Date of Award

5-4-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Mary Hocks

Second Advisor

Ashley Holmes

Third Advisor

George Pullman

Abstract

This study examines YouTube channel, ContraPoints, by trans woman Natalie Wynn. It begins with close readings and analyses of an example video and body of comments from Wynn’s oeuvre that draw conclusions about how trans embodiment intersects with online, multimodal composing. The study finds that, in her video “Beauty,” Wynn’s bodily presentation and rhetorical attitudes towards dominant norms of gender and sexuality constantly shift. Furthermore, the study uncovers evidence that commenter attitudes about gender and sexuality in the video “Autogynephilia” likewise shift as a result of encounters with the video and with other commenters. Next, the study reads the YouTube video page as an assemblage composed of smaller assemblages, or modules. I discover that each of the modules relate to one another in such a way as to endow the YouTube video page assemblage with the capacities to enter social justice movements, yet the specific properties of the modules on ContraPoints video pages fail to provide the sufficient conditions to exercise this capacity. Nevertheless, the study concludes that ContraPoints video page assemblages do have the capacity to generate interpersonal, communal reflections on complex issues around gender and sexuality, reflections that may give rise to changing beliefs. These belief changes are necessary for any future community-building that may enable social justice movements aimed at expanding rights around gender and sexuality. This case study, then, offers one answer among infinite possible answers to Phil Bratta and Scott Sundvall’s question of how composers with diverse embodiments address systems of domination using digital technology. The study also suggests that assemblage theory represents a productive framework for interpreting online, multimodal compositions that incorporate large bodies of information, or big-data assemblages.

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