Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

English Language and Literatures

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

John Muckelbauer

Abstract

Rhetoric and Plants asks what happens when we add plants to the various discussions currently developing within rhetorical theory. By taking up current botanical research and some of the rhetorical debates surrounding that research, I posit that plants are creatures and that the botanic engagement with the world has much to teach us about persuasion, communication, and encountering alterity. Specifically, I argue that the sessility of plants makes visible a tendency in our language to privilege the language of going elsewhere, which I term ambulocentrism. Further, the fact that plants engage in behaviors that we have previously thought only conscious beings were capable of engaging in suggests that we must radically rethink the mind/body binary that persists in rhetoric and other discourses, and that the language of mechanism must be included in theory that takes up this distinction. This interrogation of the mind/body binary is continued through an investigation of pain as a bodily experience that only minded creatures are thought to have. Finally, I reflect back on the role that anthropomorphism has played in all of these arguments, in order to begin a theorization of anthropomorphism within posthumanist studies. Plants have only recently been taken up in the humanities as a site of inquiry, and this project closes by pointing toward several other avenues of thought to which botanicity can make a significant contribution.

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