In this thesis, I will proceed as follows: my first chapter will be a general overview of epideictic rhetoric, focusing on the limitations of how it has traditionally been viewed and understood by theorists. At the end of that chapter I will establish a working definition of epideictic which extends traditional views about how epideictic can function in certain types of writings, focusing on the important role of the speaker in epideictic rhetoric and how it can work in enabling a community to create a collective identity. In the remainder of the thesis, I will analyze two texts in which epideictic functions in that specific way. The first is a public speech given by Artimesia Snow which was later published for a larger audience as a newspaper editorial. This speech was given in a setting which was very traditional for epideictic, and it contains many examples of epideictic elements working in recognizable ways. In my analysis, I will look at how an authoritative speaker establishes herself as a representative figure for the community which she is addressing.
The second text I will analyze is an autobiography written by Martha Cox, a woman who was a devoted polygamist before the Manifesto of 1890, and who remained faithful in the church after the practice was discontinued. This autobiography is less clearly a genre in which epideictic is a useful form of rhetoric, yet throughout the text, she clearly includes epideictic elements in her rhetorical appeals. In that chapter I will examine her text, specifically looking at how epideictic works differently in nontraditional settings, and how she uses different rhetorical tools in order to invite the formation of a collective identity. Finally, I will conclude with a brief summary of my findings and a discussion of how they can help us broaden the definition of epideictic rhetoric and better understand the social and cultural function of the writings of these Mormon polygamous women.



College and Department

Humanities; English



Date Submitted


Document Type





Mormon women, History, 19th century, Polygamy, Religious aspects, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Rhetoric, psychology, Group identity