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Gesa Kirsch to Explore Female Writers’ Impact on Abolitionism and Suffrage

Contact: Helen Henrichs, 781-891-2277,

June 11, 2013

English professor Gesa Kirsch was accepted to the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute “Transcendentalism and Social Action in the Age of Emerson, Thoreau, and Fuller,” July 7 to 20 in Concord, Mass. The program brings together 25 scholars from across the country for two weeks of intensive study, discussion, research, field trips and an opportunity to work with leading scholars in Transcendentalism and the Antebellum period.

Kirsch is a scholar of feminist rhetoric and social change. At the institute, she plans to share her knowledge while learning more about the Concord female writers who contributed to two major social movements: abolitionism and suffrage.

“I am eager to deepen my understanding of the antebellum period, particularly the transcendental and social movements of the time, in order to incorporate it into my teaching and scholarship,” Kirsch says.

In 2011, Kirsch participated in the NEH Summer Institute “Rethinking the Land Ethic: Sustainability and the Humanities,” an experience she describes as “transformative.”

“It led me to write about and teach environmental rhetoric, and has inspired me to study Thoreau, Emerson, Fuller and Alcott in greater depth,” she recalls.

Her research on environmental rhetoric includes a local case study involving the rehabilitation of the Longfellow Bridge in Boston, forthcoming in a volume on Environmental Rhetoric: Ecologies of Place (Routledge). The research analyzed the rhetorical strategies employed by different stakeholders to claim an interest in the bridge project, and was presented at the annual conference of the American Society for Environmental History in Madison, Wisconsin in March 2012. 

Kirsch has published work on feminist ethics (Ethical Dilemmas in Feminist Research), feminist rhetorical theory (Feminist Rhetorical Practices, co-authored with Jacqueline Jones Royster) and archival research methods (Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process, a co-edited volume with Liz Rohan). 

She has designed and taught a variety of expository and creative writing courses that focus on “a sense of place” and on environmental rhetoric. This includes field trips to urban, historical, and natural places so students can garner an appreciation for history, culture, and nature in their lives.

“My goal is to foster students who are keen observers of the world around them, who appreciate their local surroundings, and make a commitment to make a difference, something especially important for future business leaders,” Kirsch says.

As Director of the Valente Center for the Arts and Sciences, Kirsch brings in speakers who can address a range of topics that span the arts, humanities and sciences and highlight the importance of social responsibility in cultural and historical contexts. 

In fall 2012, she team-taught in Bentley’s MBA program, collaborating with two business colleagues in the creativity and innovation theme to prepare a number of assignments to stretch students’ creative processes. The class included speakers, instruction in creative arts, and field trips, including to Walden Pond, a site of historical, cultural, and environmental importance.

Type: Campus News | Tagged as: National Endowment for the Humanities | Gesa Kirsch | feminist rhetoric and social change