702 S. Wright Street
Urbana, IL 61801
Cara Finnegan is a Professor in the Department of Communication. She joined the university in 1999 after completing her Ph.D. at Northwestern University. She holds affiliated appointments in the Center for Writing Studies, Gender and Women's Studies, and Art History. She was named a University Scholar in 2017.
Finnegan's research examines the role of photography as a tool for public life. Photographs are powerful forms of communication: they visualize social issues, make visible those who are often invisible, and foster or limit bonds of identification. Her book-length projects are best described as rhetorical histories of photography, in that she examines the production, composition, circulation, and reception of photographs at specific moments in U.S. history. Her new book, Photographic Presidents: Making History from Daguerreotype to Digital will be published by University of Illinois Press in Spring 2021.
Finnegan's ideas about photography and visual politics have been featured in a variety of publications in the fields of Communication and U.S. History, as well as in popular media outlets such as the New York Times, CBS, and Vox.
Professor Finnegan is a scholar of rhetoric, public address, and the history of photography. Her research and teaching explore the role of photography as a tool for public life.
Communication, Ph.D., Northwestern University
Communication, M.A., University of Maine
Communication and Journalism, B.A., University of St. Thomas
Awards and Honors
University Scholar, 2017
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship, 2016-17
NCA Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division Faculty Mentor Award, 2017
Winans-Wichelns Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, 2016
Associate, Center for Advanced Study, 2015-16
NCA Visual Communication Division Book Award for Making Photography Matter, 2015
Conrad Humanities Professor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2012-2017
William S. Vaughn Visiting Fellow, Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University, 2006-07
NCA Golden Monograph Award for "Recognizing Lincoln," 2006
Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, 2005-06
NCA Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division New Investigator Award, 2005
NCA Diamond Anniversary Book Award for Picturing Poverty, 2004
CMN 340: Visual Politics
CMN 396: Photography and Public Life
CMN 423: Rhetorical Criticism
CMN 450: Gender and Rhetoric
CMN 538: The Problem of the Public
CMN 538: Rhetoric and Visual Culture
CMN 538: Writing Rhetorical Histories
CMN 538: Rhetoric in Context
CMN 529: Writing in Graduate School
Additional Campus Affiliations
Professor, Gender and Women's Studies
My administrative leadership roles at the University of Illinois have included directing the campus's general education course in Oral and Written Communication (CMN 111-112), running the Communication department's graduate program, serving as associate head of the Communication department, and working as interim associate dean for humanities and arts at the Graduate College.
Finnegan, C. A. (2018). The Critic as Curator. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 48(4), 405-410. https://doi.org/10.1080/02773945.2018.1479577
Finnegan, C. A. (2018). The daguerreotype, republican style and theories of the public image. Explorations in Media Ecology, 17(4), 459-464. https://doi.org/10.1386/eme.17.4.459_1
Finnegan, C. A. (2017). Review: L.E. Gries' Still Life with Rhetoric: A New Materialist Approach for Visual Rhetorics. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 103(4), 415-418. https://doi.org/10.1080/00335630.2017.1369629
Finnegan, C. A. (2016). Review: S.A. Musher's Democratic Art: The New Deal's Influence on American Culture. Journal of American History, 103(1), 243-243. https://doi.org/10.1093/jahist/jaw117
Finnegan, C. A. (2015). Making photography matter: A viewer’s history from the civil war to the great depression. University of Illinois Press.