Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


English Rhetoric and Composition


Kate Mangelsdorf


This Dissertation explores the discourse of mental health across genres and public spaces. The research of this project is situated within the overlap of the fields of Disability Studies (Brewer, Selfe, Yergeau, 2014; Brueggeman and Kleege, 2003; Kerschbaum, 2012; Lewiecki-Wilson, 2003) and Rhetorics of Health and Medicine (Keränen, 2013; Kopelson, 2009; Segal, 1994; Scott, Segal, & Keränen, 2013), a space that focuses on the rhetoric of mental health (Chrisman, 2008; Emmons, 2008; Hacking, 2009). Following the principles of these fields, this project deconstructs the recategorization of autism in the DSM-5, the media coverage it received, and the public reception of the information as a means to explore the discursive construction of the identity of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. An ethnographic content analysis was conducted in order to analyze and compare a variety of genres, including the DSM text itself, academic articles, newspaper articles, blogs, press releases, and online comments. The research shows that, even though the recategorization of autism is widely accepted, concerns about the impact of the changes are abundant. Furthermore, an analysis of the perceptions of people with ASD suggests a reluctance to reconcile the identities associated with each end of the spectrum into one and this unease often leads to conflict surrounding conceptions of disability and mental health. The findings of this Dissertation highlight the need to continue to explore how we talk about mental health and the impact it has on the lives of people who live with a disorder.




Received from ProQuest

File Size

218 pages

File Format


Rights Holder

Elsa Martin