The Textualization of Pat Tillman: Understanding the Relationships Between Person, Discourse, and Ideology

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This project is a critical examination of the ways in which the life and death of Pat Tillman were shaped into a discursive Pat Tillman. This is not a project that examines the life led by the person Pat Tillman. The discursive Pat Tillman can be found in the pages of magazines, on television, invoked by politicians, and even memorialized in song. It is Pat Tillman, the discursive creation, that is my focus. In this project I take for granted that Pat Tillman only existed in places like the pages of books or on film. What is not lost on me and should not be lost on the reader of this project is my own participation in this process. With this project I have entered into the very discourses that I seek to critique. This is an analysis of the existence of a Pat Tillman that many people still know and the ideas that help shape how that existence is communicated.

My critique focuses on the existence of a discursive Pat Tillman as a rhetorical phenomenon, drawing upon scholarship that can inform an understanding of how the life of Pat Tillman became the material for public discourse. My analysis interconnects Michel Foucault's (1972) work on knowledge and discourse with Michael Calvin McGee (1990) referred to as rhetorical fragments, in order to provide a foundation for understanding the discursive existence of Pat Tillman. Using how discourse producer connected various facts, stories, and images with conceptions of heroism, masculinity, and the American Dream, I reveal how the life and death of Pat Tillman was used as the material to represent political and cultural positions that exist external to that life. Through an analysis of the various news reports, books, documentaries, blogs, and other mediated texts that were produced in response to the life and death of Pat Tillman, this study presents a clearer picture of what is meant by "fragmentation" in critical analysis.