English, Speech, & Foreign Languages

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    Influences of nineteenth century women's speeches on forming early feminist ideology: A rhetoric of social intervention approach
    (December 2023) Martin, Meredith L 1986-; Matthew Brown; Gretchen Busl; Dundee Lackey
    “Womanhood is the greatest fact of her life,” writes Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Gage in the History of Suffrage: 1848-1860. The ideological concept of “womanhood” is a central theme of “first-wave” feminist rhetoric and the Woman’s Rights Movement of the nineteenth century in America. This dissertation explores how Christian feminists influenced the rhetorical construction of “womanhood” and formative aspects of feminist ideology through their oratory. The way in which this study explores how women’s rhetoric contributed to concepts of “womanhood” and feminist ideology is through the analysis of seven speeches and sermons not previous studied by other scholars through the theoretical and analytical framework called the Rhetoric of Social Intervention model. The analysis of rhetorical interventions in the speech artifacts demonstrated how Christian feminists separated religious influence from social and political perspectives on women and womanhood, perceived how changes in society based on egalitarianism would impact women’s social roles and relationship with men, and contributed to modern discourse about needs and identity. The implications of this study include challenging scholarship on simplified perspectives of the “first-wave” feminist movement, synthesizing feminist ideology into an entire ideological framework, and provide more insight into understandings of how women shape rhetorical discourse.
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    "What She Carries with Her": Investigating women's interwar travel narratives
    (December 2023) Parker, Salena 1992-; Genevieve West
    In Cruises and Caravans (1942), Ella Malliart notes that “The intense curiosity so many of us feel, springs out of our deepest need: we have to understand, we are not meant to remain forever ignorant” (Robinson 459-460). This dissertation investigates women’s travel narratives from the Interwar Period in order to understand the intersections of writing, photography, travel, and identity. In this study, I analyze the travel photography and writing of “Aloha” Wanderwell, Ella Maillart, and Ruth Gruber through the lenses of cultural rhetorics, visual rhetorics, feminist geography, and narratology. I also use arts-based critical inquiry to create my own travel narratives and photography to put in conversation with the works from these Interwar women–calling into question our rhetorical choices surrounding gender, privilege, power, class, and authenticity.Investigating women’s travel narratives in this way will give means for the public to delve deeper into the cultural and social restrictions made not only on women’s experience but also on memoir as a viable means of scholarly inquiry. These works, along with a firm grasp of space and place, can be used to reconstruct how we look at travel, women’s voices, and identity on a global scale.
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    Kate Chopin's Edna Pontellier: Profile of bipolar disorder
    (2002) Halydier, Susan; Bridges, Phyllis; Greer, Russell
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    The transgression of humor: Towards a rhetoric of comedy
    (May 2023) Parker, Jason Don; Dr. Gretchen Busl; Brown, Matthew; Fehler , Brian
    ABSTRACT JASON PARKER THE TRANSGRESSION OF HUMOR: TOWARDS A RHETORIC OF COMEDY MAY 2023 In this dissertation, I discuss the elements of comedy that are grounded in rhetoric. I explore how comedy is rhetorical and how it can be used to critique, challenge, persuade, argue and unite discourse participants. Because I view comedy as essentially rhetorical, I make connections to two types of rhetoric. One is the ancient rhetoric of the Greeks, a rhetoric that is based in the dialectic, the enthymeme, and the art of argument and persuasion. The other is New Rhetoric, a rhetoric of the twenty-first century that seeks understanding and identification. I also make connections to studies in hermeneutics, as this is the study of how we make emotional interpretations as well as those based in reason, with a particular emphasis on Frederic Jameson’s “Metacommentary” (1971). The challenge is in understanding how comedy is both a beneficial and potentially regrettable part of communication. I examine how comedy embodies both the agonistic qualities of the ancient art of persuasion as well as the potential to unite and liberate people through better communication and understanding. I look at the cult television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 and examine how it deconstructs ideas through comedy and interpretation of old movies. I look at Hannah Gadsby’s deconstruction of comedy, gender, and culture in her stand-up special, Nannette (2018). I also look at black comedians like Richard Pryor and Jackie “Moms” Mabley to see how comedic honesty can critique racism and social injustice and connect people. iii However, I must also protest the view that comedy and rhetoric are entirely liberatory. By looking at the ancient roots of comedy and rhetoric we can see that they have their origins in invective and personal attack. Both comedy and rhetoric can be used in a negative manner and even when used positively, in service of some liberatory action or politically progressive goal, it often does so with invective and ridicule. In order to have a complete understanding of how they function, we must understand both to be subject to positive and negative uses depending on the user. In this way, I attempt to make preliminary sketches of a rhetoric of comedy and theorize how comedy and rhetoric can be liberatory, as long as we understand how and when they are not.
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    Platonism in practice: The American transcendental rhetorics of Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott
    (2022-12-01T06:00:00.000Z) Allison, Kimberly; Fehler , Brian; Litton, Alfred; West, Genevieve
    American Transcendentalism has often been noted for sharing characteristics with Platonism. While there has been a substantial amount of research done on the influence of Platonism, I take a different approach by exploring the Platonic nature of the American Transcendentalist beliefs of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Amos Bronson Alcott through the lens of Lloyd Gerson’s argument he coins as “Ur-Platonism (UP),” which he details in his book titled, From Plato to Platonism. Instead of supporting major shifts in Platonic thought, such as Middle Platonism or Neoplatonism, Gerson argues the framework of Platonism has remained the same. He describes the framework as the UP Pillars of Platonism, with the five antis of Antimaterialism, Antimechanism, Antinominalism, Antirelativism, Antiskepticism representing the pillars. In my research, I situate American Transcendentalism alongside Gerson’s UP in order to present an alternate guiding idea in the Platonic tradition.
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    Absence and rhetorical (non) circulation: "Nasty woman" Kamala Harris in 2020
    (2022-08-01T05:00:00.000Z) Williams, Margaret Virginia; Lackey, Dundee; Fehler, Brian; Hoermann-Elliott, Jacquelyn
    This project is an activist one that adds to digital scholarship, applies to praxis in writing classrooms, and has the potential to inform future political practices. In particular, this project traces the absence, presence, and—ultimately—the transformation of nasty-woman rhetorics related to Kamala Devi Harris during the Fall 2020 presidential election in the United States. Nasty-woman rhetorics entail the persistent, deeply embedded practice of containing, silencing, and demonizing women in public spheres by labeling and stereotyping them. This project weaves a womanist perspective with Actor Network Theory, a weaving that accounts for the intersectional dynamics of nasty-woman rhetorics in terms not just of sexism but also racism. Then-president Donald J. Trump labeling Harris “nasty” in 2020, in short, is inherently different from calling Hillary Rodham Clinton “such a nasty woman” in 2016. This difference surfaces in the absenting of Harris in circulating news-media headlines and social media, in overemphasis on the “nasty” label, and in tweets about Harris as a Jemima or Jezebel (two stereotypes often applied to Black women). Transformation—a hallmark of rhetorical circulation—is also revealed as ebb and flow of nasty-woman rhetorics over time, as well as changes in affect. These transformations were driven by the intra-action of news-media coverage, social-media posts, and events related to Harris. Through such findings, this project offers an ethical framework for feminist scholarship; it also offers a set of strategies for countering nasty-woman rhetorics, from reclaiming our time to understanding (y)our media ecology.
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    Ghost Kingdoms and Phantom Worlds: Narrative strategies in adoptee autofiction
    (2022-08-01T05:00:00.000Z) Quist, Shannon Rose; Busl, Gretchen; Bender, Ashley; Fehler, Brian
    In this thesis, I investigate Betty Jean Lifton’s theory of the Ghost Kingdom as it appears in adoptee-written narratives. Lifton describes the Ghost Kingdom as a “psychic reality” where what-if projections of lost or wished for persons (often conceptualized as characters) reside. Her theory describes both the ontological position of the adoptee situated in reality and the possible worlds they create within themselves through mental activity. Adoptees exist in both of these worlds simultaneously. Using primarily narrative theory, I argue that Lifton’s Ghost Kingdoms are a narrative framework adoptees use to compose narratives that blur the distinction between reality and fiction. When the narratives of such Ghost Kingdoms are written, they serve as a representation of a nexus of possible worlds where the imagined and the real can coexist. I demonstrate with this thesis how adoptee Ghost Kingdom narratives fill “the gap” between what could have been and what is with an imaginary world where characters and possible worlds “haunt” adoptees in reality. These fictions are adoptee responses to trauma and ambiguous loss, so they serve as an important building block for identity development in addition to acting as a substitute for a significant gap of knowledge about the self. To fill this gap, they create narratives that are fictional, yet they make up very real aspects of the adoptee’s identity.
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    Haunted things: Examining trauma and resistance in the fiction of Helena Maria Viramontes
    (2022-08-01T05:00:00.000Z) McGahey, Wendy Beth; Bender, Ashley; West, Genevieve; Barker, Jamie; Myers, Aimee
    This thesis examines how material objects function in the works of Helena María Viramontes to reveal the traumatic experiences of her Chicana characters. It simultaneously questions how the critical lenses of thing theory and hauntology can expand our understanding of individual, cultural, and historical trauma. As a result of this study, readers should have a greater appreciation of the way that things can function to help expose not only fictional, but also real forms of racism and cultural oppression—the result of deliberate, systemic inequality and marginalization. If we can give things the attention they deserve, we can begin to see what Viramontes’ characters are desperately missing: sometimes the basic, human need for food, clothing, and shelter, but always the psychological need for safety, connection, purpose, and love.
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    The rhetoric of oppression and marginality in Alice Walker's The Color Purple and Possessing the Secret of Joy
    (2022-08-01T05:00:00.000Z) Cole, Annette Renee; Fehler, Brian; Bridges, Phyllis; Scott, Graham
    This research study argues that the rhetoric of oppression creates harm and marginalizes various groups of people, specifically Black women. A social issue that appears to have no end in sight, oppression and marginality cripple the very souls of men and women. Although oppression has a long history in the American culture, it appeared to have waned in oppressive acts in the latter part of the twentieth century. However, in recent years, there has been an increase in hate crimes, cases of police brutality, and legislative acts designed to impose restrictions on marginalized people. The United States Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) noted increased crimes based on gender, ethnicity, religious ideologies, and race between 2019 and 2020. In addition, the oppressive acts in the Charleston, South Carolina church where nine worshippers were killed and other incidents led to an interest in why hateful acts were occurring with frequency in this country. These hateful occurrences led to an also interest in how groups of people were being oppressed and disregarded or targeted because of race. Approaching the issues of oppression and marginality from a rhetorical perspective led to Alice Walker's novels, The Color Purple and Possessing the Secret of Joy. Both novels were compelling examples of the disparities in the treatment of Black women, and they focused on the traditional patriarchy, which is mainly responsible for a great deal of the social unrest seen in society. Walker's work was examined using Iris Young's "Five Faces of Oppression," Anne Cudd's Analyzing Oppression, George Yudice's "Marginality and the Ethics of Survival," and Kenneth Burke's theory of identification and consubstantiality. In both novels, Walker's characters, Celie, Sofia, and Tashi-Evelyn, are oppressed and marginalized. By applying Young's identified criteria of oppression--exploitation, powerlessness, marginalization, cultural imperialism, and violence--Walker's message is that although Black women, specifically the three characters in her novel, are oppressed, they can overcome the oppression. This dissertation concludes that Walker's voice solidifies her role as a preacher--although not in the traditional sense of a preacher-- and based on her developed ethos, should be considered a rhetor.   
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    Paradoxical power: Victim claims as a rhetorical genre
    (2022-05-18) Genneken, Anna; Fehler, Brian
    When Michael Brown was shot and killed, the country picked sides – either white police officer or black decedent – which led to increasingly public skirmishes in the war over who the United States accepts as a victim. From a rhetorical standpoint, these interactions posed some interesting questions about the definition of a claim of victimization and its rhetorical elements, the expectations for the speaker in making a claim of victimization, and the process through which audiences evaluate those claims. Through the structure of the rhetorical triangle – message, rhetor, and audience, this work attempts to build the theoretical framework for understanding claims of victimization as a rhetorical genre. This work first explores how this claim is rhetorical, reaffirming the rhetorical triangle through the New Rhetoricians’ 1960s and 1970s disagreement over which portions of the rhetorical moment are most significant and how those portions should be analyzed. The research of Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Jamieson provided the groundwork for what constitutes a rhetorical genre, but the basis for the elements of the genre comes from Aristotle’s definition of pity which names five separate conditions which must be met for pity to be elicited persuasively. Discussion moves to the rhetor as the next point of the rhetorical triangle differentiating between the qualities necessary in the ideal orator from Aristotle and Cicero and those qualities in victims which audiences expect. David Konstan’s work on pity supports much of the analysis of victim identity and the socially constructed nature of the innocence and vulnerability required of that person. From the perspective of the audience, several factors play an important role in evaluating a claim of victimization originating in the audience’s “Horizon of Expectations” (Jauss) and their Just World Belief (Rubin and Peplau). It is from this exploration of audience that success may be found in meeting several key expectations of the audience. Case studies follow each of the three points of the rhetoric triangle to exemplify specific attributes of this analysis and include examples from early American literature – Charlotte Temple, slave narratives of the Abolitionist Movement, and the Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692.
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    Performance under fire: A study of rhetorical firefighter identities
    (2022-05-25) Schuth, Megan; Busl, Gretchen
    Firefighters, through the repetitive performance of their shared job, construct a collective rhetorical identity. Fire departments, like many organizations, often adopt written core values in an aim to guide employee behavior and represent the organization’s beliefs, both internally and externally. From my personal experience working in a fire department that recently adopted new core values, I developed an interest in how other fire departments adopt such values and if those values contribute to the rhetorical identities of the firefighters. To investigate this question, I conducted a qualitative discourse analysis of a five-year sample of professional papers written by executive fire officers of the National Fire Academy. The purpose of this study is to examine fire department core values as rhetorical symbols of organizational rhetoric and identification strategies of constitutive rhetoric that are intended to influence the firefighter identity. In this study, I coin the phrase “entrenched group identity,” which I define as a constitutive identity that has an ingrained culture inherent to the profession, and exposure to traumatic events, danger, and high levels of stress influence how this group works and acts together. I assert that firefighters have an entrenched group identity, which I analyze using a theoretical framework drawn from Kenneth Burke, Chaïm Perelman, Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca, and Judith Butler. From the study, I found that while core values assigned by the organization do not have a constitutive effect on the firefighter identity, the unspoken value of masculinity is historically and rhetorically embedded into the job and the identity of the firefighter.
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    Fat, cisgender, male protagonists in award-winning, young adult literature: An analysis
    (2022-01-31) DuBose, Jennifer; Busl, Gretchen
    Up to the present, most academic publications and conversations concerning fat characters in young adult literature center fat women and girls. When fat, male characters are addressed, they tend to be viewed through a single-axis lens, wherein their fatness is the only perceivable quality about them. This thesis aims to examine fat, male, cisgender protagonists in award-winning young adult literature through a multifaceted lens. It will address the following question: What structures of power shape fat, boy characters in modern young adult fiction and how do they shape them? The structures of power in question are race, gender, and disability, thus forming a multifaceted analysis of the characters. The purpose of this question is to gain a deeper understanding of these fat, male characters and to learn what happens when we apply this method of multifaceted study to works that have been analyzed using a single lens or not analyzed at all. Chapter One discusses the function of gender in terms of athleticism and how it defines what is a desirable male in heteronormative terms, determines how undesirable males should be treated, and has the power to make the protagonists’ fatness more acceptable. Chapter Two examines the role of male authority figures to the fat protagonists and how they worked to represent heteronormative, hegemonic masculinity in the novels. The final chapter discusses the racist and ableist roots of fatness as a choice in these novels.
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    I am command: A narratological analysis of patriarchal notions of power in Shonda Rhimes' Scandal
    (9/22/2021) Haas, Melanie A; Busl, Gretchen
    Using a narratological framework, this dissertation examines the rhetorical construction of power in the 2012-2018 television series Scandal, contending that showrunner Shonda Rimes subverts the dominant narrative in American culture of white patriarchy and challenges how the Western world identifies power only by using traditional, masculine structures as a guide. The analysis focuses on the depiction of protagonist Olivia Pope and how her power over herself and her power over others changes across the series, arguing her narrative arc challenges common constructions of powerlessness and disenfranchisement, particularly those of women and women of color.
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    Rhetorically reimagining undergraduate labor organizing: Prospects, problems and possibilities
    (12/9/2021) Popp, Veronica R; Fehler, Brian
    The question of undergraduate labor organizing has been debated since the 2016 Columbia decision which now includes undergraduates. Scholars view rhetoric and composition analysis centered on students as writers and scholars, but this project shows that the field is not getting the full picture of student labor movements. I reignite labor rhetorics as a field by studying the rhetorical choices of private university undergraduate labor organizing through an examination of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case files in four-year schools such as Grinnell College, University of Chicago and George Washington University to prove the labor of the mind is not unique from labor of the body. An examination of undergraduate labor movements at private institutions as they sought union representation through the lens of legal rhetorics, labor studies and black feminist thought reveals the way persons pursuing undergraduate degrees are discussed precludes our understanding of them as employees and prevents us from acknowledging their labor, even if done at the academy. I will be examining intersectional labor organizing in the legal field based on black centered community work juxtaposed against white centered union labor rhetorics revealing the previously misunderstood connection between the two, this is significant because it challenges class, race and gender constructions of US history that render invisible the influential labor organizing of those who are deemed both student and employee by the NLRB. This work is not a solitary ivory tower debate; rather, it situates academics in a labor-based economic environment, removing both romance and focusing on the actual realities at hand: working conditions, which are in essence living conditions.
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    Remediating the metalanguage of multiliteracy in alphacentric discourse: A genre analysis of instructional materials in regional first-year composition programs
    (8/25/2021) Fraley, James Michael; Busl, Gretchen Lynne
    For over two and a half decades now, Scholars such as Cynthia Selfe (1988), The New London Group (1996), Stuart Selber (2004), and many others referenced in this dissertation, advocated for multiliteracy curricula while also creating a new metalanguage to prescribe pedagogy. Even as mounting scholarship continues to suggest a new exigence for multiliteracy pedagogies, it still seems many First-Year Composition programs (FYC) have yet to create a more comprehensive multimodal curriculum. Complete integration has yet to occur, I argue, because alphacentric composition discourse (AC) and multimodal/multiliteracy discourse (MM) are too distinct as genres. Genres, by definition, are relatively stable discourse communities in which members have a consensus of goals disseminated through specific mechanisms that offer information and feedback via specific lexical significations (Swales, 1990, p. 24-27). AC discourse has distinctive lexical signifiers, and FYC administrators and instructors continue to rely on traditional alphacentric composition scholarship (post-process, social epistemics, etc.), and the lexical variation between the distinct signifiers of AC and MM can be located via FYC mechanisms of dissemination (syllabi, assignment sheets and rubrics, and professional development materials), and as this study’s results suggest, there are two distinct discourse communities each prescribing genre specific significations (such as ‘project’ vs, ‘essay’). While there are shared signifiers between AC and MM, this metalanguage variation may create a constraint inhibiting adoption of an MM pedagogy in FYC. As digital technologies evolve, FYC programs are tasked with disseminating MM resources for instructors; therefore, this imperative suggests scholarship should propose a more integrated metalanguage for FYC that includes features from both discourse communities based in shared signifiers, a kind of Rosetta Stone for remediating the metalanguages of MM and AC discourse.
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    “Everything is true here, even if it’s not”: Reconsidering fictionality in Reddit’s r/Nosleep
    (8/20/2021) Stefanelli, Daniel; Lackey, Dundee
    The rise of digital participatory cultures has corresponded with new online discourse communities, each with their own languages, genres, and communicative norms. This thesis represents a detailed examination of one online discourse community: the forum r/Nosleep, housed on the social media site Reddit. Nosleep allows users to share amateur horror stories with the caveat that that all narratives posted on the site are treated as if they were “true,” regardless of the actual truth value of the accounts. This creates a unique situation in which conventional concepts of fact and fiction are suspended, inviting us to reexamine fundamental assumptions about narrative’s use as a transmedial communicative mode, about what distinguishes factual and fictional narration, and about the degree to which contextual, social factors shape our understandings of fact and fiction. To explore these questions, this thesis draws both from narratology and from traditions of rhetorical analysis to consider the implications of Nosleep’s deliberate subversion of our commonsense concepts of fact and fiction. While many of these questions are specific to Nosleep, this thesis argues that they also have broader applications across the fields of narratology, rhetoric, and literacy studies.
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    The rhetoric of protest in the Supreme Court case of Hansberry v. Lee and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun
    (8/2/2021) Johnson, Angela; Bridges, Phyllis; Fehler, Brian; Curry, Evelyn
    This research study examines the rhetoric of protest in the legal case involving Carl Hansberry and his struggle to keep the home he had purchased for his family in a previously all-White neighborhood in Chicago. He filed a lawsuit when his family was going to be evicted from the home because the area was covered by a restrictive covenant. Restrictive covenants were agreements signed by property owners in neighborhoods that stated that the property could not be sold or rented to African Americans. The courts upheld these agreements as legally binding. Carl Hansberry had to purchase the home through a Caucasian liaison. The court case was argued in several lower courts before culminating in an appeal to the United States Supreme Court in 1940. Carl Hansberry won the right to stay in the home on a technical premise called res judicata because he had not been a part of the original class suit. Carl Hansberry’s filing a lawsuit was an act of protest. Protest rhetoric can take many forms including legal cases and classic dramas. In 1959 Carl Hansberry’s daughter, Lorraine Hansberry, debuted her play A Raisin in the Sun, which was inspired by her experiences moving into the subdivision and the animosity she was exposed to as her family lived in the neighborhood. This study examines her play and other selected public statements in terms of the rhetoric of protest contained in them.
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    A study of human connections through terministic screens and narrative strategies in selected works of Sarah Orne Jewett
    (7/28/2021) Lentschke, Leanne; Bridges, Phyllis
    Nineteenth-century American author Sarah Orne Jewett provides a voice for undervalued cultures and illustrates the significance of these cultures in her narratives. This study examines human connections in Jewett’s masterpiece, The Country of the Pointed Firs, and six short stories. A Dunnet Landing story, “The Foreigner,” three Irish stories, “The Gray Mills at Farley,” “Bold Words at the Bridge,” “A Little Captive Maid,” and two stories that have a setting outside of Maine, “Tame Indians,” and “Jim’s Little Woman.” Twentieth-century rhetorician Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical theories of terministic screens and identification are applied to the selected works by Jewett to examine Burke’s rhetorical theory of terministic screens. Burke asserts that terministic screens are a type of lens made up of terms that select, reflect, and deflect one’s reality. Consequently, one’s language is a representation of how one interprets the world. Additionally, this study analyzes the narrative structure in Jewett works through James Phelan’s narrative as rhetoric in which he asserts that “texts are designed by authors to affect readers in particular ways conveyed through occasions, words, techniques, and structure forms” (Phelan, Narrative Theory 5); and Wayne Booth’s communication concept of telling and showing. Jewett utilizes various strategies in her narratives to illustrate human connections, which include episodic narrative structures, embedded tales, long quotations, dialect, folkloric elements, and a sense of place. The first chapter of this study includes an introduction to Jewett and the selected works; it further introduces Burke’s term terministic screens. Chapter two of this study examines the function of folkloric elements in the selected works by Jewett. Chapters three through five examine human connections, terministic screens, identification and division, and narrative strategies utilized by Jewett in the selected works. The study concludes with an examination of the vital role of terministic screens and how these screens are significant in understanding Jewett’s folk communities. Jewett was aware of her audience, and she possessed the skill of acquainting readers with the undervalued cultures of the nineteenth century.