Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lynee Gaillet

Second Advisor

Mary Hocks

Third Advisor

George Pullman


This dissertation investigates the song “You Are My Sunshine” as a cultural and material artifact, using archival and primary materials and drawing from research in feminist and sonic rhetorics to reconstruct the song’s muddy origins and reveal its rhetorical potential. While scholarship tying these traditions together exists, discussions of songs as rhetorical, historical, and cultural objects are scant, and much research focuses on the material state of sound. This investigation of the song shifts that focus to cultural environments, built across time, set amid the backdrop of emerging sound technologies. Employing Hall and du Gay’s research tool “Circuit of Culture,” I examine evidence of the song and its circulations through these environments, traversing across cultural, historical, and personal boundaries, and taking on a serendipitous rhetorical life of its own. Included in this work is the argument that a tradition of inequity exists in the way authorship and ownership are treated in sound, a tradition that is cultural, rhetorical, and consequential.


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