Read Generic Criticism chapter and a minimum of two sample essays in the file attached below. You can choose to read the artifacts etc or you can ignore those. But make sure to go through the chapter generic criticism and two sample essays.

Generic Criticism

Generic criticism is rooted in the assumption that certain types of situations provoke similar needs and expectations in audiences and thus call for particular kinds of rhetoric. Rather than seeking to discover how one situation affects one particular rhetorical act, the generic critic seeks to discover commonalities in rhetorical patterns across recurring situations. The purpose of generic criticism is to understand rhetorical practices, sometimes in different time periods and in different places, by identifying the similarities in rhetorical situations and the rhetoric constructed in response to them. The French word genre “connotes sameness in kind, type, or form”1 and is used to refer to a distinct group, type, class, or category of artifacts that share important characteristics that differentiate it from other groups. In rhetorical studies, genres are seen as “rhetorical actions based in recurrent situations”2 or “ways of recognizing, responding to . . . and helping to reproduce recurrent situations.”3 If there is a genre of eulogistic discourse, for example, then speeches of eulogy for Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Prince, and soldiers killed in the Iraq War should be similar in major aspects, addressing as they do a similar situation—the death of someone significant or beloved.

A rhetorical genre is a constellation, fusion, or clustering of three different kinds of elements so that a unique kind of artifact is created. Situational requirements, or the perception of conditions in a situation that call for particular kinds of rhetorical responses, constitute the first generic element. A genre also contains substantive and stylistic characteristics of the rhetoric—these features constitute the second key element of a generic analysis, and they are the characteristics of the rhetoric chosen by the rhetor to respond to the perceived requirements of particular situations. Substantive characteristics are those that constitute the content of the rhetoric, while stylistic characteristics constitute its form.4 The third element of a rhetorical genre, the organizing principle, is the root term or key idea that serves as an umbrella label for the characteristic features of the rhetoric. It is the label for the internal dynamic of the constellation that is formed by the situational, substantive, and stylistic features of the genre.5 Although strategic responses and stylistic choices may appear in isolation in other rhetorical forms, what is distinctive about a genre of rhetoric is the recurrence of the forms together, unified by the same organizing principle. A genre, then, is not simply a set of features that characterizes various rhetorical acts but a set of interdependent features.

We recognize and participate in multiple genres in our communicative lives. Among the genres that are widespread in everyday life are various genres of greetings, farewells, and congratulations. Weather forecasts, advertisements, instruction manuals, the closing arguments at a criminal trial, travel blogs, websites for presidential candidates, and personal home pages are all genres. If you are a graduate student, you participated in the genre of the personal statement required of graduate-student applications in the U.S., and you may be looking forward to writing your thesis, which is another genre. Different communities use different types of genres and thus have different genre repertoires or sets of genres that they routinely enact.6 In academic communities, for example, knowledge production is carried out and documented through the genres of lab reports, grant proposals, conference papers, journal articles, reviews of journal manuscripts, books, and book reviews. Corporations often use generic forms of communication such as expense forms, business letters, training seminars, and annual shareholders’ meetings. They might employ email genres such as the dialogue genre, which embeds old messages into a new message, and the proposal genre, in which the writer proposes or advocates for a particular course of action.

A reciprocity exists between individuals and the genres in which they participate. Genres not only sort and classify rhetoric, but they help shape and generate the types of rhetoric we employ. As Mikhail Bakhtin explains, even “in the most free, the most unconstrained conversation, we cast our speech in definite generic forms, sometimes rigid and trite ones, sometimes more flexible, plastic, and creative ones.”7 As you initiate communication, genres influence you to develop your messages in particular ways—they serve as prescriptive, ready-made patterns of communication that you can use as templates. As Thomas Luckmann suggests, “Once one has ‘chosen’ a genre for a communicative project, it is the genre that ‘chooses’ the parts for its accomplishment.”8 When you are asked to present an award to someone at a banquet or ceremony, for example, you are likely to draw on the content and form of the award-giving genre to prepare your remarks, and your speech will be much like other speeches used to bestow awards. Just as rhetors are being influenced by genres available to them as they create messages, audience members recognize particular messages as belonging to specific genres, and that recognition influences their strategies of comprehension and response.9

Because we are always interacting with genres, we have input into their construction, which means that genres can change—they “can be unstable over time as they develop due to changes in media technology structures, market transformations, or even the intentions and concerns” of rhetors.10 Although members typically reinforce established genres through their communicative actions, they can and sometimes do challenge and modify these genres, either inadvertently or deliberately. When changes to genres are accepted, new genres may develop, which is what happened with the memo genre. It emerged out of modifications in the genre of the business letter, and it then evolved into a new and separate genre.

The roots of the notion of genre and thus of generic criticism can be traced to the writings of Aristotle and other classical Greek rhetoricians. Much of classical rhetorical theory is based on the assumption that situations fall into general types, depending on the objective of the rhetoric. Classical rhetori- cians divided rhetoric into three types of discourse—deliberative or political, forensic or legal, and epideictic or ceremonial. Each of these types has distinc- tive aims—expedience for deliberative speaking, justice for forensic speaking, and honor for epideictic speaking. They have distinctive strategies as well— exhortation and dissuasion for deliberative speaking, accusation and defense for forensic speaking, and praise and blame for epideictic speaking.11 Thus, classification of discourse on the basis of similar characteristics and situations has been part of the tradition of the communication field since its inception.

The first person to use the term generic criticism in the communication discipline was Edwin Black in his critique of neo-Aristotelianism in 1965. He proposed as an alternative to the traditional method of criticism a generic frame that included these tenets: (1) “there is a limited number of situations in which a rhetor can find himself”; (2) “there is a limited number of ways in which a rhetor can and will respond rhetorically to any given situational type”; and (3) “the recurrence of a given situational type through history will provide a critic with information on the rhetorical responses available in that situation.”12 Black suggested that distinctive, recurrent situations exist in which discourse occurs and encouraged critics to analyze historical texts to describe their common features.

Lloyd F. Bitzer’s notion of the rhetorical situation, presented in 1968, also contributed to the development of generic criticism. Bitzer’s focus on recur- ring situations was particularly significant for generic criticism: “From day to day, year to year, comparable situations occur, prompting comparable responses; hence rhetorical forms are born and a special vocabulary, grammar, and style are established.”13 Although his conception of the rhetorical situation generated controversy,14 it contributed in significant ways to the theoretical base for generic criticism.

Another contribution to the development of generic criticism was a conference held in 1976 called “Significant Form” in Rhetorical Criticism. Spon- sored by the Speech Communication Association (now the National Communication Association) and the University of Kansas, the conference was organized around the idea of significant form, which referred to recur- ring patterns in discourse or action. These patterns include the “repeated use of images, metaphors, arguments, structural arrangements, configurations of language or a combination of such elements into what critics have termed ‘genres’ or ‘rhetorics.’”15 The result of the conference was a book, Form and Genre: Shaping Rhetorical Action, edited by Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, which provided theoretical discussions of the concept of genre and included samples of generic criticism. Jackson Harrell and Wil A. Linkugel followed with a proposal for the procedures for generic criticism in 1978 with an aim of systematizing research into rhetorical genres.16

Carolyn R. Miller’s “Genre as Social Action,” published in 1984, advanced the discussion of genre in a number of ways. She argued that “a rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centered not on the substance or the form of discourse but on the action it is used to accomplish.”17 She also entered the debate about the nature of the exigency in the rhetorical situation as it applies to genres, suggesting that a rhetor’s recognition of a situation as calling for a certain response is based on that rhetor’s particular definition of the situation. She extended the scope of genre analysis to include everyday discourse such as the letter of recommendation, the user manual, the lecture, and the ransom note. Miller revisited her essay 30 years later with another essay on genre. Following a brief history of the study of genre in the intervening years, in the second article, she anticipated the ways in which the Internet was changing how genres are “structured, controlled, or determined.”18 She was among the first scholars to study the blog as a potential genre and concluded that “the blog is not a genre but is rather a technological medium that can support multiple genres.”19

The next major contribution to theorizing about genre in the communication discipline came from Barry Brummett in his book Rhetorical Homologies: Form, Culture, Experience (2004). Brummett defines a homology as “a pattern found to be ordering significant particulars of different and disparate experiences”20 and conducts several analyses of homologies that reveal similarities where they would not be expected to be found—across “disparate orders of experience.”21 Brummett, for example, identifies a homology that unites the disparate contexts of Christian martyr stories, Laurel and Hardy films, the African American practice of playing the dozens, and professional wrestling— a pattern he calls ritual injury. Ritual injury is marked by a group or individual’s willingness to endure assault and acts of violence that are inflicted on them ceremoniously and without reciprocating that violence.22 Brummett does not explicitly link the homology to the genre and, in fact, some scholars believe that a homology is different from a genre.23 The difference for them lies in the fact that rhetorical homologies involve different orders of experience, while genres are concerned with situations marked by obvious similarities. Despite these theoretical differences, Brummett makes clear that studies of similar categories of rhetorical forms do not need to be limited to those forms that appear, on the surface, to be the same.

The Sydney School of genre studies, named after its primary institutional base in the University of Sydney’s Department of Linguistics, offers another contribution to genre studies—the study of genres to effect social change. Michael Halliday, who once headed the department, sought to bring linguists and educators together to create a literacy pedagogy appropriate for a multi- cultural society.24 The result was the use of generic analysis to probe systems of belief, ideologies, and values. The work of the members of this school encourages critics to ask questions about genres such as: How do some genres come to be valorized, valued, or privileged? In whose interest is such valorization? What kinds of social organization are put in place or kept in place by such valorization? What does participation in a genre do to and for an individual or a group? What opportunities do the relationships reflected in and structured by a genre afford for humane creative action or, alternatively, for the domination of others? Do genres empower some people while silencing others? What representations of the world are entailed in genres? These questions suggest as an agenda for the next phase of generic studies a critical examination of issues such as the nature of the representations that are sanctioned and normalized in genres and their implications for people’s lives, the degree of accessibility of a genre to potential users, and genre maintenance as power maintenance. More generally, the Australian genre researchers contribute an explicit acknowledgment of the political dimensions of genres to our under- standing of generic criticism.25

Anthony Paré and Graham Smart expanded the study of genre by focusing specifically on rhetorical genres in organizational settings. They define genre as a distinctive profile of regularities across four dimensions: (1) textual features such as styles of texts and modes of argument; (2) the composing process such as information gathering and analysis of information; (3) reading practices such as where, when, and why a document is read; and (4) the social roles performed by writers and readers so that no matter who assumes a particular role—the role of social worker, judge, or project manager, for example—the genre is enacted in much the same way. Paré and Smart believe this view of genres in organizations explains how the effective production of dis- course and knowledge occurs within organizations.26

The method of corpus linguistics in the linguistics discipline, employed by scholars such as Douglas Biber,27 Amy J. Devitt,28 HansJürgen Diller,29 Ste- fan Gries,30 Thomas Kohnen,31 and Brian Paltridge,32 offers another approach to the study of genres. Researchers employ statistical methods using computers to study the language in large corpora (samples) of “real world” or natural texts that were produced in natural communicative settings and that are avail- able in electronic form. Their objective is to identify groups of linguistic features that co-occur with high frequency in various genres, so they might want to find out, for example, how often morphemes occur with particular words or how often particular words occur in certain grammatical constructions.33 They then are able “to define text membership within genres on the basis of how closely their structural and linguistic patterns relate to the genre proto- type.”34 Corpus linguists engage in their work on genres for two reasons: (1) the analysis of existing genre examples provides insights about the defining linguistic characteristics of a genre; and (2) the list of defining characteristics functions as a guide as to whether a new example is or is not part of that genre. Corpus linguistics assumes that formal differences in language correspond to functional differences, so knowledge about the characteristics of genres provides them with insights into how those genres work in the world for those who participate in them.35


Using generic criticism, a critic analyzes an artifact in a four-step process: (1) selecting an artifact; (2) analyzing the artifact; (3) formulating a research question; and (4) writing the essay.

Selecting an Artifact

Your choice of an artifact or artifacts for generic criticism depends on the kind of analysis you are doing. As explained in more detail below, generic criticism involves three options—generic description, generic participation, and generic application. If you are interested in generic description, your artifacts should be a variety of texts that appear to respond to a similar situation and, on the surface, to share some rhetorical similarities. These artifacts can come from different time periods and be of various forms—speeches, essays, songs, websites, works of art, and advertisements, for example—if they all seem similar in nature and function. If your goal is generic participation, choose an artifact that seems like it should belong to or has been assigned to a particular genre but does not seem to fit. If you are doing generic application, your artifact should be one that you want to assess in terms of how well it conforms to the genre of which it is a part. This should be an artifact that, for some reason, leads you to question how it is functioning in the context of its genre.

Analyzing the Artifact

Generic criticism involves three different options for a critic—generic description, generic participation, and generic application.36 The first option is generic description, where you examine several artifacts to determine if a genre exists. This is an inductive operation, in which you begin with a consideration of specific features of artifacts and move to a generalization about them in the naming of a genre. The second option, generic participation, is a deductive procedure in which you move from consideration of a general class of rhetoric to consideration of a specific artifact. Here, you test a specific artifact against a genre to discover if it participates in that genre. The third option is generic application—also a deductive procedure—that involves application of a generic model to particular artifacts in order to evaluate or assess them.

Generic Description

In the attempt to describe a genre, a critic examines various artifacts to see if a genre exists. Your purpose in generic description is to define a genre and formulate theoretical constructs about its characteristics if, in fact, you discover that a genre exists. Generic description involves four steps: (1) observing similarities in rhetorical responses to particular situations; (2) collecting artifacts that occur in similar situations; (3) analyzing the artifacts to discover if they share characteristics; and (4) if they do share characteristics, formulating the organizing principle of the genre.

The first step of generic description is your observation that similar situations, perhaps removed from each other in time and place, seem to generate similar rhetorical responses. As you observe similar situations that seem to generate similar kinds of rhetoric, keep in mind that the rhetor’s interpretation or definition determines whether a situation invites a rhetorical response or not—not a material environment or circumstance. As Miller explains, “at the center of action is a process of interpretation. Before we can act, we must interpret the indeterminate material environment; we define, or ‘determine,’ a situation.”37 Some condition does not cause or invite rhetorical action. What causes or invites rhetorical action is a rhetor’s interpretation of the condition as something that is dangerous, unhealthy, or problematic in some way. In other words, the rhetor essentially creates the exigency determined to be central to the genre. As Richard E. Vatz explains, “No situation can have a nature independent of the perception of its interpreter or independent of the rhetoric with which” the rhetor chooses to characterize it.38 Rhetors and critics deter- mine what a situation means and whether it deserves a response or not.

The second step is the collection of a varied sample of artifacts that may represent the genre. For this step, you identify rhetorical acts in which the perceived rhetorical situation appears similar, or search out contexts that seem to be characterized by similar constraints of situation. If you suspect a genre of rhetoric may exist, for example, in which individuals announce their candidacy for office, you would want to collect instances where individuals have announced their intention to run for office—speeches or statements on websites by U.S. presidential candidates, candidates for the state legislature, candidates for the local school board, and candidates for president of the union in a corporation, for example. A study by James S. Measell began in a similar fashion. He noticed that similar rhetorical situations were faced by President Abraham Lincoln and William Pitt, the prime minister of England during the French Revolution. Both Lincoln and Pitt needed to justify “their administrative policy to withhold the privileges of habeas corpus,”39 so Measell wanted to discover whether their rhetoric constituted a genre. Or perhaps you notice that wedding dresses, Christmas trees, and party hats seem to share a number of features and to function in similar ways, and that observation would lead you to analyze them to see if they participate in a genre.

The third step in the process is close analysis of the artifacts collected to discover if there are shared substantive or stylistic features in the various artifacts you have collected. Here, you seek commonalities in how the rhetors dealt with the perceived problem in the situation. In the process of discovering similarities and differences among the rhetorical acts under study, you are not confined to looking for particular kinds of strategies or to using one critical method. Ideally, you allow the artifacts being studied to suggest the important similarities and differences, focusing on those elements that stand out to you as critical. You may discover, for example, that the substantive strategies—those that deal primarily with content or the information conveyed—in one genre are themes about family or the expression of self-sacrifice. Stylistic strategies—those that deal largely with form and with “the pattern that orders the content or the physical manifestation of the message”40—may include elements such as adoption of a belligerent tone or use of ambiguous terminology.

Don’t be surprised, however, if you cannot really distinguish between substantive and stylistic strategies in many artifacts. Because content and form are typically intertwined, distinguishing between them is often difficult. You will discover, then, that many generic analyses do not make a distinction between these two sets of strategies and simply identify strategies in general. You also may choose to focus on units of analysis suggested in other critical methods such as fantasy-theme (chapter 5) or metaphoric criticism (chapter 9). Fantasy-theme criticism could be used at this stage of generic description to search for commonalities in depictions of characters, settings, and actions. Metaphoric criticism could be used to discover similarities among the various artifacts in the use of certain types of metaphors.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of genres to see what the substantive and stylistic features of them might be. The genre of narratives produced by survivors of breast cancer has several standard features. The narrative begins at the moment of the discovery of a lump in the breast, and it has a happy ending—the woman survives, often with some new awareness or insights about her life. The primary character is a woman who is well informed and responsible and who functions as a self-determining agent. She is shown battling the disease with humor and optimism (never despair and discouragement). She is encouraged to shop for certain products to support the cause of breast-cancer research and to engage in activities such as walking, running, or skydiving to contribute to that research. The genre focuses on the individual, who deals with her individual diagnosis, her individual rounds of chemotherapy, her individual struggle, and her individual survival. It does not deal with issues related to collective concerns such as the environmental carcinogens that might cause breast cancer or ways in which communities might prevent it.41

We can see other kinds of substantive and stylistic features in the genre of the email ballot. It is typically composed of three interrelated types of messages. The first is the ballot questionnaire, a message from one group member to others that lists and describes the issue on which group members are asked to vote. The opening message solicits participation, provides instructions on how to vote, provides a number of options for dealing with an issue, and sometimes includes the rhetor’s own preference for one of the options. The second type of message involved in the genre is responses to the ballot. Messages from members describe their voting choices and their reasons for the positions they are taking. Occasionally, they propose alternative ways of dealing with the issue from those initially proposed—suggesting a new location for the holiday party or a different kind of training for employees on a particular topic, for example. The third component is the ballot result, a message from the ballot initiator that summarizes the results of the voting. Also a part of the genre is that the results are not always decided by a raw vote count or a simple majority; the votes of some members of the group or team weigh more than others, and they may even have veto power over a decision made via the email ballot.42

The genre of corporate history provides another example of what might constitute substantive and stylistic strategies of a genre. This genre tells about the past of an organization in web pages, annual reports, promotional pamphlets, or the physical space of the organization’s headquarters. Among the features of the genre are that it focuses on events, which are typically presented in chronological order. The characters featured in the histories are the founder of the organization, the founder’s family, and the employees, and events such as wars or economic crises are often treated as characters as well. Competitors are rarely presented in the histories and are seen as less important to the story of the organization than the external conditions that have impacted the company such as wars or economic crises. The general plot line is a rags-to-riches story, with the organization overcoming obstacles of various kinds. Organizations make abundant use of photographs, archival documents, products, and logos as visual aids and supporting materials in these histories.43

Although she claims to be doing a homological analysis rather than a generic analysis because she is analyzing rhetorical practice across disparate forms, Kathryn M. Olson’s analysis of three forms of impersonal violence pro- vides another example of the kinds of substantive and stylistic features that may emerge from generic description. She asserts that the discourses of sport hunting, hate crimes, and stranger rape share a common interpretive frame- work: (1) the rhetor symbolically constructs and physically initiates an adversarial relationship with non-consenting victims/prey; (2) victims/prey are selected opportunistically and constructed impersonally as relatively inter- changeable class representatives; (3) rhetors distance and impersonalize victims/prey without objectifying them or diminishing their presumed potency or the status that comes from conquering them; and (4) rhetors express a desire to physically assert—and take pleasure in exhibiting—their dominance over the victims.44 Her framework uniting three forms of violence constitutes the substantive and stylistic features that generic description asks you to identify.

In the process of textual analysis to discover substantive and stylistic strategies, you may want to perform subsample comparisons of the artifacts you are investigating to identify subclasses of a genre. You may seek to determine, for example, if a genre of resignation rhetoric exists and, in the process, dis- cover variants of resignation rhetoric, each characterized by a somewhat different set of rhetorical strategies. You may need to distinguish, then, among various characteristics, seeing some as paradigm or prototypical cases of a genre, some as borderline cases, and some as characteristics of a subgenre.45 B. L. Ware and Wil A. Linkugel’s essay on speeches of apology is an example of the delineation of subgenres; they identify four different subgenres of apologetic discourse: absolutive, vindicative, explanative, and justificative.46

If you note sufficient similarities among your artifacts to continue the search for a genre, the fourth step in generic description is to formulate the organizing principle that captures the essence of the strategies common to the artifacts. In her analysis of Seinfeld, Beavis and Butt-head, and The Howard Stern Show as examples of a possible genre of humorous incivility, for example, Laura K. Hahn names “closure to new perspectives” as the organizing principle. What brings the shows’ substantive and stylistic characteristics together, she suggests, is an active resistance to diverse perspectives.47 This act of labeling the organizing principle actually may occur simultaneously with the delineation of substantive and stylistic strategies because the elements identified may come to your attention grouped around an obvious core or principle. Regardless of the order in which the steps occur, at the end of this process, you have formulated a list of rhetorical characteristics that appear to define a genre and an organizing principle that unites them.

You may have difficulty deciding whether or not a particular characteristic is a distinguishing feature of a genre. In such instances, the following questions will help you determine if it is one that contributes to a distinct genre:

• Can rules be named with which other critics or observers would concur in identifying characteristics of rhetorical practice when shown the same examples? Not only must the distinguishing features of a genre be nameable but so should the rules that are guiding you in making distinctions among the features in different artifacts. These rules, of course, do not specify precisely how the rhetorical act is to be performed. A genre is not formulaic because there is always another strategy that a rhetor can use to meet the requirements of the situation. But a genre establishes bounded options for rhetors in situations, and naming the rules that define those options can help clarify whether a characteristic is part of a genre or not.48

• Are the similarities in substantive and stylistic strategies clearly rooted in the situations in which they were generated? In other words, does the way in which the situation is defined require the inclusion of an element like this in the artifact? The mere appearance of one characteristic in several artifacts does not mean it was devised to deal with the same perceived situational constraints. Refer frequently to your description of the perceived situation to establish that the similarities are not simply coincidental but are grounded in the rhetor’s perception of some aspect of that situation.49

• Would the absence of the characteristic in question alter the nature of the artifact? A genre is created from a fusion of characteristics, and all are critical in the dynamic of that fusion. Simply saying that a certain element appears in all of the artifacts under study is not enough. A genre exists only if each element is fused to or intertwined with the other elements so its absence would alter the organizing principle. A genre is given its character by a fusion of forms and not by its individual elements.50

• Does the characteristic contribute to insight about a type of rhetoric or simply lead to the development of a classification scheme? The test of a genre is the degree of understanding it provides about the artifacts. Insight—and not neatness of a classification scheme—is your goal in generic description. If the discovery of similarities among artifacts classifies but does not clarify, it may not be particularly useful.51

Description of a genre in which various artifacts are examined to see if a genre exists is one option for the generic critic. This procedure involves examining a variety of artifacts that seem to be generated in similar situations to discover if they have in common substantive and stylistic strategies and an organizing principle that fuses those strategies. If, in fact, they do, you have developed a theory about the existence of a genre.

Generic Participation

A critic who engages in generic participation determines which artifacts participate in which genres. This involves a deductive process in which you test an instance of rhetoric against the characteristics of a genre. Generic participation involves three steps: (1) describing the perceived situational requirements, substantive and stylistic strategies, and organizing principle of a genre; (2) describing the perceived situational requirements, substantive and stylistic strategies, and organizing principle of an artifact; and (3) comparing the characteristics of the artifact with those of the genre to discover if the artifact belongs in that genre. You then use these findings to confirm the characteristics of the genre or to suggest modifications in it.

As an example of this process, let’s assume you are interested in discovering if the rhetoric used in the exhibits at the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico, constitutes conspiracy rhetoric. For a study of generic participation, you first would turn to earlier studies in which the characteristics of conspiracy rhetoric are delineated and then would see what elements characterize the text and photographs in the exhibition. Comparison of the two sets of features would enable you to discover whether the items in the museum participate in a genre of conspiratorial discourse. If no studies have been done that lay out the characteristics of the conspiracy genre, you first would have to engage in generic description in order to discover the characteristics of that genre.

Generic Application

A third option open to a critic who is interested in studying genres is generic application. Rather than simply determining if a particular artifact belongs in a particular genre, you use the description of the genre to evaluate or assess particular instances of rhetoric. Your task here is to apply the situational, stylistic, and substantive elements that characterize a genre to a specific artifact that participates in that genre in order to assess it. Once you have applied the generic characteristics to the specific model, you are able to deter- mine if the artifact is a good or poor example of the genre.

Four basic steps are involved in generic application (the first three are the same as the steps for generic participation): (1) describing the perceived situational requirements, substantive and stylistic strategies, and organizing principle of a genre; (2) describing the perceived situational requirements, substantive and stylistic strategies, and organizing principle of an artifact that is representative of that genre; (3) comparing the characteristics of the artifact with those of the genre; and (4) evaluating the artifact according to its success in fulfilling the required characteristics of the genre.

In using generic features to evaluate an artifact, a critic draws critical insights about the effectiveness of a particular artifact in fulfilling perceived situational demands. When a generic form is used by a rhetor, it leads audience members to expect a particular style and certain types of content. If the rhetoric does not fulfill these expectations, the audience is likely to be con- fused and to react negatively. Body art, for example, a form of visual and performance art, tends to violate the genre of visual art. Visitors to galleries expect to see art framed and hanging on walls—the generic form of visual art. Instead, they encounter works such as Transfixed, in which body artist Chris Burden had himself nailed to the roof of a Volkswagen bug and had the engine run at full speed for two minutes. While viewers may come to realize that the breaking of the generic frame is done intentionally by the artist/rhetor to encourage viewers to question the definition of art, the violation of generic expectations may create confusion, frustration, and rejection of the artwork by viewers—at least initially.52

A critic also may discover that generic violations increase an artifact’s effectiveness, as is the case with Sergio Leone’s film Once Upon a Time in the West. Viewers expect a film in the genre of the Western tradition but find many violations of the genre—in the unusual costumes worn by the cowboys, the very slow unfolding of scenes, and their difficulty in telling the heroes from the villains. These violations, however, create an experience for the viewer that is positive rather than negative. Evaluation of artifacts, whether positive or negative, is made on the basis of the suasory impact of the artifacts that results from their fulfillment or violation of generic expectations.


Formulating a Research Question

Your research questions in generic criticism will vary according to whether you are engaged in generic description, generic participation, or generic application. In generic description, your research questions are: “Does a genre exist among a set of artifacts? If so, what are the characteristics of the genre?” In generic participation, your research question is: “Does this artifact participate in a particular genre?” In generic application, the question with which you are concerned is: “Is this artifact successful in fulfilling the required characteristics of its genre?” In generic criticism, you may include your artifact and the genre with which you are concerned in your research question because your interest is in a particular genre and particular artifacts. You also may choose to go beyond these specific research questions about genre to ask questions about other rhetorical processes that involve the genre you are studying. You will see examples of such questions in some of the sample essays below, in which the authors have formulated questions about some rhetorical processes in general even as they are engaging in generic description, generic participation, or generic application.

Writing the Essay

After completing the analysis, you are ready to write your essay, which includes five major components: (1) an introduction, in which you discuss the research question, its contribution to rhetorical theory, and its significance; (2) a description of your artifact(s) and their contexts; (3) a description of your method of criticism—in this case, generic analysis and the specific type in which you are engaged—generic description, generic participation, or generic application; (4) a report of the findings of the analysis, in which you reveal the connections you have discovered between your artifact(s) and a genre; and (5) a discussion of the contribution your analysis makes to rhetorical theory.

Sample Essays

The four sample essays that follow illustrate the options open to a critic who engages in generic criticism. The first two essays are examples of generic description. Jörgen Skågeby seeks to discover if there is a genre of shred music videos by asking, “What are the formal characteristics of shred music videos?” Andrew Gilmore analyzes speeches by Jiang Zemin, Barack Obama, and Pope Francis to discover if a genre of handover rhetoric exists. The next two essays are samples of generic participation. Danielle Montoya engages in an analysis of generic participation to discover if Ansel Adams’s photograph Discussion on Art reflects attributes of Adams’s artistic genre and, if so, how it participates in communicating the artist’s perspective. Joshua Carlisle Harz- man analyzes a work that artist Banksy installed at Disneyland to discover if it participates in the genre of culture jamming. Generic application is not represented in the four sample essays as it is the type of generic criticism that is least frequently done.


1 James S. Measell, “Whither Genre? (Or, Genre Withered?),” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 6 (Win- ter 1976): 1.

2 Carolyn R. Miller, “Genre as Social Action,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 70 (1984): 159. 3 Anis S. Bawarshi and Mary Jo Reiff, Genre: An Introduction to History, Theory, Research, and

Pedagogy (West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2010), 3. 4 For a useful description of substance and form as they relate to genre, see Miller, “Genre as

Social Action,” 159. 5 For a discussion of strategies and organizing principle, see: Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kath-

leen Hall Jamieson, “Form and Genre in Rhetorical Criticism: An Introduction,” in Form and Genre: Shaping Rhetorical Action, ed. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Falls Church, VA: Speech Communication Association, [1978]), 18, 21, 25; Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “Rhetorical Hybrids: Fusion of Generic Elements,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 68 (May 1982): 146; Jackson Harrell and Wil A. Linkugel, “On Rhe- torical Genre: An Organizing Perspective,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 11 (Fall 1978): 263–64; and Robert L. Ivie, “Images of Savagery in American Justifications for War,” Communication Mono- graphs 47 (November 1980): 282.

6 Wanda J. Orlikowski and JoAnne Yates, “Genre Repertoire: The Structuring of Communicative Practices in Organizations,” Administrative Science Quarterly 39 (December 1994): 542.

7 M. M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, trans. Vern W. McGee, ed. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986), 78–79.

8 Thomas Luckmann, “Observations on the Structure and Function of Communicative Genres,” Semiotica 173 (2009): 273.

9 Richard M. Coe, “‘An Arousing and Fulfillment of Desires’: The Rhetoric of Genre in the Pro- cess Era—and Beyond,” in Genre and the New Rhetoric, ed. Aviva Freedman and Peter Medway (London: Taylor & Francis, 1994), 182.

10 Jörgen Skågeby, “Dismantling the Guitar Hero?: A Case of Prodused Parody and Disarmed Subversion,” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 19 (2012): 66.

11 Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1.5–10. For a more elaborate discussion of genre in the Rhetoric, see G. P. Mohrmann and Michael C. Leff, “Lincoln at Cooper Union: A Rationale for Neo-Classical Criti- cism,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 60 (December 1974): 463. For a discussion of differences between contemporary notions and Aristotle’s notion of genre, see Thomas M. Conley, “Ancient Rhetoric and Modern Genre Criticism,” Communication Quarterly 27 (Fall 1979): 47–48.

12 Edwin Black, Rhetorical Criticism: A Study in Method (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 133.

13 Lloyd F. Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (Winter 1968): 13. 14 Among the essays that deal with Bitzer’s notion of the rhetorical situation are: Lloyd F. Bitzer, “The Rhetorical Situation,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (Winter 1968): 1–14; Richard L. Larson, “Lloyd Bitzer’s ‘Rhetorical Situation’ and the Classification of Discourse: Problems and Impli- cations,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 3 (Summer 1970): 165–68; Arthur B. Miller, “Rhetorical Exi- gence,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 5 (Spring 1972): 111–18; Richard E. Vatz, “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 6 (Summer 1973): 154–61; Scott Consigny, “Rhetoric and Its Situations,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 7 (Summer 1974): 175–86; Barry Brum- mett, “Some Implications of ‘Process’ or ‘Intersubjectivity’: Postmodern Rhetoric,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 9 (Winter 1976): 21–51; David M. Hunsaker and Craig R. Smith, “The Nature of Issues: A Constructive Approach to Situational Rhetoric,” Western Speech Communication 40 (Summer 1976): 144–56; Lloyd F. Bitzer, “Functional Communication: A Situational Perspec- tive,” in Rhetoric in Transition: Studies in the Nature and Uses of Rhetoric, ed. Eugene E. White (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980), 21–38; and Richard A. Cherwitz and James W. Hikins, Communication and Knowledge: An Investigation in Rhetorical Epistemol-

ogy (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1986). 15 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “Acknowledgements,” in Form and Genre:

Shaping Rhetorical Action, ed. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (Falls

Church, VA: Speech Communication Association, [1978]), 3. 16 Harrell and Linkugel, “On Rhetorical Genre.” 17 Carolyn R. Miller, “Genre as Social Action,” 151.


Sample Essays



DISMANTLING THE GUITAR HERO? A Case of Prodused Parody and Disarmed Subversion

Jörgen Skågeby

Introduction: Shredding Media and Genres

A “shreds” video combines existing live music concert footage, predominantly including a famous male rock guitarist or guitar-based rock group,1 with a self-produced over- dubbed soundtrack. The result is a musical parody that exists in an intersection between production and consumption and works as a within-genre evolution. This paper examines shreds as a form of multimodal intertextual critique by engaging with the videos them- selves as well as audience responses to them.

The originator of the “shreds” videos is a Finn named Santeri Ojala (aka StSanders). After producing a number of shreds videos, Ojala was reportedly banned from YouTube after them receiving complaints of copyright infringement (Wortham, 2008). In a way this is indicative of a tension between a legal and an illegal element of the shred and the separation between consumers and producers as enforced by economic measures (Enzensberger, 1970). While it can be contended that this is a form of piracy per se, there is an interesting grey zone relating for example to fair use and media companies’ content management policies to be explored here. As of now many of the videos are still available, both on YouTube (although with significantly smaller number of views) and through Ojala’s own website ( While Ojala is commonly regarded as the originator of the shred parody, others have appropriated the form since the initial videos. In a typical “shreds” video much precaution is taken to carefully synchronize the added sound with the existing visual content of the live footage. The final result is a video with a user-generated soundtrack that is so well coordinated that many users, unexposed to previous “shreds,” initially mistake it for the original video and sound (Phan, 2007). However, as shall be further detailed in the analysis and discussion, the added sound in many ways confronts and critiques many of the common assumptions about the male guitar hero, the audience and the context of the concert.

For the purposes of this paper, “shreds” is a particularly interesting phenomenon since it so explicitly combines a pre-existing visual material with a user-produced sound in a socio-digital context. The fact that this produsage is done with such laborious time-consuming effort further motivates them as a target of study. In addition, and what is perhaps even more interesting is, of course, how the produsage of this material is placed within remix culture and emerging cultural values.

Background: Produsage on YouTube

When the concept of a remix found its use in everyday language, it was commonly connected to the restructuring of a piece of music (Knobel and Lankshear, 2008; Manovich, 2007). Today, the concept has a wider connotation, but still, the underlying structure of the music remix remains at the core of it. The ability to “disconnect” and separate various tracks of the music enabled a way of manipulation that, in hindsight, was a step towards complete “digitalism.” This improved ability to manipulate parts of the whole, and recombine them into new wholes, lead to new creative outputs and genres. In fact, a recent study shows that the amount and diversity of productive outcomes of a community or network is heavily related to the ability to reuse and remix available content (Cheliotis and Yew, 2009). Thus, the previous separation of consumption and production is to an increasing

extent being challenged by scholars who theorize that these activities are better modelled as a coincident process of “prosumption” or “produsage” (Bruns, 2007b; Fornäs et al., 2007; Humphreys and Grayson, 2008; Tapscott and Williams, 2006). For this paper we will use the term “produser” for the combination of user/producer. By engaging themselves in a process of co-creation of new knowledge and artefacts, which builds and extends on exist- ing content and artefacts, users become produsers (Bruns, 2007a). Produsage theory sees a user as always already a producer. In other words, produsers, with the help of pervasive media technologies, applications and services, engage in the repurposing, remixing and redistribution of media objects (Lessig, 2008) and virtual products (Skågeby, 2011). Such media objects include music, sound, images and videos, which originate from a variety of sources (e.g. television, motion pictures, Internet, personal media archives) (Knobel and Lankshear, 2008). On a larger scale, Cooper (2009: 304) explores, in what she refers to as “economic dynamics,” an insightful framing that acknowledges that capitalist relations today are often muddled with more common wealth or distributed gift-giving modes of goods and service circulation. As such, “things are not simply used up, but used in performative ways to create (new) economic, social and cultural values as well as statuses.”

In this context of produsage, YouTube has emerged as an important media-sharing platform for user-generated content. YouTube is a video sharing service that provides produsers with a relatively straightforward platform to add and view videos (Benevenuto et al., 2008). These videos can be, for example, “home videos,” videos originating from broad- cast television or movies, commercial videos (trailers, product commercials) or remixes of various kinds. YouTube videos are often also embedded in, or linked to, from other online services (e.g. blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace) (Cha et al., 2007). It is also common for videos of a certain type to link to each other and consequently form embedded small net- works, or communities, of their own (Cheng et al., 2007).

More importantly for this paper, YouTube has also become an important forum for critical commentary and parody (Edwards and Tryon, 2009). Shred videos engage audiences in an “attack” of their host genre from within. As such they also engage in parody as a specific form of critical intertextuality (Gray, 2006).

Theory: Parody, Critical Intertextuality and Genre Literacy

Parody is commonly defined as an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect. As such, the parody, by definition, contains references to other genres and texts. Without these references, or intertextuality (Chandler, 2007), the parody would lose its potential “to talk back to more authoritative texts and genres, to recontextualize and pollute their meaning-construction processes, and to offer other, ‘improper’, and yet more media literate and savvy interpretations” (Gray, 2006: 4). An analysis of intertextuality can then be defined as a concern for the external relations between texts (rather than the internal logic of a text). Intertextuality views texts as always co-dependent on other texts for their textual meanings (i.e. as always already part of existing semiotic systems). As such, texts can provide proposed readings that challenge mainstream interpretations and subvert conventional discourses. It is obvious that a critical intertextual perspective has conceptual commonalities with both hypermedia (Landow and Delany, 1994; Orr, 2009) and the consumer-as-producer (Grossberg et al., 1998; Kotler, 1986; Toffler, 1980). Without going in to meticulous detail on the philosophical underpinnings of intertextuality, this paper will examine parody as a critical form of intertextuality, specifically in the context of video produsage and genre literacy. As such, it also becomes important to conceptualize the genre.

Genres are seen as one of the main principles for structuring modern media (Bjurström et al., 2000). Genres are defined as (relatively) stable patterns or familiar forms that function as a common frame of reference. In this way, they shape expectations by forming relationships between consumers and producers (Grossberg, et al., 1998) and by being both descriptive and prescriptive. As such, genres are also ideal theoretical and methodological tools for examining produsage: “I focus on genres because they are the meeting-point between the process of producing media materials and the process of using them” (Agre, 1998: 81).

Genre, rather than providing a strict definition of a class of objects, provides an orientation for produsage activities and outcomes. Genre can be seen as a collection of conventions, a structure of cultural value judgments or as a set of intertextual relations (Devitt, 1993; Miller, 1984; Swales, 1990). In practice, this is what creates a recognizable genre, allowing people to produce similar objects. The genre also implies that there is a “stream” of cultural objects following a recurring form and function, rather than a single instance (Agre, 1998). However, the genre is not to be regarded as completely rigid in form and function. Genres can be unstable over time as they develop due to changes in media technology structures, market transformations, or even the intentions and concerns of produsers. Any such changes may happen gradually (e.g. through a merging of genres) or rapidly (e.g. through regulated changes). Another dynamic of genre has to do with the fact that it is self-referring—instances of the genre continuously reinforce or challenge the genre itself (Yates and Orlikowski, 1992). Reconnecting genre and parody it can be said that parody is an intertextual process that “makes fun of the way a genre works” (Gray, 2006: 45). Parody criticizes the genre from within. For this critique to be fruitful, the process of parody requires of its audience an understanding of the genre’s conventions—a genre literacy.

Genre literacy, as such, not only may act as a powerful tool for conformity to be maintained, but also provides two integral conditions for a critical intertextuality: it is a system that can be disrupted and reconstituted by one text, allowing one text to affect many, and given the prevalence of media discussion today, it is a system that allows for communities to form around such rogue texts, communities that can act to reinforce, further disseminate, or even amplify such texts’ disruptive force. (Gray, 2006: 46)

Interpretative communities—or produsing audiences—become so significant because they embody the comprehension of the criticism. At the same time, the parody is also at the mercy of audience miscomprehension or disregard. Hence, it is important, as Gray stresses, to conduct a cultural analysis of genre—an analysis that is sensitive to “the processes of categorization and at what cultural and media practices that are behind them” (2006: 30). In summary, what is interesting for this paper are the ways that produsers re-use media, genres and their boundaries, to create parodic content, which is then shared over a computer-mediated social network. While it can be difficult to definitely determine when a stream of media objects come to form a genre of its own, the process of parody produsage is important since it highlights which elements are culturally and temporally situated within the (emerging) genre at the time of the study.


Research Question

This paper explores “shreds” as a form of prodused musical parody by focusing on:

1. The formal characteristics of “shred” music videos

2. The intertextual relationships of shred videos

3. Thesharedunderstandingsamongprodusersconcerningtheinterpretationof those characteristics and relationships

In a larger sense, an exploration of these aspects can tell us more about the potential of prodused parody in a contemporary social mediated culture.

Material and Delimitations

Two types of data were sourced for this paper: (1) shred videos, and (2) video user comments. The paper will focus mainly on the shred videos created by Ojala since he is the originator, the most productive produser of shreds, and has been continually produsing shreds over the development of the genre. However, the data material will also include a number of shreds prodused by other YouTube aliases to indicate the adoption of the format. Ojala’s web- site reports 18 specific instances of “guitar shreds,” including for example santana shreds,2 Eddie van Halen shreds3 and Jake E. Lee Shreds.4 Further, other produsers have adopted the format of the “shred” in for example The Who shreds,5 Slipknot shreds6 and Creed Shreds.7 In total 21 shred videos were analysed. The videos have between 25,000 and 2,200,000 views on YouTube as of the time of writing. The reason for the relatively low view count should be read in the light that the original videos have been pulled from YouTube (due to copyright infringe- ment claims) once before and the new uploads have not yet generated views in the same range. For the 21 chosen videos the comments on YouTube amount to 27,059 at the time of writing. To create a more manageable volume of comments, five shred videos were randomly selected and all comments elicited. The rationale behind this approach, rather than randomiz- ing from the entire comment pool, is to retain the coherence and sequence of the comments made to a single video. This selection resulted in 4277 comments included in the analysis.


The general methodological framework used in this paper can be referred to as genre analysis. Genre analysis follows a number of generic steps (Arvola et al., 2010): out the contents of the object;

2. identify purpose of object and content elements;

3. identifysharedcharacteristicsofanddifferencesbetweenastreamofobjects.

However, genres are not manifested through texts alone. All genres are dependent on the support of an interpretative community or the staying power of the genre would soon wither. Therefore, an important addition to the genre analysis model is to:

4.identify shared understandings among produsers concerning the interpretation of those characteristics

Step 1. Because the objects of study in this paper are videos specifically, the paper follows the generic procedure of the genre analysis, but also uses a specifically developed method to mapping out the content. An adapted version of the video analysis method developed by Machin (2010) was used. The purpose of this method is to “transcribe videos in a way that allows us to best describe and analyse the way that sound, image and word


work together multimodally, to show how they interrelate to form a single communicative act” (2010: 185). More specifically, the analysis made use of an annotation model consisting of three “tracks.” This is a particularly fruitful way to analyse prodused parody because it makes it easy to identify what tracks actually contain produsergenerated material (Table 1).

Table 1. Annotation model for “shreds” analysis.

Video Music Sound and/or vocal effects
Descriptions of scenes and cuts Descriptions of musical qualities and instrumentation Description of added sound effects or vocals


Features and recurring themes can be established in order to characterize similarities and dissimilarities relating both to each case on its own, but also over the cases. This method allows us to consider emerging genres: “The kinds of semiotic resources being used in particular cases [of produsage] specify not only certain formal characteristics of genres, but also a range of understandings shared among [produsers] concerning the interpretation of those characteristics” (Machin, 2010: 5).

Step 2. For the second step of the analysis (to identify purpose of object and content elements), we turn to characteristics particularly relating to the semiotics of intertextuality. Chandler (2007) provides a comprehensive list of some of the defining features of intertextuality:

• Reflexivity: the degree of self-reference or self-consciousness that is visible in the text;

• Alteration: the degree of modification of the sources for the text (remix);

• Explicitness: refers to the degree by which direct references are included/excluded/ alluded;

• Comprehension: relates to how important it is for readers to be able to recognize the intertextuality of included elements;

• Structural unboundedness: the extent to which the text can be seen to belong to a larger structure (e.g. a genre, a specific practice, a service).

Step 3. The identification of shared characteristics over the selected objects was man- aged by a straightforward thematic analysis based on the features described in step 2. Put simply, patterns were identified through careful reading and re-reading of the analyses of the various videos.

Step 4. As noted previously, the shared understandings of produsers can be fruitfully analysed via the semiotic resources typically used as genre elements. Still, YouTube also provides another source for data in the comments that other produsers can post to each video. Consequently, this paper will include a complementary analysis of the comments to each video as a way to provide a richer picture of shared understandings and interpretations among produsers. All video comments were collected and analysed thematically.


The full analysis of all the videos will naturally not be included in the paper, but to provide an idea of how the analysis was conducted, we shall include a brief example from “santana shreds” (Table 2). The analysis of the comments followed a generic thematic analysis, identifying themes and subthemes through a careful reading and re-reading (Freeday and Muir-Cochrane, 2006.


Table 2. Brief example of shred video analysis.

Video Melody qualities Sound and/or vocal effects
Fade-in from black. Mid-range shot of Santana approaching the microphone. After speaking into it he starts playing his guitar. Guitar riffs begin as Santana hits the strings of the guitar. The video starts with applause and wordless vocal sound as Santana speaks into the microphone.
Mid-range shot of man playing a rhythmic instrument using a long stick. Guitar riffs continue while a “ting- ing” sound is synchronized with the movements of the pictured musician. Applause in the background.
Long-range shot of the scene. Guitar solo continues.


Cut to mid-range shot of Santana with a bass player in the back- ground. Guitar solo continues, perfectly

synched with video, but is beginning to be notably mediocre in precision and skill. Dispersed bass notes are heard as bassist slaps strings.

The scene ends with audience applause dubbed over guitar riffs.
Organist in the foreground, Santana in the background Random organ chords overlay second-rate guitar solo. Applause continues.
Camera angle from behind the drummer who hits a variety of drums in the set. Drum sounds synchronized with drummer’s movements while guitar solo continues. Applause continues
Close-up of percussionist from scene 2. He approaches the microphone while playing the rhythmic instrument. He then speaks into the microphone. “Tinging” sound dubbed over guitar solo Applause continues. Wordless vocal sound synched with mouth movement.
[Scenes omitted due to space restrictions]    
Santana turns towards the organ player who vividly plays a lower and upper keyboard.  

Organist plays the intro to “The Final Countdown” by Europe, which transforms into random dabbles on the keyboard.

Applause after organ solo.




Sound and/or vocal effects

The video starts with applause and wordless vocal sound as Santana speaks into the microphone.

Applause in the background.

The scene ends with audience applause dubbed over guitar riffs.

Applause continues. Applause continues.

Applause continues. Wordless vocal sound synched with mouth movement.

Applause after organ solo.

There is an obvious risk of over-intellectualizing parody and removing all aspects of fun through dry academic analysis. Nevertheless, shreds as cultural and social objects are more than just “guys mucking about in their boring office-desk jobs.” First, the very effort of produsing a shred is significant and defies simplistic reduction to just-for-fun (even though this is part of it). This is also expressed vividly in the video comments, for example, “The twisted mastermind behind these is incredibly dedicated, patient, and talented” (user comment). Second, as audiences engage with media objects, there is a chance that they (the media objects) become more than what the produser may have intended from the beginning. This includes a development of the shred in itself and as such the host genre in general. While the early shreds were generally focused upon bad guitar playing, adding new instruments, (out-of-genre) sounds and even lyrics became part of the development. In addition, a more deliberate imitation of the original artist’s style of playing or well-known hit song added to the (mis-)comprehension of the shred.


Homage and Subversion

Parody can be tributary and loving, serving as homage and flattery, but it can also take the ground in order to transgress and subvert. (Gray, 2006: 45)

Naturally, there are several ways to read the “shred” genre. A main theme, however, is located in the tension between cultural critique and cultural homage. It is clear that there are some manifest pop-cultural references made in shreds. The explicit inclusion of fragments of well-known “rock anthems” (e.g., “The Final Countdown” by Europe and “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath) in the audio soundtrack creates a sense of familiarity with the audience and points to a guitarist-in-learning. Several comments make reference to “a guitar center on a Saturday afternoon” where novice players try out their favourite licks and riffs. Further, including elements that are not typically part of the host genre, such as tap- dancing or whistling, pose further challenges to the romantic idea and connotations of the guitar hero.

On a more latent level, the shred also highlights how the produsage of a particular parody requires prior knowledge of genre elements (“comprehension” in Chandler’s terms, “genre literacy” in Gray’s terms). The shred can include emphases that make the added sound particularly critical or humorous. For example, the adding of applause after each (poorly) performed solo can be read as simply being in contrast to the quality of the performed solo, but also as a critique against the custom for each band member to perform lengthy solos that the audience then (customarily) cheer for.

As mentioned, the produser-generated guitar melodies are created with a balance between skill and deliberate amateurism. While the melodic qualities are obviously flawed the sound of the guitar is kept very realistic. The quality of the other sounds, however, are very “cheap.” Keyboards, handclaps and drums all sound very amateurish, synthetic and out-of-date. Still, viewers unfamiliar with the band, or not knowing what the original con- tent should sound, may be tricked by the quality of the synchronized material and interpret the performance as being that of a very poor musician. For example, several comments highlight the gradual (or sudden) realization that the video is, in fact, parodic: “I didn’t understand that it was fake until like half way. I was thinking ‘interesting style.’ Then when I realized it was fake, I couldn’t stop laughing” (user comment). Others seem to not realize that the audio is overdubbed at all: “ummm this was aweful:(vai is good but here he dont have a good day:/” (user comment). This, however, leads us to a common theme in the comments, namely irony. The irony takes on several different forms, but (mis-)comprehension is a major theme. Some comments acknowledge that the audio has been substituted, but make an ironic jest out of the notion that the sound has been exchanged for a “genuine” track by another group (e.g. Nickelback, Primus or The Residents). This becomes meta-critical since it also criticizes the referred artist and its genre (e.g., “art rock”). A variation on this is to imply that the artist in the shred is in fact copying a player-in-learning: “I played this exact same piece during the 2nd grade talent show. Thanks for ripping me off Steve” (user comment)—and thus reverse the direction of flattery. Other comments seem to pre- tend to not have comprehended that the audio is replaced, and for example make use of advanced music-theoretical terms to suggest that the skill required to perform a solo of this kind is immense. Deliberate miscomprehension also takes the form of rants about how a hard rock life of drugs and downward artistic spiralling may have played a part in this particular shoddy performance. Of course, there are also members of the audience who leap to the defence of their heroes. Their comments express a dislike against what they see, not as homage at all, but as plain mockery of a genuinely skilled guitar player.

Gender Performance

An important function of the parody is to bring to light that which has been left obscured:

The parodic text adds itself to our genre understanding, and works toward corroding away that which has been allowed to work undetected in the genre. (Gray, 2006: 47)

Ganetz, citing Judith Butler, points to parody as one way to “make visible the cracks” in gender-normative performances: “The resistance against the already given gender norms, against the repetitions, can be found in the parodies that make visible the characteristics of the imitation” (2009: 128, my translation). As the electric guitar and “rock” music in general is closely connected to the performance of masculinity (Bayton, 1997), the prodused parody of the “shred” becomes particularly interesting to analyse in terms of gender performance. Indeed, it is hard to ignore the fact that virtually all instances of the “shred” genre contain male musicians only. The hegemonic masculinity of guitar heroes is also paralleled in the popular literature. For example, in the book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists the author remarks that out of the 100 presented guitarists 48 were American, 14 Swedish, 13 British, seven German, four Norwegian and three Canadian. Two each came from Finland, Poland, Brazil and Denmark, and one each from Switzerland, France and Australia. Ninety- six of the guitarists were still living at the time the book was published, with only Euronymous, Jesse Pintado, Chuck Schuldiner and “Dimebag” Darrell deceased (McIver, 2009).

What the author fails to mention is that not a single one was female. Even if we do not limit ourselves to “metal rock” music, it is clear that most “guitar heroes” are men. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine presented their “100 greatest guitarists” list. On the list were two women: Joni Mitchell (no. 71) and Joan Jett (no. 86) (Rolling Stone Magazine, 2003). To further the argument, signs of a male hegemony in (electric) guitar music are visible in, for example, recruitment to instrumentalist education (Zervoudakes and Tanur, 1994), in media representation (Ganetz, 2009) and in audience reception (Tagg, 1989)—the guitar, and particularly the electric guitar, is repeatedly coded as an instrument connected to masculinity. This points to what Acker (2006) has coined an inequality regime. Inequality regimes are defined as “the interlocked practices and processes that result in continuing inequalities in all work organizations” (2006: 441). The analytical approach of inequality regimes is closely connected to the concepts of legitimacy and visibility. Legitimacy entails how inequality regimes justify (or do not justify) the inequalities they sustain; while visibility concerns the awareness the organization displays regarding inequalities (manifest or latent). In terms of legitimacy there are examples of parodied female guitarists, but (currently) women are not as well represented as men in guitar rock, which is a fundamental part of why the parody of the shred can be read as gender-normative critique. When it comes to visibility, the recurring lists of “top guitarists” are, but one, clear sign of “invisible” inequality regimes at play.

As mentioned, a well-performed guitar solo is also a good performance of masculinity (Ganetz, 2009). In the shred video the guitarist enacts all the expected elements of masculine gender performance by, for example, arm-waving, jumping, tough and aggressive body language and (facially) displaying deep emotional investment in the performed guitar solo. This is however contrasted by the prosumer-generated soundtrack, which synchronizes appropriately with the visuals, but confronts them in terms of performance. Thus, this presents an intersection between visual and audible gender performance. In the prosumption of “shreds,” gender performance arguably becomes a multimodal postmodern canvas (albeit not necessarily a “blank” canvas) that can be “tampered with.” Consequently, by referring to Halberstam’s (2005) distinction between transgendered and transsexual bodies, we may shed even more light on the “shred.” According to this notion, the “shredded” guitarist can be read mainly as transgendered—that is, the multimodal gender performance is altered—but it can not be read as transsexual since the visual body is not “deliberately reorganized” (2005: 97). In reading the shred as an example of transgendered bodies, we have already noted that the visual representation of the male bodies are left (technically) unaltered. However, in visuality is also embedded social power, which is here brought into ambivalence. This unsettling of social power arguably directs our attention towards the visual representation as such, altering our “socio-material perception” of it—very much in the way Ganetz and Butler identified the purpose of the parody. That is, when gender performance follows the expected norms, we think little of it. But, when the shred alters the audial performance, certain elements of (gendered) imitation and visuality become highlighted to us.

As a final reflection on gender performance, it is likely that “shredding” (as produsing practice) is still a very male-orientated practice. As such, there is also reason to think that the humour of shreds is co-constructed to actually reduce anxiety about any “queering” that may be going on (Hawkins, 2006). That is, the jest of the parody may not only function as a gender-normative critique, but also as to disarm any real challenge to the constructed nature of conventional masculinity. Thus, the shred should certainly not be over-interpreted as a sign of the destabilization of hegemonic masculinity. Nevertheless, at the same time it cannot be neglected as an (attempt at) undermining of traditional and repeated masculinity.

Synchronicity and Dis/harmony

Synchronization is an important part of many produsage activities (Knobel and Lank- shear, 2008). However, the shred relies on synchronicity in a broader sense, both technically and socially. Their combination of existing video with self-produced (and synchronized) music and sound is the technical part. This is a laborious and time-consuming effort. In the case of shreds, it is particularly salient that produsers must, during the actual process of produsage, consume the originating material in order to produce a synchronized experience. That is, produsers, in order to perform the art of audiovisual synchronization must quite literally and concurrently consume the original visual material while producing the audio (although post-editing is certainly utilized for perfection).

While synchronicity is a central characteristic of produsing multimodal parody, it does not capture the “sense-making” sociomaterial aspects very well. On a sociomaterial level, the shred expresses a co-dependency between being technically “on time” and being socio- economically disharmonius.

Media synchronicity needs to align with genre literacy or the parodic power is lost. At the same time, a shred also needs to be critical enough to parodize its host genre effectively, and thus also be disharmonius in relation to the mainstream. The media synchronicity of the shred relates both to harmony (within the disruption of the genre) and disharmony (in relation to the mainstream). However, the disharmony of parody cannot be completely without sociomaterial resonance—the peer prosumers (or audience) must be able to make sense of it. It can be almost a relief for the audience to find that the pet peeve they have been so annoyed about has been effectively captured n a particular piece of prodused parody. As such, there is an element of harmony in disharmony that may perhaps be best described as a recognition of commonality in going against the mainstream), as a growing number of people may find the same parody expressing their concerns and/or intentions.

An interesting aspect of the shred genre is how many of the instruments remain unheard when out of picture. This is a very literal practice of audiovisual synchronization. It may, of course, be a pragmatic decision on the behalf of the produser of the video to minimize the effort expended. However, this choice also adds value to the final product as it emphasizes a perception of the artist(s) as being of second-rate quality, which is arguably one of the functions/purposes of the genre.

Another purpose of the synchronization is more directed towards the audience of the genre. The synchronization is key to the produsage balance of the genre. For the shred, the balance remains in being “convincingly bad.” That is, the produser needs to be good enough to persuade consumers that the final product could be the real thing. At the same time, they criticize the romantic idea of the guitar hero as an instrument equilibrist, by producing a “bad” soundtrack.


The examples analyzed in this paper indicate the variety of practices and semiotic styles used when produsing parody on YouTube. By analysing these examples as emerging genres with certain commonalities we can begin to position them as parts of counter-culture. Counter-culture refers to modes of resistance to, critique of, or deviation from what is perceived as a non-desirable norm. In the media climate of today there is reason to explore how counter-culture, consumerism and technicity are interwoven. Assuming a “long tail development” of cultural expression and consumption, we will likely also witness a great variety of emerging forms of counter-culture that may, or may not, become mainstream, but where the academic excitement is found in the processes of emergence and how participants experience them. This paper has begun to show how the analysis of produsage out- comes can identify and characterize new media genres and genre elements. These genres are of cultural importance since they are mediators of the relation between produsers. Through their form, function and content, genres assist produsers in recognizing situations and objects. As consumers, we have certain expectations from a certain genre. However, these expectations can also be confronted by prodused media objects, which in turn can come to evolve the genre in itself.

This paper has suggested that we can understand parody on YouTube as prodused, intertextual, genre-evolving critique. The practice of produsing parody on YouTube is situated in a co-dependence between (technical) synchronization and (sociocultural) dis/harmony. In a wider sense, the videos analysed in this paper are (post-)modern examples of counter-culture. They use existing media to produse “improper” alterations and alternative interpretations. Still, because of the social network effect of YouTube they are capable of reaching a mass audience, form sub-genres of parody and even generate revenue (both for personal account holders and for YouTube). As such, the role of the produser is a contradictory, or perhaps, intermediary, one. This is because of the fact that the range of potential alteration is nebulous and manifold, due to it being based on an infrastructure deeply enmeshed in commercial exploitation, for example by the capitalization of attention (Skågeby, 2009). This shows how YouTube is also situated in-between a common-placed media institution and a platform offering relationships that go beyond the institutionalized set of rules. The mundane produsage of shreds can be interpreted as a liberating and empowering practice. However, on a socioeconomic level it can also be seen as subject to re-commodification and incorporated in an economy ultimately based on exchange values (rather than social bonding values). As Comor (2010) suggests, a process of produsage is always followed by attempts to manage and exploit. As such, it is interesting not only to reconsider the removal of the shred videos on YouTube, but also the appearance of Ojala on the American Jimmy Kimmel TV Show (ABC, 9 January 2008). In a segment from the show Ojala is interviewed and asked to perform a “live shred” (i.e., a video is shown on a screen and Ojala “shreds” to it). Ojala is then joined by guitarist Slash, from Guns ’n’ Roses, who plays along with Ojala, eventually interrupting and drowning Ojala’s shred with a “properly skilled” guitar solo. So, while these examples of prodused parody are illustrative of a practice where previously passive consumers express their new produsive positions as members of networked culture, they can also be seen as subversion that can be effectively disarmed or controlled.

This in turn leads us to consider the relationship between technology and technique. Technology, in this case, can be understood as YouTube, easy-to-use movie editing software and networked computers. Technique, in this case, refers more to the embodied skills of produsers to code and decode cultural messages. At times, prodused parody enters the mainstream to become part of broader public discourses on contemporary popular culture, spreading well beyond YouTube. As such, the produsage of parody is a vivid example of technique-in-use—that is, the potential to apply technique through technology. The big change, compared with earlier forms of prodused parody, is that produsers now engage in collaborative self-reflection and discussion round technique-in-use. Interpretative communities continuously re-mix cultural content in a process of concurrent discursive re-evaluation and re-interpretation.



1. “Shredded” guitarists and bands include Steve Vai, Eric Clapton, Eddie van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, San- tana, Kiss and The Who, amongst others.

2. santana shreds (2008), uploaded by sa238, 3. Eddie Van Halen Shreds (2008), uploaded by Topoieka, v=pdFJTbaFcZ0 4. Jake E. Lee Shreds (2008), uploaded by sa238, 5. The Who Shreds (2008), uploaded by NanoGraine, 6. Slipknot SHREDS (2008), uploaded by thisnextsongiscalled,

watch?v=BDdQV3a_CRg 7. Creed Shreds 4 – A Thousand Yasseahs! By SPIRITSWITCHBOARD (2010), uploaded by tehjizz,



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Sample Essay


THE TRANSFERENCE OF POWER A Generic Description of Handover Rhetoric

Andrew Gilmore

In recent times, numerous countries, including Nigeria, Venezuela, and The Philip- pines, have experienced significant handovers. In March, 2013, the country of Myanmar witnessed a historic handover when a civilian-dominated government gained power over the country, ending a period of dictatorship of more than 50 years. In 2004, following the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraq’s US-led administration transferred sovereignty of the county to the interim Iraqi government in a momentous handover that took place at a hastily arranged, low-key ceremony in an effort to avoid terrorist attacks. Such instances highlight the increasing need to analyze the rhetoric that is used at handovers across the globe and to uncover strategies that rhetors can use to establish power and, most important, successfully communicate with and address the needs of an audience in such a situation. The handover of power is a delicate balancing act that carries many consequences for both a rhetor and an audience. If a rhetor displays too much power, an audience may feel alienated, and unrest may occur through an uprising. If a rhetor displays too little power, however, an audience may gain control and power over the rhetor or feel threatened because of the apparent weakness of the new government or leader.

In this essay, I analyze three addresses presented by rhetors during situations in which power is handed over from one individual, territory, or entity to another. The artifacts I have chosen to analyze are three addresses presented at three significant handovers: Jiang Zemin’s address at the ceremony to mark Hong Kong’s return to China in July, 1997; Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration speech in January, 2009; and Pope Francis’s first speech as pontiff in March, 2013. By analyzing these addresses, I aim to discover if a genre of handover rhetoric exists. If a genre is uncovered, this could provide evidence for how major handovers of power can successfully occur, with a rhetor establishing power; maintaining order; calming possible fears of an audience; and uniting an audience behind the handover and a new leader, government, or entity.

In order to achieve the above aim, I will analyze the three addresses using generic criticism. Taken from the French word genre, which refers to a distinct collection of artifacts that share important characteristics, generic criticism is rooted in the assumption that, in certain situations, particular kinds of rhetoric are required to meet the needs and expectations of an audience. I will conduct a generic description of the three addresses with the goal of discovering if there are commonalities among the various rhetorics in the recurring situation of a handover and, if so, to identify what those commonalities are. To carry out this analysis, I will observe similarities and dissimilarities in the handover situation and in the rhetorical characteristics and organizing principle of the three speeches.

Description of the Artifacts Jiang Zemin: Receiving Sovereignty Over Hong Kong

On July 1, 1997, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), led by president Jiang Zemin, regained control of the city of Hong Kong after 156 years of British rule. The PRC’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong was compelling for a number of reasons. The terms of the handover of Hong Kong were groundbreaking and unique. The joint agreement between the PRC and the United Kingdom (UK)—the Sino-British Joint Declaration—laid the foundation for how Hong Kong would be governed after the 1997 handover and throughout the subsequent 50 years. Although Hong Kong was officially being returned to China as a result of the agreement, China did not have full control over Hong Kong. The terms of the agreement stated that life in Hong Kong would remain unchanged for 50 years, and Hong Kong was granted the title of Special Administrative Region, which enabled the city to “enjoy a high degree of autonomy” (Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, 2007).

The handover galvanized public opinion and, while most citizens agreed that the city should gain independence from the UK, citizens began to worry about what would become of Hong Kong after it was returned to China. Many Hong Kong citizens were concerned that the Chinese government would disregard the stipulations of the Joint Declaration and force Hong Kong to implement rules and laws against their will. A final crucial aspect of Jiang’s handover address was that he was not in charge when the Joint Declaration was agreed upon and signed in 1984. As a result, Jiang was implementing policies that he did not negotiate and about which many Hong Kongers were anxious.

Barack Obama: Receiving the Presidency

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States. There are a number of reasons behind my decision to select Obama’s inauguration speech to analyze for this essay. As the first African-American president of the US, Obama’s presidential victory was a groundbreaking and historic event. Obama assumed his role in the White House after George W. Bush’s eight-year presidential reign. Bush’s presidency coincided with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and, under his leadership, the US initiated wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a War on Terror, all of which were controversial. Bush was also criticized for a number of decisions and policies during his time in office, including his response to Hurricane Katrina and his authorization of torture as a CIA interrogation tac- tic. Faced with assuming the presidency after George W. Bush’s tumultuous reign, Obama’s inauguration speech saw him addressing an American public feeling fear, anxiety, and anger.

In addition to America’s position on foreign fronts, the country was suffering the effects of a global financial crisis. The country’s gross domestic product was in sharp decline, and many businesses were facing bankruptcy. A number of US automobile companies—an industry relied upon in many states—required government bailouts in order to survive. Over 700,000 jobs were being lost every month, and millions of Americans were facing home foreclosure (Davis, 2016; Long 2016). Because of the country’s precarious position on national and international fronts, as well as the ever-present threat of terrorism, Obama was being handed a country that was rife with tension and uncertainty. An exigency for Obama was to reassure the American people that he was the right man to lead the country during these times of uncertainty.


Pope Francis: Receiving the Papacy

On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church. A number of circumstances relating to Pope Francis’s election to preside over the world’s largest Christian church influenced my decision to analyze the speech he presented as he assumed the office. Pope Francis’s reign represented many firsts: He was the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, the first pope from the Southern Hemi- sphere, and the first non-European pope since 741. The manner in which Pope Francis became pope was also unusual. When Francis’s predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, resigned the papacy due to ill health, he became the first pope to resign since 1485. Pope Benedict broke the trend of modern-day popes staying in the position until their deaths. As a result, Pope Francis was in the extremely rare position of taking over from a living predecessor.

In addition to being handed the papacy under unique circumstances, Francis was about to preside over a church that was facing a number of challenges. As the threat of terrorism and religious extremism continued to grip the globe, different faiths were more divided than ever. As a result, like Obama, an exigency for Francis was to calm fears and attempt to unite people. In addition to this pressing issue, however, the Catholic Church was being called upon to modernize by addressing the issue of female priests, to tackle arguments surrounding celibacy for priests, and to respond to the revelations of sexual abuse of young people by priests. Because of this, the handover of the papacy to Pope Fran- cis occurred during a period of immense transition and turmoil not just for the Catholic Church but for global peace.


Analysis of the three addresses provides evidence of four characteristics of handover rhetoric that are implemented by rhetors who are being handed power of some kind: facing an issue, setting a standard, claiming success, and decentering the self.

Facing an Issue

Each rhetor draws attention to an issue that must be faced and tackled after the handover. Throughout his address, Jiang draws attention to the “century of vicissitudes” that Hong Kong has faced and to “the Hong Kong question.” Many Hong Kongers were perfectly happy under British rule or, at the very least, they were not particularly unhappy with their situation. Jiang, however, is presenting a reality in which a century of wrongdoings has occurred, during which time the identity of Hong Kongers was confused and questionable. Jiang uses Hong Kong’s lack of national identity and the city’s confusing status after being colonized by the UK for over 150 years as factors that have led to a question being raised concerning Hong Kong’s status and where it belongs. When Jiang states that China has “successfully resolved the Hong Kong question,” he presents these issues as problems that have already been fixed. By doing so, Jiang is displaying his power due to the fact that China has resolved the issues and, as leader of the PRC, Jiang is responsible. In turn, this tactic could be viewed as an attempt to calm the fears of Hong Kongers and unite them with Chinese mainlanders.

President Obama draws attention to a number of issues that are facing America, including a weakened economy, a poor healthcare system, and a poor educational system. Despite these issues, all of which could be causes for weakened morale among Americans, the threats of terrorism and war are the major issues that Obama highlights in his address. Obama points to “the common dangers” that are faced by Americans and states that “our nation is at war against a far reaching network of violence and hatred.” He also references the threat of individuals who “advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents.” There can be little doubt that this was the one issue that caused the most fear; depleted morale; and, crucially, divided America’s diverse population. Although most American citizens held the same view of terrorism, the division was caused by differing views on how to deal with the threat of terrorism. The decision to go to war in an attempt to tackle terrorism had been a controversial strategy that divided opinion not just across America but across the globe.

In a similar strategy to that of Obama, on a number of occasions throughout his address, Pope Francis draws attention to the death and destruction of humankind and the world. Francis states that there are “Herods who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.” He also informs his audience that “whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.”

Setting a Standard

After presenting an issue that is being faced, each rhetor continues by establishing a standard he will follow in an attempt to address and remedy these issues and boost morale and unity among the audience. Ultimately, the standard presented by each rhetor will determine the success or failure of his time in power. Jiang uses the “one country, two systems” policy as his standard. This policy was negotiated between the UK and the PRC as part of the terms that facilitated Hong Kong’s return to the mainland. The “one country, two systems” policy sanctioned Hong Kong’s independence from mainland China by bestowing on Hong Kong the title of Special Administrative Region.

In his address, Jiang states that “the Chinese Government will unswervingly implement the basic policies of ‘one country, two systems.’” This statement is designed to instill a sense of calm among Hong Kongers by portraying the PRC as a rule-abiding government. Despite the fact that the “one country, two systems” policy was jointly developed by the PRC and the UK, Jiang informs the audience that the PRC will be remembered for the “creative concept of ‘one country, two systems.’” Although this statement is not entirely true, Jiang’s assertion works in three ways. As head of the PRC, Jiang is demonstrating the PRC’s—and his—power. Jiang is also offering reassurance to Hong Kongers by implying that China is the best ruler for Hong Kong because it has helped to resolve Hong Kong’s confused history. Finally, by asserting that the mainland has aided Hong Kong, Jiang is attempting to unite and form a bond between mainlanders and Hong Kongers. If the main- land has helped Hong Kong, Hong Kongers may be more inclined to feel attached to their Chinese roots.

Obama uses history as the standard that he will follow in his efforts to lead. He states that “the time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit, to choose our better history” and that “we, the People, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.” But Obama is clear that only America’s positive history will be used as his standard. He warns that “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.”

Like Obama, Pope Francis uses historical events and figures as the standard he will follow for evaluating how successful the handover will be. Throughout his address, Pope Francis holds himself and his audience accountable to a number of Biblical characters. He describes Saint Joseph as a “protector” of the church and references God’s faith and trust in Joseph. Francis explains his desire to follow in the path of Joseph by continuing his work as

a protector when he states, “let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation.” He informs the audience that “the vocation of being a protector, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.” With this statement, Francis is attempting to unite people of all faiths as well as nonbelievers.

Analysis of the standards presented by the three rhetors reveals a common theme. Each rhetor uses history as the standard by which he will address the problem he is facing and the standard to which his newly handed role will be compared; it also is the standard by which he will be judged. By implementing such a strategy, each rhetor could be perceived as attempting to direct any potential ill feeling, unrest, or blame away from himself that may arise if his time in power is not successful and the entity for which he is responsible does not thrive. By highlighting a concept that was not devised or signed by the rhetor (Jiang); drawing attention to previous presidents and associating history with corruption, deceit, and dissent (Obama); and using characters from scriptures that were written thou- sands of years earlier (Francis), each rhetor is actually removing himself as the main focus of the handover and distancing himself from the present by using events that have already passed. This strategy appears to be counterintuitive as new leaders usually would be expected to implement their own policies and regimes and would be perceived as wanting to think about the future, not the past.

Claiming Success

A third characteristic of handover rhetoric is that rhetors state that the outcome of the handover will be a success. Jiang states that the handover of Hong Kong is “a victory for the universal cause of peace and justice” and “a day that merits eternal memory.” Both of these bold statements suggest that Hong Kong’s return to the mainland certainly will be successful. With regards to specific successes, Jiang informs the audience that “Hong Kong has now entered a new era of development” and, after the handover is complete, Hong Kong will “maintain its long-term prosperity and stability, thereby ensuring Hong Kong a splendid future.”

Obama sends a message directly to terrorists and enemies of the US when he informs them that “you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.” As highlighted in the first step of this analysis, the threat of terrorism is the biggest fear of the American public. If terror- ism can be defeated, Obama’s tenure in office will be a success, and the fears of the Ameri- can people will be assuaged. Obama also draws attention to the fact that he is the first African-American president of the US as a further statement of success before he has fully taken control of the country. In another reference to history, Obama states that the fact that “a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath” is testament to “the meaning of our liberty and our creed” that enables “men and women and children of every race and every faith [to] join in celebration.” By drawing attention to his personal situation, Obama is informing the audience that the handover of the American presidency, although it has just begun, is already a success.

Pope Francis informs the audience that it is entering a new era when he states that “today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power.” Francis also states that “the star of hope will shine brightly.” Both of these statements point to the handover as being an event that moves the Catholic Church into a mod- ern era that corrects the issues that are facing the church.


When delivering their statements of success, all three rhetors directly address the issues that are troubling their audiences—the continuing stability and long-term future of Hong Kong, the threat of terrorism, and the modernization of the Catholic Church. Referencing these troubling situations carries a potential to scare an audience; however, by stating that these difficult situations will be overcome and that the handover will be a success, each rhetor is attempting to instill a sense of confidence in his leadership.

Decentering the Self

Although each rhetor is being promoted to a position of immense power and influence and, in turn, is the focal point of a historic and important handover, analysis of the addresses reveals that each rhetor is reluctant to use or at least display power. In addition, this strategy can be seen as an attempt by the rhetors to create identification with their respective audiences and to calm any audience anxiety.

Each rhetor informs the audience that it has the power, not him. Jiang uses a number of strategies to ensure that he removes himself from the center of the handover. He states, for example, that “Hong Kong compatriots have become true masters of this Chinese land.” If Hong Kongers are “masters” of their land, in theory, they have power and agency. This statement, however, also functions in a number of other ways. In addition to attempting to calm the fears that Hong Kongers harbor toward the mainland by informing them that they are already Chinese, this statement is also made in an effort to instill a sense of identification between Hong Kongers and mainlanders.

Jiang is quick to draw attention to the fact that he is not responsible for the design of the “one country, two systems” concept. By describing the policy as a “creative concept,” Jiang pays respect to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At the same time, Jiang ensures that the audience is fully aware that he had nothing to do with the concept. This means that, if the handover is a success, as a member of the CCP, Jiang can take credit for that success. If the handover fails, however, Jiang did not design or agree to the terms of the handover or the “one country, two systems” policy. Jiang implements an additional strategy to decenter himself from the terms of the handover by thanking “all those in the world who have cared for and supported Hong Kong’s return to the motherland.” By doing this, Jiang is informing the audience that the rest of the world is in full support of the handover of Hong Kong, and the city is not being handed over only as a result of his and the PRC’s actions. There- fore, if issues do arise, many other countries agree with and support the handover.

In an effort to decenter himself from the handover, Obama uses the terms us, we, and our in relation to the issues that America is facing. He begins his address by stating, “I stand here today humbled by the task before us” and informs the audience that “we are in the midst of crisis,” “our nation is at war against a far reaching network of violence and hatred,” and “our economy is badly weakened.” Obama also states that everybody is responsible for the current situation in which America finds itself when he references “our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.” By attributing failure to everyone, Obama is again removing himself as the main focus of his rhetoric and the handover.

Of course, as president, Obama is facing issues that he has inherited from former leaders. By using inclusive language, however, Obama is informing the American people—and other members of his administration—that they are all facing the situation together and, as a result, any failure will be a collective failure. Obama will not take sole responsibility for any failure. Indeed, Obama even goes so far as to inform the audience that, ultimately, the American people have more power than the government, stating that “for as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.”

Pope Francis also decenters himself from the power he is being handed. Like Obama, he uses the inclusive terms us and we. By using these terms, Francis is placing himself on an equal footing with his audience members rather than positioning himself above them. On a number of occasions, Francis refers to himself in the third person, as when he states: “He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph,” effectively removing himself as the main focal point of the handover. Francis’s main strategy of decentering himself from the handover, however, is to make a number of Biblical characters and his audience the major characters in his address. These characters include God, Christ, Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Francis of Assisi. Francis ends his address by asking for a number of these characters to intervene and help him. Francis informs the audience that, like Saint Joseph, they, too, should be “protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment” and states that “to be protectors, we also have to keep watch over ourselves.”

In a final act of decentering himself from the power he is receiving, the pope ends his speech by asking for “the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry” and even asks his audience to pray for him. This is unexpected as the audience members undoubtedly would be expecting the pope to pray for them. By asking this of the audience, however, Francis is telling the audience that he is just the same as it is. Even as pope, he is no different and, as a result, the audience and Biblical characters are just as accountable to any failure as the pope himself. This strategy sees Francis distance himself from the enormous responsibility and power that he has just been given as the new pope.

The tactic used by all three rhetors of distancing themselves from the power they have just been handed suggests another tool that helps protect them from the possibility of failure due to audience unrest and disagreement. If the rhetor is not the main focus of the rhetoric or the handover event, each has less chance of being judged a failure if his leadership does not go according to plan. This removal of power is important due to the fact that one would expect the president of the United States, the president of the People’s Republic of China, and the pope to have more power than most world leaders. Analysis of their addresses, however, suggests that, in their initial speeches, each rhetor is reluctant to claim and use that power explicitly. By not showing power, each rhetor may calm any unrest or resentment that the audience may be harboring. If an audience does not feel dictated to, morale may be boosted. On the other hand, by purposefully not displaying power—or severely limiting the amount of power shown—a rhetor may make an audience more nervous. If an audience is unsure as to how another is going to use and implement power, the fate of the audience is unclear as it faces an uncertain future.


Although Jiang Zemin, Barack Obama, and Pope Francis were all being handed very different forms of power, analysis of their rhetoric reveals four characteristics that constitute a genre of handover rhetoric. These characteristics are facing an issue, setting a standard, claiming success, and decentering the self. By drawing attention to an issue that must be faced after the handover, rhetors can make the audience feel that a problem needs to be dealt with and, having uncovered the problem, they are capable of dealing with it. In response to the issue that has been raised, the next stage of handover rhetoric involves

rhetors laying out a standard by which the issue will be addressed. This standard, however, can be historical. By using history as a standard, rhetors may attempt to deflect ill feeling, unrest, or blame away from themselves if their time in power is unsuccessful. A third strategy characteristic of handover rhetoric is designed to ensure that a sense of confidence is instilled in an audience. Here, rhetors clearly state that the handover will be successful. A fourth strategy of handover rhetoric reveals a tactic whereby rhetors remove themselves as the focal point of the handover. This tactic is vital as it distances rhetors from the potential of an unsuccessful handover and limits the possibility of being judged a failure if their leadership does not go according to plan. If the four characteristics of handover rhetoric are implemented successfully, rhetors can establish power, calm possible fears, and unite an audience behind the new leader, government, or entity that is being handed power. More important, by implementing the genre of handover rhetoric, rhetors are provided with the best possible chance of completing a successful and trouble-free period of power.


Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. (2007, July 1). The Joint Declaration and Its Implementation. [Government website]. Retrieved from

Davis, O. (2016, January 12). State of the union 2016: How the economy has fared since Barack Obama took office. International Business Times. Retrieved from 2016-how-economy-has-fared-barack-obama-took-office-2261608

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Jiang Zemin

Wan Chai, Hong Kong July 1, 1997

Your Royal Highness Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The national flag of the People’s Republic of China and the regional flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China have now solemnly risen over this land. At this moment, people of all countries in the world are casting their eyes on Hong Kong.

In accordance with the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the question of Hong Kong, the two governments have held on schedule the handover ceremony to mark China’s resumption of the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong and the official establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. This is both a festival for the Chinese nation and a victory for the universal cause of peace and justice.

Thus, July 1, 1997, will go down in the annals of history as a day that merits eternal memory. The return of Hong Kong to the motherland after going through more than one century of vicissitudes indicates that from now on, Hong Kong compatriots have become true masters of this Chinese land and that Hong Kong has now entered a new era of development. History will remember Mr. Deng Xiaoping for his creative concept of “one country, two systems.” It is precisely along the course envisaged by this great concept that we have successfully resolved the Hong Kong question through diplomatic negotiations and finally achieved Hong Kong’s return to the motherland.

On this solemn occasion, I wish to express thanks to all the personages in both China and Britain who have contributed to the settlement of the Hong Kong question and to all those in the world who have cared for and supported Hong Kong’s return to the motherland. On this solemn occasion, I wish to extend cordial greetings and best wishes to more than six million Hong Kong compatriots who have now returned to the embrace of the motherland.

After the return of Hong Kong, the Chinese Government will unswervingly implement the basic policies of “one country, two systems,” “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy” and keep Hong Kong’s previous socio-economic system and way of life of Hong Kong unchanged and its previous laws basically unchanged.

After the return of Hong Kong, the Central People’s Government shall be responsible for foreign affairs relating to Hong Kong and the defense of Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall be vested, in accordance with the Basic Law, with executive power, legislative power and independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. Hong Kong people shall enjoy various rights and freedoms according to law. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region shall gradually develop a democratic system that suits Hong Kong’s reality.

After the return, Hong Kong will retain its status of a free port, continue to function as an international financial, trade and shipping center and maintain and develop its economic and cultural ties with other countries, regions, and relevant international organizations. The legitimate economic interests of all countries and regions in Hong Kong will be protected by law.

I hope that all the countries and regions that have investment and trade interests here will continue to work for the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong compatriots have a glorious patriotic tradition. Hong Kong’s prosperity today, in the final analysis, has been built by Hong Kong compatriots. It is also inseparable from the development and support of the mainland. I am confident that, with the strong backing of the entire Chinese people, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Hong Kong compatriots will be able to manage Hong Kong well, build it up and maintain its long-term prosperity and stability, thereby ensuring Hong Kong a splendid future.




Barack Obama

Washington, DC January 20, 2009

My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often, the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not sim- ply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears and true to our founding documents.

So it has been; so it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far- reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many—and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land—a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of

riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things—some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor—who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops, and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip, and plowed the hard earth. For us, they fought and died in places like Concord and Gettysburg, Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions, greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week, or last month, or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions—that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of our economy calls for action, bold and swift. And we will act, not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We’ll restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works—whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched. But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity, on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart—not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man—a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake.

And so, to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born, know that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity. And we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken—you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth, and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow, to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the role that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who at this very hour patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are the guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service—a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all. For as much as government can do, and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends—honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism—these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world—duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship. This is the source of our confidence—the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny. This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served in a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At the moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words to be read to the people: “Let it be told to the future world . . . that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive . . . that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America: In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter, and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.



Pope Francis

Vatican City, Rome March 13, 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I thank the Lord that I can celebrate this Holy Mass for the inauguration of my Petrine ministry on the solemnity of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary and the patron of the universal Church. It is a significant coincidence, and it is also the name-day of my venerable predecessor: We are close to him with our prayers, full of affection and gratitude.

I offer a warm greeting to my brother cardinals and bishops, the priests, deacons, men and women religious, and all the lay faithful. I thank the representatives of the other churches and ecclesial communities, as well as the representatives of the Jewish community and the other religious communities, for their presence. My cordial greetings go to the Heads of State and Government, the members of the official Delegations from many countries throughout the world, and the Diplomatic Corps. In the Gospel we heard that “Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (Mt 1:24). These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: He is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church, as Blessed John Paul II pointed out: “Just as Saint Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, of which the Virgin Mary is the exemplar and model” (Redemptoris Custos, 1).

How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand. From the time of his betrothal to Mary until the finding of the twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem, he is there at every moment with loving care. As the spouse of Mary, he is at her side in good times and bad, on the journey to Bethlehem for the census and in the anxious and joyful hours when she gave birth; amid the drama of the flight into Egypt and during the frantic search for their child in the Temple; and later in the day-to-day life of the home of Nazareth, in the workshop where he taught his trade to Jesus.

How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church? By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions. In him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector,” however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as Saint Fran- cis of Assisi showed us. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!

Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened. Tragically, in every period of history there are “Herods” who plot death, wreak havoc, and mar the countenance of men and women.

Please, I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: Let us be “protectors” of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment. Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world! But to be “protectors,” we also have to keep watch over ourselves! Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives! Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!

Here I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!

Today, together with the feast of Saint Joseph, we are celebrating the beginning of the ministry of the new Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Peter, which also involves a certain power. Certainly, Jesus Christ conferred power upon Peter, but what sort of power was it? Jesus’ three questions to Peter about love are followed by three commands: feed my lambs, feed my sheep. Let us never forget that authentic power is service, and that the Pope too, when exercising power, must enter ever more fully into that service which has its radiant culmination on the Cross. He must be inspired by the lowly, concrete and faithful service which marked Saint Joseph and, like him, he must open his arms to protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom Matthew lists in the final judgment on love: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Only those who serve with love are able to protect!

In the second reading, Saint Paul speaks of Abraham, who, “hoping against hope, believed” (Rom 4:18). Hoping against hope! Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. To protect creation, to protect every man and every woman, to look upon them with tenderness and love, is to open up a horizon of hope; it is to let a shaft of light break through the heavy clouds; it is to bring the warmth of hope! For believers, for us Christians, like Abraham, like Saint Joseph, the hope that we bring is set against the horizon of God, which has opened up before us in Christ. It is a hope built on the rock which is God.

To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly. Let us protect with love all that God has given us!

I implore the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saints Peter and Paul, and Saint Francis, that the Holy Spirit may accompany my ministry, and I ask all of you to pray for me! Amen.



Discussion on Art Danielle Montoya

Artist Ansel Adams is known throughout the world for his landscape photographs set in the American West and Southwest. I received an Ansel Adams calendar for Christmas and found, among the works included, a photograph that seemed to violate the genre of the landscape photograph for which he is known. It is entitled Discussion on Art and was taken about 1936. Unlike any of his other photographs, this work depicts two men in what appears to be an unnatural or constructed setting, and it challenges the characteristic works of Adams through distinct choices of style, form, and composition.

The purpose of this analysis is to investigate the photograph Discussion on Art to dis- cover if it reflects attributes of Ansel Adams’s artistic genre and, if so, how the photograph participates in communicating the rhetor’s artistic perspective. To explore the work’s participation in the genre, I will apply the method of generic rhetorical criticism and, in particular, of generic participation.

I will analyze Discussion on Art and its participation in Ansel Adams’s artistic genre according to three specific elements of rhetorical genres: (1) situational requirements—the contextual setting that evokes specific rhetorical responses; (2) substantive and stylistic characteristics—the unique features that constitute the content; and (3) the organizing principle—the dynamic formed by the situational and stylistic elements. In the interest of achieving a solid and representative understanding of the artistic genre of the photographs of Ansel Adams, I first analyze seven photographs from the Images 1920–1974 collection: Mount Resplendent, Mount Roboson National Park, Canada, 1928; Icicles, Yosemite National Park, California, 1950; Bicycle, Yosemite National Park, California, 1937; Granite Crags, Sierra Nevada, California, 1927; Statue and Oil Derricks, Signal Hill, Long Beach, California, 1939; Cape Royal from the South Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, c. 1947; and Silverton, Colorado, 1951.

Description of the Adams Genre

In the collection of natural landscape photographs available in the seven photographs I analyzed, five patterns of situational and stylistic elements emerge: (1) contrast in natural settings; (2) contrast between light and dark; (3) contrast between high and low; (4) contrast between humans and nature; and (5) contrast between smooth and rough. Each of the seven works participates in all five patterns on some level. However, each composition is unique and individual in the emphasis of the elements of contrast and opposition and how they function in the work.

Contrast in Natural Settings

The primary defining feature of Ansel Adams’s artistic genre is that all of the photo- graphs focus on subjects in their natural settings. By natural setting, I do not mean that all of the photographs avoid and omit materials or settings that are humanly made; however, the works reflect physical contexts that have been undisturbed or unprovoked by the artist. The settings are free of affectation or artificiality. They are not altered or disguised and are photographed as the artist found them to exist in the physical world.

Each composition is created through the aesthetic contrast and opposition of elements found in the natural setting. For example, Bicycle exhibits a humanly made object, the bicycle, in opposition to the natural snow. The human presence is acknowledged but, at the same time, is contrasted with a statement of absence in the collection of snow. Neither the bicycle nor the snow has been altered, disguised, or manipulated by the artist. The composition and contrast exist in the natural, physical world without the influence of the artist.

Icicles found melting on a rock face provide another example of elements found in natural opposition. In Icicles, the color and texture of the icicles in the foreground are found in natural contrast with the color and texture of the rocks in the background. The image of contrast occurs naturally and is not altered or corrupted by the artist. Opposition and contrast are found and represented in the setting in which they were discovered by Adams.

Another setting that articulates a perspective of opposition is exposed by Adams in Statue and Oil Derricks. Nearly all elements in the composition are humanly created; however, the setting in which they are discovered and photographed is left unchanged and is represented as it exists without the influence of the artist. The natural medium in which the statue was created contrasts with the medium of the oil derricks and industrial park in the background. These two main elements of the work are in striking contrast as they existed and were found by Adams.

Adams chooses to photograph beauty found in the contrast he sees around him in the world, as it exists, without artistic influence, alteration, or manipulation apart from that involved in the selection of the photographic frame. He observes contrast within and between subjects and their environments, emphasizing those elements through his artistic compositions.

Contrast Between Light and Dark

A signature technique to the aesthetic composition of Adams’s work is a focus on elements of light and dark. This stylistic practice creates a generic style that emphasizes the contrast and opposition he finds in natural settings. For example, Mount Resplendent depicts stark contrast between the layer of white snow and the huge mountain of black rock. Shadows caused by the terrain cause black striping to occur horizontally in the fore- ground, opposing the same effect that happens vertically in the background. The crevices, crags, and points in the mountain itself add depth and texture through the use of black and white. In the foreground, a chunky shadow is cast amid the smoothness of the horizontal plane of the snow leading to the sheer cliff at the top of the mountain. At the left side of the composition, the dark mountain is contrasted against the light of the sky, giving Mount Resplendent an ominous feel. It evokes an awe of the natural beauty contrasted with the stark danger and darkness of the mountain and its elements.

Adams uses the same stylistic technique in Cape Royal from the South Rim to capture the awe the viewer experiences in seeing the space, texture, and “grandness” of the Grand Canyon. In this piece, the light and shadow are caught playing on high plateaus and low valleys. The shadow and darkness emphasize the depth of the canyon and obscure the rocks below so that the observer is impressed with a sense of endlessness and void. The shadow and depth are contrasted with the light striking the inclining sides and flat tops of the plateaus. The light also brings focus to the texture of the higher land, detailing the sheer cliffs, jagged inclines, and the step-like layering of the two. Light and darkness are observed and captured as they articulate the contrast that emphasizes the beauty and complexity of the Grand Canyon. Adams articulates his perspective through the photograph, composing an image of contrast to attempt to enhance and accentuate the experience for the viewer.

Images of light and darkness aid in underscoring the opposition present in Statue and Oil Derricks. In this composition, the light color of the medium in which the statue was created is enhanced by direct sun on the largest open surface area, making the statue seem to radiate light. Light also enhances the soft curves of the statue, bringing attention to the gentle and feminine presence of the work. A shadow, in contrast, falls across the left side of the face of the image, accentuating the statue’s contemplative, downcast, non-threatening air. The gentle, luminescent presence of the statue is contrasted with the darkness of the back- ground. Strong black lines draw attention to the angular, sharp shape of the oil derricks. The strength of steel and the blackness of industry are in direct opposition to the statue. The dark shapes and the black of oil and industry create looming shadowy silhouettes. The statue at the center of the photograph, however, is highlighted by the sun and is a brighter, stronger, more present and powerful image than the opposing oil derricks. Images contrasted in dark and light create the gentle presence as more central to the composition and assist in creating mood and meaning around the statue and oil derricks.

In all of the seven photographs I analyzed, Adams uses elements of light and dark to emphasize and enhance. In the three works discussed, light and dark contribute significantly to the composition. In other works, tension between light and dark is still present but is not as important to the visual aesthetic or perspective of the compositions.

Contrast Between High and Low

Patterns in high and low contrast in Adams’s photographs also work to define his artistic genre. Statue and Oil Derricks combines aspects of light and dark with aspects of high and low. The statue, higher in the composition, is in contrast with the oil derricks that are lower in the photograph, although the derricks would dwarf the statue if placed next to it. Adams uses height to create the statue as the dominant image and to subvert the appearance of the oil derricks. Levels of height assist the artist in communicating his perspective.

This skill is also employed in Silverton, Colorado. Low one-story houses in the foreground are contrasted with the height and mass of the mountains behind them. The low placement of the houses contributes to creating and enhancing the effect of the towering mountains. Although the houses are in the foreground and want to make their presence known, the height of the mountains behind them seems to overpower and overcome them. Portraying the relative height of the mountains and the houses helps to expound the significance and independence of the land and makes clear the view of the artist. Characteristics of high and low are also present and significant in Cape Royal from the South Rim and Granite Crags. The stylistic application of contrast between high and low helps to define the genre and to high- light significant aspects of the works. The elements of high and low are present in each of the seven photographs and are a qualifying characteristic of the genre. Like the other qualifying characteristics, this one varies across the photographs in emphasis and significance.

Contrast Between Humans and Nature

A tension or contrast between humans and nature is a recurring image and theme in all seven works. Although Adams often photographs landscapes devoid of human presence and undisturbed by human existence, his own presence is articulated through the existence of the photograph. In that sense, each photograph, specifically the most desolate and intimidating set- tings, is in conflict with the human presence of the artist. Several of the photographs, however, expressly address the contrast of the human presence with nature. Silverton, Colorado, for example, portrays the existence of humans as natural. The human presence, represented by houses in the foreground, is not obtrusive, and it does not deface or harm the power and beauty of the mountain behind it. The houses are simply a part of what is real; they are a part of the land- scape and construct a natural contrast. The human presence is not destructive here—it just is.

The same presence is found in Bicycle. The bicycle indicates the human presence that is contrasted with the suggestion of human absence through the layer of snow that has collected. The existence of people and artificial objects is not seen as an intrusion on nature. They are not seen as blatant disruptions in the natural environment but actually have membership in it. The beauty is created in the contrast the two create as they exist together.

Contrast Between Smooth and Rough

The pattern of beauty in contrast is perpetuated through the stylistic elements of smooth and rough, soft and hard. Bicycle, for example, illustrates the contrast between the hard, smooth metal bicycle and the soft and textured snow cover. The contrast of textures underscores other elements of opposition that occur in the composition, such as those of light and dark and human and natural. The tension between textures is also exemplified in Icicles. The clear, white icicles are contrasted with the dark, solid, opaque rock beneath. The aesthetic opposition is enhanced by the competition of the textures. The smoothness of the sharp icicles in the foreground contradicts the rough, dull rock face in the background.

This same technique is evident in Granite Crags, where the jagged angular rocks cut into the soft cirrus clouds in the background, accentuating the harsh and stark qualities of the formation. Patterns of texture are clear in all seven works and are enhanced and elaborated with contrasts of light and dark, high and low, and human and nature.

All five recurring stylistic and situational characteristics combine to comprise Adams’s photographic genre. Beauty and aesthetic appeal are found in natural contrasts the artist finds in the world, as it exists, without influence, alteration, or manipulation by the artist himself. The organizing principle that governs each composition and comprises the genre is beauty in natural opposition.

Generic Comparison with Discussion on Art

To determine the generic participation of Discussion on Art in Adams’s genre, I applied each of the five stylistic and situational characteristics that typify his photographs to the photograph in question.

Contrast in Natural Settings

All seven works analyzed to investigate the generic qualities of Adams’s work existed in a natural setting. Each photograph contained evidence of materials or objects created from the earth that exist with and in spite of the human presence. At first glance, Discussion on Art seems to stray from this qualifying characteristic. Upon a more careful investigation, however, the generic pattern of opposition in a natural setting is perpetuated.

The photograph suggests that humans in their natural settings are in conflict. As in the seven works definitive of the genre, the artist has found contrast in the world as it exists, without artistic influence, alteration, or manipulation. Adams has photographed what he wants the audience to believe is spontaneous. The work captures a scene that is unprovoked and undisturbed by the artist. In accordance with the generic quality, Adams observes contrast among subjects and between subjects and their environments, emphasizing those elements through the aesthetic composition.

Contrast Between Light and Dark

Elements of light and dark accentuate the natural opposition found in the photograph. The white flower is contrasted with the dark suit to emphasize the symbols of what is considered genteel and civilized. Just a few inches lower on the darkness of the suit is the contrast of the light hand beginning to grip the suit in an act that violates the social control implied by the suits and the flower. The light areas in the dark background also draw attention to the female figure positioned similarly to the impassioned man in the center. The contrast of light and dark that is carried through both figures opposes the gentle nurturing nature of the female and the aggressive threatening nature of the male. The contrast between man and woman in the work also underscores the contrast and opposition of the central action in the photograph. The light areas in the work are only the hands and faces of the characters in the composition. These areas, in contrast to the overall darkness of the work, highlight the placement of the faces in the photograph.

Contrast Between High and Low

Adams’s use of light and dark aligns the faces of Discussion on Art on an incline from right to left. While the man on the right is confronted, he does not display intimidation by lowering himself to his aggressor; however, the aggressor is attempting to assert power by raising himself over and leaning into his opponent. The higher and lower positioning of the bodies in the composition highlights the conflict and activity in the center of the photo- graph. The figure highest in the composition, however, is the woman in the background. Her position asserts her importance, strength, and power as a central figure in the piece despite her placement in the background. The high and low visual aesthetics work in com- bination with contrasts of light and dark to emphasize the opposition taking place on many different levels in the work.

Contrast Between Humans and Nature

Light and dark and high and low also work to stress the conflict between humans and nature in the photograph. The conflict underscored in this stylistic pattern becomes the conflict between humans and their own nature. The setting implied by the title is an art museum, calling for a level of class, gentility, and civilization. The dark suits and accentuating flower highlight the push and desire for social control, propriety, and decency. These characteristics are contrasted with the nature of the humans embroiled in the conflict and unable to adhere to imposed social control. Although humans are perceived to be of a higher order, their baseness is the animalistic quality they cannot escape.

Contrast Between Smooth and Rough

The textures of civilized and uncivilized, refined and rough around the edges, are polarized facets of the same entity in Discussion on Art. Texture is elaborated not with what can be seen as visually tactile but occurs metaphorically between civilized and uncivilized, man and woman. The softness of the gentle and nurturing woman is a stark contrast to the rough and hard aggressive nature of the man. The texture is found in the language we con- struct around the nature of man, woman, and human nature. The aesthetic visual elements in the work underscore the evidence of natural opposition and contrast found in the setting and communicated through the work.

Concluding Observations

Discussion on Art, seemingly not part of Ansel Adams’s artistic genre, exhibits the recurring patterns of situational and stylistic qualities characteristic of that genre. Characteristics of all five elements of the genre are apparent in Discussion on Art, qualifying the work as a participant in Adams’s aesthetic genre. Through this genre, the artist’s insights and observations are communicated and perpetuated.

Beauty in natural opposition communicates the patriarchal idea that humans’ natural setting is conflict. The nature of humans drives them to assert their personal perspective. As human beings, we constantly strive to have our perspectives and presence asserted and validated. We judge our value and worth by the acceptance of our ideas and opinions by others and, as history has shown, we turn to violence and conflict to force acceptance of our presence and perspective by others.

The participation of Discussion on Art in the genre of Adams’s photography also communicates that we are in conflict with what we perceive to be the nature of humankind. Men are socially expected to be the aggressor, violent, in conflict, hard, and rough, while women are forced to ignore that which we name natural to humanity and remain soft, kind, and nurturing. Woman is asked to ignore the human tendency to assert her perspective and presence aggressively. She must stand in the background and accept her socially defined place and nature, just as man accepts his. Both sexes are in conflict with the culturally created social reality imposed on them. The beauty, then, is the contrast between the human nature and the expectations we place on ourselves that create the conflict and opposition, the natural shadows, the plateaus that we allow to surface, and the valleys we subvert.

As a rhetorical vehicle, Adams obscures and enlightens perspectives, beliefs, views, and opinions that emphasize and communicate beauty in conflict. Each of his masterpieces contributes to this perspective and functions as a medium that expresses the rhetor. The genre allows the artist to reinforce his perspective and presence through repetition in themes and style. The patterns that characterize the genre act as an echo to the social reality constructed and communicated by the artist, and we are able to see and appreciate the beauty in conflict.

BANKSY AT DISNEYLAND Generic Participation in Culture Jamming

Joshua Carlisle Harzman

Culture jam is a profound genre of communication and its proliferation demands further academic scholarship. Twenty-first century U.S. America is a world inundated with corporate, cultural, and institutional symbolization. While most persons readily consume these icons, a small few distort them in order to craft new meanings of their own. Culture jamming is an act of alteration in which a widely known artifact is transformed in an attempt to reroute the original meaning and engender awareness amongst audiences (Lasn, 1999). The practice is a tactic of counter-cultures, using culture jamming to embolden messages of anti-corporatism, civil disobedience, political progressivism, and resistance. Culture jamming is not a narrow genre; its proponents use a wide array of tac- tics that infiltrate most modern media. Famed British artist, Banksy1 (2010), illustrates counter messages through graffiti, live performance, and street art installations. This essay seeks to investigate to what extent one particular art piece, Banksy at Disneyland,2 participates within the genre of culture jamming.

On September 11, 2006, Banksy skillfully installed Banksy at Disneyland at the Big Thun- der Mountain Railroad themed ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The piece consisted of an inflatable mannequin dressed in an orange jumpsuit, black gloves, and a black hood covering its face; the figure was positioned on its knees, with its hands and feet bound. The installation remained in place for 90 minutes before the ride was closed and the street art removed. A spokeswoman for Banksy noted that the piece was conceived to spotlight the plight of detainees at the United States’ prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (BBC, 2006). Immediately following the installation, Banksy featured the footage as a short film at their L.A. exhibition, Barely Legal (Bowes, 2006). Banksy at Disneyland encompasses both the original installment of the piece and its online presence. While the piece lasted only an hour and a half, the installation was captured on video, uploaded to YouTube, and covered by main- stream news outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and The New York Times (Nath, 2013; Wyatt, 2006). Even today, curious audiences may view the piece and its installation in the documentary entitled, Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy, 2010). Banksy at Disneyland gained widespread viewership through each of these respective platforms. Moreover, the text maintains an eternal online presence for audiences across the globe.

Culture jamming scholarship is growing in popularity within contemporary communication studies. A refined focus of the genre, as I intend to offer in this essay, is pertinent for many reasons. Initially, this study contributes a conceptual interpretation and refinement of culture jamming to communication theory through a lens of genre criticism methodology. Establishing a foundation of the genre can better serve future scholars in critical investigation of culture jamming and its merits. Second, this study explores the political and social implications of Banksy at Disneyland, which adds to the culture jamming archive. Third, only through understanding the text can scholars discern the terministic screens of Banksy and subsequent insights into the artist’s worldview. As Banksy remains a globally preeminent street artist, investigating Banksy at Disneyland offers a glimpse into the notable contemporary issues that the artist seeks to challenge. With a sizable following, understanding the worldviews that Banksy promotes through their art offers an insight into con- temporary ideologies worldwide.

Genre Criticism

Genre participation has been a function of rhetorical criticism since Aristotle’s Rhetoric. The Grecian scholar emphasized that rhetoric took one of three forms—deliberative, epideictic, or forensic (Aristotle, 2001). Each of these modes maintained communication of public deliberation pertaining to policy, character, and judgment. Edwin Black (1968) helped to embolden the practice of identifying genres by noting that certain audiences will require distinct responses from the rhetor. The recurrence of particular types of situations offers information to rhetorical critics regarding the available responses for each setting. The critic must find unity in the genre, as artifacts take on various forms. Similarly, to deem a situation as rhetorical, the rhetor must be able to adapt within the audience constraints (Bitzer, 1970). Additionally, a genre type is identified by a “fusion of forms” and not by its individual elements (Campbell & Jamieson, 1978, p. 21). It is in a similarity of techniques, rather than content, that genres of rhetorical criticism come to fruition.

Furthermore, Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1986) work on genre studies offers a fruitful conception of a communication tactic that exists as fluidly as culture jamming. The author notes that in our most free and unrestrained dialogues, we speak in definitive generic forms. Sometimes these communication techniques are more rigid, while other times they are more creative. Establishing and understanding genres—why particular situations call for particular styles—has long existed as a practice of rhetorical criticism. In an effort to demonstrate this notion, rhetorician Sonja K. Foss (2009) offers a blueprint for the methods of proposing a genre criticism. According to Foss,

Generic description involves four steps: (1) observing similarities in rhetorical responses to particular situations; (2) collecting artifacts that occur in similar situations; (3) analyzing the artifacts to discover if they share characteristics; and (4) formulating the organizing principle of the genre. (p. 141)

As rhetors develop messages, genres introduce opportunities to bolster the strength of their message or to craft new ones altogether. Foss further articulates that rhetorical participation will maintain the genre’s situational requirements, include the substantive and stylistic characteristics, and promote the organizing principle. Each of these variables ought to be fulfilled in order to ground a rhetorical genre such as culture jamming. Therefore, this study seeks to investigate what attributes constitute a communication artifact as a culture jam as well as to what extent Banksy at Disneyland participates within the genre.

Culture Jamming

As advertising and corporatism flood the public sphere in the industrialized West, activists resist these norms through a variety of tactics. In particular, the practice of culture jamming offers a communication platform to those whose voices reside in the periphery. The concept originates from the unique, audio-collage and billboard alteration techniques of the band Negativland (Dery, 1990). In its essence, culture jamming involves the distortion of an artifact in order to voice a critique. Whether an audio file or a billboard, one of the earliest academic authors on culture jamming Mark Dery (2010) explains,

Jamming was the joke-y, trollish, then prevalent in the C.B. radio community, of disrupting other users’ conversations with obscene or nonsensical interjections; billboard

banditry is the neo-Situationist practice of illegally altering billboards to perversely funny, usually political effect in order to critique consumerism, capitalism, representations of race and gender in advertising, or American foreign policy. (para. 2)

While culture jamming found its roots in audio media, its rapid ascension into billboard manipulation foreshadowed the tactic’s versatility. In some of the earliest culture jamming techniques, activists used spray cans in order to recreate billboard messages. By changing slogans, these jammers hoped to startle viewers into thinking differently about the original messages (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009). Through this asymmetric communication technique, artists expose the oppressive nature of institutions through the modification of widely recognized symbols.

Founder of Adbusters magazine, Kalle Lasn (1999), promotes his text Culture Jam as both a historical account of the concept and a quasi-manifesto for aspiring jammers. Lasn notes that jamming is a means to bolster awareness and public discourse in order to inspire social or political change. One major inspiration behind culture jamming was the work of the Situationists in twentieth century France, led by Guy Debord. Their practice of detournement, literally translated as a “turning around,” emphasized a distortion of arousing imagery and spectacle, in order to reverse and subsequently reclaim their meanings (Lasn, 1999, p. 103). The genre, at its core, is about illustrating a critique of the status quo. As a result, an act of culture jamming is reliant upon a pre-existing artifact that is allegedly deserving of rejection. Similar to the concept of bricolage, an act of culture jamming involves the modification of pre-existing messages that resonate throughout society (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009). According to Klein (2000), “Artists will always make art by re-configuring our shared cultural languages and references” (p. 178). Over time those experiences shift and a different set of challenges emerges that brings question to the way freedom of expression is defined in a branded culture. Rather than starting from scratch, culture jamming is a communication tactic that relies on the renown of an icon.

As a communication genre, culture jamming is expansive and subsequently has many names: culture jamming, guerilla semiotics, and subvertising, to name a few (Dery, 1990). Since its inception, scholars have expanded the genre with great alacrity. Culture jamming has been promoted as a positive inspiration in art pedagogy (Darts, 2004), critical adult education (Sandlin, 2007), youth development (Lambert-Beatty, 2010), and student activism (Frankenstein, 2010). Additionally, communication scholars have explored the rhetorical implications of a culture jamming genre. The practice can be considered an act of resistance, but can also be associated with a higher sense of pranking for praxis (Harold, 2004). Television shows such as The Daily Show engage in a false reality that posits a political culture jam, stalling normative political branding messages (Warner, 2007). Others have emphasized the genre’s capacity to stimulate agenda building (Robinson & Bell, 2014). A genre of culture jamming is evident within communication scholarship. Still, a gap in literature exists when considering what constitutes as an act of culture jamming.

Contemporary academic work on culture jamming illustrates the genre’s wide reach. It is my contention that culture jamming entails an act of rhetorical criticism in which highly recognizable artifacts are distorted in an effort to raise awareness. It is the fame of a pre-existing icon that gives power to its modified state via culture jamming with the end goal of activists seeking to challenge the salience of oppression that these artifacts represent (Lasn, 1999). In an effort to ground the fundamental tenets of the genre, five culture jamming artifacts were examined: Ella Watson by Gordon Parks (1942), Read My Lips by Gran Fury (1988), iRaq by Copper Greene (2004), The Right to Life by Hans Haacke (1979), and Think disillusioned by the Billboard Liberation Front (1989). Each of these artifacts is readily available in the 2009 text, Practices of Looking, by Maria Sturken and Lisa Cartwright. These culture jams were selected for audience accessibility, but more importantly, their proximity allows for a substantial analysis. A close reading of the aforementioned culture jams illuminates three decisive elements that constitute participation within the genre: artifact, distortion, and awareness.

Initially, culture jamming is contingent on the situational requirement of an artifact— an image, sound, or other symbolic representation of a larger corporation, event, institution, location, person, etc. In Ella Watson, the photo mimics the iconic American Gothic painting; Read My Lips uses the highly popularized statement by President George W. Bush; The Right to Life draws from pro-life messages; iRaq uses Apple’s signature title design (iPod, iPad, etc.); Think disillusioned capitalizes on Apple’s distinguished catch phrase “Think Different.” In all of these culture jams, the rhetor utilizes the situational requirement of a popular artifact, as culture jamming necessitates the use of a preexisting symbol.

Next, the substantive and stylistic characteristic of a culture jamming genre is distortion. It may be the hegemonic notoriety of an artifact that draws audiences in; however, culture jamming acts to distort the original message. Ella Watson is illustrative of the iconic American Gothic painting, yet, only one person resides within the frame. A broom and mop replace the farm tools and the subject stands in front of a U.S. American flag. Both Read My Lips and The Right to Life juxtapose the sound bites of conservative rhetoric with progressive causes—the AIDS epidemic amongst queer populations and women’s reproductive rights. Green’s iRaq resembles an Apple advertisement, but imposes an Abu Ghraib prisoner being electrocuted. Lastly, Think disillusioned distorts an original billboard catchphrase by hijacking the advertisement’s space and inserting “disillusioned.” Distortion by activists may be illustrated digitally or physically, discursive or nondiscursive, through a live performance, or otherwise (Klein, 2000). Ultimately, culture jamming maintains a characteristic of distortion because it is reliant upon an already established artifact. A message must already exist before it can readily be modified for new audiences.

Lastly, the organizational principle of the genre is awareness. Culture jamming forces a double-take effect in which viewers recognize a familiar sight but are then asked to interrogate its merits, rather than unquestionably consume its ideology. Ella Watson brings attention to racial disparities throughout the United States; Read My Lips raises AIDS awareness; iRaq is a vehement critique of consumerism; The Right to Life interrogates forced sterilization and reproductive rights; Think disillusioned questions the costs of globalization (Sturken & Cartwright, 2009). Amongst each of the analyzed culture jams, the genre qualities are highly evident. Culture jamming targets recognizable artifacts, distorts their intended messages, and generates an alternative awareness among audiences.

Banksy at Disneyland

Founded in the Bristol underground scene of the United Kingdom, Banksy’s rapid rise in popularity is often attributed to their anonymity—no one exactly knows Banksy’s identity (Wyatt, 2006). The artist’s initial style emphasized spray-painted, stenciled silhouettes showcasing politically and socially motivated critiques (James, 2010; see also Israel, 2014). More recent works include annually self-published collections and a 30-day-long residency and artistic installation in New York City, New York. In 2010, Banksy released a self- directed film entitled Exit Through the Gift Shop; the documentary tells the story of Thierry Guetta’s rapid ascension into fame as graffitist Mr. Brainwash (Banksy, 2010). Yet, halfway through Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy becomes a prominent plot point as the storyline focuses on the artist’s 2006 show, Barely Legal. Barely Legal took place at a Los Angeles industrial warehouse, attracting Hollywood celebrities where prints of the anonymous artist’s work sold for $500 each (Wyatt, 2006). Days before the exhibition, however, Banksy took advantage of their Southern Californian location and began creating a new piece of art to be exhibited at a U.S. landmark, Disneyland.

Footage, shot by Thierry, shows the artist departing an escalator, boarding a tram with patrons, and watching as the contents of his backpack are checked by security. Banksy narrates, “It was around the anniversary of September the eleventh, so, it was a pretty high- temper moment” (Banksy, 2010). After purchasing park tickets, the film shows the artist entering Disneyland. While walking the park, Banksy selects the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to host their new work. The artist states, “So we’ve been wandering around the park for awhile and then there’s this sign with a picture of a camera on it saying, ‘This would be a great place to take your souvenir photo.’ So, that obviously seemed like the best place to put him” (Banksy, 2010). The camera pans to the artist seated on a bench. Banksy, dressed in blue jeans, a long-sleeve button-down shirt, sneakers, and a ball cap, inflates a mannequin for his new street art installment. Audio of Congo drums beat nervously over Thierry’s video as Banksy steps through a waist-high, wooden fence. Wearing the back- pack that once housed the mannequin, the artist carries the act-ready, inflatable Guantánamo detainee. Quickly, Banksy navigates through the restricted terrain that separates a designated walking path of the park and the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The artist slaloms between shoulder-high cacti for roughly 25 feet until they reach a tall iron fence. Banksy carefully raises the inflatable detainee over the pointed fence and positions it as the ride zooms past overhead. In the final shot, Banksy makes one last adjustment to the piece before grabbing his backpack and departing the scene. The camera zooms out and the sound of happily screaming patrons crescendos as Banksy departs the right side of the frame. Seconds after the artist exits the screen, the riders of the Big Thunder Mountain Rail- road bellow past Banksy’s new piece.

Banksy at Disneyland is incredibly powerful. Still, in order for the piece to be considered a culture jam, it must meet the genre qualifications. First, Banksy clearly targets a preexisting, representational artifact, the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad—which is one of many Disneyland artifacts. The British artist is motivated to install their piece at a location that promotes its scenic caliber. Endorsed by the park through the sign that encourages a photo opportunity, the site is considered by Disneyland to be a critical location that positions itself as an embodiment of Disneyland. Banksy’s installation at the Big Thunder Mountain Rail- road successfully manipulates the original message of Disneyland consumerism by utilizing the ride as the culture jamming artifact. Banksy artistically hijacks this message in a successful culture jam, modifying the Disneyland attraction to create a resonating message of their own. As the piece utilizes a popular artifact, it fulfills the initial situational requirement.

Second, the artistic installment is indicative of distortion. Banksy’s Guantánamo Bay detainee disrupts the experience of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad by distorting the site’s intended photographic experience. Unlike their notorious stencil graffiti, the artist utilized a 3-dimensional display to bolster the aggressiveness of the piece. Live audiences had the opportunity to take a memorable photograph in which the new installment could be captured from the scenic “photo opportunity” location. The utilization of an easily visible 3-D art installation in opposition to graffiti emboldens the volume of resonation that viewing audiences receive. Additionally, the display of the inflatable detainee in an orange jumpsuit, wearing sensory deprivation gear, and in a kneeling position successfully invokes public memory of the torture that detainees suffered at Guantánamo Bay. Through the art’s placement, the original artifact of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is readily altered for participating audiences. As such, Banksy at Disneyland meets the characteristic requirement of distortion.

Finally, Banksy’s piece seeks to create awareness as viewers are exposed to a victim of the United States Federal Government. The audience experiences a shock; Banksy at Disney- land interrupts their pleasurable patronage and washes it in a reenactment of violence. Whereas the detention center at Guantánamo Bay is completely removed from public viewership, Banksy’s piece jarringly weaves images of imprisonment directly into the Disneyland experience. Through the contrast of jovial consumerism with terrorists and torture, audiences are forced to consider the costs of their privilege that others endure. The artist’s work employs the technique of culture jamming—a direct modification of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad photo opportunity—to showcase the interplay between pleasure and punishment. An otherwise pleasing experience is stolen from the viewer, replacing the homogeny of happiness with a clashing scene of insidious imprisonment; the hidden becomes the revealed at the ultimate point of pleasure. Just as Klein (2000) notes, these audiences do not have a choice in their viewership. Banksy at Disneyland is an aggressive hail to open consciences, demanding that viewers consider the implications of their identities, rather than consume in ignorance. As a result, a resonating message of awareness is conveyed to viewers as they con- sider the embodiment of a Guantánamo detainee, oblivious to their participation in consumerism. Through a message of awareness, the piece engages the substantive requirement.

Ultimately, Banksy at Disneyland alters the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, through an installation of street art, in order to create audience awareness. As a result, this piece successfully participates within the rhetorical genre of culture jamming. Banksy at Disneyland seeks to contrast the concealed detainees of Guantánamo Bay with the consumerist culture of Disneyland. Through the juxtaposition of these concepts, the artist utilizes what Alinsky (1989) calls “mass political jujitsu” (p. 152); Banksy uses the renown of the park against itself. By installing their art within viewership of a scenic location at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the artist misdirects the message of Disneyland in order to yield a resonating one of their own creation—awareness. Banksy at Disneyland seeks to convey cognizance to the identities that we create through consumerism and, more importantly, expose those whom we exile to the periphery of imprisonment. Moreover, the installment is highly visible and recorded. Audiences can experience the performance as often as they may like. As Banksy at Disneyland was recreated through its inclusion as a performance in Exit Through the Gift Shop, the live installment and the immortal recreation leave a resonating message amongst audiences across time and space. Perhaps most importantly, Banksy’s installation, residing within the parameters of the park, positions this particular piece as incredibly unique. Their venue choices aren’t simply illegal; they are often highly provocative locations to create art (Israel, 2014). The installation of Banksy’s text within Disneyland, a space that relies on fiction and storytelling, creates new rhetorical implications for culture jamming.

Disneyland exists as a hyperreality—a space in which the atmosphere and settings are so fantastically real that audiences are persuaded to accept them as reality. Umberto Eco (1996) posits that the park exists as a space so incredibly perfected that its experience blurs and can even surpass the pleasures of reality. Disneyland is a unique space that promotes technology as being able to offer more reality to audiences than nature ever could. Similarly, Jean Baudrillard (1994) notes how this particular hyperreality serves as a space capable of erasing conceptions of the real world. Baudrillard writes,

Everywhere today one must recycle waste, and the dreams, the phantasms, the historical, fairylike, legendary imaginary of children and adults is a waste product, the first great toxic excrement of a hyperreal civilization. On a mental level, Disneyland is the prototype of this new function. (p. 13)

In a place that proudly proclaims a hegemonic narrative of consumerism, Banksy at Disneyland successfully asks audiences to interrogate that experience. Although the park is frequently used as an escape from the real world, Banksy’s culture jam thrusts the grit of reality into an unsuspecting private space. Not only does Banksy at Disneyland challenge the vulnerabilities of a hyperreality, it successfully provokes audience awareness. As park visitors clamored to view the installation, Disneyland responded by stopping the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad until the art was removed, effectively shutting down a part of the park (James, 2010). Although patrons chose to actively participate in a hyperreality, Banksy at Disneyland served to remind them of the inescapable status quo—as you’re enjoying this space, persons are suffering elsewhere. Banksy’s text serves as a reminder to audiences that no space, not even a hyperreality, is safe from the reach of culture jamming.


Culture jamming is an avenue of communication used by those encouraging aware- ness and resistance. Through the distortion of a widely known artifact, activists create a moment of critical awareness. This study offers communication theory a grounded conceptualization of the culture jamming genre. Moreover, Banksy at Disneyland is understood to successfully participate within the genre of culture jam, engendering new implications for rhetorical theory. Utilizing a distortion of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, with the installment of a Guantánamo Bay detainee, the artist generated a message of awareness amongst audiences. Rather than experience the hegemonic narrative of a hyperreality, audiences are forcefully reminded of the costs that others endure for their privilege. What future graffiti, performance, and street art by Banksy will come to fruition is unknown. Until then, spectators can view Banksy at Disneyland at their leisure, offering audiences an immortal installment of culture jamming.


1. As Banksy’s identity remains unknown, I maintain neutral pronouns when addressing the artist. For example: they and their, instead of him or her.

2. I use the phrase Banksy at Disneyland to situate the artifact of this study.


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