Elizabeth Benacka

Elizabeth Benacka

Associate Professor of Communication
Chair of Communication
Chair of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies



Rhetoric of Humor, Feminist Rhetoric, Rhetorical Theory and Criticism, Queer Theory

Research Interests

Examining the rhetorical function of satire, parody and irony in order to understand how humor acts as an argument and contributes to civic discourse in the public sphere. Focusing on how gender and sexuality impact a citizen’s visibility and rhetorical agency within the public sphere, particularly the similarities and differences between drag and transgender as embodied arguments about gender conformity.  


PhD Rhetoric, Northwestern University
MA Rhetoric, Northwestern University
BA Communication, Loyola University Chicago
  Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa

Courses Taught

COMM 110 - Introduction to Communication
CINE 175 - Introduction to Film Studies
COMM 212 - Visual Rhetoric 
COMM 255 - Communication Criticism
COMM 350 - Rhetoric of Humor
COMM 350 - Feminism and Popular Culture
COMM 376 - Queer Cinema
COMM 420 - Rhetoric of Civil Rights


Cover of Rhetoric, Humor and the Public Sphere: From Socrates to Stephen ColbertRhetoric, Humor and the Public Sphere: From Socrates to Stephen Colbert, Lanham, MD: Lexington Press, 2017.

Review of Transfeminist Perspectives In and Beyond Transgender and Gender Studies, edited by Anne Enke. Electronic Journal of Communication 25, nos. 1-2 (2015).

“Not One Page, but Many: Latinas on the Internet,” Democratic Communiqué, 15, no. I (Spring/Summer 1997): 36-38.

Selected Presentations

Transgender(ing) Rhetorics Group, Scholarly Workshop, Rhetorical Society of America Biennial Summer Institute, Madison, WI, May 2015.

“Blurred Lines/Clear Focus: Media Coverage of Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC, ‘Citizens for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,’” National Communication Association, Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division, Chicago, IL, November 2014.

“Making a Wave: A Rejection of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970,” Rhetoric Society of America Biennial Conference, Philadelphia, PA, May 2010.

“Uniting and Dividing Through Laughter: The Rhetorical Functions of Topical Humor,” Rhetoric Society of America Biennial Conference, Minneapolis, MN, May 2010.

“Rhetorics of Marriage and Family: The Public Nature of a Private Institution,” Rhetoric Society of America Biennial Conference, Seattle, WA, May 2008.

“National Identity and Global Positioning in U.S. Topical Humor Post-September 11, 2001,” National Communication Association, Critical and Cultural Studies Division, San Antonio, TX, November 2006.

“Not All Humor is Created Equal: A Rhetorical Examination of the 2004 and 2006  National Correspondents’ Dinners,” Rhetoric Society of America Biennial Conference, Memphis, TN, May 2006.

“Latin Rhetorical Theories of Humor: Have You Heard the One About Cicero, Quintilian and the Unknown Auctor?” National Communication Association, American Society for the History of Rhetoric, Boston, MA, November 2005.

“It Takes All Kinds of Movements to Make a (Second) Wave: A Radical Feminist Group’s Rejection of the Equal Rights Amendment,” International Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s) Conference, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, October 2005.

“Laughing in the Face of Tragedy?: A Rhetorical Analysis of Talk Show Monologues after the Attacks of September 11, 2001 ,” International Society of Humor Studies, Youngstown, OH, June 2005.

“Pro-Life, Pro-Choice and None of the Above: Satire and Consciousness Raising in Citizen Ruth,” Midwest Popular Culture Association, Cleveland, OH, October 2004.

“Locating Women’s Rhetorical Agency: The Seneca Falls Convention,” Rhetoric Society of America, Austin, TX, May 2004.

“Laughter in the Face of Tragedy: The Comic Frame and September 11,” National Communication Association, Kenneth Burke Society, Miami Beach, FL, November 2003.

“Women and HIV in Science and the Media: The Language of Oppression,” International Communication Association, Feminist Scholarship Division, Washington D.C., May 2000 (interactive display session).

“The Jeremiad and ‘The Ballot or the Bullet,” DePauw Annual National Undergraduate Honors Conference, Greencastle, Indiana, March 2000.


Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies, Northwestern University

Graduate Teaching Certificate Program, Searle Center for Teaching Excellence, Northwestern University

Professional Memberships

National Communication Association
Rhetoric Society of America
Organization for Women on Research and Communication
International Society for Humor Studies