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You are here: Home Congratulations to recent PhD alumnus Johnathan Smilges, whose dissertation (directed by Cheryl Glenn) has won the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition’s Presidents Dissertation Award!

Congratulations to recent PhD alumnus Johnathan Smilges, whose dissertation (directed by Cheryl Glenn) has won the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition’s Presidents Dissertation Award!

“Queer Silence: Rhetorics of Resistance”

Dr. Smilges is Assistant Professor of English at Texas Women’s University. In spring 2020, Smilges completed their dual degree in Rhetoric and Composition and Women’s Studies at Penn State University, under the direction of Cheryl Glenn (Chair), Debra Hawhee, Janet Lyon, and Hil Malatino. Dr. Smilges is also the winner of CCCC’s 2020 Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship. One judge wrote the following of Smilges’s project:

“Smilges’s work savvily moves between theory and analysis, offering up important insights in the ways that silences work in queer and trans rhetorics. Their chapter on ex-gays is compassionate, smart, aware of its limitations, and deftly ties together queer theory and disability theory.”

Another judge concurred:

“This project struck me—both as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and, too, as a feminist and queer rhetorician. The author’s deft weaving of historical and personal narrative to open the project is exemplary of the dissertation’s larger political importance and, too, its contributions to the field. I was drawn immediately to the parallels between the author’s narrative of reparative therapy and the historical reference to the APA. Both are haunting. But, importantly, the author’s narrative serves a purpose—it illustrates, in a profound way, this project’s theorization of queer silence (12). This term productively extends robust scholarship on silence by feminist rhetoricians and, in so doing, makes a foundational contribution to the feminist rhetorical studies. The author’s argument that ‘silence can become a strategy of resistance, wherein the absence of verbal speech forges alternative routes to signification, to making meaning in the face of a society bent on erasure’ is one that can shape much of the ways that feminist and, in particular, queer rhetoricians study and, also, practice silence (19). … This project is exceptionally well written, cogently argued, and consistently thought-provoking. I look forward to seeing it—hopefully one day soon—on rhetorical scholars’ shelves and, perhaps more importantly, in their classrooms.”

Congratulations to John!