In the early modern drama of John Webster, representations of pathos invite the interrogation of rhetorical theory as a comprehensive account of the role of emotion in persuasion. A White Devil and The Duchess of Malfi reveal unexpected trajectories of passionate appeal and persuasive effect, particularly in the ways female rhetors undercut early modern rhetorical advice regarding the deployment of pathos. While contemporary rhetorical treatises, such as Thomas Wilson's The Art of Rhetoric, insist that arguments based on emotion render immediate and undeniable the connection between rhetor and audience, the female rhetors' male audiences do not acknowledge emotional persuasion as confirmation of consensus or likeness. Instead, gender difference elides the possibility for commiseration, rendering any effectiveness of female passionate appeal the product of male evaluation, and not its source. This article charts a nuanced understanding of gendered pathos in Webster's drama by employing an analysis of the treatment of pathos in rhetorical theory and the considerations of pathos in representing female sexual desire on the early modern stage.
The hallmark of research today is “interdisciplinary,” and Interdisciplinary Literary Studies exemplifies the diversity, complexity, and rewards ofintegrating literary study with other methodologies. Drawing upon a broad base of critical theories and applying these to a wide range of literary genres, contributors reward us with daring interpretations, such as a mathematical reading of triangles in Robert Frost’s poetry or an “engaged Buddhist response to trauma” reading of Le Ly Hayslip’s Child of War, Woman of Peace. Editor Kenneth Womack, an author of both nonfiction and fiction (including John Doe No. 2 and the Dreamland Motel [Switchgrass, 2010]) has placed Interdisciplinary Literary Studies squarely in the middle of the conversation.
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