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Elizabeth Weiser

What If All Discourse Today Is an Inflammatory Essay?

Elizabeth Weiser

Ohio State Department of English professor and rhetorical theorist Elizabeth Weiser examines Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays—featured in the exhibition HERE—in light of discourse in today’s discordant public sphere.

When Holzer first hung her text-based poster series Inflammatory Essays (1979–82) on walls around New York City, Walter Cronkite was still telling nightly news viewers, “And that’s the way it is.” Holzer contradicted that perspective with a polyphony of tone and content unified by style. Today contradiction and discord rule the public sphere. Does aesthetic ambiguity still allow concerned humanists to reexamine "the way it is,” or is contradiction just another term for dysfunctional debate outside certain rarified walls?

More about the speaker

Known for her work in modern rhetorical theory and criticism, Elizabeth Weiser teaches rhetoric, composition, and creative writing at Ohio State’s Newark campus, where she also directs the internship program of the minor in professional writing and serves as liaison to the University Institute for Teaching and Learning. Her book Burke, War, Words (2008) traces the development of modern rhetoric as a response to war. Her most recent book, Museum Rhetoric: Building Civic Identity in National Spaces (2017), explores the formation of national identity in museums in 22 countries. Researching heritage museums on six continents, she considers how and why museums can function as both public glue, calling diverse peoples to community, and public goad, envisioning a better future. She has won campus awards for her teaching, research, service, mentoring, and contributions to diversity and inclusion.

Image: Elizabeth Weiser, photo: Patrick DeMichael

Greater Columbus Arts Council
Ohio Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Nationwide Foundation

Cardinal Health Foundation
Huntington Bank


Past Talks & More

Elizabeth Weiser