Lester C. Olson, PhD

1432 Cathedral of Learning
Virtual Office Hours: Tuesdays 12:30pm-1:30pm and by appointment

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PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Chair, Professor of Communication and Chancellor’s Distinguished Teacher

Lester C. Olson teaches and researches in the areas of visual rhetoric, rhetorical criticism, and public address. He has an abiding interest in silence, human rights, and rhetoric concerning social justice. His current book-length project focuses on Audre Lorde, an internationally acclaimed poet and activist. He holds a secondary appointment in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies and is an Affiliate of the Cultural Studies Program.

Interview on Visual Rhetoric with Dr. Gordon Mitchell




  • Author: Lester C. Olson, PhD
  • Author: Lester C. Olson, PhD
  • Author: Lester C. Olson, PhD
  • Author: Lester C. Olson, PhD
Selected Essays

“Rhetorical Criticism and Theory: Rhetorical Questions, Theoretical Fundamentalism, and the Dissolution of Judgment,” in James W. Chesebro, editor, A Century of Transformation: Studies in Honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Eastern Communication Association (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 37-71.

"Pictorial Representations of British America Resisting Rape: Rhetorical Re-circulation of a Print Series Portraying the Boston Port Bill of 1774," Rhetoric & Public Affairs 12.1 (2009): 1-36.

“On the Margins of Rhetoric: Audre Lorde Transforming Silence into Language and Action,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 83.1 (February 1997): 49-70. Reprinted in Readings in Political Communication, in press, edited by Theodore F. Sheckels, Janette Kenner Muir, Terry Robertson, and Lisa Gring-Pemble (State College, PA: Strata, 2007), 470-489.

“Liabilities of Language: Audre Lorde Reclaiming Difference,” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 84.4 (November 1998): 448-470.

“The Personal, the Political, and Others: Audre Lorde Denouncing ‘The Second Sex Conference,’” Philosophy and Rhetoric, 33.3 (Fall 2000): 259-285.

“A Cartography of Silence: Bias Crimes and Public Speechlessness,” Journal of Intergroup Relations, 31(4), 76-102. Winter 2004/2005.

“Audre Geraldine Lorde (1934-1992), Professor of English, Poet, Black Lesbian, and Socialist," American Voices: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Orators, ed. Bernard K. Duffy and Richard W. Leeman (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2005), 285-292.259-285

“Visual Rhetoric Representing Rosie the Riveter: Myth and Misconception." In J. Howard Miller’s ‘We Can Do It! ’ Poster (with James J. Kimble as co-author), Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 9(4), 533-570. Winter 2006.

“Intellectual and Conceptual Resources for Visual Rhetoric: A Re-examination of Scholarship Since 1950," The Review of Communication, 7.1 (January 2007):1-19. Reprinted in Sizing Up Rhetoric, eds. David Zarefsky and Elizabeth Benacka (Long Grove, IL:  Waveland Press, 2008), 118-137.

“Traumatic Styles in Public Address: Audre Lorde’s Discourse as Exemplar,” Queer-ing Public Address: Sexualities in American Historical Discourse, ed. Charles E. Morris, III (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2007), 249-282.259-285.

"Audre Lorde's Embodied Invention," in The Responsibilities of  Rhetoric, ed. Michelle Smith and Barbara Warnick (Long Grove, IL: Waveland, 2009), 80-95.

Courses Taught


  • Rhetorical Criticism (COMMRC 1123)
  • Rhetoric and Human Rights (COMMRC 1148)


  • Rhetorical Criticism (COMMRC 2201)
  • Public Argument (Visual Rhetoric) (COMMRC 2214)