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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Kim Hensley Owens

Name: Kim Hensley Owens, Department of English

Presentation Title: “Rhetorical Labor: Writing, Childbirth, and the Internet”

Date: November 10, 2005


In this presentation I focus on birth plans, which pregnant women write to express their wishes for childbirth. In a birth plan, a woman's writing is expected to stand in for her voice at a time when she is (perceived to be) unable to speak. After briefly establishing how birth plans both presume and work against this anticipated rhetorical disability, and how online templates affect the content and style of birth plans, I offer close readings of birth plans obtained through a childbirth writing survey. These birth plans demonstrate how legal, medical, and narrative discursive styles converge as women rely upon various strategies to make their expectations understood.