Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

David Payne, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Fred Steier, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nathan Johnson, Ph.D.


community, god-term, Jane Addams, John Humphrey Noyes, society, Southern Agrarians, communication


This study examines the functions of the term “community” in American social and political rhetoric. I contend that community serves as a god-term, or expression of value and order, which rhetors use to motivate actions, endorse values, include/exclude persons, and compensate for modern losses. Informed by the philosophy of Kenneth Burke, I explore the general features of “rhetorics of community,” including community’s ambiguity and status as an automatic good, the relationship between community and modernity, the myth of communal loss, and the uses of community as a site of political unity and contest. I analyze the writings of John Humphrey Noyes, Jane Addams, and the Southern Agrarians as paradigm cases of utopian, progressive, and traditionalist rhetorics respectively, and I discuss how community is constructed in order to navigate the tension between self and society, correct for the failures of modern individualism, and propose competing visions of the social order.

Included in

Communication Commons