How to be a queer woman: A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of online media

Bailey, Aimee (2021) How to be a queer woman: A corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis of online media. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis examines the discursive identity construction of queer women in contemporary online media. It focuses on two of the most popular entertainment and lifestyle websites for queer women, AfterEllen and Autostraddle, both of which are based in the United States. I assemble a dialogic corpus of advice articles and below-the-line comments from the websites, capturing for the first time the voices of both producers and consumers of online media content on a large scale. This forms the 2-million-word Queer Women’s Advice Corpus. As a genre which instructs queer women in their everyday lives, advice provides a direct route into normativity, the central concept in queer linguistic research. Using a mixed methodology of corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis, I show how recurrent textual patterns produce normativity in the data.

The study considers normativity in two key ways: as an intersubjective construct, and as a neoliberal phenomenon. The findings reveal that queer female identity is intersubjectively constructed against the negative positioning of heterosexual people, especially men. A major contribution of the thesis is that the analysis shows how these intersubjective constructions pose challenges for the inclusivity of bisexual women and queer trans women. Compared to previous studies, this thesis finds more integration of these two groups within the websites’ communities. However, there are barriers in terms of bisexual women’s opposite-sex relationships, and in terms of trans women’s (imagined) embodiment. Ultimately, cisgender lesbian identities are discursively privileged. The findings also demonstrate that lesbian normativity operates in relation to more neoliberal models of identity, captured through a focus on individualism and a lack of attention to structural problems. By uncovering the ways in which gender and sexuality intersect to produce normative discourses, this thesis advances a queer linguistic understanding of normativity, as well as making a valuable contribution to multidisciplinary scholarship on queer women’s media.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Jones, Lucy
Mullany, Louise
Keywords: queer linguistics, advice literature, normativity, corpus linguistics, critical discourse analysis, online media
Subjects: H Social sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
P Language and literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of English
Item ID: 65400
Depositing User: Bailey, Aimee
Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2024 10:14
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2024 10:14

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