Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Floyd Collins, a Kentucky caver who suffered a lengthy entrapment and eventual death inside Sand Cave in 1925, has had his story told repeatedly and in numerous forms. Although the countless genres (and their historical accuracy) vary, they are basically retellings of the same story—a story filled with drama, suspense, and heroics. Because of these characteristics, the rhetoric of the Floyd Collins ordeal lent itself to examination using Bormann's (1972) fantasy theme method. By using a fantasy theme analysis to explore the saga, I advanced beyond the retellings and gained a greater understanding of why seventy-seven years after he died alone in a Kentucky cave, Floyd Collins' story survives. Specifically, this researcher identified and examined dominant rhetorical visions and communities that emerged from the tragedy and how these influenced the story's perpetuation and continued audience appeal. The method for this study consisted of collecting and analyzing rhetoric produced both during and after Collins' entrapment to reconstruct rhetorical visions. Four dominant rhetorical visions of Floyd Collins were explored: Collins as a tragic hero, Collins as a victim of greed, Collins as a devoted suitor, and Collins as an uneducated hillbilly.


Communication | Rhetoric