Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design


Dr. Victor Vitanza

Committee Member

Dr. Todd May

Committee Member

Dr. Beth Anne Lauritis

Committee Member

Dr. David Blakesley


This dissertation, entitled 'The Contagion of Sharing: Rhetorics of Community in an Age of Digital Media,' interrogates the relationship between rhetoric, ethics, and politics in community building, practice, and critique in an age of online communities and new media writing. I focus on how rhetoric and composition scholars overemphasize the role inclusion plays in communal phenomena and that not enough attention is paid to understanding how community practices and processes require both sharing and protection, identity and difference, and thus, inclusion and exclusion. I argue that, as teachers of rhetoric and writing, if we intend to help students write for, with, to and about various discourse communities, then we need to develop rhetorics that engage with problematic inclusivities, such as cultural appropriation. In order to realize such rhetorics, my research draws on continental philosophers who have engaged with the concept of community following the atrocities of World War II. I place these thinkers alongside rhetoric scholars to redefine how rhetorical theorists can critique, produce, and practice community in political and pedagogical situations. To avoid appeals of nostalgia and false sentimentality, my starting point is to begin viewing constitutive and normative theories of community practice as related but distinct--something very few if any community theorists in rhetoric studies have done. Given my desire to balance theory with praxis, I offer case studies of religious communities, art communities, and political communities to serve as examples of how my theory relates to the pragmatic ways we engage in community practices in our everyday lives.



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