Date of Award


Degree Type

Closed Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michael Lane Bruner

Second Advisor

Carol Winkler

Third Advisor

David Cheshier

Fourth Advisor

Nathan Atkinson

Fifth Advisor

Todd McGowan


This study offers a Lacanian-informed analysis of the rhetorical shifts, significant absences and elisions in the Bush administration’s justificatory war rhetoric prior to, during, and after the 2003 Iraq War. Lacan’s conception of the Subject, I suggest, is indispensable for the study of how ideology succeeds and fails rhetorically to avoid traumatic kernels, inconvenient facts, unspeakable historical truths, voids, etc. This project presents an opportunity to re-examine rhetorical studies’ assumptions about the emergence of subjectivity, including the process of interpellation, in ways that allow us to theorize not only the constitution but also the failure of identity. In so doing, it revisits the question of agency and calls for an increased focus on desire in matters rhetorical. Finally, the study invites reconsideration of the relation between rhetoric and time by suggesting that a psychoanalytic understanding of temporality can enrich and expand the existing scholarship.