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Rhetoric in Popular Culture

Rhetoric in Popular Culture

Fifth Edition

October 2017 | 320 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Rhetoric in Popular Culture, Fifth Edition, shows readers how to apply growing and cutting-edge methods of critical studies to a full spectrum of contemporary issues seen in daily life. Exploring a wide range of mass media including current movies, magazines, advertisements, social networking sites, music videos, and television shows, Barry Brummett uses critical analysis to apply key rhetorical concepts to a variety of exciting examples drawn from popular culture. Readers are guided from theory to practice in an easy-to-understand manner, providing them with a foundational understanding of the definition and history of rhetoric as well as new approaches to the rhetorical tradition. Ideal for courses in rhetorical criticism, the highly anticipated Fifth Edition includes new critical essays and case studies that demonstrate for readers how the critical methods discussed can be used to study the hidden rhetoric of popular culture.

Part 1: Theory
Chapter 1: Rhetoric and the Rhetorical Tradition
Definitions and the Management of Power

The Rhetorical Tradition: Ancient Greece

The Rise of the City-States: How Democracy Grew Up with Rhetoric

Rhetoric in Athens

Plato’s Complaints against the Sophists

Two Legacies We Have Inherited from the Greek Rhetorical Tradition

Definitions of Rhetoric after Plato

Rhetoric in the Eighteenth Century

New Theories (and New Realities) Emerge in the Twentieth Century

What Changed in the Twentieth Century and Beyond

Managing Power Today in Traditional Texts: Neo-Aristotelian Criticism

Summary and Review

Looking Ahead

Chapter 2: Rhetoric and Popular Culture
The Rhetoric of Everyday Life

The Building Blocks of Culture: Signs

Indexical Meaning

Iconic Meaning

Symbolic Meaning

Complexity of the Three Kinds of Meaning

The Building Blocks of Culture: Artifacts

An Action, Event, or Object Perceived as a Unified Whole

. . . Having Widely Shared Meanings

. . . Manifesting Group Identification to Us

Definitions of Culture

Elitist Meanings of Culture

Popular Meanings of Culture

Characteristics of Cultures

Cultures Are Highly Complex and Overlapping

Cultures Entail Consciousness, or Ideologies

Cultures Are Experienced through Texts

Managing Power Today in Texts of Popular Culture

Four Characteristics of the Texts of Popular Culture

Summary and Review

Looking Ahead

Chapter 3: Rhetorical Methods in Critical Studies
Texts as Sites of Struggle

Texts Influence through Meanings

Texts Are Sites of Struggle over Meaning

Three Characteristics of Critical Studies

The Critical Character

Concern over Power

Critical Interventionism

Finding a Text

The First Continuum: Type of Text

The Second Continuum: Sources of Meanings

Defining a Context

The Third Continuum: Choice of Context

The Fourth Continuum: Text-Context Relationship

“Inside” the Text

The Fifth Continuum: From Surface to Deep Reading

The Text in Context: Metonymy, Power, Judgment




Summary and Review

Looking Ahead

Chapter 4: Varieties of Rhetorical Criticism: Intervention-Understanding
An Introduction to Critical Perspectives

Methods Focused on Power

Culture-Centered Criticism

Cultures and Their Own Critical Methods


Whiteness as a Kind of Culture: Analysis and Examples

Marxist Criticism

Materialism, Bases, and Superstructure

Economic Metaphors, Commodities, and Signs

Preferred and Oppositional Readings

Subject Positions

Standpoint Theory

Feminist Criticism

Varieties of Feminist Criticism

How Do Patriarchal Language and Images Perpetuate Inequality?

How Can Texts Empower Women?

Queer Theory

Analysis and Examples

Summary and Review

Chapter 5: Varieties of Rhetorical Criticism: Understanding-Intervention
Methods Focused on Self and Society

Psychoanalytic Criticism

Making Minds and Selves


Visual Rhetorical Criticism

Images as Focal Points of Meaning Attribution

Images as Focal Points of Collective Memory and Community

Point of View

Methods Focused on Story

Dramatistic/Narrative Criticism

Language as a Ground for Motives

Narrative Genres

Comedy and Tragedy

The Pentad

Analysis and Examples

Media-Centered Criticism

What Is a Medium?

Media Logic

Characteristics of Television as a Medium

Analysis and Examples

Characteristics of Handheld Devices as a Medium

Characteristics of the Computer and Internet as a Medium

Analysis and Examples

Summary and Review

Looking Ahead

Part 2: Application
Chapter 6: Paradoxes of Personalization: Race Relations in Milwaukee
The Problem of Personalization

The Scene and Focal Events

Problems in the African American Community

Violence against African Americans

The School System

White Political Attitudes

Tragedy and Metonymy

Metonymizing the Tragedies

Metonymy and Paradox

The Paradox of Identification

Identification and Race

Enabling Identification

Forestalling Identification

The Persistence of Race

The Paradox of Action: The Public and the Personal

Personal Action and Loss of Vision

The Paradox in Milwaukee

African Americans “In Need of Help”

Some Solutions

Reciprocal Personalization

Metonymizing Yourself

Metonymizing Others

Resources for Careful Metonymy

Stepping Back from the Critique

Chapter 7: Notes from a Texas Gun Show

Texas and Gun Culture

At the Gun Show


Summary and Review

Chapter 8: Simulational Selves, Simulational Culture in Groundhog Day

Simulation and Groundhog Day


Chapter 9: Jumping Scale in Steampunk: One Gear Makes You Larger, One Duct Makes You Small
Steampunk and Jumping Scale

The Aesthetic of Steampunk

Jumping Scale Down

Jumping Scale Up


Chapter 10: The Bad Resurrection in American Life and Culture


The Fast and the Furious Movies

Halloween and Friday the 13th Movies




SAGE Journal Articles

Chapter 1 Journal Articles


Sara J. Newman

Aristotle's Definition of Rhetoric in the Rhetoric: The Metaphors and their Message

Written Communication, January 2001; vol. 18, 1: pp. 3-25.



In spite of the continuing influence of Aristotle's Rhetoric on the discipline of rhetoric, no widespread agreement exists about whether the text is a systematic treatise about the tekhne (art) of rhetoric or a disconnected set of lecture notes. A significant piece of the puzzle belongs to Aristotle's metaphorical definitions of rhetoric in Book I of that text. Although scholarly efforts to interpret these definitions have informed our understanding of the text, they have done so without fully addressing how these definitions function within the text. This article offers a new approach to investigating these statements, one that considers them from Aristotle's own perspective on such linguistic matters: the author uses Aristotle's theory of metaphor as a measure of his practice in these definitions. The outcome indicates that Aristotle's practice in this situation does not match his theory, a circumstance that has certain consequences for our reading of the Rhetoric.





David Rowe

Fulfilling the 'Cultural Mission': Popular Genre and Public Remit

European Journal of Cultural Studies, Aug 2004; vol. 7: pp. 381 - 400.



Over the last three decades, public broadcasting in Europe, like other public institutions, has been under sustained pressure in various forms, including attacks on public provision from positions within, neoclassical economics and new right politics; left critique of public broadcast institutions and texts as reproductive of power formations; and development of new flexible media delivery systems and technologies. Public broadcasting has been required to justify itself under circumstances where commercial free-to-air broadcasting has been progressively challenged by pay TV in the broadcasting environment and where its necessarily national framework has been threatened by globalizing processes and. the flow of audiovisual technologies and content across national borders. One key site where these tensions are being played out is in the popular television genre of sport. Television sport is probably the most spectacular and regular vehicle for conveying and communicating both global and national culture. However, these concepts might be critiqued and contested. In Europe, public broadcasters have played a foundational role in the development and nurturing of broadcast sport as national culture. Sport, therefore, is an especially important subject for debates about the state and future of the popular in public broadcasting. This article uses television sport as a case study in the exploration and analysis of the dilemmas of public broadcasting in Europe arid seeks to propose a tenable normative framework for both its maintenance and development.




Robert Cockcroft

Putting Aristotle to the Proof: Style, Substance and the EPL Group

Language and Literature, Aug 2004; vol. 13: pp. 195 - 215.  



Aristotle’s contention that rhetorical proof is effected by character through the persuader (ethos), by emotion through the persuadee (pathos) and through reasoning applied to the subject of persuasion (logos) suggests one way of teaching rhetoric. EPL (Ethos/Pathos/Logos) groups put in practice the three modes of proof as three roles to be enacted by students. This core concept of ‘Old’ (i.e. classical) Rhetoric also invites the application of ‘New’ Rhetorical (i.e. modern linguistic) methods to test its validity and enhance its usefulness. For example, schema theory is a common resource for all three roles: footing in discourse is used as a means of projecting ethos; deixis and functional sentence perspective both reinforce pathos; and meta discourse theory has close links to logos. The integrated use of these new techniques as coded and commented on by the three EPL representatives making up each group is exemplified by six of the joint projects completed in the final year of my experiment. It became easier for students, using this methodology, to think themselves into the position of a persuadee, to make the appropriate choice of linguistic means and to communicate these clearly and concisely with a view to discussion and evaluation.




Martin Montgomery

Speaking sincerely: public reactions to the death of Diana

Language and Literature, Feb 1999; vol. 8: pp. 5 - 33.



This article explores some aspects of public speaking in the mediated public sphere by examining the verbal tributes offered by the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, by the Queen and by Earl Spencer in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. It considers some of the linguistic properties of these three public utterances, but focuses mainly on the ways in which they were assessed by members of ‘the public’, in order to explore possible changes to the discursive character of the public sphere.1




Jill. L. Robinson and Danielle Topping

The Rhetoric of Power:  A Comparison of Hitler and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Journal of Management Inquiry, April 2013; vol. 22, 2: pp. 194-210.



Charismatic leaders present intriguing examples of the use of power through language. The prevailing neo-charismatic perspective, however, is based predominately on Western theories and research examining U.S. presidents. This study moves beyond this sample by examining language differences between a moral and a toxic leader. Content analysis was used to explore the rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr. and Adolf Hitler, whose distinct motives play out over their careers and during crises. Although some differences were predictable (i.e., Martin Luther King Jr. used more Optimistic language, whereas Hitler was higher in Power and Aggression), the changes over time suggest keys to their differing motives. Among other findings, Martin Luther King Jr. was remarkably consistent in his rhetoric, whereas Hitler used increasing Power and Aggressive language as his career progressed. While not providing definitive answers, these preliminary results suggest that further study is warranted into the complex interactions between rhetoric and leadership.




Chapter 2 Journal Articles


Jingsi Christina Wu

Cultural Citizenship at the Intersection of Television and New Media

Television & New Media, September 2013; vol. 14, 5: pp. 402-420.



This article presents a cultural revision on the ongoing debate about the new media’s civic influence, as well as that of the “old media” Television. Specifically, it introduces the notion of “cultural citizenship” into the theoretical discussion and empirical pursuits. In exploring how this concept comes to play at the intersection of television and new media, this article sheds light on the continuing debate within the theoretical camp of “cultural citizenship,” expands the notion of “political talk” in current studies of media and democracy, and pushes the field from normative and instrumental limitations toward a more culturally rich and comprehensive direction. I systematically examine public discourses surrounding a popular talent show in China’s cyberspace and show the connection between nonpolitical media experiences and political expressions. In doing so, I also discuss the internet’s unique potential in lending voice to ordinary Chinese citizens outside the mainstream media.




Adam Possamai

Cultural Consumption of History and Popular Culture in Alternative Spiritualities

Journal of Consumer Culture, Jul 2002; vol. 2: pp. 197 – 218



Some practices in alternative spiritualities – for example, New Age and neopaganism– have been criticized by social commentators and some indigenous people for their appropriation of indigenous cultures, such as those of Australian Aborigines and North American Indians. This article argues that appropriation is not limited to indigenous cultures but is part of a larger phenomenon, that of cultural consumption of selected parts of history. This cultural consumption is not confined to history but extends to contemporary popular culture; for example, groups who find spiritual inspiration in the stories of H.P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu mythos), vampire stories and the science fiction (SF) novel by Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, which inspired the Church of All Worlds. This article provides an insight into the cultural consumption of history and popular culture by people involved in alternative spiritualities. It is argued that this eclectic cultural consumption produces new and subjective myths in contemporary western culture.





Chapter 3 Journal Articles


Lori Kendall

Nerd nation: Images of nerds in US popular culture

International Journal of Cultural Studies, Aug 1999; vol. 2: pp. 260 - 283.



This article examines the cultural figure of the nerd by analyzing images of nerds in movies, news articles and materials from the World Wide Web. This analysis shows that the previously liminal masculine identity of the nerd gets rehabilitated and partially incorporated into hegemonic masculinity during the period from the early 1980s through the present. In the process, the nerd becomes implicated in a variety of discourses about race and class as well as masculinities. Media representations use the figure of the nerd to displace bids for civil rights by African-American males and gay men. Discussions of nerds at work perpetuate stereotypes about computer users. The changing and contested meaning of the term nerd allows for both progressive uses and those which protect the status quo of hegemonic masculinity. All of these discursive uses of the nerd identity suggest that our use of computers is deeply connected to identity issues regarding race, class and gender.





Robert L. Ivie

Democratic Dissent and the Trick of Rhetorical Critique

Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, Aug 2005; vol. 5: pp. 276 - 293.



As an exercise in consubstantial rivalry (a notion adapted from Kenneth Burke), democratic dissent operates tactically to turn the tables on the powerful in a given cultural field of political tension (a perspective drawn from Michel de Certeau). Dissent rearticulates political relationships by an ongoing act of rhetorical critique inside an established framework of understanding. The dissenter is a rhetorical trickster deploying metaphor as a principal heuristic of critique. The possibility of credible dissent relies on achieving a certain productive tension between affirming and disconcerting the political order—a double gesture of nonconforming solidarity—as can be illustrated in recent documentaries of dissent such as Uncovered: The War on Iraq.






Eleanor C. Lamb

Power and resistance: New methods for analysis across genres in critical discourse analysis

Discourse & Society, May 2013; vol. 24, 3: pp. 334-360.



In this article, I set out new methods of analysis in critical discourse analysis. I develop ways to examine multiple genres over time, based in the discourse-historical approach, and ways to analyse the representation of social actors, based in social actor analysis. These methods provide a detailed way of using critical discourse analysis diachronically for multiple texts, analysing the textual, intertextual and contextual. I argue that because there is not a binary relationship between power at an elite level and resistance at a grassroots level, power and resistance rather being present everywhere, critical discourse analysis can and should examine simultaneously multiple societal ‘levels’. My methods help show to what extent more marginal speakers can make themselves heard. I explain how these methods were usefully applied to a study of the role that immigrant organisations have played in discussions about immigration control in the UK since the 1960s.




John Drabinski

The possibility of an ethical politics: from peace to liturgy

Philosophy & Social Criticism, July 2000; vol. 26, 4: pp. 49-73.  



This essay examines the possibility of developing an ethical politicsout of the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas’ own work does not accomplish this kind of politics. He opts instead for a politics of peace, which, as this essay argues, falls short of the demands of the ethical. Thus, this essay both provides an account of Levinas’ own politics and develops resources from within Levinas’ own work for thinking beyond that politics. An alternative, liturgical politics is sketched out. In a liturgical politics, law must be thought on a redistributive model. Redistribution, it is argued, responds more adequately to the extravagant generosity of ethics than the neutral ‘droits de l’homme’ developed in Levinas’ political philosophy.




Chapter 4 Journal Articles


Jill C. Humphrey

To Queer or Not to Queer a Lesbian and Gay Group? Sexual and Gendered Politics at the Turn of the Century

Sexualities, Apr 1999; vol. 2: pp. 223 - 246.



This article explores some emerging tensions between ‘lesbian and gay’ people and politics on the one hand, and ‘queer’ people and politics on the other. These are described by reference to a case-study of the lesbian and gay group in the public-sector trade union UNISON, which is the largest nationwide organization of lesbians and gay men in the UK. The article analyses the struggles over personal identities and political agendas which have been occasioned by challenges from queer subjects, notably bisexuals and transgendered people. It is argued that these struggles need to be situated in broader historical and international contexts, and that this could deconstruct the antinomy between the ‘lesbian and gay’ movement and novel forms of ‘queerdom’.






Jocelyn Steinke

Cultural Representations of Gender and Science: Portrayals of Female Scientists and Engineers in Popular Films

Science Communication, Sep 2005; vol. 27: pp. 27 - 63.



Images of female scientists and engineers in popular films convey cultural and social assumptions about the role of women in science, engineering, and technology (SET).This study analyzed cultural representations of gender conveyed through images of female scientists and engineers in popular films from 1991 to 2001. While many of these depictions of female scientists and engineers emphasized their appearance and focused on romance, most depictions also presented female scientists and engineers in professional positions of high status. Other images that showed the female scientists and engineers’ interactions with male colleagues, however, reinforced traditional social and cultural assumptions about the role of women in SET through overt and subtle forms of stereotyping. This article explores the significance of these findings for developing programs to change girls’ perceptions of scientists and engineers and attitudes toward SET careers.





Hazel V. Carby

What is this ‘black’ in Irish popular culture?

European Journal of Cultural Studies, Aug 2001; vol. 4: pp. 325 - 349.


This article is an analysis of the racial signifiers in two contemporary popular shows, Riverdance and Lord of the Dance. It argues that we need to understand the history of transatlantic Irish and African American exchange in order to comprehend the popular appeal of Celtic revivalism.




Peter B. Smith

Communication Styles as Dimensions of National Culture

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, March 2011; vol. 42, 2: pp. 216-233.



Evidence is presented that national cultures may be distinguished in terms of prevalent styles of communication, as exemplified by survey response styles. A distinction is made between the average communication style within a given nation and the nation-level dispersion of communication styles. Secondary analyses of published values, beliefs, and personality data are used to test hypotheses concerning the attributes of nations that differ in terms of their citizens’ tendencies to agree and to disagree, and in terms of frequency of response extremity versus moderation. The tendency of individuals in different nations to agree or disagree is most concisely explained by measures derived from the concept of individualism-collectivism. The nation-level frequencies of agreement plus disagreement are best explained by Minkov’s dimension of monumentalism-flexumility. The benefits of controlling these response tendencies for extracting valid measures of cultural variation and for defining a fuller range of cultural dimensions are discussed.





Greg Dimitriadis

Pedagogy and Performance in Black Popular Culture

Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, Feb 2001; vol. 1: pp. 24 - 35.



Rap artists, in the wake of rap's popular crossover success in the early 1980s, explicitly defined rap as a pedagogical idiom. Lyrics became more complex while epithets of poet and artist proliferated. All of this came as a parallel phenomenon to the emergence of a discourse about rap and its theories and traditions—a discourse that would have seemed anomalous early on. Drawing on theory and research in performance studies, this article critiques efforts to place rap into ready-made historical trajectories (e.g., Afrocentric or postmodern ones), and focuses on the discourse that rap artists themselves created or performed about rap music and its history at this critical juncture. In redefining notions of "the popular," rap established itself as a kind of alternative curriculum, raising key questions about who needs to be educating whom, and why.





Anthony Fung and Michael Curtin

The anomalies of being Faye (Wong): Gender politics in Chinese popular music

International Journal of Cultural Studies, May 2002; vol. 5: pp. 263 - 290.



Building on previous research regarding popular music and the culture industries, this article examines the intersection between gender politics in Chinese societies and the musical success of Faye Wong, the reigning diva of the Hong Kong-based pop music industry. Influential among adolescents and young women, she has not only become a figure for textual identification but also a polysemic icon for cultural aspirations and feminist projects throughout Greater China. Unlike earlier female singing stars, Faye's music and public persona explicitly defy standard market practices and conventional representations of femininity. Yet, paradoxically, these unconventional qualities have contributed to her sustained success over the past 10 years. Thus, Faye's star persona operates both as a marketable commodity and as a site of significant cultural work in the realm of gender politics. Using Bourdieu's distinction between economic and cultural capital, our analysis shows how music companies enriched Faye's cultural capital as part of their promotional efforts and how she in turn exploited that very capital in unconventional ways.




Fabienne Darling-Wolf

Virtually Multicultural: Trans-Asian Identity and Gender in an International Fan Community of a Japanese Star

New Media & Society, Aug 2004; vol. 6: pp. 507 - 528.



While recent analyses have helped to challenge commonly-held stereotypes of fans of popular cultural texts as freakish individuals ‘without a life’, few studies have focused on texts produced and/or consumed outside the United States and Europe. Even fewer have considered the particular significance of the advent of the internet as a tool for intercultural fan activity. This is what this study attempts to accomplish through an ethnographic and textual analysis of an online community of fans of Kimura Takuya - one of the most popular Japanese male celebrities of the moment - dispersed across 14 countries. It explores, in particular, how participants defined their fan, gendered and cultural/global identities through their involvement with each other and with their favorite star, and negotiated as a group the complex process of virtual cross-cultural identity formation.




Bram Dov Abramson

Country music and cultural industry: mediating structures in transnational media flow

Media, Culture & Society, Mar 2002; vol. 24: pp. 255 - 274.



As popular music genre, Americanness is one of the things country music signifies. The popular music industries are an integral component of an emerging global media environment, however. What happens to country music when it is in another country? This is a question in two parts. The first asks how local cultural practices interlock with the industrial structures through which generic conventions and taste formations can circulate transnationally. The second asks how this genre is fed back through the institutional channels which are contiguous with national borders. In the context of transnational media flow, increased attention to the role played by the national adjective - here, Canadian country music - can therefore help identify mediating structures and, in the process, point out the role of media policy in cultural industry. State policy as mediating structure is not in itself a useful thing, however. This article theorizes the nation as the site of a state apparatus whose goal is to ensure a space in which cultural producers’ relationships with institutions are not only structured but also structuring - to intervene in the plays of affect and taste which characterize culture’s production, consumption, and the circuit which binds them.




Bethan Benwell

 ‘Lucky this is anonymous.’ Ethnographies of reception in men’s magazines: a ‘textual culture’ approach

Discourse & Society, Mar 2005; vol. 16: pp. 147 - 172.



In this article I address the contribution that a study of reader reception might make to our understanding of the cultural meanings of the discourses to be found in and around men’s magazines. Reception is a cultural site often neglected in linguistic analyses of popular cultural texts, which are commonly treated as discrete, autonomous and ahistorical within these approaches. Conversation Analysis of unstructured interviews with magazine readers is one means of accessing contexts of reception, which, unlike many ethnographic approaches, is properly reflexive about the ontological status of its data. The drawback of a strict ethnomethodological approach, however, is its limited ability in recreating the original context of reading: the interview is arguably a situated account rather than a transparent report of reception. In order to expand the terms of ‘context’ for these interviews, therefore, the article proposes a triangulated method whereby the discourses and categories identified in talk can be intertextually linked (and indeed are sometimes intertextually indexed within the talk itself) to other communicative contexts in the circuit of culture, such as the magazine text, media debates, editorial identities and everyday talk. This ‘textual culture’1 approach to the analysis of popular culture effectively aims to analyse with ethnographic breadth and in discursive depth, the various, intersecting sites of culture within which the material text is formed - of which reception serves as the focal point for this article - and mirrors recent developments in Critical Discourse Analysis.




Felicia R. Walker and Viece Kuykendall

Manifestations of Nommo in Def Poetry

Journal of Black Studies, Nov 2005; vol. 36: pp. 229 - 247.



Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetryis a cable phenomenon bringing the art of performance poetry into the homes of millions of television viewers. Performance poetry is present for a new generation to appreciate. This research focuses on how the African oral element of nommo is present in Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. This research seeks to uncover how the concept of nommo is manifested in Def Poetryand how the use of nommo becomes an effective element in this genre. Using an Afrocentric rhetorical analysis, the characteristics of nommo studied were rhythm, soundin’ out, repetition, stylin’, lyrical quality, improvisation, historical perspective, indirection, call and response, and mythication.





Shannon Winnubst

Is the Mirror Racist?: Interrogating the Space of Whiteness

Philosophy & Social Criticism, Jan 2004; vol. 30: pp. 25 - 50.



This essay draws on a wide range of feminist, psychoanalytic and other anti-racist theorists to work out the specific mode of space as ‘contained’ and the ways it grounds dominant contemporary forms of racism i.e. the space of phallicized whiteness.


Offering a close reading of Lacan’s primary models for ego-formation, the mirror stage and the inverted bouquet, I argue that psychoanalysis can help us to map contemporary power relations of racism because it enacts some of those very dynamics. Casting the production of subjectivity on the field of the visual, Lacan performs some of the fundamental conceptions of space and embodiment that ground the dominant forms of racism in these cultural symbolics. Namely, he articulates a body that is bound by skin, structured by a logic of containment, cathected through aggression and distance, and read primarily through the way it looks – both how it appears and how it beholds the appearances of other bodies. Unraveling this nexus of power relations, I argue that a fundamental anti-racist strategy is to interrupt, interrogate and re-deploy this interpellation of images.



Katherine Watson

Queer Theory

Group Analysis, Mar 2005; vol. 38: pp. 67 – 81



Queer theory has been a key player on the academic scene for over ten years and looks set to continue for many years to come. The aim of this paper is to present an overview of the key elements that shape this body of work and to point to its potential usefulness for group analysis. Some of the influences in the emergence of queer theory will be discussed followed by some prominent critiques centering around queer theory’s link with practice, the commodification of ‘queerness’ and its implications for diversity. Queer theory poses some important questions about the status of gender/sexuality categories and, in particular, throws into focus the relational constitution of identities, that could, potentially, be used in tandem with other critical theories, in the arena of group analysis.




Annamarie Jagose

Feminism's Queer Theory

Feminism & Psychology, May 2009; vol. 19: pp. 157 - 174



This article argues that, in contradistinction to its widely promoted ethical openness to its future, queer theory has been less scrupulous about its messy, flexible and multiple relations to its pasts, the critical and activist traditions from which it emerged and that continue to develop alongside in mutually informing ways. In particular, it assesses queer theory's tangled, productive and ongoing relations with feminist theory. Returning to the controversial analytic separation of gender and sexuality that has been prominently theorized as key to distinguishing between feminist and queer theoretical projects, the article traces the influence of Gayle Rubin's `Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality' through feminist and queer scholarship in order to demonstrate that, however different their projects, feminist theory and queer theory together have a stake in both desiring and articulating the complexities of the traffic between gender and sexuality.




William F. Pinar

"I am a Man": The Queer Politics of Race

Cultural Studies <=> Critical Methodologies, Feb 2002; vol. 2: pp. 113 – 130



My argument is straightforward if queer: Racism is some sense an "affair" between men. Of course, racism is not only an affair between men. Women have very much been victims: White men's assaults on Black women from slavery to the present is, for instance, well known. Nor I am suggesting that "race" can be reduced to gender; it cannot. But it does have to do with sex and desire, as the pandemic White male rape of Black female (and, there is some evidence to suggest, male) slaves as well as post-"emancipation" obsessions with Black male sexuality (specifically, rape) make explicit. The centrality of castration in lynching—a primarily post-Civil War phenomenon that took the lives of at least 3,000 mostly young Black men—underscores White men's interest in the Black male phallus. What I suggest is that racial violence and racial politics cannot be understood unless "queered."



Chapter 5 Journal Articles


Arild Fetveit

Reality TV in the digital era: a paradox in visual culture?

Media, Culture & Society, Nov 1999; vol. 21: pp. 787 - 804.


The simultaneous proliferation of digital image manipulation and reality TV seems somewhat paradoxical. The death of photography is proclaimed at a time when the use of cameras to produce visible evidence is approaching an all-time high. This coexistence, it is argued, testifies to a transmutation within our visual culture. The credibility of photographical discourses has become less dependent upon common technological features and more based upon institutional warrant related to specific photographical practices. Thus, the recent efforts to negotiate and communicate standards for such practices within newsrooms and other institutions. It is further suggested that the proliferation of reality TV might be read partly as a symptom of unsettled issues in this transmutation. More precisely, it might express a longing for a lost touch with reality, prompted by the undermining of indexicality.




Kim Goudreau

American Beauty: The Seduction of the Visual Image in the Culture of Technology

Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, Feb 2006; vol. 26: pp. 23 - 30.



The critical examination of the film American Beauty reveals characteristics illustrative of the form of culture coextensive with modern technological societies. This form of culture creates an imbalance favoring the aesthetical over the ethical dimensions of human orientation. Absorption into the aesthetical dimension of the electronic or digital visual image significantly reduces the capacity of culture to nurture a meaningful symbolic world. The relative absence of a meaningful symbolic world leaves both identity and social relationships without a foundation.




Ai Ikunaga,  Sanjay R. Nath, and Kenneth A. Skinner

Internet suicide in Japan: A qualitative content analysis of a suicide bulletin board

Transcultural Psychiatry, April 2013; vol. 50, 2: pp. 280-302



Netto shinju, or Internet group suicide, is a contemporary form of Japanese suicide where strangers connect on the Internet and make plans to commit suicide together. In the past decade, numerous incidents have occurred whereby young Japanese make contact on the Internet, exchange tips on suicide methods, and make plans to meet offline for group/individual suicide. A systematic qualitative content/thematic analysis of online communications posted on a popular Japanese suicide bulletin board yielded a textured, thematic understanding of this phenomenon. Themes identified reflected Shneidman’s theory of suicide but with an emphasis on interpersonal concerns that are embedded in Japanese culture.






Chapter 6 Journal Articles


Meredith M. Wells, Luke Thelen, and Jennifer Ruark

Workspace Personalization and Organizational Culture: Does Your Workspace Reflect You or Your Company?

Environment and Behavior, Sep 2007; vol. 39: pp. 616 - 634.



Approximately 70% to 90% of American workers personalize their workspaces. Personalization has many benefits for employees (e.g., enhanced job satisfaction and well-being) and organizations (e.g., improved morale and reduced turnover). Personalization is also related to organizational issues such as employee status, workspace quality, and policies. This study extended the research by examining organizational commitment and culture. It was predicted that highly committed employees personalize more than do less-committed employees and that culture has an indirect effect on personalization. Thus, 172 office employees from 19 businesses were surveyed. Path analyses revealed that employee commitment was only indirectly related to personalization through status. As expected, organizational culture had an indirect effect on personalization, via personalization policies or norms and employee status. Thus, this research suggests for the first time that the primary predictors of workspace personalization are organizational rather than personal. Your workspace most likely reflects your company rather than you.




Danilo Yanich

Kids, Crime, and Local Television News

Crime & Delinquency, Jan 2005; vol. 51: pp. 103 - 132.



The vast majority of crime reporting occurs on local television news and in newspapers. Although crimes are extraordinary events, they assume an ordinariness that only daily reporting can give them. The obvious question is what does the news tell us about crime. This article compares the coverage of adult crime and the coverage of what the author has termed "KidsCrime," defined as a story in which a juvenile was either the suspect or the victim (or both). What is the nature of that coverage? How consistent is it with official statistics? Are there differences between adult crime and KidsCrime coverage regarding offenses, victimization, production techniques, and other attributes? This examination of the crime coverage revealed (a) significant differences between KidsCrime and adult crime coverage, (b) a portrait of crime that was consistent and inconsistent with official statistics, and (c) a presentation approach that discouraged critical viewing.




Nurcan Ensari and Norman Miller

Prejudice and Intergroup Attributions: The Role of Personalization and Performance Feedback

Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, Oct 2005; vol. 8: pp. 391 - 410.



We manipulated personalization and group performance feedback to examine their effects on intergroup attributions and prejudice. Following high or low levels of personalized contact with a typical out-group member, participants learned either that the out-group had generally succeeded or that the in-group had failed at the participant’s task. Under high personalization and out-group success, participants exhibited less attributional bias in explaining the success of new out-group job applicants and less prejudice toward them than those under low personalization. By contrast, when one’s in-group had failed, we found similar favorability toward in-group and out-group job applicants. Importantly, when ability attributions and friendliness were separately combined with subjective personalization, both combinations mediated the effects of manipulated personalization in reducing prejudice toward new out-group persons.




David R. Williams and Selina A. Mohammed

Racism and Health II: A Needed Research Agenda for Effective Interventions

American Behavioral Scientist, August 2013; vol. 57, 8: pp. 1200-1226.



This article reviews the empirical evidence that suggests that there is a solid foundation for more systematic research attention to the ways in which interventions that seek to reduce the multiple dimensions of racism can improve health and reduce disparities in health. First, research reveals that policies and procedures that seek to reduce institutional racism by improving neighborhood and educational quality and enhancing access to additional income, employment opportunities, and other desirable resources can improve health. Second, research is reviewed that shows that there is the potential to improve health through interventions that can reduce cultural racism at the societal and individual level. Finally, research is presented that suggests that the adverse consequences of racism on health can be reduced through policies that maximize the health-enhancing capacities of medical care, address the social factors that initiate and sustain risk behaviors, and empower individuals and communities to take control of their lives and health. Directions for future research are outlined.




Chapter 7 Journal Articles


Bakari Kitwana

The State of the Hip-Hop Generation: How Hip-Hop’s Cultural Movement is Evolving into Political Power

Diogenes, Aug 2004; vol. 51: pp. 115 - 120.



In the short decade between 1985 and 1995, the dominant cultural movement of our time, hip-hop culture, has become, seemingly overnight, mainstream American popular culture. This centering of hip-hop art, most specifically rap music, in American popular culture has given young African Americans unprecedented national and international visibility, at a historical time when images via the 21st century’s public square of television, film and the internet are more critical to identity than ever. This visibility, and most certainly the often anti-Black and stereo-typical images that accompany it, forces distinctions to be drawn between today’s Black popular culture and traditional ideas of Black culture, including what is art and what’s at stake in cultural commodification.




Andreana Clay

Keepin' it Real: Black Youth, Hip-Hop Culture, and Black Identity

American Behavioral Scientist, Jun 2003; vol. 46: pp. 1346 - 1358.



The relationship between Black youth and hip-hop culture is the focus of this article. The author considers how African American youth use hip-hop as a form of cultural capital in everyday settings. By focusing on how Black youth interact with one another at the City Youth Center, the article examines how this particular form of cultural capital may be used to authenticate a Black identity. Finally, how the articulation of this identity is based on traditional gender roles is explored. Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital is heavily relied on to investigate how Black youth construct legitimate racial boundaries in predominately Black settings. The intention is to provide an extension of Bourdieu's theory by examining how Black youth identity is formed and renegotiated in everyday interactions with other Black youth and how this negotiation is mediated through hip-hop culture.




Brent A. Strawn

Sanctified and Commercially Successful Curses: On Gangsta Rap and the Canonization of the Imprecatory Psalms

Theology Today, January 2013; vol. 69, 4: pp. 403-417.



The imprecatory psalms cause problems for modern theological sensibilities, raising the question (among others) of why they were canonized in the first place. The present article compares a similar “canonization” of violent speech in the phenomenon of gangsta rap generally, and in the rapper/actor/producer Ice Cube specifically. The reception of Ice Cube into mainstream and “family friendly” media attests to a dynamic in which an audience recognizes something of itself in extreme forms of speech and art. This recognition facilitates acceptance of what is, on the face of it, otherwise off-putting and socially uncouth. This dynamic can cast light on the canonization of the imprecatory psalms. The Psalter (and the Bible writ large), however, receives the imprecatory psalms within a larger field of reference—one with its own distinctive dynamic that serves to contain their violence in a way not replicated in gangsta rap. This “scripturalized” reception of the violent speech in the imprecatory psalms is thus a crucial difference between the two. At the same time, the commercial success of gangsta rap reveals much critique of the cursing psalms to be shallow and disingenuous, if not, in fact, a case of (Freudian) projection.




Chapter 8 Journal Articles


Rodanthi Tzanelli

Constructing the ‘cinematic tourist’: The ‘sign industry’ of The Lord of the Rings

Tourist Studies, Apr 2004; vol. 4: pp. 21 - 42.



The article examines the relationship between the culture (film) and tourist industries, suggesting that we reconsider the validity of their analytical differentiation. Contextually, it focuses on the generation of a new tourist industry in New Zealand after the global success of the cinematic ‘trilogy’ The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) (dir. Peter Jackson). It is argued that the LOTR tourist industry is characterized by simulation of a fantasy to such an extent, that we must reconsider the notion of ‘authenticity’ to examine this film-induced type of tourism. More insight is gained in this direction when we explore reactions of film viewers, and the way that commercial tourist providers use the films in the manufacturing of the tourist experience. The article also explores the response this global success instigated in New Zealand, making some observations on the relationship between cultural appropriation in tourist consumption, and cultural self-recognition.




Sheila C. Murphy

 ‘Live in Your World, Play in Ours’: The Spaces of Video Game Identity

Journal of Visual Culture, Aug 2004; vol. 3: pp. 223 - 238.



This article discusses how console video games map televisual space as both simulated and contiguous with the non-virtual space of the gamers and their own bodies. Gamer identification, identity politics in video games, video game stars and video game violence are also explored here. Murphy argues that video games utilize televisual technology to produce interactive experiences for gamers, whose own bodies are physically impacted by game play in subtle ways. How video gamers interact with the virtual bodies of their player-characters is key to understanding how video games facilitate a different interaction with televisual space than that enacted through viewing television programming.




Chapter 9 Journal Articles


Patti M. Valkenburg, Alexander P. Schouten, and Jochen Peter

Adolescents’ identity experiments on the internet

New Media & Society, Jun 2005; vol. 7: pp. 383 - 402.



The aim of this article is to investigate how often adolescents engage in internet-based identity experiments, with what motives they engage in such experiments and which self-presentational strategies they use while experimenting with their identity. Six hundred nine to 18-year-olds completed a questionnaire in their classroom. Of the adolescents who used the internet for chat or Instant Messaging, 50 percent indicated that they had engaged in internet-based identity experiments. The most important motive for such experiments was self-exploration (to investigate how others react), followed by social compensation (to overcome shyness) and social facilitation (to facilitate relationship formation). Age, gender and introversion were significant predictors of the frequency with which adolescents engaged in internet-based identity experiments, their motives for such experiments, and their self-presentational strategies.




Brian Wilson and Michael Atkinson

Rave and Straightedge, the Virtual and the Real: Exploring Online and Offline Experiences in Canadian Youth Subcultures

Youth & Society, Mar 2005; vol. 36: pp. 276 - 311.



Over the past 10 years, sociologists have attended to the impacts of the Internet on youth subcultural coalescence, display, identity, and resistance. In this article, the authors develop a critique of this body of work, describing how existing research places undue emphasis on young people’s experiences either online or offline and how a lack of consideration has been given to the ways that subcultural expressions are continuous across the apparent "virtual-real" divide. With the aim of addressing some of these concerns, the authors draw on ethnographic case studies of "Rave" and "Straightedge" to explore the impact of the two realities (i.e., online and offline realities) on understandings of subcultural experience in these youth formations and articulate how the theoretical split between the virtual and real in cyber-subcultural research does not accurately capture the lived experiences or identity negotiations of these youth.





Paul J. C. Adachi and Teena Willoughby

Do Video Games Promote Positive Youth Development?

Journal of Adolescent Research, March 2013; vol. 28, 2: pp. 155-165.



We argue that video game play may meet Larson’s (2000) criteria for fostering initiative in youth, and thus, may be related to positive outcomes such as flow, cooperation, problem solving, and reduced in-group bias. However, developmental and social psychologists examining adolescent video game use have focused heavily on how video games are related to negative outcomes, while neglecting potential positive outcomes. In this article we review the adolescent video game literature, examining both negative and positive outcomes, and suggest important directions for future research.







Henrik Svensson, Serge Thill, and Hand Tom Ziemke

Dreaming of electric sheep? Exploring the functions of dream-like mechanisms in the development of mental imagery simulations

Adaptive Behavior, August 2013; vol. 21, 4: pp. 222-238.



According to the simulation hypothesis, mental imagery can be explained in terms of predictive chains of simulated perceptions and actions, i.e., perceptions and actions are reactivated internally by our nervous system to be used in mental imagery and other cognitive phenomena. Our previous research shows that it is possible but not trivial to develop simulations in robots based on the simulation hypothesis. While there are several previous approaches to modelling mental imagery and related cognitive abilities, the origin of such internal simulations has hardly been addressed. The inception of simulation (InSim) hypothesis suggests that dreaming has a function in the development of simulations by forming associations between experienced, non-experienced but realistic, and even unrealistic perceptions. Here, we therefore develop an experimental set-up based on a simple simulated robot to test whether such dream-like mechanisms can be used to instruct research into the development of simulations and mental imagery-like abilities. Specifically, the hypothesis is that ‘dreams’ informing the construction of simulations lead to faster development of good simulations during waking behaviour. The paper presents initial results in favour of the hypothesis.




Chapter 10 Journal Articles



Elizabeth B. Silva

Homologies of Social Space and Elective Affinities: Researching Cultural Capital

Sociology, December 2006; vol. 40, 6: pp. 1171-1189.



This article discusses homologies of social space by considering the coherence of elective affinities identified in research on cultural capital when the same person was asked for similar sorts of information in both a survey questionnaire and a semi-structured interview. It shows the methodological complexities of situating individual lives within social contexts, by considering the processual and fluid accounts of social space emerging in the study. The discussion challenges Bourdieu’s views of homogeneous social worlds, considered as ‘spaces of lifestyles’. The coherent pattern he envisaged is not always found because significantly dissonant cases exist. Moreover, different affinities can be emphasized depending on the research methods and contexts. Consequently, the article also engages with the argument that different research methods contribute to different sorts of knowledge about the social world, stressing the influence of ontological politics in research findings and the privileged perspective of a multiple-methods approach.





Brian L. Ott

Television as Lover, Part II: Doing Auto[Erotic]Ethnography

Cultural Studies ? Critical Methodologies, August 2007; vol. 7, 3: pp. 294-307.



This article seeks to demonstrate how to engage with television in an ecstatic mode. Toward that end, it undertakes an auto[erotic]ethnography of the author's television viewing practices. The conclusion reflects on the implications of viewing in this mode for the practice of criticism.


“An accessible introduction to contemporary rhetorical theory and its applications in everyday life.” 

Cory Brewster
Eastern Oregon University

If you are teaching a class in rhetoric and popular culture, this is the text you want to use.”

Mindy Fenske
University of South Carolina
Key features
  • Updated examples reflect today’s ever-changing popular culture and help readers apply cutting-edge methodologies to the study of rhetoric.
  • Recent scholarship on pop culture includes the latest studies and findings.
  • New application chapters titled “The Bad Resurrection in American Life and Culture,” “Notes from a Texas Gun Show,” and “Jumping Scale in Steampunk: One Gear Makes You Larger, One Duct Makes You Small” have been added to provide readers with fresh examples of how theories and methods can be applied to popular culture.
  • Engaging exercises, discussion questions, and application chapters show readers how to use rhetorical criticism to analyze popular culture.
  • Fun questions and useful mini-assignments help readers understand the practical applications and relevance of rhetorical concepts in everyday life.
  • A solid foundation in traditional rhetorical theories is enhanced by coverage of the latest theories and the full range of new rhetorical practices.
  • Well-written examples of criticism serve as strong models for readers.

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