Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Teaching Assistants

Jean Bessette’s research and teaching bridge rhetoric and composition; gender, sexuality, and women's studies; archival and historiographic theory; and digital and multimedia studies. Her recent book, Retroactivism in the Lesbian Archives: Composing Pasts and Futures (2018) examines how American lesbian collectives have composed and leveraged the past to shape identity and navigate difficult cultural and political terrain. She has also published essays on feminist and queer historiography, digital humanistic methods, and pedagogical approaches concerned with feminist and queer theory and audio composing. Her work has received the Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award, the CCCC Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship, and the Rhetoric Society of America Outstanding Dissertation Award, among others.



cover of Retroactivism in the Lesbian Archives Composing Pasts and Futures by Jean Bessette

Retroactivism in the Lesbian Archives: Composing Pasts and Futures. Southern Illinois University Press, Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms series. December 2017.

cover of The Best of Rhetoric and Composition 2011: Essays from the Independent Journals edited by Jean BessetteThe Best of Rhetoric and Composition 2011: Essays from the Independent Journals. Associate Editor. Anderson, SC:Parlor Press, 2011.


Articles and Chapters

"'Rightness' in Retrospect: Stonewall and the Sacred Call of Kairos."Responding to the Sacred: An Inquiry into the Limits of Rhetoric. Edited by Michael Bernard-Donals and Kyle Jensen. Collection under advanced contract at Penn State University Press. 2019.
"Love in a Hall of Mirrors': Queer Historiography and the Unsettling In-Between."Re/Orienting Writing Studies: Queer Methods, Queer Projects. Utah State University Press. November 2018.
“Queer Rhetoric in Situ.”Rhetoric Review. Vol. 35. 2. March 2016.
“Audio, Archives, and the Affordance of Listening in a Pedagogy of ‘Difference’.”Computers and Composition 39. December 2015.
“Past-Writing: Negotiating the Complexity of Memory and Experience.”Critical Expressivism: Theory and Practice in the Composition Classroom.  Eds. Tara Roeder and Roseanne Gatto. Parlor Press, 2015.
“Meaningful Engagements: Feminist Historiography and the Digital Humanities.”With Jessica Enoch. College Composition and Communication. 64.4. June 2013.
“An Archive of Anecdotes: Raising Lesbian Consciousness after the Daughters of Bilitis.”Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 43.1. January 2013.


Awards and Recognition

Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, Winifred B. Horner Outstanding Book Award, 2018
University of Vermont Graduate Student Senate, Excellence in Teaching Award, 2018
Conference on College Composition and Communication, Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship—Article, 2017
Rhetoric Society of America, Outstanding Dissertation Award, 2014
University of Pittsburgh Women’s and Gender Studies, Tamara Horowitz Graduate Writing Award, 2013
University of Pittsburgh English, Graduate Writing Award in Literacy, Pedagogy, and Rhetoric, 2012
Seattle University, Richard P. Hickey Award for Most Outstanding Student in the College, 2006

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

Rhetorical theory; composition pedagogy; Feminist rhetorics, historiographies, and pedagogies; Queer theory and studies; digital rhetorics; archival theory 


  • Ph.D. University of Pittsburgh 2013


Office Location:

409 Old Mill

Office Hours:

By appointment

Courses Taught

  • Feminist Critical/Rhetorical Theory
  • Written Expression
  • Digital Rhetorics
  • Expository Writing