After spending a good number of years studying literature and literary theory, Professor Barbara Biesecker changed her course of study and went to the University of Pittsburgh to earn a doctoral degree in rhetorical studies. She completed the Ph.D. in 1989, was a Fellow of the School of Criticism and Theory, accepted a position at the University of Iowa in 1990, and taught undergraduate and graduate courses there until she joined the University of Georgia faculty in the fall of 2008. She served as Department Head of Communication Studies 2009-2015. Professor Biesecker regularly teaches Public Speaking and Visual and Material Rhetorics at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level she has taught Seminar in Rhetorical Theory; Methodologies of Rhetorical Criticism: Derridean Deconstruction and Foucaultian Analysis; Methodologies of Rhetorical Criticism: Visual Rhetorics; Critical Theories of Discourse: Jacques Derrida; Topics in Rhetorical Theory: Rhetoric and the Return of the Political; Topics in Rhetorical Theory: Rhetoric and Poststructuralism; Topics in Rhetorical Theory: Rhetoric and the Question of Context; and Seminar in Rhetorical Criticism.
Throughout her career, Professor Biesecker has explored the role of rhetoric in social change by working at the intersections of rhetorical theory and criticism and continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, feminist theory and criticism, and cultural studies. She has long been preoccupied with the question of rhetorical agency. What exactly is it? Where is it/might it be located? What are its conditions of (im)possibility? Provisional theoretical answers to these questions come in the form of a book wherein she reads in Kenneth Burke’s theory of rhetoric a theory of social change, an essay on Derridean deconstruction as a theory of rhetorical invention, another essay that reads Foucault’s work on style as a theory of resistance, another that reads Cixous’s manifesto for a feminist theory of rhetorical agency, and an edited volume (with John Lucaites) on rhetoric, materiality and politics. Scholarship that tackles the complexities of rhetorical agency by engaging contemporary public and political culture at crucial moments in which it appears to be at work are an essay (Quarterly Journal of Speech) and forthcoming book (RSA Series in Transdisciplinary Rhetoric published by the Pennsylvania University press) examining WWII remembrance at the end of the 20th century as a late neoliberal response to the manufactured culture wars of the 80s and 90s; a conceptualization of evental rhetoric that finds in Lacan considerable resources and in President Obama a rhetorical exemplar; a rhetorical reading of the politics of 9/11 and the War on Terror; an essay tracing the neoliberal transformation of 'The Common Good' in contemporary U.S.; an essay that offers an account of how it was possible that "white lives matter, "blue lives matter, and, ultimately "all lives matter" could be made to sound, feel like, and act as a real response for so many Americans to the claim that "black lives matter;" and an archaeogenealogy of post-truth published in a special edited issue of Philosophy and Rhetoric the she edited on Post-Truth.
Professor Biesecker is the recipient of numerous teaching and scholarship awards, including: the National Communication Association’s 2007 Douglas Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar Award, the 2011 John I. Sisco Excellence in Teaching Award, the Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division's 2011 Distinguished Scholar Award, the 2013 Francine Merritt Award, the 2015 Rhetorical and Communication Theory Faculty Mentorship Award, the 2015 Graduate School award for excellence in graduate education and mentoring (Arts and Humanities), and the 2017 Julia T. Wood Scholar/Teacher Award. Professor Biesecker served as the editor-in-chief of the Quarterly Journal of Speech, and she continues to serve on the editorial boards of many scholarly journals. Professor Biesecker also is the Chair of the UGA University Council Executive Committee (July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022).