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Title: An intertextual analysis of Vietnam war films and US presidential speeches
Author: Rowley, Christina
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 7593
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2010
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Elite articulations of state policy and popular cultural artefacts both construct common sense about world politics, yet the connections between 'low' cultural texts, such as war films, and 'high' policy discourses are often ignored, obscured and denied within IR. In this thesis I conduct an intertextual analysis of gendered representations of the Vietnam War and US identity in Vietnam War films and in US presidential speeches. I compare the representations articulated in three popular films-The Deer Hunter, Rambo: First Blood, Part 11 and Forrest Gump-with those articulated by Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush (Senior) and Clinton in inaugural and State of the Union addresses (1975-1996), in order to investigate whether and how transformations in these discourses occurred during this period. I have selected these texts not because they are a priori expected to be good examples of intertextuality but, rather, because they are popular films and because the speeches are delivered frequently and regularly over time. I examine these discourses over a twenty-year period in order to examine intertextuality as an ongoing process rather than as an isolated phenomenon or as a feature of one particular 'anomalous' era. The original contributions of this project are thus to be found in the research design as well as in the empirical analysis. The speeches and films display a remarkable degree of homogeneity in their representations. In all three films, and in the speeches of all five presidents, the Vietnam veteran is valorised. However, the gendered nature of these representations changes over time. The binaries underpinning the narrative logic of The Deer Hunter are also iterated in the expressions of trauma and renewal found in Ford and Carter's speeches; Rambo IPs account of how and why the US 'lost' in Vietnam resonates with Reagan's articulations; and the models of masculinity and femininity found in Forrest Gump find their counterparts in the gendered representations Bush and Clinton deploy to articulate problems in contemporary domestic US society. Divergences between presidents' rhetoric and cinematic representations are also identified, such as the contrast between Rambo's hypermasculinity as based on bodily strength and President Reagan's enthusiastic promotion of technology. I conclude by arguing that the act of 'reading together' these seemingly discrete discourses provides us with a richer and more nuanced understanding of how the construction of identity, foreign policy and world politics occurs than does the analysis of either policy articulations or popular culture in isolation
Supervisor: Weldes, Jutta ; Squires, Judith Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ed.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available