The unconscious as a rhetorical factor: toward a BurkeLacanian theory and method



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This dissertation provides an exploration of the nature and scope of the category of the Unconscious as a necessary feature of rhetorical theory and criticism. In order to demonstrate the fundamental importance of the Unconscious to rhetorical theory and criticism, this dissertation focuses on Kenneth Burke's rhetorical theory of Dramatism. Burke is one of the most frequently cited theorists by rhetorical scholars, and offers a familiar site for rhetorical scholars to understand the Unconscious as a rhetorical factor. Burke formulated a theory of the Unconscious by drawing from Freudian psychoanalysis. Since Freud, Jacques Lacan has advanced and altered the Freudian understanding of the Unconscious. Therefore, by navigating the terrain of both Burkeian and Lacanian scholarship, this dissertation moves toward a BurkeLacanian theory and method to offer a more critical lexicon for the rhetorical study of the dialectical relationship between the conscious and Unconscious parts of the psyche. In doing so, this dissertation develops and answers the following questions: How can we theorize the Unconscious as a rhetorical factor? How is Burke's theory of the Unconscious rhetorically useful? How might we understand Burke's theory of rhetoric differently and better if we read his Freudian influences through Lacanian scholarship on the Unconscious? How is a theory of the BurkeLacanian subject rhetorically useful? How does a BurkeLacanian theory of the Unconscious inform productive criticism? This dissertation applies a BurkeLacanian theory of the Unconscious by introducing a rhetorical method called "Ideographic Cluster Quilting." This method moves toward the rhetorical study of texts as cultural psyches that are constructed from fragments of discourse that form around figures of abjection. In order to demonstrate the usefulness for studying Ideographic Cluster Quilts, this dissertation analyzes the cultural psyche that forms around the figure of the "illegal immigrant" as abject. In doing so, we gain an insight into the Unconscious hatred of humanity as the perverse core of American identity that qualifies which bodies do and do not matter. We will also gain an insight into the way nationalistic identities function within globalization by confining labor forces within national boundaries, while multinational corporations move freely around the world.