The Rhetoric of Hysteria in the U.S., 1830-1930: Suffragists, Sirens, Psychoses
AuthorMiller, Georgianna Oakley
AdvisorMiller, Thomas P.
Committee ChairMiller, Thomas P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractFoucault's argument in the short work "Of Other Spaces" suggests that rhetoric can be defined as how language is used to create and foster power inequities in hierarchical systems. Further, rhetoric enables individuals or groups to gain credibility and mobility within those systems--and to deny that same credibility and mobility to others. The nineteenth and early twentieth century was a period of transition for women, particularly middle- and upper-class white women. During this time, activist activities conducted by and on behalf of women were considered a threat to U.S. society. As a result, rhetoric was used with the intention of limiting American women's credibility and mobility.Although women had always been considered physiologically and intellectually inferior, diagnoses with a variety of "female-only" ailments became more common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For men threatened by women's increasing political activism, this became a very effective method of arguing that women should be denied access to power. Because women were considered outside of the structure of society by virtue of a physiological state they were unable to change, then by definition women could only be regulated, and never regulate. Moreover, the postbellum expansion of civil society into a mass-market structure was an extremely efficient means of distributing that message.In this work, I use Foucault's "science of discipline" as the heuristic to analyze these debates. Foucault lists numerous categories and subcategories that can fall under the science of discipline--far too many to productively and coherently apply here. Therefore, I have modified the science of discipline into a four-pronged process. Applying this heuristic to the definition of rhetoric put forth here, I argue in this work that the medical profession, the magazine industry, and activist women engaged in dialogue with one another within the context of the suffrage movement. I argue that these specialized discourses responded to and built upon ideological allegiances, both explicitly and implicitly, to address the issue of woman's place in society--the "woman question."