Orange Alert

Humanities Center Continues Spring Symposia with Lecture on Social Networks March 4

Gesa E. Kirsch to deliver ‘The Power of Social Networks: Rhetorical Agency and Civic Activism among 19th-Century Women Physicians’

Feb. 26, 2015, by Sarah Scalese

Gesa E. Kirsch
Gesa E. Kirsch

Gesa E. Kirsch, professor of English and director of the Valente Center for Arts and Sciences at Bentley University, will deliver a public lecture titled “The Power of Social Networks: Rhetorical Agency and Civic Activism among 19th-Century Women Physicians” on Wednesday, March 4 at 2:15 p.m. in The Killian Room (500) in the Hall of Languages.

During her lecture, Kirsch, the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities, will explore the rhetorical strategies, social networks, and civic activism of a group of 19th-century California women physicians. Drawing on several case studies and the rarely examined Woman’s Medical Journal, she will trace how women created and maintained social networks that enabled their intervention in arenas of society that were often restricted or off-limits. Kirsch will argue that we can better understand the rhetorical agency of early women physicians by examining how their work circulated across time, generations, and geographical boundaries, evidence of which remains today in public policy, advocacy work, and professional organizations.

Gerald R. Greenberg, the Humanities Center’s interim director and senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, says Kirsch is exactly the type of scholar the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professorship seeks to attract.

“Since this professorship was established, we’ve been fortunate to host a diverse array of extraordinary scholars and Professor Kirsch is no exception. The humanities are the backbone of a Syracuse University liberal arts education and exposing our students to prominent scholars is critical to preparing them to be citizens of the world,” Greenberg says.

An eminent scholar in rhetoric and writing studies, Kirsch has published eight books and more than 30 scholarly articles. Her research interests include feminist rhetorical studies, ethics and social responsibility, contemplative practices, qualitative research methodology, archival research, and environmental rhetoric. She has won the James Braddock Award for the best article in College Composition and Communication and the Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award for Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies (co-authored with Jacqueline Jones Royster). In 2013, she won the Excellence in Scholarship Award from Bentley University in recognition of her accumulated record of scholarly productivity and leadership in the discipline.

“It has been a tremendous honor having someone of Professor Kirsch’s caliber visiting the Syracuse University campus,” says Patrick W. Berry, assistant professor of writing and rhetoric and co-organizer of the March 4 event. “Her research prowess, extensive publishing track record, and interactive approach to teaching serve as an inspiration to all of us, particularly to the students who aspire to be part of the academy someday.”

Kirsch earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. She’s previously held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, University of Oregon, Eugene, and Wayne State University.

Free and open to the public, the public lecture is presented by the SU Humanities Center. Co-sponsors include The Writing Program and the Departments of Women’s and Gender Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts; Hendricks Chapel; the Hendricks Chapel Wellness Fund; and the Contemplative Collaborative. For more information, contact Patrick W. Berry at or 315.443.1912.

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Rob Enslin