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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBeginning with an inquiry into the tension between modernism and postmodernism, the dissertation claims that the essay is and always has been postmodern in its uncanniness--its refusal of generic and disciplinary boundaries, its capacity to bring together multiple voices and discourses, its skepticism, and its personal, experiential epistemology. Part I concludes with rhetorical analyses of late modern (in content and residual formal attributes) and postmodern essays. The affinities and contradictions between the normalized essay originating with Montaigne and feminist essays focuses the three chapters of Part II, "Gender and the Essay." In the first chapter, "Logos, Montaigne, and Feminism," I explore the tensions between the essay as Montaigne created it and the appeal of that form to contemporary feminist writers. In the second chapter, "The Essay's (Feminine?) Form," I show how the essay has functioned as both a vehicle for the oppressive logocentrism of its traditionally male, genteel authors and as a vehicle for women writers striving to disrupt or overthrow that tradition. In the third chapter, "Rhetoric and the Practice of Style: A Gathering of Essays by Women," I pursue the rhetoric of the other aesthetic into the realm of psychoanalytic theory, where the foundation of Lacanian symbolic order troubles the "other" aesthetic's claim to an alternative discourse. To close this extensive chapter I provide an array of essays written by women that are particularly innovative. My own creative nonfiction is the subject of Part III. "What Rhetoric Means" brings postmodern elements into an academic essay. On the other hand, "Life Drawing" does not address an academic subject or employ academic conventions. Instead it offers charcoal drawing as an analog to writing, with both acting as ways to revise and reclaim my life from my father's troubled legacy. Finally, in "Reflection," the third chapter of Part III and the dissertation's closing chapter, I claim that the essay, postmodernism, and rhetoric share a deep affinity for one another. In that the three terms signify freedom from absolutes, they also force us to contend with ethical responsibilities.
Degree ProgramGraduate College