Title page for ETD etd-05052017-160208

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Johnson, Devon Virginia
URN etd-05052017-160208
Title A Visual Rhetorical Analysis of the Hillbilly Stereotype
Degree Master of Arts
Department Communication Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jim Kuypers Committee Chair
Mike Horning Committee Member
Natalia Mielczarek Committee Member
  • South
  • classism
  • Appalachia
Date of Defense 2017-04-21
Availability restricted
This study explores the concept of visual argument as it applies to the archetypal evolution of the hillbilly stereotype. Building on David Birdsell and Leo Groarke’s theory of the archetype as a common element of visual argument, this study focuses on the visual archetypal construction of the rural hillbilly in twentieth-century mass media and in twenty first century internet memes, and it makes a case for the argumentative components of the archetype. Beginning with an analysis of early twentieth-century postcards, this study establishes the foundational elements of the hillbilly archetype as a symptom of class-based prejudice and explores how these key elements are visible in online memes, with particular attention to the genre of “Trump Voter” memes that emerged as a response to the 2016 United States presidential campaign. These key archetypal elements compose a visual argument in favor of the idea of a degenerate and inferior rural America and represent a particularly dangerous rhetorical tool that can be mobilized to discount the concerns of rural people.
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