Date Thesis Awarded

5-2015

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

History

Advisor

Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Scott Nelson

Committee Member

Richard Lowry

Abstract

The pursuit and preservation of authenticity has been of key importance to artists and musicologists throughout history. However, the emergence of a booming capitalist culture in the early twentieth century complicated the concept of authenticity and thus heightened intellectual interest. In particular, the American folk revival generated conflict over the term by demonstrating its dynamism — while some artists adhered to the strict, traditionalist, Old-Leftist canon of folk purists, younger artists increasingly commodified themselves and their music to fit in with a more commercial environment. More recently, the emergence of hip hop and its perpetually shifting parameters of “realness” have prompted an entirely new wave of scholarship on this touchy topic. After careful consideration of discourse on authenticity and its unique definition as it applies to each of these genres, examination of the careers of Bob Dylan and Marshall Mathers will display the sensitivity, fluidity, and marketability of this term. However, rather than portraying these artists as individual actors or instigators in their respective genres and socio-political environments, this study aims to place them within a broader debate over the attainability and sustainability of authenticity. Recognition of the contrived and contested nature of authenticity in both of these genres will highlight the existence of a recurrent cultural-commercial process, one that arguably determines the fate of all music artists and subcultures.