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Toward a Feminist Rhetoric

Toward a Feminist Rhetoric: The Writing of Gertrude Buck

Edited by JoAnn Campbell
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    Toward a Feminist Rhetoric
    Book Description:

    The nature of Gertrude Buck, professor of English at Vassar College from 1897 until her death in 1922, is well-known to anyone interested in the history of composition. Her writing is less well-known, much of it now out of print. JoAnn Campbell gathers together for the first time the major work of this innovative thinker and educator, including her most important articles on rhetorical theory;The Social Criticism of Literature, a forerunner of reader-response literary theory; selections from her textbooks on argumentative and expository writing; poetry; fiction; her playMother-Love, and unpublished reports and correspondence from the English department at Vassar.

    In her introduction, Campbell describes the masculine rhetorical tradition within which Buck wrote and taught. Her theories of language and composition quietly challenged the dominant rhetorics issuing from Harvard and Amherst. An unusually productive scholar, Buck wrote textbooks for her female students that affirmed women's intellectual abilities and trained them to participate in political debate. In the Vassar English Department she found a community of women among whom she could practice and develop her theories regarding rhetoric, pedagogy, and the role of the individual in society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-9061-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xliv)

    In calling this bookToward a Feminist Rhetoric,I intend to highlight Gertrude Buck’s efforts to rethink a patriarchal rhetorical tradition, reshape teacher-centered classrooms, and revise intellectual and social issues of concern to women. Susan C. Jarratt has argued that “if the Western intellectual tradition is not only a product of men, but constituted by masculinity, then transformation comes not only from women finding women authors but also from a gendered rereading of that masculine rhetoric” (2). Not only is Gertrude Buck an important woman author, but she revised a masculine rhetoric in her dissertation, by rereading the treatment of...


    • 1 The Organic Curriculum
      (pp. 3-18)

      The present status of popular thought upon matters educational is not altogether easy to define. In America for the most part we still retain our ancient conception of the public school system as somehow a thing in itself isolated, unique, understood in some vague way to “prepare for life,” yet not, in any practical sense, responsible either to the individual child or to the social structure for its policy or its methods. Yet, in recent years, vigorous, though unorganized, revolt against this incoherent notion has raised the standard of individualism in education, declaring that here, as all elsewhere, the individual...

    • 2 The Religious Experience of a Skeptic
      (pp. 19-28)

      I accept the title “skeptic” as a designation of honor. I use the word in the only sense justified by its derivation, as meaning not primarily or necessarily a disbeliever, but essentially a looker-into, a searcher, an investigator. Indeed, I should define a skeptic as a person who habitually and without equivocation obeys St. Paul’s injunction to “prove all things,” with the single end in view of holding fast to that which is eventually proved to be good.

      My religious consciousness began almost with the beginning of my life. My memory fails to reach a time when the thought of...


    • 3 Genesis: Poetic Metaphor
      (pp. 31-44)

      The subject of metaphor bristles with problems. Is this figure a natural product or an artificial? How does it come to be? How does it die? How is it related to plain statement? How are “radical” metaphors different from “poetical”? Why does metaphor please the reader? How does it become “mixed”? These are questions which every serious consideration of the subject must at least attempt to answer.

      Such solutions as have hitherto been furnished these problems have been rooted in the philosophy of an earlier generation, now discredited. The purpose of this study is to explain metaphor in terms of...

    • 4 The Present Status of Rhetorical Theory
      (pp. 45-51)

      Two opposing conceptions of the nature of discourse bequeathed to us from classic times still struggle for dominance in our modern rhetorical theory—the social conception of Plato and the anti-social conception of the Sophists.¹ The latter, though known to us only fragmentarily from allusions and quotations in later treatises, can be, in its essential outlines, easily reconstructed. According to the sophistic teaching, discourse was simply a process of persuading the hearer to a conclusion which the speaker, for any reason, desired him to accept. Analyzed further, this familiar definition discloses certain significant features.

      First of all it conveys, though...

    • 5 What Does “Rhetoric” Mean?
      (pp. 52-55)

      The theory of English teaching, never more widely or more profoundly interesting than now, has received a notable contribution in the recent report of the pedagogical section of the Modern Language Association.¹ Ostensibly this report deals only—and that by the overworkedquestionnairemethod—with the highly specialized subject of “graduate study in rhetoric.” It consists of sixty-three answers from teachers of graduate courses in English at American colleges and universities² to the questions:

      1. Is rhetoric, in your opinion, a proper subject for graduate work?

      2. If so, what is the proper aim, what is the scope, and what are the...

    • 6 The Social Criticism of Literature
      (pp. 56-88)

      The social criticism of literature has, no doubt, been practiced more widely than it has been recognized as a theory. With the more or less unconscious practice of such criticism, however, this book does not attempt to deal. It is concerned solely with the explicit theory of social criticism and with the development of the conception of literature underlying it, which has “come to consciousness” either partially or wholly in various writers about literature, since the time of Plato. Some of these writers have been noted in the following pages, but only such as seem best calculated to illustrate the...


    • 7 Recent Tendencies in the Teaching of English Composition
      (pp. 91-100)

      The recent history of English composition-teaching seems at first glance made up of several distinct movements. Of these the revolt against the domination of the student’s writing by formal rhetorical precepts was earliest and most conspicuous. Scarcely less marked, however, tho somewhat later in time, have been the tendencies to derive subjects for writing from the student’s own experience, rather than from sources foreign to his knowledge or interest; to direct his writing toward some real audience; and, finally, to criticise his writing somewhat informally, in terms of the ultimate end of discourse, rather than by the direct application to...

    • 8 The Basis of Exposition
      (pp. 101-111)

      The English teacher, more perhaps than any other, is consciously aiming, not to give his students information, but to make them acquire capacity,—capacity, in this case, for expressing their thoughts to others. But it is only by writing that the student can learn to write well, though much writing may not teach this, and one of the difficulties which an English teacher has to meet is a no less fundamental one than the difficulty of getting his students to write at all—to write, that is, not perfunctorily, but spontaneously, for this is the only kind of writing that...

    • 9 Argumentation
      (pp. 112-122)

      This book arises out of certain beliefs concerning the study of argumentation, which, though perhaps not wholly novel, have as yet found no recognition in the literature of the subject. The first of these beliefs is that the principles of argumentation should be derived by the student from its practice before the practice is made to conform to the principles. In short—one may as well acknowledge it—a firm faith in the so-called “inductive method” as applied to argumentation lies at the root of this treatise. Such a faith implies, of course, that the student should be asked to...

    • 10 Marks in Freshman English
      (pp. 123-128)

      To the Editors of theNews:

      Marks are a measure of academic work. They are the standard by which our scholarship, our mental capacity is judged among family and fellow students. To a great degree they indicate our success in college. Yet how are they given! One teacher emphasizes one phase of a subject to the exclusion of the phase another stresses. One gives lessons double the length of another’s. One is a high marker, another a low marker. No consideration is taken of natural gifts, of natural handicaps. Effort is too often disregarded. In examinations one type of mind...


    • 11 The Sentence-Diagram
      (pp. 131-139)

      Those who attempt to justify the use of the sentence-diagram in the teaching of grammar commonly do so upon one of two grounds. Either the diagram represents the actual structure of the sentence, but fleshless, articulated, so that the student may see plainly its anatomy as he cannot do in the living body; or the diagram, though not in any real sense representing the actual structure of the sentence, yet serves as an arbitrary mechanical device for expressing visually the parts of speech contained in the sentence, with their relations to each other, as the science of grammar has ordained...

    • 12 The Psychology of the Diagram
      (pp. 140-144)

      Editor of the School Review.

      In the report of the proceedings of the Michigan Schoolmasters Club in the February number of the School Review my own discussion of the paper upon The Psychology of the Diagram is limited to a single sentence. I requested that this brief report be given in the expectation that the paper would appear in full in the Review and that I should then have an opportunity to discuss it and the remarks made upon it somewhat at length. As it is, this brief letter must suffice.

      We are told that the diagram is faulty because...

    • 13 Make-Believe Grammar
      (pp. 145-156)

      Richard Grant White’s statement that “nearly all of our so-called English grammar is mere make-believe grammar”¹ has recently been quoted with approval by Professor Tolman, of the University of Chicago, in his interesting account of “The Revival of English Grammar.”² By “make-believe grammar” both writers mean, as Professor Tolman states, the application of rules modeled upon those of the highly inflected Latin language to the facts of the English tongue, which is almost wholly uninflected. As conspicuous examples of such unwarranted borrowings from Latin grammar are cited the objective case of nouns and the agreement of finite verbs with their...


    • 14 Preface to Poems and Plays
      (pp. 159-163)

      An introduction to such a volume as this may seem an impertinence; what the author has to say must speak for itself and to its fitting audience. Yet the editor cannot let the book go out without a word as to the life-long interest of Gertrude Buck in imaginative writing and the part played by this interest in her intellectual and practical life. She was, even to her friends, primarily the teacher, the thinker, the administrator, remarkable for constant and energetic advance towards new ends or for unflagging zeal in working out new experiments. But, however apparently absorbed in such...

    • 15 Mother-Love
      (pp. 167-186)

      Maggie [cheerfully]: It’s a little better, isn’t it Mother? Just a little?

      Mother [in a feeble but irritable voice]: Maggie, how often have I told you not to ask me questions when I have a headache? You always make it worse.

      Maggie [arrested by contrition in the act of dropping the cloth into the basin]: ·Oh, IhopeI haven’t this time, Mumsie dear! I thought it must be nearly well.

      Mother [petulantly]: No, it isn’t. And it won’t be if you act like this. [She sighs deeply and closes her eyes. Maggie dips the cloth in the water, wrings...

    • 16 The Girl from the Marsh Croft
      (pp. 187-239)

      The Courtroom of a rural district in Sweden. The Judge, a middle-aged man, with a cynical expression and an irritable manner, sits at a heavy table strewn with papers, right front. Deal benches run from front to back of the stage. Half a dozen spectators, mostly farmers, occupy the benches further from the table. The Judge and the spectators, in common with all other characters except the pedlar, wear the peasant costumes of Varmland.

      Gudmund Erlandsson sits nearest the audience. He is dressed smartly in a short hunting jacket, a small gray felt hat and top boots into which his...

    • 17 The Funeral
      (pp. 240-250)

      There was a great funeral in Forsythe that afternoon. The late Mr. Ira Cox had been wont to boast that his name spelled more dollars with fewer letters than that of any other man in town. He had been sole owner and manager of three of Forsythe’s cardiac enterprises,—theMorning Gazette, the Cox Windmill Company and the Gilt-Edge Creamery.

      Before the hour set for the funeral the employees of these three companies gathered outside their respective places of business and marched in a body to the church. Gurney, passing the three groups, one after another, noted their clumsy suits...


    • 18 Correspondence and Department Reports
      (pp. 253-282)

      January 6, 1919

      My dear Dr. MacCracken,

      I am hoping that you will finally decide not to present to the trustees the plan you outlined to me of equalizing and increasing the salaries by means of a reduction in the teaching staff. This plan is not, so far as I can see, based upon a sound, self-consistent educational policy. Half of it leans to the prin ciple of education first, finance second, the other half to the contrary and wholly irreconcilable principle of finance first, education second.

      Justice demands the equalization and the increase of salaries in each rank. This...