This thesis is a rhetorical analysis of utopian discourse about marriage in mid-nineteenth-century America. Although utopian communities are usually approached within the fields of history and sociology, a rhetorical analysis adds to the discussion by uncovering the discursive complexity of marriage beliefs within a rapidly changing culture. Discursive features of the Shaker, Oneida Community and Latter-day Saint texts are outlined and compared according to the following format:

Chapter One examines the textures of conflict within the dominant culture's views of marriage and gender roles in nineteenth-century America, with a brief overview of reform efforts of the day. This chapter provides a wide context of marriage discourse in this era, which situates emergent utopian discourse of alternative marriage constructs.

Chapter Two narrows the focus to utopian discourse, analyzing how utopian rhetoric responded to concerns of the dominant culture (outlined in Chapter One) and shaped their cultural identities. This chapter outlines several general features of utopian discourse about marriage and gender roles, with detailed analyses of the rhetoric of Shakers and the Oneida Community regarding thier alternatives to traditional marriage constructs.

Chapter Three builds on the context of the first two chapters and further narrows the scope of analysis to Mormon Polygamy dsicourse. Public and private accounts are considered in a comparison of official church rhetoric with women's discourse about the principle. The last two chapters also show utopian departures from and similarities to mainstream discourse about marriage and gender roles.

Although the three groups examined responded to mainstream concerns with some discursive similarities, rhetorical analysis shows that differences also exist, such as their rhetoric of gender identity and church authority. The Latter-day Saints stand out against the wider context of utopian discourse for their patriarchal model, their tenets of both continuous and personal revelation, and their enduring success as a religion.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Utopias, Moral, ethical aspects, Religious aspects, Mormons, Marriage, Oneida Community, Shakers, United States, History, 19th century