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The Rhetoric of Self-Harm

posted on 23.05.2019, 00:00 by Jordan Secher
Nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) is a perplexing and uncanny concept in which people engage in the practice of purposefully harming themselves without fatal intent. Though there are many actions classified as NSSI, this research addresses only cutting. The research for this project was attained via following and tracking three separate Tumblr accounts of women between the ages of 17-24 who currently cut themselves. The point of this study is to rhetorically analyze the posts and personal images of people who cut. Their accounts are completely anonymous and they are referred to as the “authors”; as they are the authors of their words and wounds. The research analyzes the Tumblr accounts as any other rhetorical analysis would be conducted—breaking down the authors’ work to explain and understand how logos, ethos and pathos work together to communicate something more than the surface meaning of the words. Cutting is unique in its contradictory language and existence. Very few actions allow one to simultaneously be the harmer and the harmed in the same moment. The analysis uses the DSM-5 as a framework to understand the psychological pain behind the author’s choice of diction and visuals but is not limited to what the DSM-5 proposes are reasons behind NSSI. A concise yet apt definition of rhetoric is, “the study of misunderstandings and their remedies”. The goal of this analysis is simply to meet the meaning behind the words and the images on Tumblr as well as what the cutters possibly communicating without concretely saying it.



Thompson, Jason






University of Wyoming. Libraries


Honors Theses AY 18/19