The rhetorical secret and the epistemology of non-knowledge
Hallsby, Gustaf Atilla Torbjorn
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This dissertation presents a rhetorical theory of the secret as an epistemology of non-knowledge, or a discursive construction of what is publicly not known. Drawing upon contexts of Rhetorical intra-disciplinary conflict, the public ‘outing’ of Valerie Plame, the Republican uptake of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and the popular recollection of Alan Turing and Chelsea Manning, I suggest that the rhetorical secret describes how the unknown of discourse is organized as trope, which gives a recognizable form to moments of contingency, conflict, and uncertainty. Each case is unique in its account of the tropes that organize distinct ‘unknowns,’ namely, the disciplinary identity of Rhetoric, the covert actions of the George W. Bush Presidency, and the consequences of massive public disclosures (like that of WikiLeaks). The force of this argument is to resituate the relationship between Rhetoric and Truth as immanent to academic, public, and political discourses, and that speaking the truth about any of these contexts depends upon the prior existence of the rhetorical secret.