"What Has Become of Jimmy Thornton?": The Rhetoric(s) of Letter-Writing at The New York State Asylum for Idiots, 1855-1866

Zosha Stuckey


This article looks to the genre of letter-writing and to epistolary rhetoric in order to recover perspectives seemingly lost amongst the medicalized discourse of asylum histories. These hard-to-find letters written in the nineteenth century by pupils, family members, and teachers open us up to new perspectives not available in other archival documents. I give a brief introduction to the history and theory of epistolary rhetoric, delimit a disability epistolary, and then consider a group of letters in terms of the rhetorical action they perform. I conclude by emphasizing the significance of this cross-disciplinary work for both rhetoric and disability studies.


Asylum; letters; rhetoric; Syracuse; history

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v31i3.1669

Copyright (c) 2011 Zosha Stuckey

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