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Irony & ideology: Oppositional politics and cultural engagement in post-September 11th America

Viveca S Greene, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Abstract

This study explores humor, irony, and satire in the wake of the September 11th attacks, and in relation to nationalist, conservative, and racialized ideologies in the United States. Employing a case study approach, the dissertation analyzes a range of media texts spanning the decade following 9/11, including: political sketches from Saturday Night Live’s 2001-02 season; an episode of South Park that aired on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003; cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that ran in the Danish Jyllands-Posten in 2005; Stephen Colbert’s keynote address at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in 2006; the satirical cover of a 2008 issue of the New Yorker magazine (Barry Blitt’s “The Politics of Fear”); and, finally, Jon Stewart’s response on The Daily Show to Osama bin Laden’s assassination in 2011. These humorous, ironic, and satirical media texts at times challenged, and at others underscored, dominant discourses around September 11th and the Bush Administration’s response. In mapping these texts and their engagement with different sources of power, the dissertation illuminates how ambivalently they do so, as well as the extent to which the meaning of comedic texts are particularly dependent on their contexts. The study’s primary orientation is cultural studies, but it also borrows from rhetorical analysis and critical race theory in its larger discussion of the potentials and shortcomings of such texts as tools of oppositional politics. The questions and goals of the dissertation are both theoretical and political, as it addresses the significance of such comedic texts not only as sources of entertainment and catharsis, but also as essential components in political discourse and cultural engagement. At the heart of the project are questions and issues related to hegemony, subversion, corporate media, stable and unstable irony, discursive communities, authorial intention, context, ironic (or hipster) racism, and ideological blind spots. Moving beyond simple binaries—“getting” or “not getting” irony, humor, or satire—this study argues that humor texts are complex ideological amalgams that contest and solidify power relations in rich, and, at times, contradictory ways.^

Subject Area

American studies|Mass communication

Recommended Citation

Greene, Viveca S, "Irony & ideology: Oppositional politics and cultural engagement in post-September 11th America" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3498345.
http://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI3498345

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