Paul Simon's Graceland : a fantasy theme analysis

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Horn, Kristina K.
Semmel, Keith D.
Issue Date
Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Speech Communication
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Chapter one began with an introduction to the rhetorical study of Paul Simon's Graceland album. The events which led to the recording and release of the album were discussed, showing the significance of the album in the context of 1985-86, and research questions were posed, showing the focus of the study. Furthermore, the definition of rhetoric was given beginning with Aristotle's "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion" (Rhetoric I: 1356a) through the advancements made by the National Development Project on Rhetoric, which included music in the study of rhetoric. Finally the literature review included articles which showed the relationship between music and rhetorical theory, and James Irvine and Walter Kirkpatrick's six musical variables along with Ernest Bormann's method of fantasy theme analysis were discussed for the purposes of critical analysis. Chapter two presented the historical, political, and social contexts surrounding the recording and release of Graceland. Most importantly, U.S. attempts to intervene in the affairs of South Africa as well as musical attempts at intervention were discussed as background material to understand more clearly the impact of the Graceland album.Chapter three moved from the context to the people involved on Graceland. Paul Simon's and Ladysmith Black Mambazo's musical careers and interests were recounted. The importance of Paul Simon in boosting the careers of Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as concert co-stars Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela was also emphasized.Chapter four presented the critical analysis. First the album analysis based on the musical variables of James Irvine and Walter Kirkpatrick was discussed. What was found on the album itself seemed very innocent and nonsensical; thus, the importance of the media and the ideas it imposed became very clear. However, the major section of analysis involved the identification of mediated fantasy themes based on Ernest Bormann's method of fantasy theme analysis. Chronologically, characters, plots, and settings were portrayed, which helped to explain the development of Graceland as a rhetorical drama. Finally, one overarching rhetorical vision was identified, "The Unification of an Unaware Public," which was evident throughout the drama.Chapter five concluded the findings of the study. Because of the unrealistic goals that the media placed on Graceland, the many successes that came as a result of Paul Simon and Graceland were overshadowed by political controversy. Thus, the impact of the media on the outcome of persuasive events is of the utmost importance to consider.