Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Member

Dr. Victor J. Vitanza, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Steven B. Katz

Committee Member

Dr. G. Jeff Love

Committee Member

Dr. Beth Anne Lauritis


This dissertation investigates relationships scholars have with information and art associated with aesthetic and theoretical disruptions. Its governing metaphor is the surprise affect, figured as a rhetorical and aesthetic event. My purposes are to evaluate institutional and scholastic responses to both desirable and disastrous information-aesthetic liminalities, trial performative engagements with surprises, and propose viable ways of engaging "innovation" for writing instruction. It is argued that aesthetic (i.e., relational in the sense that it is not immediate), performative, and temporal engagements with surprising objects of study are relatively viable options when considered alongside the "critical" manuscript. While the aesthetic has sometimes occupied a minor and inferior position relative to codified and metricized intelligences, such relegation rests on false and pernicious but well known and persistent dichotomies including intelligibility v. sensibility, knowing v. feeling, thinking v. experiencing, and aesthetic v. epistemic. The intelligibility presupposed by the critical model, however, cannot achieve immediate engagement with its ostensible "object"; it therefore remains relational and aesthetic. Few would counter the claim, yet actual performances of relation are rare. To test its payoff, the dissertation performs two engagements with challenging objects associated with surprise: novelty or"the new" as such, and the currency of idiosyncrasy in the timbre of recent electronic music. While not incidental, novelty and timbre are examples in the project's larger attempt to rethink not just any given surprise, but ways of treating and dealing with the inevitability of metaphysical shock and overhaul.