Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia Haynes, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Sean Morey

Committee Member

Prof. Christina Hung

Committee Member

Dr. Margaret Ptacek

Committee Member

Dr. Luanne Frank


This dissertation seeks traces of enfolding corporeal paths within the ontological, epistemological, ethical abyss separating "Human" and "Animal." The "question of the animal," as it is often called, is currently en vogue within a larger ecological movement in the humanities. I seek to extend this engagement with "animality" beyond rhetoric, literature, and philosophy by enfolding the sciences and arts as well for a deeper understanding of humans as animals and therefore, I argue, as rhetorical life. This path of the HumAnimal emerges with a diffractive reading of new material feminism, evolutionary biology, contemporary art practices, and visual rhetorics, and in doing so, theorizes a definition of rhetoric that is prior to intention, consciousness, and mind. I argue that rhetoric is instead present at the origins, struggles, and flourishings of life itself. Rhetoric becomes a process, a movement, and a biological becoming that emerges in nonlinear and discontinuous ways, illuminating the dark abyssal waters in which humanimals and animals are mutually and materially enfolded. Given the ethical implications of our entanglements with the world, this dissertation further argues for a different way of looking with animals in visual culture. The representationalist looking that places animals at a distance and visually grasps them is demonstrated with contemporary examples of viral memes as well as the destructive human-animal interactions practiced for capturing selfies and "cute" photographs. These animals are but objects grasped by human eyes across a staggering ontological divide. I turn to Heidegger's Parmenides to theorize an encountering, being-enabling look for animals in visual culture that ontologically entangles humanimals and animals in the looking relation. Such an encountering look simultaneously brings forth an awareness of one's own being such that the abyssal requisites for self and other, subject and object, human and animal are compromised. An encountering look is essentially a phenomenological awareness of entanglement. These alternative practices of looking become the basis for a HumAnimal rhetorics and pedagogy.



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