Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English



First Advisor

Robert Schwegler


My study, “Argument, Rhetoric, and Transcendence: The ‘Adherence of Minds’ within a Discourse of Spirituality,” addresses the questions: What persuades Americans to adhere to contemporary discourses of spirituality? What persuades audiences to adhere to the experiential truths found with this discourse? Furthermore, how exactly do contemporary writers of spirituality adhere audiences to reasonable understanding and pursuit of a union with a higher power? Using Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca’s The New Rhetoric as a framework, I analyze how the persuasive machinery of current Catholic and Anglican spirituality texts guides readers to experience and understand a subjective union with an ineffable God, while simultaneously maximizing the social inclusivity of audiences. Contemporary Catholic and Anglican texts serve as a representative sample of the more general contemporary discourse of spirituality. Via close critical discourse analysis of 14 Catholic and Anglican texts spanning from 1983 to 2013, I explore the strategic cooperation of rhetorically argumentative schema found in these epideictic texts and unpack the implications. Overall, I find that the associative and dissociative schemas found in the contemporary discourse of spirituality can persuade diverse audiences into pluralistic communication, pragmatic contemplative action, and public service: all of which foster and strengthen human solidarity.



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