Infertility: Tracing the history of a transformative term
In 2016, I published my second book, Infertility: Tracing the History of a Transformative Term, with the Pennsylvania State University Press in the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) Series in Transdisciplinary Rhetoric.
This book demonstrates that, throughout the last century, the inability of women to conceive children has been explained by discrepant views: that women are individually culpable for their own reproductive health problems, or that they require the intervention of medical experts to correct abnormalities. Using doctor-patient correspondence, oral histories, and contemporaneous popular and scientific news coverage, I parse the often thin rhetorical divide between moralization and medicalization, revealing how dominating explanations for infertility have emerged from seemingly competing narratives. My longitudinal account illustrates the ways in which old arguments and appeals do not disappear in the light of new information, but instead reemerge at subsequent, often seemingly disconnected moments to combine and contend with new assertions. Tracing the transformation of language surrounding infertility from “barrenness” to “(in)fertility,” this rhetorical analysis both explicates how language was and is used to establish the concept of infertility and shows the implications these rhetorical constructions continue to have for individuals and the societies in which they live.
Dirty words: The Rhetoric of public sex education
In 2010, I published Dirty Words: The Rhetoric of Public Sex Education in the United States, 1870-1924 with the University of Illinois Press.
Drawing from primary sources I gathered from the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota, the Special Collections Library at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois Archives in Urbana-Champaign, I explore some of the earliest U.S. deliberations about instituting sex-education courses in public schools and organizations. More specifically, I identify what health advocates, teachers, and reformers said about teaching “social hygiene” to the country’s residents, as well as how they did so.
Ultimately, I tie these historical claims to present-day arguments surrounding sex education in U.S. public schools to demonstrate that (a) many of the problematic discursive patterns seen today can be traced back to the Progressive Era, and (b) several long overlooked female rhetors discursively negotiated the Progessive Era sex-education debates in ways that offer important lessons for health advocates and rhetorical scholars in the twenty-first century. In 2015, Dirty Words won the National Communication Association’s Health Communication Division Distinguished Book Award.