Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Gale Carrithers


"The Transcendental Element in the Absent Presence" analyzes the absent presence, the rhetorical and literary states of being there in the mind of the perceiving individual, though not there physically. It seeks to answer: What does the term "absent presence" mean? Is there a difference between rhetorical and literary absent presences? If so, how is each manifest through the reading process? And, what sustains these absent presences? Evidenced through selected works of Plato, Aristotle, New Testament writers, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Dickinson, the study argues for the intellectually, spiritually, or aesthetically transcendent quality of the absent presence. Any encounter between reader, text, and writer affirms a dialogic "other," a rhetorically recognizable presence, albeit absent, that operates from both sides of the text, from both the writer's composition and the reader's reading. Literary absent presences, emanating from the rhetorical text, additionally influence both writer and reader. This is especially evident in the poetry of writers whose personae are poet-lovers lamenting their departed beloveds. Through a kind of aesthetic transcendence, these poets transform the absence of the beloved into a viable absent presence, a textual presence which is subsequently controlled by the artist to "speak" to the reader. Success is determined by the degree of love which dominates the exchange. Whether reacting to eros or agape, cupiditas or caritas, the poet-lover and reader reflect that which dominates their response to the significant rhetorical or literary "other." The consequence is either negative or positive; the perceptor (poet-lover or reader) languishes in personal or interpretive frustration, or she soars in aesthetic or hermeneutic fulfillment as she comes to greater understanding of self, world, and other. An implicit premise is that these rhetorical and literary operations are an integral part of any textual experience--both the writer's composing and the reader's reading. They are subtle textual energies that significantly contribute to understanding--that instant of intellectual, spiritual, or aesthetic fusion between writer and reader.