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Otherworldly figures: rhetoric, representation and the public performance of femininity in nineteenth-century spirit mediums' autobiographies

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This dissertation theorizes nineteenth-century public performance of spiritual media as being inherent to the production of autobiography itself. Too often, dominant social discourses are cast as being singular cultural phenomena,

This dissertation theorizes nineteenth-century public performance of spiritual media as being inherent to the production of autobiography itself. Too often, dominant social discourses are cast as being singular cultural phenomena, but analyzing the rhetorical strategies of women attempting to access public spheres reveals fractures in what would otherwise appear to be a monolithic patriarchal discourse. These women's resistant performances reap the benefits of a fractured discourse to reveal a multiplicity of alternative discourses that can be accessed and leveraged to gain social power. By examining the phenomena of four nineteenth- century Spiritualists' mediumship from a rhetorical perspective, this study considers how female spirit mediums used their autobiographies to operate as discursive spaces mediating between private and public spheres; how female mediums constructed themselves in the public sphere as women and as spiritual authorities; how they negotiated entry into volatile and unpredictable publics; how they conceived of the vulnerability of the female body in the public sphere; and how they coped with complications inherent to Victorian era constructions of feminine corporeality. In conclusion, this dissertation offers a highly situated performative theory of subaltern publicity.

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  • 2012

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Performativity, positionality, and relationality: identity pathways for a feminist rhetorical pedagogy

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This dissertation posits that a relationship between a feminist rhetorical pedagogical model and autobiographical theoretical tenets engage students in the personal writing process and introduce them to the ways that

This dissertation posits that a relationship between a feminist rhetorical pedagogical model and autobiographical theoretical tenets engage students in the personal writing process and introduce them to the ways that feminism can change the approach, analysis, and writing of autobiographical texts. Inadequate attention has been given to the ways that autobiographical theory and the use of non-fiction texts contribute to a feminist pedagogy in upper-level writing classrooms. This dissertation corrects that by focusing on food memoirs as vehicles in a feminist pedagogical writing course. Strands of both feminist and autobiographical theory prioritize performativity, positionality, and relationality (Smith and Watson 214) as dynamic components of identity construction and thus become frames through which this class was taught and studied. I theorize these “enabling concepts” (Smith and Watson 217) as identity pathways that lead to articulation of identity and experience in written work.

This study posits that Royster and Kirsch’s four feminist rhetorical practices— Critical Imagination, Social Circulation, Strategic Contemplation, and Globalizing Point of View (19)—taken together offer a model for instruction geared to help learners chart identity pathways in the context of one semester of their undergraduate rhetorical education. This model is operationalized through a writing classroom that focused on feminist ideals, using a food memoir, The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber, as the vehicle of inquiry. This study offers a starting point for analysis of food memoirs in university writing classrooms by focusing specifically on the ways that students understood and applied the framework, model, and vehicle of the study. This dissertation prioritizes the composition and valuing of individual and communal lived experiences expressed through the articulation of identity pathways. Teachers and scholars can use the knowledge and takeaways gained in the study to better support and advocate for the inclusion of the students lived experiences in writing classrooms and pedagogy.

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  • 2017