Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Going all-in on the American Dream: Myth, rhetoric, and the pokerization of America

Aaron Michael Duncan, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation takes a rhetorical approach in exploring the rise of gambling in America, and in particular the growth of the game of poker, as a means to explore larger changes to America‘s collective consciousness. I argue that the collective American conscious has undergone dramatic changes in recent years and an increased acceptance of gambling is reflective of these changes. I establish this claim through the exploration of three cases studies which each employ different media. I examine the depiction of gambling in the wild western frontier, its rise in popularity during the modern age, and its current place in post-modern America. The first case study focuses on John Ford‘s classic film My Darling Clementine and gambling‘s connection to the Frontier Myth. The second case examines the depiction of poker on television by focusing on ESPN‘s coverage of the 2003 World Series of Poker and its use of the myth of the self-made man. The third case study explores the rhetoric of online poker and gambling. I discuss how this rhetoric works to combine elements of the Frontier Myth and the myth of the self-made man. Throughout this study I am employ elements of Fisher‘s narrative paradigm, Flood‘s view of political myths, and Burke‘s analysis of myths to explore the changing discourse of gambling and poker in America. Finally, I discuss the implications resulting from the rise of gambling in American culture and its future in the risk society. I conclude that gambling works to both critique and reinterpret the myth of the American Dream putting greater emphasis on the importance of luck and risk management and deemphasizing the importance of the Protestant ethic as well as social and individual virtue.^

Subject Area

American Studies|Speech Communication|Mass Communications|Cinema

Recommended Citation

Duncan, Aaron Michael, "Going all-in on the American Dream: Myth, rhetoric, and the pokerization of America" (2011). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3450074.