The Problem of Perversion: Zizek, Rhetoric, and Materiality
Bellinger, Matthew Charles
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Within rhetorical studies, the last decade and a half has witnessed a substantial resurgence of interest in Lacanian psychoanalysis. This thesis situates the resurgence of psychoanalysis within the broader context of rhetorical studies' attempts to theorize rhetoric beyond the scope of discourse and representation, and argues that the work of Slavoj Zizek offers a formulation of psychoanalysis that is useful for engaging non-discursive rhetoric. More specifically, this thesis argues that Zizek's approach to rhetoric stresses the importance of managing an audience's ability to articulate a response to a given rhetorical appeal, and that for Zizek, this management may occur at both discursive and a non-discursive levels. In turn, this equality of discourse and non-discourse within rhetoric draws attention to the multiple--but not necessarily coordinated--levels of rhetoric active in any single rhetorical instance. Such a perspective allows rhetorical critics both to better make sense of sense of supposedly "ineffective" rhetorical appeals by reframing efficacy with respect to a different level of rhetoric, and to recognize as deeply rhetorical certain phenomena that seem to have little to do with rhetoric.
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