Cultivating a feeling for farming
Greenwalt, Dustin Alexander
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This dissertation project interrogates the intersections of discourses about food and farming as a means of theorizing rhetorical style and mapping the economic logics that compose our current conditions. It argues that an attention to affectively powerful stylizations of food and farming demonstrates how contemporary culture exists at the interstices between the residual stylizations of America as a frontier, the dominant logics of militarism and neoliberalism, as well as the emergent hegemony of the financialized economy. Through its theorization of rhetorical style as the emergence of rhetorical forms that result from repetitions of virtual intensities, moreover, it argues for a reconsideration of contemporary formulations of ideology and the rhetorical situation. The first case study re-theorizes rhetorical style as emerging from interactions between texts and their contexts. It subsequently engages Ree Drummond's Pioneer Woman franchise as an exemplar of the frontier style, a collection of rhetorical forms that that resonate with images of the America during the time of westward expansion and reshapes social affiliations around a liberal model of social separation and individualism. The second case study then provides a theory of affective capture, whereby stylized dispositions interact with, and become modulated by, logics of power to encourage practices that perpetuate hegemonic modes of affiliation. It takes Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign as an example of how positive dispositions towards fitness practices become captured by logics of neoliberalism and militarism through the development of programs that encourage audiences to render themselves as potential resources for American economic and military power. The final chapter explicates a theory of the rhetorical situation whereby the emergence of hegemonic styles occurs as a result of probabilistic resonances between different layers of publicity. It does so through an analysis of debates surrounding the 2013 farm bill, where stylizations of the insured subject, as part of the broader financial economy, emerged through their resonances with figurations of farmers as rugged individuals and Americans as necessitating healthy food in order to continue to be economically productive. The conclusion then argues for a rhetorical scholarship that speculates about the possibilities for the emergence of alternative food economies.