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Jennifer Mercieca

Jennifer Mercieca
Associate Professor
Areas of Speciality
  • Rhetoric and Public Affairs
  • BLTN 202G
Professional Links
Personal Website


Academia IconTwitter IconDr. Mercieca’s research focuses on the ways that we have thought citizenship, the American presidency, and the nation. Historical and theoretically informed, her research explores how political theory and American political discourse positions citizens as romantic heroes, tragic victims, and ironic partisans. She also examines how new media and public relations techniques marks a shift from the “rhetorical presidency” to the “post-rhetorical presidency.”


Jennifer Mercieca is an historian of American political discourse, especially discourses about citizenship, democracy, and the presidency. Her scholarship combines American history with rhetorical and political theory in an effort to understand democratic practices. She argues that current views of citizenship rely upon the tragic and ironic views, which do not enable citizens to act to control their government. Her presidency research argues that we have heroic expectations for the presidency that are both unrealistic and unconstitutional and that these expectations burden the presidency. She is the author of Founding Fictions and the co-Editor of The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency. Her essays have appeared in scholarly journals like Rhetoric & Public AffairsThe Quarterly Journal of Speech, and Presidential Studies Quarterly.  Dr. Mercieca teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Political Communication, Presidential Rhetoric, Activism, Citizenship & the Public Sphere, Social Movements, Rhetorical Theory, and the History of American Public Discourse. Dr. Mercieca frequently appears as an expert commentator and as a consultant for news stories.

Courses Taught

  • COMM 440: Political Communication
  • COMM 431: Social Movements
  • COMM 301: Rhetoric in Western Thought
  • COMM 243: Argumentation
  • COMM 640: Rhetorical Theory
  • COMM 655: Citizenship and the Public Sphere
  • COMM 649: American Public Discourse before 1860

Representative Publications


book: The Rhetoric of Heroic ExpectationsJustin S. Vaughn & Jennifer R. Mercieca, The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency (edited volume). College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014.

Campaign rhetoric helps candidates to get elected, but its effects last well beyond the counting of the ballots; this was perhaps never truer than in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. Did Obama create such high expectations that they actually hindered his ability to enact his agenda? Should we judge his performance by the scale of the expectations his rhetoric generated, or against some other standard? The Rhetoric of Heroic Expectations: Establishing the Obama Presidency grapples with these and other important questions.


book: Founding FictionJennifer R. Mercieca, Founding Fictions. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010.

Founding Fictions develops the concept of a “political fiction,” or a narrative that people tell about their own political theories, and analyzes how republican and democratic fictions positioned American citizens as either romantic heroes, tragic victims, or ironic partisans.  By re-telling the stories that Americans have told themselves about citizenship, Mercieca highlights an important contradiction in American political theory and practice: that national stability and active citizen participation are perceived as fundamentally at odds.