Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Cara A. Finnegan  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: in

-- Website --
-- Cara A. Finnegan on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Finnegan earned her Ph. D. from Northwestern University in 1999 and has been a member of the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign since then.

Biographical and Professional Information

Cara A. Finnegan is a Professor in the Departments of Speech Communication and Art History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research explores the social, political, and historical role of visual communication in the American public sphere. Her essays on visual rhetoric have appeared in journals such as The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly. She edited the book ''Visual Rhetoric: A Reader in Communication and American Culture'' with Lester C. Olson and Lester C. Olson.She is a former recipient of the National Communication Association's Diamond Anniversary Book Award and the Golden Monograph Award.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Picturing Poverty: Print Culture and FSA Photographs
ISBN: 1588341186

Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press. 2003

Working for the government's Farm Security Administration in the 1930s, photographers set out across the country to capture the human face of the Depression. Walker Evans' portraits of sharecroppers and Dorothea Lange's images of migrant families today stand as the most popular images from the FSA's project. Yet, in their own time, the pictures functioned as urgent, powerful reminders that one-third of the nation was in a real crisis. Focusing on these and other well-known FSA photographs, Finnegan examines how popular magazines constructed complex and often contradictory messages about poverty. Picturing Poverty also explores a moment in American history when visual images took center stage as the nation struggled with economic, political, and social strife. By striving to understand the original context of the photographs, Finnegan shines new light on the meanings of poverty, the Depression, and the various roles of the media. At once a persuasive analysis of FSA images and a balanced commentary on the role of the media, Picturing Poverty is above all a look into the difficult issue of how the mass media presents social issues to Americans.

Making Photography Matter: A Viewer's History from the Civil War to the Great Depression
ISBN: 0252039262

University of Illinois Press. 2015

Photography became a dominant medium in cultural life starting in the late nineteenth century. As it happened, viewers increasingly used their reactions to photographs to comment on and debate public issues as vital as war, national identity, and citizenship.

Cara A. Finnegan analyzes a wealth of newspaper and magazine articles, letters to the editor, trial testimony, books, and speeches produced by viewers in response to specific photos they encountered in public. From the portrait of a young Lincoln to images of child laborers and Depression-era hardship, Finnegan treats the photograph as a locus for viewer engagement and constructs a history of photography's viewers that shows how Americans used words about images to participate in the politics of their day. As she shows, encounters with photography helped viewers negotiate the emergent anxieties and crises of U.S. public life through not only persuasion but action, as well.


'Making Photography Matter

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