Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mary Hocks

Second Advisor

Michael Harker

Third Advisor

George Pullman

Fourth Advisor

Gregory Smith


This dissertation examines the feminist intersections of composition studies, visual rhetoric, and comics studies in order to identify a rhetorically interdisciplinary approach to composition that moves beyond composition studies’ persistent separation of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, rhetoric and ideology, and analysis and composition. Chapter one transgresses the qualitative/quantitative divide using keyword analysis and visualization of 2,573 dissertation and thesis abstracts published between 1979 – 2012 to engage in what composition studies scholar Derek Mueller terms a “distant reading” of the extent and contexts of composition studies’ self-identified interdisciplinarity. Complementing my more traditional literature review, the results of this analysis validate the necessity of my analytical and pedagogical interventions by suggesting that composition studies has not yet addressed comics through the feminist intersections of visual rhetoric and critical pedagogy. Chapters two and three develop a rhetorical analytical approach to comics that moves beyond comics studies’ persistent separation of rhetoric and ideology by positing conflict as an identifiable form of rhetorical persuasion in the Martha Washington comics. These comics were collaboratively created by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons between 1989 – 2007. Following feminist rhetorician Susan Jarratt’s case for rhetorical conflict as a pedagogical tool and extending Chicana feminist Chela Sandoval’s conceptualization of meta-ideologizing in which oppressive ideologies are re-signified via recontextualizations that juxtapose ‘old’ and ‘new’ signs of ideological meaning, I explore the rhetorically persuasive conflict arising from visual, conceptual, and embodied juxtapositions of race, class, and gender made visible in these comics. Chapter four outlines a feminist, critical, visual rhetorical – what I call prismatic – approach to composition pedagogy that requires (1) contexts in which differences and conflicts can be identified and engaged, (2) explicable sites of intersection between ideological perspectives and rhetorical construction, and (3) models for the transition from ideological critique to (re)composition. This is not an add-pop-genre-and-stir approach to composition pedagogy; rather, it intentionally deploys comics’ inherent multimodality as a challenge to students’ often narrow definitions of rhetoric and composition.