Thesis Title

Drone melancholia


Andrew J. Durand

Graduation Year


Date of Thesis Acceptance

Fall 12-11-2015

Major Department or Program

Rhetoric Studies


Heather Hayes


This project attempts to extend the work of Barbara Biesecker in No Time for Mourning: The Rhetorical Production of the Melancholic Citizen-Subject in the War on Terror by applying her theory of melancholic rhetoric to President Obama’s speech at the National Defense University (NDU). The War on Terror has changed since the initial publication of Biesecker’s work. I trace the history of the drone program through the War on Terror and ultimately argue that the melancholic rhetoric employed by President Obama has facilitated the continued use of drones as a counter-terrorism tactic. This paper suggests that there are three distinct tropes present in melancholic rhetoric and each serves a necessary function to the ultimate success of the rhetorical act. The creation of an omen of loss, the invocation of a state of emergency, and the creation of a state of exception all work to enact a melancholic loss within the audience of melancholic rhetoric. I conclude that like President Bush, Obama invokes melancholic rhetoric in order to facilitate the continuation of war fighting efforts. The similarities found between Bush and Obama provides empirical support to rhetorical criticism that seeks to be a more predictive tool. An analysis of melancholic rhetoric can aid in the understanding of the future effects of presidential rhetoric.

Page Count


Subject Headings

George W Bush (1946- ), Drone aircraft -- History -- 21st century, Terrorism -- Prevention -- Counter-terrorism, War on terror, Barbara A. Biescker -- No Time for Mourning: The Rhetorical Production of Melancholic Citizen-Subject in the War on Terror -- Criticism and interpretation, Barack Obama -- Speeches -- National Defense University -- Washington (D.C.), Melancholy -- Political aspects -- United States, Whitman College -- Dissertation collection 2016 -- Rhetoric Studies

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Document Type

Public Accessible Thesis

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Included in

Rhetoric Commons



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