Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

First Advisor

George Pullman

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Sanders Lopez

Third Advisor

Renée Schatteman

Abstract

This thesis analyzes public “nurse-ins” and breastfeeding activism of the past decade, examining public breastfeeding demonstrations as an example of collective rhetoric in which the individual is empowered in its relation to the masses. The author discusses the potential of collective rhetoric to reintroduce feminist activism at a time dominated by postfeminist discourse. Staged nurse-ins force the public to confront realities of the maternal body; however, the self-proclaimed “lactivists” seldom discuss the inseparable sexuality of the breast and the underlying narrative of “natural” and “good” motherhood. Addressing Foucauldian discursive formations, the author acknowledges that even though the resistant discourse cannot exist outside of the dominant discourses that continue to act upon it, collective demonstrations nevertheless hold the power to disrupt public perception of the maternal body.

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