Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies

Department

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Ian Reyes

Abstract

This body of research seeks to understand iterations of ranting manifest via YouTube video blogs through a rhetorical lens. I employ comparative theory to develop a description of the rant as a recurring typology, equipped with excremental metaphors inspired by Burke’s concept of catharsis. I then differentiate YouTube vlog ranting from ‘live’ ranting by applying Carolyn Miller’s theory of genre as social action. Using Miller’s paradigm, I turn to contemporary research in media studies and humor communication, in order to develop a methodology equipped to analyze YouTube vlog rants as generic texts. I contend that the meaning constructed in YouTube vlogs must be interpreted beyond the oral performance of the rant, and explicate a methodological approach that accounts for editing, camera positioning (confessional-style format), scripting, setting, and any other superfluous additions that exists outside of the diegetic action of the vlog. In the culminating chapter of the exposition, I provide a preliminary application of the method. I also discuss the social implications of comedic vlog rants, and suggest that YouTube vlogging creates a unique subject position for the vlogger; a subject position that enables greater social influence and the potential for celebrity status. I conclude by questioning what role this subject positioning might play in reinforcing or subverting heteronormativity – based on a hypothesis that adherence to hegemonic ideals surrounding gender and sexuality is positively correlated with popularity (and participation in revenue sharing).

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