Lester C. Olson

  • Professor

            Lester C. Olson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh, where he holds a secondary appointment in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program and he specializes in public address, visual rhetoric, and human rights rhetoric. His essays concerning black lesbian feminist Audre Lorde’s public advocacy can be found in the Quarterly Journal of Speech (1997, 1998 and 2011), Philosophy & Rhetoric (2000),  American Voices (2005), Queering Public Address (2007), The Responsibilities of Rhetoric (2010), The Literary Encyclopedia (2011), and Standing in the Intersection: Feminist Voices, Feminist Practices in Communication Studies (2012). His books include Emblems of American Community in the Revolutionary Era (1991), Benjamin Franklin’s Vision of American Community (2004), and, with co-editors Cara A. Finnegan and Diane S. Hope, Visual Rhetoric (2007). He is a co-editor with Arabella Lyon of Human Rights Rhetoric: Traditions of Testifying and Witnessing (2012). In working for social justice, critical legal theorist and woman of color Mari Matsuda proposed a practice that she called “ask the other question.” In 1991, she advised, “When I see something that looks racist, I ask, ‘Where is the patriarchy in this?’ When I see something that looks sexist, I ask, ‘Where is the heterosexism in this?’ When I see something that looks homophobic, I ask, ‘Where are the class interests in this?’” In agreement, Olson distrusts single-issue identity politics, because it often reproduces unexamined biases across other social differences. Olson offers undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on Human Rights Rhetoric and Visual Rhetoric, as well as Communication & Social Differences.