My academic work is rooted in the fields of rhetorical studies and critical cultural studies. I think about media texts — including movies, tv shows, ads, and journalistic commentary.
I'm interested in contemporary popular discourses, especially around issues like representation of gender and sexuality; memorialization and public memory; aesthetic discourse and the sometimes fuzzy line between art and violence.
Critical Clickbait: Feminism, Film, and the Internet Think Piece
Our Facebook walls and Twitter feeds suggest that we’re witnessing an explosion of feminist cultural criticism. But do we ‘Like’ it? This talk explores the internet “think piece” as an emerging genre and mode of feminist critical practice that shapes the context of reception for contemporary film.
The often pejorative term “think piece” has been used since the 1930s in reference to journalism where rumination trumps reporting. While still carrying dismissive connotations, today the term points to a form of digital content characterized by clickable headlines, of-the-moment topics, polarizing arguments, and a questionable relationship to the facts. It’s easy to deride the form for promoting bad journalism, amateur editorializing, armchair activism, and unscholarly appropriation of academic cultural studies concepts. But can we also take it seriously as a hybrid form that opens up new spaces for feminist engagement with contemporary culture?
Designed for a world where social media posts are principal drivers of internet traffic even to established news sources, think pieces are built to promote sharing, liking, and reposting. Can the advertising-fueled circulation of an attention-siphoning textual commodity also offer possibilities for community and movement building? Does the form promote feminist conversation about film and other contemporary media, or threaten to take the place of it? Do think pieces circulate at the expense of, or in the service of, actual thinking?
This research was presented as a public talk at Columbia College Chicago. I also explored some of these ideas in an invited contribution to In Media Res.
Signature Remembrance: The Names of the 9/11 Dead and the Play of Rhetoricity
My doctoral dissertation explored discourses of 9/11 memorialization. I was fascinated by the prominence of one very specific element of public mourning: the list of the names of the dead. Many memorials to the victims of 9/11 have been constructed, and many ceremonies have been held. They're all a little different, and some are quite controversial. But the idea that it is important to name every victim — to recite each proper name aloud, to carve them all in stone — this is never questioned. Names are peculiar. They seem to refer to something very specific, but they communicate very little, especially to strangers. So I wondered: what are we doing with all these names? Why are they so important? Where does this mode of memorialization come from? What did we hope it could do for us in our moment of national grief and uncertainty?
in 2010, the project was recognized with the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the National Communication Association Critical/Cultural Studies Division. If you're curious, you can find the dissertation online.
Academic Conference Presentations
Paper. “On Target and Betrayal: Gay Consumers and a Queer Boycott,” Cultural Studies Association Annual Conference. Chicago, March 2011.
Paper, co-authored with Thomas Oates. “Straight Line Defense: Reconstituting Hegemonic Masculinity in the U of Nebraska Wrestling Scandal,” Console-ing Passions: International Conference on TV, Film, New Media, and Feminism. Eugene, Oregon, April 2010.
Paper. “Lost at See: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the Blurred Soldiers and Sailors of Documentary Film and Reality TV,” Feminist and Women’s Studies Division, National Communication Association Annual Convention. Chicago, November 2009.
Paper. “The Democratic Excess and the Names of the People: Rethinking Rhetorical Theory's Conventional Engagement with the Political,” Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division, National Communication Association Annual Convention. San Diego, November 2008.
Paper. “Signature Remembrance of 9/11: The List of Names as Impulsive Signifier,” Communication as Social Construction Division, National Communication Association Annual Convention. Chicago, November 2007.
Paper. “Expertly Consuming Queer Aesthetes: Gay Men as The Moral Face of Capitalism,” Critical and Cultural Studies Division, National Communication Association Annual Convention. Chicago, November 2007.
Paper. “Taste, Terror, and Empty Boxes: Aesthetic Discourse and the Dismissal of Dissent,” Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division, National Communication Association Annual Convention. San Antonio, November 2006.
Paper. “Consuming Queers: The Gay Face of Capitalism,” Cultural Studies Association Annual Conference. Washington DC, April 2006.
Paper. “Jamming Discourse: Culture Jamming as Aesthetic Resistance,” Student Section, National Communication Association. Boston, November 2005.
Paper. “Real Men Get Manicures: Queer Eye and the Performance of Masculinity,” Feminist and Women’s Studies Division (jointly sponsored with Critical and Cultural Studies Division), National Communication Association Annual Convention. Chicago, November 2004.