Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Charles Kostelnick


This dissertation explores the question of how to position ethos in rhetorical theory and practice by looking, mainly, at three areas: classical Chinese rhetoric, Web design, and the construction of corporate images in America after 9/11. In traditional Western rhetoric, ethos is perceived to be the appeal of one's personal character, with a vocabulary heavily steeped in individualism and self-representation. In the dissertation I argue for an alternative understanding of ethos, pointing out that ethos is essentially an invocation of cultural forces, with which rhetors not only identify themselves but also, through such identification, achieve their rhetorical purposes. The central point is that ethos is collectivist, not individualist.;The dissertation has four chapters. Chapter One provides an overview of classical Chinese rhetoric (CCR), with a focus on some of its important features, such as rhetoric as harmonic, rhetoric as paradoxical (Yin and Yang), and rhetoric as multiaccentual, and the challenges CCR poses to the conception of ethos in traditional Western rhetoric. Chapter Two explores how ethos comes to embody a social projection of one's self image and why it is intertwined with the power of kingship in early Chinese society. The conclusion is that logos, as understood in the Western tradition, does not play as an important role as ethos does in classical Chinese rhetoric, which is driven by an ethocentric tradition as opposed to the logocentrism in the West.;Chapter Three first discusses how ethos is projected differently in visual arts and design between Western and Eastern (mainly Chinese) cultures, and then moves on to explore how such differences between the two are reflected in online text and design through an in-depth analysis of samples from various Web sites. Chapter Four discusses in theory how postmodern corporate imagery should be approached as an entity constructed within the spectrum of codes of appeals that are culturally defined. Foucault's poststructuralism is drawn upon to demonstrate that such imagery is not substantiated by what may be called a corporate soul or self, but rather by the expectations of a society.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Wei Yong-Kang



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

269 pages