Date of Award

Spring 2010

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Thomas R Newkirk


This dissertation project expands the canon of nineteenth-century rhetorical history by providing a broadened understanding of how professional rhetoric was taught, learned, and practiced in nineteenth-century America. To do so, I examine the rhetorical theory, writing pedagogy, and pulpit oratory of Austin Phelps, an accomplished nineteenth-century preacher and professor of sacred rhetoric at Andover Theological Seminary. In drawing from the archival materials at the first graduate seminary in the United States and Phelps's published preaching manuals, I highlight the ways that Phelps's civic-minded rhetorical theory and pragmatic methods of instruction depart from documented trends in rhetorical education at American colleges during the mid-nineteenth century.

In addition to providing a more nuanced understanding of nineteenth-century rhetorical education, I propose that Phelps's use of epideictic rhetoric as a means of teaching students to influence values in the civic sphere could provide contemporary writing instructors with a method for teaching students to bring their personal commitments to bear on public conversations. By disclosing Phelps's distinctive contributions to nineteenth-century rhetorical theory and practice at Andover Theological Seminary, this project meets the widely acknowledged exigency in Rhetoric and Composition Studies for more research on the ways rhetoric was viewed and taught outside of undergraduate colleges during the nineteenth century.