Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Kelly M. Young


This dissertation explores the relationship between affect, political emotions, and presidential rhetoric. In examining the political philosophy and presidency of Woodrow Wilson, this dissertation explores how presidential rhetoric captures, channels, and/or directs the passions of the people. Drawing on research by Sarah Ahmed and Brian Masummi, this dissertation argues that presidential rhetoric intervenes into the affective process by directing the passions of citizens towards promises of happiness and investment in presidential power. Two case studies, one focusing on Wilson’s tour in support of the League of Nations and the other on presidential museums, highlight the affective function of presidential rhetoric. The dissertation concludes with an examination of how Donald Trump’s campaign can be understood through the lens of the affective presidency and the state of American Democracy in 2016.