The Laramie Project

Discourse Communities, Censorship, and Outsider Perspective in "The Laramie Project" College

Joseph Harris outlines an analytical approach to rhetoric through the identification and classification of discourse communities. The application of Harris’ model to The Laramie Project reveals two individual communities’ desires to be perceived as positive entities, but also the actual impact that their rhetoric has on the outside observers.

The Laramie Project is a play composed of a series of interviews taken by the Tectonic Theatre Project of New York. The group traveled to Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 to collect over 200 perspectives on the murder of Matthew Shepard. Matt was a student at the University of Wyoming, located in Laramie. He was kidnapped, driven to a remote area, beaten, and tied to a fence. A few days later, he died due to the injuries sustained in the beating. Matt was homosexual and his death was motivated by the perpetrators’ hate for the gay community. The play eloquently reveals a series of discourse communities within Laramie as they reflect upon the hate crime that their town is now known for.

One identifiable discourse community is the elderly women of Laramie, Wyoming. Two members of this community, Marge Murray and Alison Mears, sit down to converse with an interviewer. Marge and Alison are posed as the...

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