Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Calin-Andrei Mihailescu

Second Advisor

Iulia Babitski


This study attempts to address the question, “Why in contemporary times does swearing have a more acceptable role as a means of persuasion in the public sphere than it previously did?” This question is approached with constant reference to two minor scandals in state politics in which politicians Dick Cheney and Jack Layton swore without significant reprisal and, in fact, were rewarded for their violation of decorum. Much of the inquiry attempts to characterize swearing by its action upon language rather than simply its meaning. In the second chapter, this is done through considerations of the philosophy of Condillac, Rousseau, Herder, and Vico. The last section draws on texts by Plato and Aristotle to consider persuasion as such before turning to recent writings by Marcuse and Sloterdijk that address the cynical character of the times that allows swearing to be persuasive.



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