Fantasy, Rhetorical Vision, and the Critical Act
My main instrument for evaluating Kerouac's vision derives from Ernest G. Bormann's theorizing on fantasy theme analyses. 1 In his provocative 1972 essay, "Fantasy and Rhetorical Vision: The Rhetorical Criticism of Social Reality," Bormann extends from the pathbreaking work of psychologist Robert Bales in Personality and Interpersonal Behavior. In this chapter, I develop my methodological assumptions and review the general literature on fantasy theme analysis.
According to Bormann, Bales made a critical contribution to understanding group behaviors by discovering how "investigations of small group communication provide insight into the nature of public address and mass communication" ( 1972, 396). For Bales, as Bormann points out, the connection between small groups of people interacting and the influence of these groups on a larger audience can be understood in terms of "fantasy themes." Fantasy themes are the units of exchange, the negotiated currency that connects alienated people to each other. Fantasy themes help people to bridge their alienation and to build a communal and thus communicative consciousness. When amplified, this consciousness has the potential to spread. As Bormann explains, "Group fantasizing correlates with individual fantasizing and extrapolates to speaker- audience fantasizing and to the dream merchants of the mass media" ( 1972, 396).
The amplification of interpersonal processes that takes place in the mass media involves what is traditionally known as "rhetoric." Amplification involves transcendence and influence, structure and strategy. As