Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation
English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD
Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)
public pedagogy; rhetorical framing; media studies; social movements; sonic rhetoric; folk music
This dissertation examines the figure of the American folk singer as a public pedagogue engaged in rhetorical action for social change. Through four case studies—Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Ani DiFranco, and Tom Morello—the dissertation examines nearly a century of folk music as a form of activism through these four figures. Each folksinger occupies a unique role in a unique era, requiring each musician to revise the work of their musical forebears to accommodate new cultural and technological environments. Drawing on theories of public pedagogy, rhetorical framing, and media, I argue that an effective use of music in social change depends largely on the relationship between the music, musician, and media. While hundreds of folksingers might have been appropriate to include in this study, these four chart a specific trajectory as each demonstrate a savvy relationship with the technologies that mediate their music, image, and message. This reveals how the ethos of a musician is rhetorically constructed and changes over time in negotiation with the multiple publics in which the musician circulates. Through specific and intentional framing activities, these musicians offer something of a handbook for how activist musicians can most effectively participate in social action in both physical and digital environments.
Ferris, Harley, ""This machine kills fascists" : the public pedagogy of the American folk singer." (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 2485.