Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Reyman, Jessica, 1977-

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English




This project takes a rhetorical approach to studying online aggression. Frequently, targets of aggression are told not to "feed the trolls," or not to respond to aggressive content lest they fuel further aggressive acts. However, this tactic does not work because it blames targets for further aggressive acts---not the aggressor---and it silences discourse. This dissertation examines methods for resisting online aggression without amplifying it while opening pathways to constructive dialog online. Each chapter studies a different popular locus of online aggression. The second chapter explores image macro memes and how they can perpetuate identity-based stereotypes; it offers counter-meming as a potential method for resisting memetic aggression. The third chapter takes two threads from 4chan's /b/ board as case studies to show how identity rhetoric can shift discourses around transpeople in hostile spaces. The fourth chapter examines the "mean comments" six female YouTubers receive on their channels and offers the parodic reading mean comments video genre as means of subverting YouTube haters. The final chapter closes by presenting ways to teach methods for resisting online aggression in college and university writing courses and suggesting avenues for further research.


Advisors: Jessica Reyman.||Committee members: Michael Day; Kristen Myers.||Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


xiii, 247 pages




Northern Illinois University

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