Cover image for
Narratives of crisis : telling stories of ruin and renewal / Matthew W. Seeger and Timothy L. Sellnow.
Seeger, Matthew W. (Matthew Wayne), 1957- author.
Stanford, California : Stanford Business Books, an imprint of Stanford University Press, 2016.
199 pages ; 23 cm
High reliability and crisis management.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Other Authors:
Sellnow, Timothy L. (Timothy Lester), 1960- author.
0804788928 (cloth ; alk. paper)

0804799512 (pbk. ; alk. paper)

9780804788922 (cloth ; alk. paper)

9780804799515 (pbk. ; alk. paper)


Material Type
Call Number
Book HD49.3.S451

On Order



How did you first hear about 9/11? What images come to mind when you think of Hurricane Katrina? How did your community react to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting? You likely have your own stories about these tragic events. Yet, as a society, we rarely stop to appreciate the narratives that follow a crisis and their tremendous impact.

This book examines the fundamental role that narratives play in catastrophic events. A crisis creates a communication vacuum, which is then populated by the stories of those who were directly affected, as well as crisis managers, journalists, and onlookers. These stories become fundamental to how we understand a disaster, determine what should be done about it, and carry forward our lessons learned.

Matthew W. Seeger and Timothy L. Sellnow outline a typology of crisis narratives: accounts of blame, stories of renewal, victim narratives, heroic tales, and memorials. Using cases to illustrate each type, they show how competing accounts battle for dominance in the public sphere, advancing specific organizational, social, and political changes. Narratives of Crisis improves our understanding of how consensus forms in the aftermath of a disaster, providing a new lens for comprehending events in our past and shaping what comes from those in our future.

Author Notes

Matthew W. Seeger> /b> is Dean of the College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts and Professor of Communication at Wayne State University. Timothy L. Sellnow is Professor of Strategic Communication in the Nicholson School of Communication at the University of Central Florida.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This work focuses on the role of narratives during crisis, and the authors argue that "much of the meaning, power, and ultimate impact of a crisis are functions of the ensuing network of narratives." Crises, say Seeger and Sellnow, are by definition "high-uncertainty events" that open up space for competing narratives to explain what happened, why, and what should happen going forward. The crises covered are broad in scope, including natural disasters, such as Superstorm Sandy; terrorism, such as 9/11; and corporate crises, such as Union Carbide's Bhopal disaster in India, among others. A number of different types of narratives are covered, including narratives of blame and renewal, victim, hero, and memorials. Some readers might like how to identify narratives, the convergence of competing narratives, and how to measure effects of narratives on audiences. Overall, the book successfully argues for the importance of understanding how meaning is constructed around crises. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. --Laura J. Roselle, Elon University