Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Sean W. Morey

Committee Members

Jessica A. Greiser, Lisa M. King


Computer-mediated technologies are changing how we communicate; the boundaries between oral, visual, and verbal communication, already difficult to distinguish, has blurred, becoming a construction with its own grammar and diction. One such visual/verbal-mixed unit of communication is the internet meme, an image, text, video, or performance meant to be circulated within digital communities. This open-ended medium begs for rhetorical study in this evolving digital landscape. Preceding scholarship that has blended the field of rhetoric with internet memes has tended to focus on a study of circulation (Mills; Taecharungroj and Nueangjamnong; Guadagno, et al.) or the use of specific forms and modes within memes (Huntington; Segev, et al.; Davis, et al.). It seems only recently that an eye has turned towards meme-sharing communities and the larger effects these meme communities have on the internet and non-internet culture altogether (Shifman; Milner; Massanari). This thesis attempts to add to the literature an analysis of specific internet communities’ incorporation of ironic, absurd, and surreal elements in their visual rhetoric. Through an analysis of subreddits /r/DankMemes, /r/DeepFriedMemes, and /r/SurrealMemes, I will attempt to answer how these communities make meaning out of digital objects, as well as how they form create and reinforce the boundaries of their communities through interactions with such objects.

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