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Decoding Dubstep

Title: Decoding Dubstep: A Rhetorical Investigation of Dubstep's Development from the Late 1990s to the Early 2010s.
Name(s): Bradley, Laura, author
Department of English
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: serial
Date Issued: 2013
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This thesis will rhetorically analyze dubstep, a British electronic music genre that has now achieved international fame, through two rhetorical frameworks. My interest in this project began with a love for the music itself, and developed as I realized how little attention has been paid to electronic music genres by rhetorical scholars. These genres are rich with musical sampling and intertextuality, making them a great place for collaboration between music theory and rhetorical scholarship. First, this project examines the cultural context that made and shaped the genre using Lloyd Bitzer's rhetorical situation framework to identify dubstep's rhetorical exigence, audience, and constraints. I chose Bitzer's framework to locate cultural context because of is close examination of exigence, audience and constraints in shaping rhetorical bodies. Then I will use Ernest Bormann's fantasy theme analysis to look more closely at the musical texts themselves, analyzing the musical narrative through sampled lyrics as products of the previously studied rhetorical situation. Dubstep's original exigence was to provide an overwhelming experience to overtake the body and allow its rhetorical audience (a small electronic music community of producers and potential producers) to confront a communal sense of individual anxieties, isolation, and disappointment with their urban environment and society. When the music gained fame and the audience became wider spread and less culturally connected to its roots, a schism occurred and the exigence changed to one of bacchanalian release, as producers made music to let a crowd let loose and blow off steam. This shift caused a notable change, and the change can be observed in the shifting fantasy themes within the musical texts. The fantasy theme of isolation, for instance, shifted from moody and gloomy isolation to violent rejection of societal rules. This project highlights the importance of audience in shaping a rhetorical body, and also demonstrates rhetoric's utility in analyzing electronic music, which is full of intertextual sampling.
Identifier: FSU_migr_uhm-0163 (IID)
Keywords: dubstep, fantasy theme analysis, rhetorical situation, electronic dance music, music
Submitted Note: A Thesis submitted to the Department of English in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Honors in the Major.
Degree Awarded: Spring Semester, 2013.
Date of Defense: April 16, 2012.
Subject(s): English language
English literature
Music theory
Composition (Language arts)
Persistent Link to This Record:
Restrictions on Access:
Owner Institution: FSU
Is Part of Series: Honors Theses.

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Bradley, L. (2013). Decoding Dubstep: A Rhetorical Investigation of Dubstep's Development from the Late 1990s to the Early 2010s. Retrieved from