Siyuan Ma

Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Andrew Berish, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.


country music, utopia, authenticity, community, country musical, Pure Country


Many consider music, songs, and dance performance as utopian signifiers for cinema, but few has entered the utopian discourse of country musicals, a small genre of cinema usually known as country music films. By closely scrutinizing Pure Country (1992), this thesis aims to reveal how country music—as music numbers and as background cues— integrate and connect the fragmented on-screen world for the country musicals so as to offer audiences a fullness of utopian experience, and how this utopian effect are culturally significant for American audiences due to country music’s unique mechanism of constructing utopia and nostalgia in its past-orientations, sentimentalities, and alleged authenticities. I argue because of the American country music’s internal need for utopia as an individual and social agent, Pure Country, as well as the neo-traditionalism country music defined by Pure Country, reconciles the pop and the old time country music, and also conciliates the tension expressed in such music tastes between the rural and urban communities. This reconciliation makes Pure Country a not so perfect cinematic text for documenting country music’s authenticity and origin, but fully and clearly reflects the utopian meaning of country music on an individual and social level.