Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Melinda Knight

Committee Member

Emily Isaacs

Committee Member

Naomi Liebler


E.D.E.N. Southworth, while relatively unknown today, was a popular and successful American writer who published over fifty stories throughout the mid- to late nineteenth century, including The Hidden Hand, Cruel as the Grave, The Lost Lady o f Lone, Ishmael, and Self- Raised. This thesis brings together literary, sociocultural, and rhetorical studies to analyze how Southworth instilled her devout Christian morals and temperance messages in a number of sensational stories that were marketed to a general audience of American readers, including many drinkers. This paper primarily utilizes Lloyd Bitzer's rhetorical situation (as detailed in "The Rhetorical Situation," published in Philosophy & Rhetoric in 1968) and Kenneth Burke's theory of identification (as detailed in his 1950 book, A Rhetoric of Motives) to consider how Southworth reflected mid-nineteenth century American society and covertly challenged the cultural norms of drinking in several of her stories without making the reader cry, "No preaching!" Essentially, this paper should answer the question of why and how Southworth wrote through popular literature to enable change in her readers and in society.

Analyzing Southworth through a rhetorical lens enables a wider appreciation of how she wielded her role as a popular female writer in the midst of the American temperance movement and the male-dominated American Renaissance. While popular female writers of the time have historically been critiqued for writing for commercial success rather than for art, and for writing so-called domestic novels,. Southworth's rhetoric demonstrated—rather, disguised—her clever ability to bridge the perceived gap between popular culture and artistic, purposeful literature. This study of Southworth's temperance motives and motifs can establish that this mid-nineteenth century woman successfully sold entertainment and purpose to the mass marketplace while simultaneously diverting and influencing readers.

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