Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Schneider, Stephen

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Jaffe, Aaron

Committee Member

Jaffe, Aaron

Committee Member

Williams, Bronwyn

Committee Member

Enoch, Jessica

Author's Keywords

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.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons