Chasing Coral, I find that the sublime response to the Anthropocene and the films’ modifications to the sublime rhetoric pattern are novel and uniquely engage audiences with climate change, to varying degrees of success. Ultimately, I argue that such sublime rhetoric is capable of overcoming the constraints associated with communicating the diffuse and overwhelming threat of climate change, demonstrating its viability in this instance of the Anthropocene.



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