Carnegie Mellon University
March 27, 2015

Rhetoric Alumna, Jennifer Andrus, Publishes First Book

The cover of The cover of "Entextualizing Domestic Violence."

In “Entextualizing Domestic Violence: Language Ideology and Violence Against Women in the Anglo-American Hearsay Principle,” Ph.D. in Rhetoric alumna Jennifer Andrus discusses how legal views about language, or languages ideologies, fit with, reproduce and recirculate ideas about victims of domestic violence.

Language ideology, a concept developed in linguistic anthropology, explains the ways in which ideas about the definition and functions of language can become linked with social discourses and identities. The 2009 graduate demonstrates how this affects speakers whose utterances are used as evidence in legal situations.

Published by Oxford University Press, the book addresses more specifically the tendency of legal language ideology to create the potential to speak for, appropriate, and ignore the speech of women who have been victims of domestic violence.

“The book researches the relationship between hearsay and domestic violence diachronically, back through the Anglo-American Law of Evidence, going back to the late 1690s,” said Andrus, an assistant professor of English, writing and rhetoric at the University of Utah. “It also includes analysis of U.S. Supreme Court precedents and an analysis of how such precedents are applied in trial and its appellate opinion.”

In addition to identifying specific linguistic strategies employed in legal situations, Andrus analyzes assumptions about language circulated and animated in the legal text and talk used to evaluate spoken evidence and describes the consequences of the language ideology when it is co-articulated with discourses about gender and domestic violence.

“Ultimately, I argue that the victim becomes part of a process called entextualization that produces both the speaker and the utterance attributed to her,” said Andrus.

Andrus used parts of her CMU dissertation as the foundation for her book. She arrived at CMU knowing she wanted to work on this topic – one that she was so passionate about.

“I've long been interested in better understanding the problem of violence against women as one that is institutional as much or even more than as a problem that is interpersonal,” said Andrus.

Barbara Johnstone, professor of English and linguistics, served as Andrus’ dissertation advisor. Johnstone encouraged Andrus to look into the idea of language ideology, which was very useful to her in making her argument.

“Barbara has been an amazing mentor,” said Andrus. “She helped me with the theory and analysis, and she guided me toward the book series at Oxford. She read much of the project at various stages, giving great feedback and has been a mentor in many other ways. I couldn't have done this without her.”

Andrus notes she couldn’t have completed the book without the help of her dissertation committee member and professor of English, Andreea Deciu Ritivoi. She helped Andrus with the analysis, rhetorical theory, and was always willing to talk to her – helping her work through the argument.

Dr. Michael Witmore, former CMU professor served on Andrus’ dissertation committee.

“Jennifer’s dissertation was fantastic,” said Witmore, who is now the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. “I’m always happy to hear when a student as talented as Jennifer was at CMU is doing well.”

“Jenny’s book is going to be influential,” said Johnstone. “Jenny is exploring how the laws and legal precedents surrounding domestic violence shape how victims are viewed and treated in some troubling ways. She combines theory and method from several disciplines, including legal studies, rhetoric, and linguistic anthropology.”

Andrus’ work has also appeared in Language in Society,” “Discourse & Society,” “Technical Communication Quarterly,” and “Language and Communication.”

Purchase Andrus’ book here.


By: Amanda King