Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


English Language and Literatures



First Advisor

John Muckelbauer


Rhetoric and composition's turn away from voice as a critical term stems, in no small part, from its association with expressivist pedagogies. Current questions and concerns about subjectivity, invention, materiality, and ideology, among others, have moved the discussions away from expressivism and, therefore, from the writer's voice, as well. Treating the expressivist voice as a single historical moment, I tease out a much broader conceptualization that follows an oscillation between an attachment to and a distrust of the voice. In doing so, the voice is heard not on the side of a speaking subject but on the side of an object that either guarantees or disrupts persuasion.

Through a study of this oscillation, the voice emerges as a paradoxical object that speaks through the history of composition and rhetoric as an excluded real, which is either a threat that disrupts the possibility of reasonable persuasion or as an origin we have lost sight of and need to return to. In both cases, voice is an affective object that either guarantees or disrupts persuasion. The voice, as an element that is at once included in and excluded from rhetoric, is not an accident of the way that persuasion is understood but acts as a constitutive force of its definition. This conceptualization of the included/excluded nature of the voice has a number of consequences for theories of identity, invention, writing, bodies, and beliefs. This dissertation engages these problems through Lacanian psychoanalytic readings of Plato, Aristotle, Quintilian, contemporary compositionists, and religious rituals.


© 2009, Mark Dean Brantner