Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Chris Green

Second Advisor

Kelli Prejean

Third Advisor

Roxanne Kirkwood


This thesis combines history, rhetoric, and feminist identity studies to discuss the subject of black lung disease and the Appalachian coal miner. The first chapter examines the "evolution of mentalities" in historical and popular discourse surrounding the miner, which reflects James V. Catano's subversive form of the self-making identity in Ragged Dicks. The second chapter uses the feminist theory of silence as a form of control and power to understand the absence of black lung disease from the literature of coal. The final chapter is a case study of the correspondence between Congressional Representative Ken Hechler of West Virginia and Appalachian miners writing to obtain their black lung benefits. The letters provide a voice to a once silenced minority and reveal through visual and discursive rhetoric the status and concerns of individuals fighting or lost in the claims system after the passage of the 1969 Mine Health and Safety Act.


Rhetoric - Appalachian Region.

Coal mines and mining - Rhetoric.

Feminism - Rhetoric.