Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Jessica Restaino

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

David Galef


Using Lloyd Bitzer’s model of the rhetorical situation, I have parsed current rhetorical statements made by prominent female authors, such as Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, and Francine Prose, to examine their claim that the literary establishment practices gender bias against women’s writing. The main speakers argue that literary gatekeepers -such as critical review journals, editors, publishers, awards juries, and academic institutions - marginalize women’s writing through systemic patriarchal institutional mechanisms. Joanna Russ, in her 1985 book How to Suppress Women’s Writing, deconstructs the ways in which women’s writing is biased against by literary institutions: “she wrote it, but look at what she wrote” (it falls outside of patriarchal conventions determining what is great writing; may be too feminine in subject matter, title, perspective, i.e. not of “universal” appeal.); “she wrote it, but she only wrote one of it” (women don’t produce enough writing to get equal attention in the literary establishment); “she wrote it, but ‘it’ isn’t art” (it doesn’t fit a patriarchal model of “great” writing); “she didn’t write it” (‘it’ is attributed to male writers or other masculine influences/authority figures known to the female author, or as mimesis). By blending the models of Bitzer and Russ, I am able to construct the rhetoric as a contemporary and active rhetorical situation, and examine its main arguments, its audience and the constraints that influence rhetorical response, and the movement of the rhetorical situation over time. The final analysis discusses the effect of the rhetorical situation of gender bias on women writers as a psychological effect that provokes new rhetorical speakers, and which may result in diminished confidence and future writing development for emerging female writers. Additional theorists and rhetorical speakers include Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Lillian Robinson, Dale Spender, Roxane Gay, Monica Dux, Meg Wolitzer, Adrienne Rich, Tillie Olsen, Elaine Showalter, and Sandra Gilbert and Sarah Gubar.

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