Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Supreme Court and the “Pursuit of Happiness”: Terministic Screens and American Rights Rhetoric
by Profenius, Lucienne Marie, M.A., California State University, Long Beach, 2019, 106; 22587842
Abstract (Summary)

In this thesis, I examine the different iterations of the “pursuit of happiness” in the 96 Supreme Court cases in which the phrase is applied. Drawing from Kenneth Burke, I argue that the “pursuit of happiness” is defined with three general terminsitic screens that form the basis for interpreting the phrase in American constitutional rights and politics: (1) Natural Rights, (2) Constitutional Rights, and (3) Legal Rights. I propose that studying the “pursuit of happiness” in these decisions provides insight as to how the Court has used the phrase rhetorically to advance ideographic, persuasive, administrative, legal, and material interests in a given case. This project asserts that the “pursuit of happiness” is a rhetorically negotiated and contingent idea which has ideological implications for interpreting it one way or another. Because of the pervasiveness of the “pursuit of happiness” within American culture, I argue that it is important to understand the different ways the phrase functions.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Johnson, Kevin A
Commitee: Asenas, Jennifer, Eisenstadt, Michael
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Communication Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 81/4(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Communication, Rhetoric, Law
Keywords: definition, pursuit of happiness, rights rhetoric, Supreme Court, terministic screens
Publication Number: 22587842
ISBN: 9781687954428
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