Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Nancy Burrell

Committee Members

Mike Allen, Sang-Yeon Kim, Tae-Seop Lim


Constitutive rhetoric, Fandom, Identification, Power, Social Media


In this rhetorical analysis, the role of fandom through the technological advances in new media communication and its impact on social media are examined. Specifically, I analyze the rhetorical strategies that individuals use online in order to create narratives reaffirming their own conceptualizations of what it means to be a fan. This dissertation explores how changes in our contemporary media landscape has afforded a new space in popular culture, particularly the television genre of the Live After Show, which is specifically geared towards fans gaining public momentum, while highlighting the productive and performative elements of fan labor. The primary texts used in the dissertation are the AMC Live After Show, Talking Dead, along with The Walking Dead subReddit forums to illustrate how the various fan narratives constitute a typology of an engaged fan. The central argument is that fandom is not only constituted within the individual, but that The Walking Dead fans use their collective identity to maintain and enforce a sense of decorum, both on the subReddit forums and against those celebrity-guests-as-fans appearing on Talking Dead, in order to discipline certain behaviors not conducive towards the vision of the engaged fan. Such disciplinary actions are not limited just to online fans, but are also spearheaded, at times, by Talking Dead’s host, Chris Hardwick. Hardwick, through a series of case studies, attempts to further align himself with those engaged The Walking Dead fans, by actively exerting power in these televised interactions to reinforce and return the discussion to more appropriate topics. Intertwined throughout these various rhetorical theories are instances for the role that social support plays throughout the construction and constitution of fan identity. The analysis illustrates how communication technology aids in contributing to the creation of discursive spaces where fans can direct their emotional appeals and experience some sort of resolution or catharsis by sharing their stories and publicly expressing their feelings of grief and sorrow. The rhetorical construction of fandom in a social media environment provides a wealth of textual narratives that push the continuum of fan studies in new directions.

Included in

Rhetoric Commons