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Title: Understanding Elvis : Presley, power and performance
Author: Duffett, Mark
ISNI:       0000 0001 3433 9844
Awarding Body: University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Current Institution: Aberystwyth University
Date of Award: 1998
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Using Elvis Presley as a case study, my work addresses celebrity as a form of social knowledge. In particular, I explore the role and result of power in organizing fans' understandings. Elvis fans are a discriminating community. They often talk about power. Researchers generally approach it as a contest between domination and resistance, but therefore neglect the shared moments that animate popular culture. In response, I specifically suggest fans become 'hooked' once they know their idol has power and feel personally selected to receive it. Each star transforms the energy of fame in a performance that recruits particular spectators. Collectively, fans take them as symbols against which they square their individual identities. Elvis expressed contradictions within the star-empowering context of the media. He showed that, despite his fame, good looks and tremendous vocal agency, he was always vulnerable in other ways. For example, in the 1950s, he moved like a puppet to attract children. Fans find their identities advantageously located between his extremes. They understand him as a 'source' of power. Consequently, Elvis's representation has extended beyond him. Writers re-perform his contradictions to draw on fans' engagements. For example, they portray Elvis tragically, as a victim of the people around him. Scandals have unleashed Elvis's power for wider audiences. After the star died, his biographers have made strong truth-claims without recognizing their own limits. Meanwhile, his former home, fans, impersonators and merchandising have all become part of his re-presentation. Each element interacts in unexpected ways. My thesis integrates empirical material to address 'cross over' issues relevant to both academics and fans. Contrasting my approach with established ideas about consumption, power and identity, I show that, in context, fans' understandings can help reconstruct cultural theory.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Celebrity ; Social knowledge ; Music ; Fans ; Media