English Ph.D. Dissertations

A Sharper Point: A Feminist, Multimodal Heuristic for Analyzing Knitted Rhetoric

Heather Elizabeth Pristash, Bowling Green State University


This dissertation explores needlework and its use as a rhetorically significant meaning- making tool. A term for this phenomenon—"rhetorical needlework"—is proposed and defined through the application of work from several authors, most particularly Robert Herrick. While rhetorical needlework has been the subject of study by many scholars in rhetoric, it has most often been studied as a historical phenomenon. However, there is a great deal of modern craft that fits this definition of rhetorical needlework; thus far, however, it has not had the depth of scholarly attention given to historical work. This dissertation seeks to help remedy this problem. In analyzing this modern rhetorical needlework, this dissertation argues that several areas of knowledge must be combined, including craft, multimodality, and feminist rhetoric. These areas of knowledge are combined through the generation of a heuristic, with which modern rhetorical needlework can then be analyzed. In creating that heuristic, several areas of work are reviewed and synthesized into four main categories: rhetorical, craft, feminist, and multimodal. Pieces consulted in this literature review come from Macdonald, Berners-Lee, Humphreys, Royster and Kirsch, Goggin, Parker, Dasler Johnson, Bratich and Brush, Shipka, Bateman, Glenn, Cixous, Greer, Mattingly, Palmeri, and others. The resulting heuristic consists of thirteen questions that help in reaching a deeper, multifaceted understanding of specific pieces of rhetorical needlework. After it has been generated, the heuristic is then applied to a case study: The Red Sweater Project/redsweaters.org. Using the heuristic helps reveal both why this work succeeds and, potentially, some of the reasons that it went unfinished. Conversely, this application also helps suggest further ways that the heuristic might be developed and applied in future work.