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Feminine Twang: Rhetorical Strategies of Country Music's Legendary Second Wave Women

Crosby, Emily (2017) Feminine Twang: Rhetorical Strategies of Country Music's Legendary Second Wave Women. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores the overlooked contributions of women in country music to the study of rhetoric. While women have participated as writers and performers since country music’s infancy, this contribution is rarely recognized as politically or rhetorically significant. Because country music is a conservative space that upholds and preserves traditionalist white masculinity, women in country music have had to cultivate and hone rhetorical strategies in order to sustain careers. More specifically, legendary women in country music from the 1960s had to negotiate institutional oppressions, in the form of censorship and sexist male gatekeepers, in light of the changing political landscape incited by the second wave of feminism, which rendered women a threat to the status quo. In four case studies, I examine the possibilities and pitfalls of these women’s rhetorical strategies, some recognized and some I have named, which reveal larger cultural implications that are largely relevant today. The first case study explores singer Patsy Cline’s pop career and its inconsistencies with her now mythic posthumous public memory as a country star. Cline’s visual legacy is used in a variety of ways, most notably as an ageless rhetorical “eye-con,” embedded in the reemergence of white Americana. The second case study explores how Bobbie Gentry’s strategic silences, in the forms of an elusive persona and Southern Gothic storytelling, challenge and contribute to feminist discourse on “voice.” While Gentry’s sexualization often overshadowed her talents, her enduring legacy reveals striking rhetorical impact. Rarely seen as “too much,” Dolly Parton successfully negotiates binds through her use of camp performance. By employing markers of respectability to temper her gender expression, Parton appeals to disparate audiences and highlights the importance of camp as a resource for marginalized groups. Loretta Lynn mobilized a career that attended to political shifts and reflected her own growth as a woman and performer. As an exemplar of the comic frame and feminine style, her empowering lyrics and public discourse generated loyal identifications among disenfranchised, rural women. In conclusion, this dissertation briefly looks at today’s country music and its changing landscape, which reveals cultural anxieties as well as robust political potential.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Crosby, Emilyemilydcrosby@pitt.eduend13
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairOlson,
Committee MemberDow,
Committee MemberLyne,
Committee MemberZboray,
Date: 20 June 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 31 March 2017
Approval Date: 20 June 2017
Submission Date: 14 April 2017
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 246
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Country Music, Rhetorical Criticism, Feminism, Visual Rhetoric, Camp, Silence, Women in Music, Invitational Rhetoric, Americana, Comic Frame, Ageism, Whiteness, Patsy Cline, Bobbie Gentry, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2017 00:09
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2022 05:15

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