Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Kimberly Golombisky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michael LeVan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

A. David Payne, Ph.D.


institutional symbols, Satanic panic, deviance, Kenneth Burke, heavy metal, black metal


The purpose of this study is to analyze the rhetorics of fear operating in public discourses surrounding metal music. This analysis focuses on how the public rhetorics deploy identity on listener populations through both the mediation and legislation of identities. Specifically, this mediation takes place using both symbols of fear and arguments constructed on potential threats. Texts for analysis in this study include film and television documentaries, newspaper articles, book-length critiques of and scholarship on heavy metal, and transcripts from the U.S. Senate Hearings on Record Labeling.

"Heavy metal" and "metal music" are labels that categorize diverse styles of music. While there is no exemplar metal song that accounts for a definition of the genre, the terms have been consistently used in rhetorics of fear. These rhetorical movements produce and deploy deviant identities, depend on the construction of cultural crisis, and generate counter rhetorics of agency for individuals and subcultures. The study moves 1) chronologically through metal history, 2) geographically from the United States to

Norway, and 3) contextually through media events that produce the public discourses of identity, crisis, and counter rhetorics. This study charts the rhetorical movements that have created fear within communities, leading to threats of legislation or criminalization of segments of the population.