Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Debra Jacobs, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Lynn Worsham, Ph.D.


Rhetoric, Affect, Politics, Visual, Composition


This dissertation connects classical theories regarding the enthymeme and thumos (a Greek word commonly translated as "heart," "mind," or one's "capacity for emotion") to modern theories of images and emotion in order to reconsider the central role of visual discourse in persuasion, ideology, and subject formation. Since "enthymeme" comes from en and thymos, meaning "in heart," etymologically the enthymeme is an argument that is realized in an individual's thumos.

This dissertation thus attempts to establish the notion of thumos in rhetorical studies by developing a theory of visual enthymemes.The understanding of the enthymeme used within this dissertation works less from the Aristotelian model of the enthymeme as a truncated syllogism, and more from the sophistic use (particularly that of Gorgias, Anaxamines, and Isocrates) of enthymemata---the kairotic "emotively charged reasons" that rely on stylistic force to create an "enthymemic moment" in the audience's experience that produces persuasion or belief. In other words, where Aristotelians envision enthymemic discourse as a structure, the sophists see it as an event. This sophistic enthymemic tradition is evident in the visual rhetoric of modern social activists, particularly in what Kevin DeLuca calls "image events"---the visually based rhetorical efforts of those attempting to move people to action.

These activities embody a form of "biopolitics" in which the traditional binaries between emotion and rationality, between body and mind, and between text and image no longer hold.The visual enthymeme is offered as one way to understand the affective power of visuals without returning to conventional understandings that situate images and emotional appeals primarily as immoral or otherwise underhanded rhetorical strategies opposed to reason. Depictions of thumos in both classical rhetoric and poetics exemplify a type of "internal rhetoric" in which subjects identify with one "package" of reason and emotion over other possible packages. This packaging holds significant implications for understanding how multimodal texts function enthymemically, and how teachers participate in the education of student emotion.