Alter Ethos: Feminist Ruptures in Digital Disciplinary Spaces

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Williams, Shelia Elizabeth McGhee
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation project uses genre-inflected critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine feminist ruptures within digital discourse communities in Rhetoric and Writing Studies that occurred in the wake of the 2017 #MeToo movement. These ruptures, often initiated or sustained by women, graduate students, and racially minoritized scholars, focus on specific instances of sexism and racism within our communities that represent concerns of discrimination within academia broadly. The corpus of texts includes listserv threads, spillover conversations into social media platforms, and statements published by pertinent individuals and organizations. Although this is not an exhaustive study of these ruptures nor the spaces in which they occurred, they are indicative of a broader gendered reckoning that continues to reverberate within academia and beyond. Using CDA to analyze these ruptures sheds light on how existing power dynamics reproduced through language serve to direct the conversations of our field by excluding or discriminating against certain members. Even though these ruptures occurred within various disciplinary spaces, each one is characterized by a discursive framework inductively developed from the research: a catalyzing event that prompts the dialogue, a text that acts as a breaking point, the dialogue surrounding the rupture, and then the larger impacts of the event on the discourse community and the field. This framework will allow scholars to discursively map what happens rhetorically during a rupture within their own disciplinary communities, and the accompanying heuristic in the conclusion can be used to further understand how and why these ruptures occur. Additionally, feminist discursive strategies such as rhetorical listening are suggested as important tools in moving forward from the ruptures and restoring community where it has been lost.
#MeToo movement, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), Feminist rhetoric, Rhetoric, Women's studies