Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Elizabeth Burmester

Second Advisor

Edward Christie

Third Advisor

George Pullman


Scholarship tells the story of the history of rhetoric whereby the study of rhetoric declines first in the “Silver Age of Rome,” then loses any bearings or progress during first the Patristic period of the formation of the early Christian Church in the third through fifth century CE, and undergoes a second decline during the Germanic invasions starting in the fifth century. My task is defining and recovering new sources for rhetoric to spark more creative and in-depth analysis of this period in the history of rhetoric.

Rather than simply move through a bibliographical list chronologically, I narrow in on the evolution of rhetorical appeals at specific points in history when a shift in control and usage of such appeals can be perceived, as the focus moves from static or well-established sources to fluid peripheral centers. Chapter 1 explains the exigence and methods for this study, and a recounting of the traditional histories I seek to expand. Set in Classical Athens, and grounded in the species of forensic rhetoric, Chapter 2 discusses how rhetoric, as an institution of the empowered elite, one that enforces societal cohesion, uses rules placed on behavior, thoughts, and identity through logical appeals.

Chapter 3 moves geographically and politically from Greece to the late Roman Empire, and examines how authoritarian political dominance forces rhetors to shift to ethical appeals in order to avoid persecution. Chapter 4 investigates fourth and fifth century Alexandrian culture to trace how early Christian factions moved the focus of ethos from a person to a singular text in order to gain prominence over their theological (and thus their political) adversaries. Chapter 5 visits eighth century Carolingian France to discuss how the authors of empirical legitimacy in peripheral kingdoms used rhetoric to promote access to the authoritative ethical text, while further expanding options for other textual ethical authorities. Chapter 6 illustrates how in ninth century England, non-traditional sources such as hagiography expose contemporary rhetorical strategies.