This study analyzes camp style as a rhetorical strategy for Burkean rhetorical identification. Through a case study of Adam Lambert's use of this style on American Idol in 2009, this study produced a rhetorical theory of camp that challenges the typically dialectical relationship between identification and its opposite: division. This study responds both to Susan Sontag's seminal essay on camp style and to other conversations surrounding identification, which revolve around how rhetors avoid division (Borrowman and Kmetz; Jones and Rowland), how rhetors appeal to conflicting audiences (DeGenaro; Helmbrecht and Love), how rhetors create new narratives as a means of identification (Wilz; Stob; DeGenaro; Jones and Rowland), how rhetors might use identification for a greater good (Stob; Wilz), and how rhetors achieve partial consubstantiality (Fernheimer). It analyzes how camp can be used in this way via Adam Lambert's performances on American Idol in two different rhetorical situations - his performances for America's votes at the end of the competition, and his performance with KISS during the Season Eight finale after his fate had already been determined. These performances were cross-referenced with Lambert's similar performances on and off the show, as well as with numerical data about the show's viewership. Ultimately, this study found that camp style can be used to identify with conflicting audiences and be used to gain rhetorical agency, and that division can be a means of identification, or even an intentional rhetorical strategy. In Lambert's case, although division is what allowed him to stand out from his American Idol competitors, he had to do so carefully in order to also appeal to the show's producers and audience.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Writing and Rhetoric
English; Rhetoric and Composition
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Campus-only Access)
Lanthier, Isabelle, "The Rhetoric of Camp: Adam Lambert's Identification and Division Strategies in His American Idol Performances" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 6442.