Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Angelo Restivo

Second Advisor

James Darsey

Third Advisor

Jeffrey Bennett

Fourth Advisor

Alessandra Raengo

Fifth Advisor

Richard Cante


This dissertation confronts the rhetorical discipline with the Real of an antagonism illuminated through its encounter with Lacanian psychoanalysis. Rather than eliding the desire of subjects in favor of traditional discursive rhetorical solutions, the pschorhetorical response I will propose locates desire and the subject in the moments where communication fails and seeks to make public the realization of desire. Through the psychoanalytic analysis of three acts of agency that comprise rhetorical failure, I will argue that rhetorical analyses of social change are actually not persuasive enough in their acceptance that social reality is entirely mediated. The cases will show that rhetorical failure is tantamount to psychoanalytic heroism. Utilizing what I call psychorhetoric, I will argue that rhetoric’s investment in social change can be much enhanced by opening to the concept of a nonsymbolizable ethics of the Real.


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Communication Commons