Date of Award

Spring 2012

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper


This dissertation is a qualitative study of seven privately-published family histories written by descendants of Mormon polygamists. Using methods of discourse and rhetorical analysis, these texts and various interviews are analyzed with the contention that identity is a rhetorical production and that the authors (either intentionally or unwittingly) fictionalize each of the identities involved---their own, their readers', and their ancestors'---to bring them together in moments of Burkean identification. These moments of identification are also analyzed in terms of communal and generational memory, temporal proximity, and communal discourses. An important conclusion in this study is that this rhetorical production of identity often results in silencing and marginalizing certain ancestors, such as those whose actions or values don't mirror the author's or the family's preferred identity---an identity greatly influenced by the communal discourse and identity of the Mormon Church.