Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

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

Date of Graduation

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication


Karen McDonnell


Since mid-2015, Donald Trump has shaken the political arena with an unprecedented yet effective public rhetorical repertoire. Regardless of alleged scandals, frequent social media usage, and extemporaneous and fiery rally speeches, the president’s approval ratings remain steady and he continues to move forward in his international and local political endeavors. Though these factors often posed large obstacles for past presidents, Trump has overcome them by use of audience identification, transparency, honorific pandering, and shrewd control of a vulnerable political sphere. In this study, rhetorician Kenneth Burke’s fantasy-theme and cluster criticisms are used to analyze Trump’s overall rhetorical themes, in social media and beyond, as well as to closely analyze three of his rally speeches. This kind of analysis provides context as to how successful Trump has been, what kind of strategy he uses, and provides a critical lens through which his audience, supportive or not, may interpret his rhetorical strategy and messages.



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