Sharing “The Music of My Soul:” Invitational Rhetoric in the Musical Memphis

This rhetorical analysis applies Foss, Griffin, and Foss’ concept of invitational rhetoric to the Tony award-winning musical Memphis. The musical depicts multiple conceptualizations of 1950s Memphis through the eyes of a strong, independent Black woman, a rebellious and eccentric white disc jockey, a protective older brother, and a prejudiced mother. While Memphis utilizes the principles of equality, imminent value, and self-determination, and creates external conditions and an offering perspective in order to emphasize the importance of seeking understanding on an individual level to combat racism, it also prioritizes the role of individual responsibility over ending systemic racism. The invitational rhetoric in Memphis provides the audience with different perspectives as four characters tell their stories and create a safe environment in which the audience may feel comfortable reflecting on and sharing their own stories; however, the musical glosses over the impact of systemic racism on the characters’ lives in order to promote a positive, feel-good message. We suggest that while the invitational rhetoric in Memphis may encourage audience members to better understand issues related to race, providing one way of seeking understanding in a society fractured by injustices and polarization, its message is limited due to its lack of focus on the systems in place that contribute to the racism experienced by the characters in the musical.


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Work Title Sharing “The Music of My Soul:” Invitational Rhetoric in the Musical Memphis
Open Access
  1. Sophia Bates
  2. Valerie L Schrader
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Kentucky Journal of Communication
Publication Date 2021
Deposited March 06, 2023




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added Memphis_article_revised.docx
  • Added Creator Sophia Bates
  • Added Creator Valerie L Schrader
  • Published
  • Updated Publication Date Show Changes
    Publication Date
    • 2022-07-01
    • 2021
  • Updated