Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Lynee Gaillet

Second Advisor

Dr. Michael Harker

Third Advisor

Dr. George Pullman


This dissertation argues that a diversity of epistemology within the field of rhetoric and composition can encourage Imagining as a strategy to negotiate the conundrums and binaries of the post-everything era, especially in negotiating the social presence of online learning. I trace Imagination from Enlightenment Pedagogy, which privileged the individual, unteacheable genius, to the conflation of invention and Imagination and the disappearance of both in current-traditional, modern, and postmodern pedagogy. Underlying this disappearance seems to be a distrust of Imagination, as exemplified by Kenneth Burke. I suggest that strategy of Imagining, rather than the faculty of Imagination, is needed—a move that is congruent with the active agency suggested by Marilyn Cooper. I also suggest that the theoretical basis for Imagining as a bridge can be found in the “Thirdness” of Charles Sanders Pierce. Following Coleridge, I suggest that four means of knowing serve as foundations for Imagining: the group, the text, knowledgeable others, and the spirit. These four means can give the field of rhetoric and composition a diversity of epistemologies, and these terms provide the means to more fully describe our complex, partial, and recursive ways of knowing in the twenty-first century. These ways of knowing are especially necessary in online learning where teachers and students may only “see” each other through their words. I argue that these means of knowing enhance Imagining and that a unsyllabus is a way to implement Imagining.