Sample Masters Dissertation

Visual rhetoricians have often attempted to understand text-image arguments by privileging one medium over the other, either using text-based rhetorical principles or developing new image-based theories. My dissertation addresses the question of how meaning is made when texts and images are united in multimodal arguments.

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My dissertation expands the range of dissociation by applying it specifically to visual contexts and using it to critique visual arguments in a series of historical moments when political, religious, and economic factors cause one form of media to be valued over the other: Byzantine Iconoclasm, the late medieval period, the 1950’s advertising boom, and the modern digital age.

In each of these periods, I argue that dissociation reveals how the privileged medium can shape an entire multimodal argument.

The emergence and image of the postwar, sexually autonomous teen girl finally began to see expression in mainstream melodramas of the late 50s, and teen girl stars such as Sandra Dee and Natalie Wood created new, “post-delinquent” star images wherein “good girls” could still be sexually experienced.

This new image was a significant departure from the widespread belief that the sexually active teen girl was a fundamentally delinquent threat to the nuclear family, and offered a liberal counterpoint to more conservative teen girl prototypes like Hayley Mills, which continued to have cultural currency.”“This dissertation joins a vibrant conversation in the social sciences about the challenging nature of care labor as well as feminist discussions about the role of the daughter in Victorian culture.

I argue that the space of the specter is a force of representation, an invisible site in which the uncertainties of antebellum economic and social change become visible.

I read this spectral space in canonical works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and Walt Whitman and in emerging texts by Robert Montgomery Bird, Theophilus Fisk, Fitz James O’Brien, and Edward Williams Clay.By focusing on a variety of cultural texts—advertisements, fictional novels, historical writings, medical texts, popular print, and film—this project aims to create a sense of how these cultural productions work together to construct narratives about sexuality, reproduction, and reproductive control.Relying heavily on a historicizing of these issues, my project shows how these texts—both fictional and nonfictional—create a rich and valid site from which to explore the development of narratives of sexuality and reproductive practices, as well as how these narratives connect to larger cultural narratives of race, class, and nation.She gains no authority or stability no matter how loving or even how necessary she is to a family because there simply is no position in the parental family structure for her.The managing daughter thus reveals a deep crack in the structure of the traditional Victorian family by showing that it often cannot accommodate, protect, or validate a loving non-traditional family member because it values traditional hierarchies over emotion or effort. Mitchell has famously noted that we are in the midst of a “pictorial turn,” and images are playing an increasingly important role in digital and multimodal communication.I argue that the relationship between the two media is more dynamic, and can be better understood by applying ’s concept of dissociation, which Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca developed to demonstrate how the interaction of differently valued concepts can construct new meaning.The interdisciplinary nature of this inquiry highlights the interrelationship between the literary productions of the nineteenth and twentieth century and American cultural history.“From the distribution of religious tracts at Ellis Island and Billy Sunday’s radio messages to televised recordings of the Billy Graham Crusade and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club, American evangelicals have long made a practice of utilizing mass media to spread the Gospel.Most recently, these Christian evangelists have gone online.As a contribution to scholarship in religious rhetoric and media studies, this dissertation offers evangelistic websites as a case study into the ways persuasion is carried out on the Internet.Through an analysis of digital texts—including several evangelical home pages, a chat room, discussion forums, and a virtual church—I investigate how conversion is encouraged via web design and virtual community as well as how the Internet medium impacts the theology and rhetorical strategies of web evangelists.

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