One Nation Under the Market: Mediated Narratives of the 2008 Crisis in America
Curran, Michael Gregory
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This dissertation examines the construction of the 2008 economic crisis in American media through a comparative analysis of three case studies, each involving a different medium and each involving a distinct implied public. I have approached this subject from a rhetorically-inclined hermeneutical and phenomenological perspective that conceptualizes texts as manifestations of symbolic practices which reflect social reality as well as construct it, and I explore how the texts of each case study simultaneously reflect and conjure both the 2008 crisis and their imagined publics. In order to explore the some of the various ways the 2008 crisis has been constructed in American media, this research deploys three primary lines of investigation: the examination of radio broadcasts of speeches by American presidents during the crisis, the analysis of a selection of documentary and fictional films on or related to the crisis, and the evaluation of periodical articles from The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. The findings of the research reveal that the three case studies examined offer particularly distinct and elastic depictions of the 2008 crisis. The presidential radio addresses depicted the crisis in a predominantly metaphorical manner as a painful event experienced by a national public through their rhetorical invocation of a particular and patriotic mytho-ideological imaginary of America and its history. The films portrayed the crisis primarily as the dramatic unfolding of a traumatic narrative, emphasizing the character-driven nature of this dramatic unfolding and frequently highlighting the moral ambiguity of agents and characters. The periodical articles largely constructed the crisis as principally related to matters of governance, finance and economics in both its precipitation and in its assuagement or resolution, conspicuously paying scant attention to the affective dimensions of its impact. Collectively, the case studies evidence that the multiform and dynamic character of the depictions of the 2008 crisis in American media are significantly shaped by the combinative overlap of the particularity of the crisis as a complex and ambiguous phenomena, the dominant modes of address and distinct properties of each media type, and the particular implied publics to which each body of texts corresponded.