Marissa Fernholz

Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture



6053 Vilas Hall

Marissa Fernholz

Expertise and Activities

My research focuses on rhetorics of national security, counterterrorism, migration, and race in the 20th century United States.

My dissertation responds to the undertheorization of pre-9/11 national security discourse in rhetorical scholarship by attending to U.S. discourses of (counter)terrorism and national security in the 20th century. I argue that contemporary analysis of post-9/11 securitization will benefit greatly from richer historical contextualization and call for recognition of the post-WWII foundations of the national security state. Through a rhetorical analysis of rhetorical figures like the ‘terrorist,’ ‘freedom fighter,’ and ‘Black extremist’ in archives of 20th century texts, I seek to illustrate the co-constitution of discursive formations of national security, counterterrorism, race and ethnicity, and immigration in the U.S.


  • M.A. Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2016
  • B.A. Rhetoric and Communication Studies; Politics, Drake University, 2013


  • Teaching Fellow, UW-Madison College of Letters & Science, 2019
  • Vance Kepley Excellence in Communication Award, UW-Madison Department of Communication Arts, 2019
  • Top Student Paper, “Rewriting the Rules of the Game: Competing Narratives of the FBI’s COINTELPRO Targeting the Black Panther Party,” National Communication Association Critical & Cultural Studies Division, 2018
  • Innovation in Teaching Award,University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Letters & Sciences, 2018
  • Top Four Competitive Papers, “The Male Gaze in the Medical Classroom: Proximity, Objectivity, and Objectification in an Unusual Medical Textbook,” with co-author Amanda Friz, UW-Madison, Organization for Women & Communication, 2018
  • Graduate School Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School, 2017
  • Elliott Dissertation Scholarship Award, University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts, 2017
  • Frankenberger Memorial Fund Scholarship, University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts, 2017
  • Public Humanities Exchange Fellowship & Grant, UW-Madison Humanities Exchange, 2016
  • Helen K. Herman Memorial Fund Scholarship, University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts, 2016


  • CA 100: Intro to Public Speaking
  • CA 260: Communication and Human Behavior
  • CA 262: Theory and Practice of Argumentation and Debate
  • CA 370: Great Speakers and Speeches
  • CA 371: Communication and Conflict Resolution
  • Inter-L&S 121: Approaches to Critical Thinking & Writing