Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Caddie Alford

Second Advisor

David Coogan

Third Advisor

Mary Caton Lingold

Fourth Advisor

Sonja Livingston


My project is grounded in the rhetorical concept of aretê—excellence or virtue—as it relates to education and educational spaces within demagogic and misogynist cultural forces. The problems of demagoguery and misogyny stem from small-scale perpetuation of agonistic norms that go unaddressed in U.S. culture, a culture that is deeply identity-driven. These forces persist on social media platforms and within patriarchal systems of education.

For my project, I suggest rhetorical media literacy education of small-scale demagoguery moments on social media as a way to bring awareness to larger-scale events. On a micro-scale, social media influencers cultivate behaviors that mimic demagogic norms: charismatic leadership, propagation of in-group/out-group binaries, and personalized echo chambers. Bringing awareness to how influencers function and use social media to their benefit empowers consumers to understand when or if someone is acting demagogically. Empowerment is a way to support students as they achieve pedagogical aretê.

To address misogyny, I turn to the university writing center space to demonstrate how feminist rhetorical pedagogy can and do inhabit patriarchal academic systems. Writing centers act as peripheral academic spaces on university campuses while stull supporting a student’s quest for aretê. Writing consultants use rhetorical listening practices to bring the invisible steps of the writing process to light during consultations. In a writing center, rhetorical listening is an act of feminist pedagogy that promotes socially engaged collaboration. Arming students with an understanding of their personal writing style, voice, and process fosters ownership of their ideas, combating misogynist and patriarchal constraints and paving the way for pedagogical aretê.


© Shannon Roberson

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission