Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Lynee Lewis Gaillet

Second Advisor

Michael Harker

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Lopez


My dissertation examines the connection between rhetoric and being. I critique subject-oriented phenomenological assumptions that have perpetuated for decades within rhetorical theory and offer an alternative metaphysical methodology. I initially focus on Lloyd Bitzer and Richard Vatz’s debate about the rhetorical situation, which shaped accepted theories of subjectivity for decades to come. I offer an alternative model of the subject that is based on Augustine’s metaphysical model of being, and I focus on this notion of rhetorical being as a means of revealing knowledge as potentially, contextually already present through readings of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas’s work. Augustine’s paradigm of the human being as perpetually free yet dependent on contextual surroundings for meaning, whether empirical or ephemeral, affords this study a framework through which to examine the subject within the rhetorical situation. To offer an alternative to rhetorical theories of autonomy, I argue that rhetoric precedes utterance as an original metaphysics that is connected to our being. The implications of a metaphysical rhetoric provide a future paradigm for studies in digital rhetoric, religious rhetoric, cultural rhetorics, and rhetorical activism, among others.