Tarez Samra Graban

Towards a feminine ironic: Understanding irony in the oppositional discourse of women from the early modern and modern periods

Tarez Samra Graban

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2006 pp: 174
  • Advisor: Sullivan, Patricia;┬áRaskin, Victor
  • Source: DAI-A 67/10(E)
  • Subjects: Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Askew, Anne; Feminine; Gougar, Helen; Irony; Oppositional discourse; Women writers; Linguistics; Womens studies; American literature; British and Irish literature; Rhetoric; Composition;
  • ProQuest Document Number: 305280239
  • ISBN: 9780542945588
  • UMI Number: AAT 3239764

Abstract:

This project addresses the lack of clearly articulated methodologies in rhetoric for studying women’s ironic texts. In this dissertation, I conduct a multilayered discourse analysis of ironic texts by two women political agitators to better understand their rhetorical practices. Protestant Reformation martyr Anne Askew (c. 1546) and American suffragist Helen Gougar (c. 1870–1900) used irony to subvert the hegemonic forces intended to limit them by undermining their discourse communities’ expectations. Both women were skilled in embedding cultural insults and “encoding” political performances targeted to broader audiences within their communication to specific audiences by re-focusing each exchange on gender, creating dissonance between lexical features and rhetorical structures, and using logical shifts to reposition speakers and stereotypes. Their subversive behavior is best accounted for rhetorically by using a relevant-inappropriateness theory of irony, and best described as initiating rather than resisting discourse, and as creating rather than responding to persuasive occasions. In spite of a growing interest in the history of women rhetors of the Early Modern and Modern periods, much of their examination still accounts for how they did or did not participate in codified rhetorical traditions similar to the ones we teach. And in spite of a growing interest in the gendered practices of verbal humor, little attention has been given to exploring irony as persuasive argument whose effectiveness is intrinsic to subjectivity and gendered performance. In order to understand how traditional rhetorical paradigms are too limited or gender-struck to fully account for the effectiveness of women’s oppositional discourse, this dissertation proposes a linguistic/rhetorical examination of their ironic texts towards understanding their use of irony as a productive art. Such examination adapts certain “universal” constructs from linguistic theories of humor, broadens them to consider their interaction with audience and context, and applies them to under- or unexamined texts to determine effective uses of irony. My analysis specifically considers how the six linguistic/rhetorical constructs of context/audience (CT), purpose (PR), subject or topic (SU), ideological target (TA), logical structure (LS), and lexical features (LF) demonstrate their ability to argue covertly without committing to cooperative communication for all audiences involved.