English Ph.D. Dissertations


The Multimodal Kitchen: Cookbooks as Women’s Rhetorical Practice

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English/Rhetoric and Writing

First Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Richard Gebhardt (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lucy Long (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Allie Terry (Committee Member)


This study positions cookbooks and their associated discourse as rhetorical, relevant to the field and worthy of scholarly study. I argue that cookbooks are more than a simple collection of recipes; the ways in which the texts construct and are constructed by society establish their significance as rhetorical texts. As women have been historically silenced and prevented from using dominant communicative methods, they have needed to develop alternative practices. Naming cooking as a women’s discourse created out of these alternative practices, I argue this form of communication constructed for women and by women has a powerful rhetorical impact which establishes women as experts within their own (private) sphere. This discourse not only enables women to value their own existence but it also gives them a space in which to perform rhetoric, in effect constructing a feminist practice.

This analysis is based on synthesis between Certeau’s concept of “making do” and multimodal practice, as I argue cookery discourse is inherently multimodal. I develop my argument exploring what I identify as the major modes used in the discourse: social, visual, and performative. As my project works to extend theories of multimodality, making the concept more widely applicable in rhetorical scholarship, it also furthers work begun by Bizzell, Glenn, and others concerning the limited representation of women in the rhetorical canon, and aids in the rewriting of rhetorical history as women’s stories continue to be added. Previously marginalized as a simple, everyday text, the cookbook is reclaimed in this dissertation as a significant rhetorical – and feminist – practice.