Date of Award

Spring 5-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Ian Barnard

Second Advisor

Joanna Levin

Third Advisor

Sarah Robblee


Building upon the concepts discussed by Cheryl Glenn in her book Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence, I conduct a thorough exploration of how silence can be used rhetorically as a unique and powerful form of communication. Because traditional rhetorical theory is rooted in patriarchal bias that “embodies ‘experiences and concerns of the white male as a standard,’” traditional rhetoric is exclusive of groups outside of those that have dominated the discipline (Glenn 155). As a result, it is important to explore rhetoric beyond traditional theory with consideration of feminist and multicultural perspectives, as the exclusion of these perspectives limits the study of rhetoric to only involving traditional values that fail to recognize or consider unconventional forms of communication that harbor rhetorical power similar to that of speech. In a society that greatly values speech, silence is often considered a signification of powerlessness. Yet, when considering silence outside of the male-defined, traditional context, strategic silence can act as a refusal to comply with dominant discourses, allowing for a redistribution of conversational power and the ceasing of gender favorability. Within its refusal to partake in the masculinized exchange of language, strategic silence works to resist patriarchal practices rooted in established social hierarchies that would otherwise reject the speaker, thus exposing the problematic nature of such hierarchies and the rhetorical situations at hand. All in all, this thesis explores theories and practices involving the use of silence as a rhetorical strategy and seeks to uncover the power of strategic silence, as within the absence of sound lies unspoken communication and the capacity to gain control.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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