Teenage Mothers as Rhetors and Rhetoric: An Analysis of Embodied Exigence and Constrained Agency
AuthorVinson, Jenna Elizabeth
Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English
AdvisorLicona, Adela C.
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.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the rhetorical function and social implications of the "dominant narrative of teenage pregnancy"--that is, the popular depiction of young motherhood as the tragic downfall of a woman's life. I employ feminist poststructuralist and visual rhetorical critique to analyze historical and contemporary teenage pregnancy prevention materials as well as journalistic representations of young mothers. Building from this analysis, I argue that the dominant narrative pathologizes teenage mothers, prevents a focus on structures of inequality and poverty, sustains racialized gender ideologies, and encourages practices that perpetuate disparities for pregnant/mothering young women. In addition, this project explores strategies for resisting this discourse. Specifically, I review scholarship that has contested the dominant narrative and identify counter-rhetorical practices that some young mothers use in their published first-person narratives. Finally, drawing on focus groups I conducted with 27 young mothers, I illustrate that visibly young pregnant and parenting women are often publically confronted by strangers because they embody an urgent and much-debated social issue. I offer the concept of "embodied exigence" as a way to understand how discursive and material realities of the body may construct rhetorical situations and how the body may function as a site of constrained agency. Building from rhetorical theories of agency, exigence, and feminist work on the visibility of motherhood, I assert that in moments of embodied exigence, marginalized young mothers may seize the opportunity to resist dominant rhetoric and act as rhetors in their own right.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Rhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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