Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Chair/Advisor

Michelle Smith

Committee Member

Megan Eatman

Committee Member

Lee Wilson

Committee Member

Katherine Weisensee


My dissertation, titled Buried Forensics: A Rhetorical/Material Analysis of Gendered Death, illustrates how othered women who did not adhere to societal norms have been silenced, excluded, forgotten, and erased in public memory. I examine the rhetorical means through which historical women have been gendered in death. Death rhetorics, I argue, illuminate the relationship between past and present violence in conjunction with memory practices. Depending on the reasons specific women were othered, death rhetorics elucidates how these women became, and continue to be, marginalized. Specifically, my three body chapters examine the lives and deaths of women who participated in sex work in New Orleans, Louisiana; women forced into convict labor in Huntsville, Texas; and women committed to mental institutions in Rochester, New York. By focusing on the turn of the twentieth century, Buried Forensics interrogates a time of significant change to burial practices, forensics, and cultural values surrounding death. I join recent scholarship by rhetoricians Jessica Enoch, Mitchell Reyes, and Stephen Browne in depicting absences in public memory and archival scholarship for communities marginalized by race and gender. My research documents discuss how sexuality, criminality, labor, and mental health norms render particular bodies vulnerable for erasure upon and after their deaths and how those individuals attempted to influence public perceptions of their lives and treatment of their bodies. I confront archival absences by drawing upon material feminist methods and death practices to examine the embodied and material elements of memory practices.

Available for download on Saturday, August 31, 2024

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