Bryan Morgan Kopp

The cultural rhetorics of deviance: True crimes in postwar America

Bryan Morgan Kopp

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2000; pp: 229
  • Advisor: Harkin, Patricia
  • Source: DAI-A 62/06, p. 2089, Dec 2001
  • Subjects: Language, General (0679); American Studies (0323); Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-493-29126-1
  • UMI Number: AAT 3018227

Abstract:

    The purpose of the present study is to locate affinities between critical discourses on twentieth century American “true crime” or “fact” detective magazines and the magazines themselves. Drawing from poststructuralist language theorists including Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler, the author theorizes how Lloyd Bitzer’s notion of the rhetorical situation and J. L. Austin’s notion of the speech act situation may be involved in constructions of “deviance” and “deviants.” Primarily through the use of the”case form,” true crime critics construct”real-life” narratives around “deviant readers,” who are taken to be sexually sadistic and criminal at the same time. In order to surface problematic assumptions about the perlocutionary effects of language and to outline features of the cultural rhetorics of deviance, an article co-authored by forensic scientist Park Elliot Dietz is given a careful deconstructive reading. Parallels are discovered between true crime criticism and anti-pornography feminism. Andrea Dworkin’s materialist critiques are read through the works of feminist and queer theorists Gayle Rubin and Judith Butler, both of whom raise important questions about the democratic ideals of liberty, equality, and justice. The author reflects upon how Foucault’s theories of disciplinarity and the carceral society inform relations between the law and the norm, between disciplinary and juridical power, and between knowledge and desire.