Project Title: The Woman-Slave Analogy: Rhetorical Foundations in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

Principal Advisor: Associate Professor Chris Dixon

Project Abstract: Throughout the nineteenth century, American social reformers made use of a prominent rhetorical device - the woman-slave analogy - that simultaneously promoted the ideals of abolitionism and and women's rights. This thesis is an interdisciplinary study, exploring the cultural history of nineteenth-century American through the intersection between history and literature. With a focus on the popular culture of nineteenth-century social reform, the analysis is based upon a variety of primary sources: novels, short stories and poetry; periodicals and newspapers; speeches and tracts. From these sources, thematic uses and understandings of the woman-slave analogy emerge: marital slavery; legal slavery; fashion slavery; political slavery; and labour slavery. While there are issues with this problematic form of rhetoric, the prolific use of the woman-slave analogy still needs much consideration by scholars. By focusing on American women's history and literary history, my dissertation undertakes a thorough investigation of the cultural formations surrounding the production of the woman-slave analogy, with the objective of providing a comprehensive study of its application and effectiveness as a rhetorical device.

On this site