Legitimation by multimodal means : a theoretical and analytical enquiry with specific reference to American political spot advertisements
MacKay, Rowan Rachel
What is ‘legitimacy’? Is legitimation possible through non-linguistic modes? These are the key theoretical questions with which this study is concerned. It explores them in conjunction with an analysis of American political spot advertisements. These ads are situated at the nexus between legitimation and multimodality, and their relevance to contemporary politics on the world stage is reflected in the immense financial and skilled resources which have been — and continue to be — devoted to them. A historical perspective into legitimation, multimodality and the attendant concepts of rationality and irrationality is given, followed by a discussion challenging the assumed rational role accorded to language. So challenged, the discussion moves to looking at the pairing of multimodality and politics; first from a historical viewpoint, and then from a more contemporary one. The role of myth, in the form of the American Dream, is investigated, leading to discussion of political appropriation, branding, tangibility, affordances and the (im)possibility of restricting interpretation. Spot ads are analysed with a specific focus: first on modal salience, and secondly on how the semiotic richness of the concept of nature is exploited for purposes of legitimation.