Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Kristin M. Langellier

Second Committee Member

Eric E. Peterson

Third Committee Member

Claire F. Sullivan


This study examines the theoretical concept of mimesis for its significance and contributions within communication studies. Mimesis has most often been characterized as a theory of imitation and concerned with the meaning of artistic representation. Using Stanly Deetz's (1994) Informational and Communicational perspectives of communication, this study demonstrates the different ways in which mimesis can be conceptualized. Conceptualized as imitation, sameness and difference, mimesis is developed as a theory that can provide new and different perspectives to communication theory and phenomena. Each conceptualization of mimesis provides a distinct theory of mimesis based on different orientations to knowledge, power, and human thought. Viewed as imitation, based out of an informational perspective, mimesis assumes fixed reality and meaning, whereas mimesis as difference, based out of a communicational perspective, highlights the constitutive process of meaning production which occurs as a result of human communication that is always grounded in a specific context, space, and time. In order to demonstrate how these conceptualization are useful to the study of communication concepts and phenomena, the discourse of gender performance is discussed, and the constraints placed on the woman athlete are analyzed. Thus, masculinity and femininity are discussed in order to better understand the mimetic constraints of the WNBA athlete. Images of NBA athletes are used to illustrate the masculine discourse of sport, and images of supermodels in the 2004 Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition depict traditional femininity. Lastly, Images of the WNBA athlete are used to illustrate the complex and often contradictory performance of the female athlete performing in the masculine domain. As a result, the concept of mimesis as developed for communication studies is most beneficial when taking a communicational perspective. Through this perspective, the differences and unsettled nature of meanings and values are highlighted. This allows the possibility to challenge current social norms and power systems. Mimesis as a communication concept is significant because it shows the ways that communication creates meanings and values through the human interaction.

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