Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Dorothy Stephens

Committee Member

Joseph Candido

Second Committee Member

David Jolliffe


Jean Baudrillard, Early modern, Hyperconformity, Information overload, Objectivity, Renaissance, Rhetoric and composition


This dissertation studies the response among early modern and postmodern audiences to the experience of information overload, and suggests that the most appealing response to living in a communications network that appears both systematic and random is to use a rhetoric of struggle that is ambiguous in the same way. >The reasons for this appeal are twofold: firstly, the rhetoric of struggle is a way to cope with the difficulty of situating oneself within a system of circulating information that operates according to its own arbitrary rules. Mimicking that arbitrariness is a way of finding aesthetic synchronicity between how one's environment articulates itself and how one articulates within it. Secondly, this rhetoric stores the potential for an activism of the object: a method of resistance against any impulse toward order, homogony, totality in a fallen world that, from the early modern perspective, is not worthy of seeing its contradictions resolved. While this resistance is not always positive, it is always clarifying, and while postmoderns may not see the world through a theological prism to the extent that did the early moderns, we share the same desire for resolution, and the same evil genius to counter it.