Complete Story

RSA 2020 Virtual Awards ... Announcing the 2020 Kneupper Award, Dissertation Award, and Book Award!

Welcome to day three of RSA’s Virtual Awards Ceremony! If you haven’t yet seen the previous videos, be sure to watch the announcements for the Hauser, Geisler, Early Career, and Outstanding Student Chapter Awards.

Three RSA Awards, each given annually, honor pieces of scholarly work published or defended in the previous year. Today, we announced the 2020 Kneupper Award (for the strongest article in the 49th volume of RSQ), the 2020 RSA Dissertation Award (for the top dissertation defended by a student member in 2019), and the 2020 RSA Book Award (for the best book published by an RSA member in 2019). 

Follow the links above to see the announcement videos. The virtual ceremony for the Dissertation Award was generously sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin Writing Center and the Kneupper and Book Award videos were generously sponsored by the Writing Studies and Communication Studies Departments at the University of Minnesota.

The Charles Kneupper Award recognizes the essay published in the previous year's volume of Rhetoric Society Quarterly that the editorial board and the editor consider the most significant contribution to scholarship in rhetoric. The award is named in honor of Charles Kneupper (1949–1989) to honor his many contributions to the scholarly mission of RSA.

The members of the 2020 Kneupper Award committee were Barbara Biesecker, Joshua Gunn, and Jim Jasinski. They reported that there were multiple outstanding essays published in RSQ during 2019, each of which made significant contributions to the study of rhetoric. However, one essay rose to the top during their deliberations. The 2020 Kneupper Award goes to:  

Joe Edward Hatfield for “The Queer Kairotic: Digital Transgender Suicide Memories and Ecological Rhetorical Agency.”

Hatfield’s essay elaborates how the emergent queer suicide letter genre can be read as an opportunity to coalesce queer communities beyond death. In it, Hatfield creatively and fruitfully combines ancient and contemporary thought in ways that should pique scholarly interests in the field, from queer theory and social movement work to digital rhetorics and genre studies. Hatfield’s essay enacts a sophisticated way of queering rhetorical studies. His deft rhetorical sensibility makes itself felt throughout the essay.


The RSA Dissertation Award is presented each year for the best dissertation in the field of Rhetorical Studies defended by a student member of the Society in the previous year.

The recipient of the 2020 RSA Dissertation Award is Brandee Easter, Assistant Professor in the Writing Department at York University (Canada), for her thesis, "Weird Code: Gender and Programming Languages." In 2019, Easter completed her degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (advisor: Christa Olson).

In their final report, the members of the selection committee (Maegan Parker Brooks, José Cortez, Anita Mixon, and Amy Reed) wrote, “Among the many excellent dissertations we reviewed this year, the committee found Easter's project to be exceptional in its innovative (and rigorous) approach to synthesizing research from digital, new media, feminist, queer, software, and disability studies into a project that is equal parts artful, timely, and incisive in its critique. Easter concomitantly speaks from and back to existing research drawn from a broad range of disciplines through her distinctive blend of theorizing through and about practice. Further still, the committee marveled at the breadth and depth of technical knowledge about coding/programming languages that Easter expresses through her truly original study: a dissertation that breaks new ground, in part, by dissolving barriers between traditional understandings of primary and secondary texts.

Moreover, Easter accomplishes all of this through clear, engaging, purposive, and succinct prose. Her project was not just the most innovative that we read, it was also far and away the most well written dissertation we reviewed. Last, because "Weird Code" opens up new critical avenues for the study of gendered coding practices and materialities, helping to make the case that greater representation is needed in both computer science and rhetoric, our committee is confident that this project will soon become an influential book in the field of rhetoric and beyond."

This year, RSA is announcing finalists for the Dissertation Award along with the award recipient. Those finalists (in alphabetical order) are:

Lauren DeLaCruz (Ph.D Northwestern University)

James Hammond (Ph.D University of Michigan)

Shewonda Leger (Ph.D Michigan State University)

Kaitlyn Patia (Ph.D Penn State University)

Carl Schlachte (Ph.D UNC Greensboro)

Nathan Tillman (Ph.D University of Maryland)


Each year, RSA Book Award honors the best scholarly book published by an RSA member in the previous year. The recipient of the 2020 Book Award was selected from among thirty-seven nominated books published in 2019.

The 2020 RSA Book Award goes to Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity by Ersula Ore. Professor Ore is Lincoln Professor of Ethics in the School of Social Transformation and Associate Professor of African and African American studies and rhetoric at Arizona State University. Lynching was published by the University Press of Mississippi.

The members of the RSA Book Award subcommittee (Stephanie Kerschbaum, Christa Olson, Robert Terrill, and Myra Washington) found Ore’s book to be both brilliant and urgent. Ore compels us to acknowledge that lynching is not a historical aberration but a “performance of American identity” that is fundamental to contemporary rhetorics of citizenship and belonging. Through its detailed analysis and forceful prose, this book is a vivid reminder that the study of rhetoric can enable a critique of the elemental discourses through which cultures are constituted, histories are understood, and power is maintained. Ore’s work is an essential contribution to theorizing relationships between race and US citizenship, and as such it should circulate widely within rhetoric studies as well as throughout the academy and public culture.

Starting this year, RSA will also announce the short-list of finalists for the Book Award. In alphabetical order by author, the 2020 RSA Book Award finalists were:

Jennifer Clary-Lemon, Planting the Anthropocene: Rhetorics of Natureculture

Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz, Homeland Maternity: US Security Culture and the New Reproductive Regime

Jessica Restaino, Surrender: Feminist Rhetoric and Ethics in Love and Illness

Patricia Roberts-Miller, Rhetoric and Demagoguery

Shui-Yin Sharon Yam, Inconvenient Strangers: Transnational Subjects and the Politics of Citizenship

Please join me in congratulating all these amazing scholars and writers!

The selection committee for each of these awards faced a challenging task thanks to the high quality and great variety of the work they reviewed. Each committee expressed excitement not only about the awardees but about all the nominees. Scholarship in rhetorical studies is deep and strong. Thanks to each of you for your contributions to that work.

Tomorrow, the final day of the awards ceremony, we’ll announce three new RSA Fellows and the recipient of the George E. Yoos Awards (which also confers status as Fellow). Please join us!

Printer-Friendly Version