Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Mary Frances Hopkins


Anna Cora Mowatt, the subject of this study, was a nineteenth century American author, actress, playwright, novelist, and poet. The purpose of this study is to investigate the rhetoric of surviving artifacts of Mowatt's life in order to explore the ways in which Mowatt created a public self through these works. Mowatt's nonfictional Autobiography of an Actress, her novel Mimic Life, her experience with mesmerism, her comedy Fashion, and her poem "My Life" are examined in depth along with the context of each creation within contemporary Victorian society. The course of Mowatt's self-fashioning was not smooth. She did not choose a clear cut plan and follow it consistently. Her life and works reflect a constant process of negotiation, sometimes even involving the simultaneous playing of conflicting roles. Mowatt was successful in her quest to create through rhetorical/textual strategies an authoritative voice in her varied works. In these works, Mowatt fashioned a public voice for herself without appearing to her auditors to be a cunning, manipulative, usurper of masculine power. Stephen Greenblatt's definition of the process of self-fashioning is used. Self-fashioning is the process of shaping of a distinctive personality, a characteristic address to the world, a consistent mode of behaving. The term "self-fashioning" suggests representation of one's nature or intention in speech or actions. Appendices include a chronology of Mowatt's life and career, a listing of significant contemporary events and a selected list of contemporaries in Literature and Drama.