Metaphors of Game and Education in Debate: Rhetorical Analysis of the Metaphors of O'Neill, Davis, and Wells

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Communication


Department of Commuication


Advisor: Joseph M. Valenzano III


This thesis analyzes the 1915-1917 scholarly debate between J. M. O'Neill, William Hawley Davis, and Judge Wells in regards to how collegiate debate should be conceived. This thesis utilizes a historical rhetorical method for a close reading of competing metaphors in American collegiate debate as established in a debate between O'Neill, Davis, and Wells in the seminal volumes of the Quarterly Journal of Public Speaking regarding the role of collegiate debate in the newly forming communication field. The analysis found three dominant metaphors used for debate: deliberation, game, education. The analysis concludes by discussing the modern use of those three metaphors in contemporary debate leagues, demonstrating how contemporary collegiate debate became viewed as predominantly a game, and only secondarily as an educational activity. This thesis concludes by suggesting that debate should be viewed as primarily communication education based on its historical applications and should be utilized in basic communication courses as a method for training students in civil discourse, public speaking, and in depth research.


Communication, collegiate forensics, metaphor analysis, rhetoric, O Neill, William Hawley Davis, Judge Wells, collegiate debate, argumentation, debate as game, debate education, debate pedagogy

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