Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

English Language and Literatures

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Pat J. Gehrke

Abstract

This project examines how uncertainty is rhetorically deployed in healthcare contexts. Investigating four major healthcare contexts, I study how different forms of uncertainty produce distinct rhetorical effects and consequences. In Chapter 1, I explore how the haphazard use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war makes it difficult for veterans to prove their exposure to this deadly chemical. In Chapter 2, I examine the rhetorical strategies of mental illness skeptics and denialists, looking at how each deploys uncertainty in different and related ways. In Chapter 3, I investigate the intersection between design, emotion, and uncertainty as it appears in the patient experience process. Finally, in Chapter 4, I look at different methods of theory-building in addiction science, and argue that how theories wrangle with uncertainty lends them different virtues and vulnerabilities. Concluding, I suggest that the rhetorical use of uncertainty has “pharmaceutical” qualities, an argument that ups the stakes for both rhetoric and healthcare practice and theory.

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