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Professor Gesa Kirsch’s Scholarly Work on Feminist Rhetoric Receives Outstanding Book Award

Contact: Helen Henrichs, 781-891-2277,

June 4, 2014

The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition presented the Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award to Bentley’s Gesa Kirsch for the book Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition and Literacy Studies

The award recognizes outstanding scholarship and research in the areas of feminist pedagogy, practice, history and theory. Kirsch’s book, co-written with Jacqueline Jones Royster, explores major developments in feminist rhetorical studies in recent decades, and explores the theoretical, methodological and ethical impact of this work on rhetoric, composition and literacy studies. 

“It presents an enhanced analytical model for understanding, interpreting and evaluating not only feminist rhetorical inquiry but for rhetoric studies more broadly,” says Kirsch. “The whole field of rhetorical studies is shifting, with feminist rhetoricians, among others, leading the way.”

According to the authors, the new and changed landscape for narratives in the history of rhetoric includes a dramatic shift in: 

  • What is studied (diverse populations, settings, contexts, communities, etc.) 
  • How communities are studied (methodologically, epistemologically)
  • How work is evaluated (new criteria are required for studies to make sense)  

The authors present four critical terms of engagement — critical imagination, strategic contemplation, social circulation and globalization — as the foundation for a new analytical model for understanding, interpreting and evaluating feminist rhetorical inquiry and the study and teaching of rhetoric in general. 

The model makes the case for better informed perspectives of rhetoric and writing as a global enterprise and re-casts perspectives of rhetoric as a trans-national, global phenomenon, rather than a western one. It also argues for developing an ethos of care, respect and humility when studying settings/communities or populations that have been excluded or neglected in rhetorical history. 

Gesa Kirsch is the director of the Jeanne and Dan Valente Center for the Arts and Sciences at Bentley. She won the 2013 Excellence in Scholarship Award from Bentley University. Her research and teaching interests include feminism and composition, ethics, qualitative research methodology, archival research and environmental rhetoric. She has written and edited many books, including Beyond the Archives: Research as a Lived Process; Feminism and Composition: A Critical Sourcebook; Ethical Dilemmas in Feminist Research; Women Writing the Academy: Audience, Authority, and Transformation; Methods and Methodology; and A Sense of Audience in Written Communication.

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