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Calum Matheson

  • Chair, Dept. of Communication
  • Associate Professor


  • PhD, University of North Carolina


Calum Lister Matheson is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and a graduate of the Pittsburgh Psychoanalytic Center. Dr. Matheson’s scholarly work is informed by traditions in rhetoric, media studies, psychoanalysis, and cultural studies. His first book, Desiring the Bomb: Communication, Psychoanalysis, and the Atomic Age examined the cultural impact of nuclear weapons in language, games, literature, and infrastructure with special attention to the ways that we have sought to discuss topics that defy the limits of language, such as human extinction, mysticism, and the end of the world.

Dr. Matheson’s current research is focused on how communities stick together in the wake of cultural and political fragmentation. He has written a series of articles and book chapters on conspiracy theorists, Sovereign Citizens, doomsday preppers, Internet subcultures, and the QAnon movement. His current book project investigates the structural similarities between vastly different discursive communities from Appalachian serpent-handling churches to Sandy Hook denialists and white supremacists.

Dr. Matheson teaches COMMRC 1117: Propaganda and Misinformation at the undergraduate level. This class explores propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation from a multidisciplinary perspective, including their historical development and current prevalence, using primary texts and academic commentaries on topics such as conspiracy theories, hoaxes, scams, motivated reasoning, and scientific distortions. At the graduate level, Dr. Matheson has taught classes focusing on psychoanalysis, rhetoric, and theories of language, such as COMMRC 2220: Readings in Critical Theory: Lacan. In addition to classroom teaching, Dr. Matheson has given many public invited talks in the Pittsburgh community about contemporary media and disinformation, participated in Beatrice Institute programming, and consulted on speechwriting and political campaigns. Prior to his appointment as department chair, Dr. Matheson was also the Director of the William Pitt Debating Union. He remains active in service opportunities at the department, school, and national level, primarily focused on inclusion, diversity, junior faculty development, and undergraduate education.


  • Matheson, Calum. Desiring the Bomb: Communication, Psychoanalysis, and the Atomic Age. University of Alabama Press, 2019.

Journal Articles

  • Matheson, Calum. “Liberal Tears and the Rogue’s Yarn of Sadistic Conservativism.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 52:4 (2022): 341-355.
  • Matheson, Calum. “Stasis in the Net of Affect.” Philosophy & Rhetoric 52:1 (2019): 71-77.
  • Matheson, Calum. “Filthy Lucre: Gold, Language, and Exchange Anxiety.” Review of Communication 18:4 (2018): 249-264 (lead article).
  • Matheson, Calum. “Psychotic Discourse: The Rhetoric of the Sovereign Citizen Movement.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 48:2 (2018): 187-206.
  • Matheson, Calum. “The Sublime Rhetoric of Pascal’s Wager.” Argumentation and Advocacy 53 no. 4, (2017): 271-286.
  • Matheson, Calum. “What Does Obama Want of Me?’ Anxiety and Jade Helm 15.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 102:2 (2015): 133-149.
  • Matheson, Calum. “Procedural Rhetoric Beyond Persuasion: First Strike and the Compulsion to Repeat.” Games and Culture 10, no. 5. (2015): 463-480.
  • Zemlicka, Kurt and Matheson, Calum. “To Make a Desert and Call it Peace: Stasis and Judgment in the MX Missile Debate.” Argumentation and Advocacy 51, no. 1. (2014): 30-41.

Book Chapters

  • Matheson, Calum. “A Child is Being Trafficked: The Figuration of Child Abuse and Desire in Right-Wing Extremist Discourses,” in The Public Culture of Pleasure and Pain, eds. Christopher Gilbert and John Lucaites, forthcoming at University of Alabama Press.
  • Matheson, Calum. “Mogged by the Market: Science, Subjectivity, and the Rationalization of Sex,” in From Cogito to Covid: Rethinking Lacan’s “Science and Truth”, eds. Concetta Principe and Molly Wallace, 2022.
  • Matheson, Calum. “Enjoying the Heat: Anxiety, Fantasy, and Doomsday Prepping,” in Lacan and the Environment, eds. Clint Burnham and Paul Kingsbury, Palgrave MacMillan, 2021.
  • Matheson, Calum. “The Instance of the Letter in the Unconscious, or Reason Since Freud.” In Reading Lacan’s Écrits: From ‘On a Purpose’ to ‘Comments on Daniel Lagache,’ eds. Derek Hook, Calum Neill, and Stijn Vanheule, London: Routledge, 2019.

Online Publications


  • September 16, 2016 - 3:00pm: “AGORA: “Psychosis and Rhetoric: What Does the Sovereign Citizen Mean?”
  •  January 25, 2019 - 3:00pm: Agora Speaker Series:Book Release & Reading: Desiring the Bomb: Communication, Psychoanalysis, and the Atomic Age
  •  April 10, 2020 - 3:00pm: Agora Speaker Series: “The Unbearable Utopianism of the Blackpill: Incels, Rhetoric, Sexuation”
  • November 4, 2021 - 12:30pm: Colloquium: "The Paradox of Literalism as a Figure in Law and Religion" by Calum Matheson

Courses Taught

  • Rhetoric Beyond Persuasion (Graduate)
  • Readings in Critical Theory: Lacan (Graduate)
  • Power, Knowledge, Desire
  • Media Studies and Criticism
  • Argumentation and Debate
  • Rhetoric and Public Issues