Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Kathleen Glenister Roberts

Committee Member

Richard Thames


civility, exclusion, incivility, inclusion, narrative, petite narrative, private, public, sensus communis


From ancient Greece to post modernity, the meal as a focal point of community life and a cultural practice, and the meaning of eating, have been the focus for numerous scholarly studies and their rhetorical significance. This dissertation will define how interpersonal communication and the enactment of the meal are rhetorical partners within a community. Cultural differences, communication style, and values affect one's perception of the culture's narrative structure, inclusion and exclusion, private and public space, and civility and incivility practices in relationship to the community. These differences impact the meal, food choices, tastes, and communication style and ultimately shape their rhetorical power to texture community and its practices.

This study attempts to answer the question: "What are the rhetorical implications of interpersonal engagement within community around the common center of the meal?" The purpose of this study is to discover the rhetorical significance of food-related gatherings, particularly the sharing and exchange of foods and beverages as a common center within the community as they promote a rhetorical exchange through interpersonal communication. The application of metaphors is broken down into specific investigations in three primary time frames to determine how food and meal-related artifacts engaged and/or disengaged communities in relationship to the meal in the spheres of rhetorical action of these metaphors. Each historical period will have a geographical focus. For example, ancient civilizations will broadly focus on the influences of ancient Greece and its ultimate influence on the communication style of the Romans; the European nations will be included in the Renaissance, and Early America will be included in the Enlightenment period. Modernity and post-modernity will be blended together to explore what influence modern eating styles have had on the family through mediated rhetorical means (e.g., mass communication).

The interpretation of the metaphors will be accomplished through interpretive research applied through a hermeneutic screen. People in situations are placed in a social life, a culture of their own, and a culture situated in time. The application of hermeneutics will assist the interpretation and understanding of the rhetorical significance of persons in communities while engaging interpersonal communication around "the meal." This will include cultural norms and other elements of the context of the meal engagement. Four areas will be explored: create and recreate narratives within which communities are embedded and examine their particular cultural identity; generate inclusion with and exclusion from communities; manifest and differentiate public and private discourse and experience as part of community life; and display and recreate practices of civility and incivility within the community.

In each time period, these metaphoric "spheres of rhetorical action" work somewhat differently because of the different meanings generating the "common sense" or sensus communis that is operative in the time and place.