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Reclaiming Rhetorica

Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women In The Rhetorical Tradition

Andrea A. Lunsford Editor
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    Reclaiming Rhetorica
    Book Description:

    Women's contribution to rhetoric throughout Western history, like so many other aspects of women's experience, has yet to be fully explored. In pathbreaking discussions ranging from ancient Greece, though the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, to modern times, sixteen closely coordinated essays examine how women have used language to reflect their vision of themselves and their age; how they have used traditional rhetoric and applied it to women's discourse; and how women have contributed to rhetorical theory. Language specialists, feminists, and all those interested in rhetoric, composition, and communication, will benefit from the fresh and stimulating cross-disciplinary insights they offer.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7165-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    James J. Murphy

    This book is not a history of women rhetoricians, or women orators, or women writers. It is instead a glimmer of possibilities, an array of glances—an enthymeme.

    The enthymeme presented by this set of essays holds that everywhere you look you find surprises of womanly rhetorical capacity. But it is left to the reader to wonder what else is left uncovered, since even a doughty band of fifteen writers can uncover only a few facets of what—for many who are familiar only with traditional histories of rhetoric and rhetoricians—may appear a surprising womanly capacity.

    Aristotle was the...

  2. 1 On Reclaiming Rhetorica
    (pp. 3-8)
    Andrea A. Lunsford

    The story ofReclaiming Rhetoricais a long one, full of the gaps and silences and erasures that also characterize its subject, the history of women in rhetoric. I entered this story late in 1990, when I received a cryptic request from a university press to review a manuscript they had received. Its title wasReclaiming Rhetorica; I did not receive the names of its authors.

    Fresh from directing a dissertation on women in the history of rhetoric from classical times to the Renaissance, I read through the manuscript eagerly and soon after wrote to the press, saying, “This volume...

  3. 2 Aspasia: Rhetoric, Gender, and Colonial Ideology
    (pp. 9-24)
    Susan Jarratt and Rory Ong

    Even from the relatively close distance of only a few centuries beyond the Golden Age of classical Greece, Plutarch approached the task of history writing with a gingerly respect for its complexities.¹ Finding and authenticating sources present one kind of problem, but diving into layers of representation, with their inevitable colorations of “envy and ill will,” “favor and flattery,” deepens the mystery. As we embark on a much later but related historical enterprise, Plutarch’s historiographical hesitations inform our project. The attempt to reconstruct Aspasia as a rhetorician of fifth-century b.c.e. Greece calls to mind the three propositions that the sophist...

  4. 3 A Lover’s Discourse: Diotima, Logos, and Desire
    (pp. 25-52)
    C. Jan Swearingen

    Diotima may seem an unlikely candidate for inclusion in any rhetorical tradition. However, her claims to rhetorical presence can be solidly grounded in the public presence of women as teachers, religious celebrants, and orators in classical antiquity. I propose that we examine Plato’s representations of Aspasia and Diotima as accomplished speakers and teachers as reflections of these traditions and as extensions of the rebukes directed at women-especially at strong, speaking women—in the literature of the sixth and fifth centuries. The presence of women in public and learned roles in classical antiquity continues to be questioned, dubbed fictional, and charged...

  5. 4 Reexamining The Book of Margery Kempe: A Rhetoric of Autobiography
    (pp. 53-72)
    Cheryl Glenn

    Chaucer’s Wife of Bath tells us,

    Experience though noon auctoritee

    Were in this world is right ynough for me

    To speke of wo that is in mariage.

    Because she was not a churchman, she had no authority to speak of marriage or of womanhood; because she was not a flesh-and-blood woman, she could tap only fictional experience. Powerful and compelling though they may be, the Wife of Bath and her tale reflect the interest of a man, Chaucer the artist. Neither Wife nor tale is the creation of a woman, and the Wife herself wishes “By God, [that] wommen hadde...

  6. 5 Christine de Pisan and The Treasure of the City of Ladies: A Medieval Rhetorician and Her Rhetoric
    (pp. 73-92)
    Jenny R. Redfern

    Almost five hundred years ago, Christine de Pisan addressed the “community” of women in medieval society on matters of honor and persuasive discourse. Her stated objective was to instruct them in the means of achieving virtue. Her lessons and vignettes, she believed, would demonstrate the humility, diligence, and moral rectitude of which all women were capable. Duly educated, Christine’s “feminine college” would become worthy residents of the glorious City of Ladies, her allegorical refuge for women whose good lives refuted stereotypes of weakness and immorality (Book). The vehicle for her address isThe Treasure of the City of Ladies(hereafter...

  7. 6 Mary Astell: Reclaiming Rhetorica in the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 93-116)
    Christine Mason Sutherland

    Mary Astell has been celebrated as one of the earliest English feminists. Certainly in her own day she was well known and highly regarded. Yet, like many other women who made their mark upon their own times, she was almost completely forgotten after her death. George Ballard, it is true, published a short account of her life inMemoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Who Have Been Celebrated for Their Writings or Skill in the Learned Languages, Arts and Sciences(1752), but thereafter little was written about her until this century, when first Florence Smith and then, much later,...

  8. 7 Daring to Dialogue: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Rhetoric of Feminist Dialogics
    (pp. 117-136)
    Jamie Barlowe

    Of the many remarkable aspects of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797)—best known for her feminist manifesto,A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1792)—perhaps the most remarkable was her steadfast belief in herrightto participate in dialogues with the philosophers, politicians, educators, historians, and artists of her day as an informed, capable, rational thinker. Such public dialogues were not generally considered to be a woman’s province, but Wollstonecraft neither questioned nor apologized for her own intellectual self-assurance. Whether she was challenging eighteenth-century cultural norms—as in her novelsMaryandMaria—or responding to men such as Burke,...

  9. 8 Inventing a Feminist Discourse: Rhetoric and Resistance in Margaret Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 137-166)
    Annette Kolodny

    When Margaret Fuller’sWoman in the Nineteenth Centuryfirst appeared in the bookstores in the winter of 1845, few readers were prepared to accept her uncompromising proposition that “inward and outward freedom for woman as for man shall be acknowledged as a right, not yielded as a concession” (Fuller,Woman, facsimile edition 26; unless otherwise noted, citations fromWomanare to this edition). Elaborating arguments she had first encountered in Mary Wollstonecraft’sVindication of the Rights of Woman(1792), Fuller insisted that because “not one man, in the million, … not in the hundred million, can rise above the belief...

  10. 9 To Call a Thing by Its True Name: The Rhetoric of Ida B. Wells
    (pp. 167-184)
    Jacqueline Jones Royster

    Ida B. Wells was born a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi, on July 16, 1862, the daughter of a carpenter and a cook. By 1890, she had moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and become the editor of theEvening Star, a regular contributor to theLiving Way, co-owner of theFree Speech, and a nationally syndicated columnist. In writing about those early years, Wells indicated her surprise at her recognition and popularity as a writer since she was not formally trained as a journalist and had not thought of herself as particularly gifted in the literary arena. She explained what she...

  11. 10 “Intelligent Members or Restless Disturbers”: Women’s Rhetorical Styles, 1880–1920
    (pp. 185-202)
    Joanne Wagner

    In 1891 A. Wetzell, a writer forThe Mount Holyoke, commented on Olive Schreiner’s first book,¹ which Schreiner had published under a male pseudonym:

    It was only necessary to read a very few pages to discover that it was undoubtedly the work of a woman, so please you, the strong work of a strong woman. Following the example of many talented women, Olive Schreiner, an ardent champion of the increased freedom and larger rights of womankind, sent out the firstling of her pen under a man’s name. (Wetzell 1)

    Despite her confidence that Schreiner’s style infallibly revealed her gender, Wetzell...

  12. 11 Woman Suffrage and the History of Rhetoric at the Seven Sisters Colleges, 1865–1919
    (pp. 203-226)
    Kathryn M. Conway

    The woman suffrage movement was the first public campaign for women’s rights in the United States launched and sustained by women who had received formal rhetorical training. These women pioneered both in higher education and in public speaking; they were among the first women to attend college in the United States, and many put their education to work as pro- and antisuffrage speakers. In particular, alumnae of the Seven Sisters colleges gained prominence in this public debate.¹ Their rhetorical preparation included classes in argumentation, elocution, composition, and criticism. These subjects were offered with both oral and written components by the...

  13. 12 Sojourner Truth: A Practical Public Discourse
    (pp. 227-246)
    Drema R. Lipscomb

    At a time when it was uncommon for women—and in particular black women—to speak publicly, Sojourner Truth was a major force in speaking on pressing matters of public policy. Much has been written about her as an abolitionist and as a champion of women’s rights in the nineteenth century. To date, however, no research has focused on her oratory as deliberative rhetoric¹—the sort of rhetoric that many theorists place in “settings mainly civic” (Bitzer 71) and that “gives primary emphasis to communication on public problems” (Halloran 246). A former slave who remained illiterate all her life, Sojourner...

  14. 13 The Telling: Laura (Riding) Jackson’s Project for a Whole Human Discourse
    (pp. 247-264)
    James Oldham

    One of our primary “discoveries” in the late twentieth century has been the ultimate dependence of human beings and their activities upon language. Language has come to be seen as the medium in which human intercourse is conducted, its sheer power determining not only our conceptions but also our perceptions. In the most extreme versions of this story, language itself, or its persona, “text,” becomes the sole agent of human activity, endlessly flowing through human subjectivities that feel they exist but are “really” only the artifacts of language. The Cartesian formula for this might be, “Language thinks me, therefore ‘I’...

  15. 14 Susanne K. Langer: Mother and Midwife at the Rebirth of Rhetoric
    (pp. 265-284)
    Arabella Lyon

    A woman can speak with innovation and precision, be heard by more than a million people, and still not be recognized. Due to a dramatic failure of attribution, the American philosopher Susanne Knauth Langer (1896–1985), a significant, early force in the revival of rhetorical studies, remains unacknowledged for her contributions to contemporary thought. Langer developed and popularized a vision of language as emotive, creative, and multifarious: as structuring our perceptions, expressing our experiences, creating and communicating knowledge within a community. She presented this celebratory view of language with a clarity and fervor that guaranteed its acceptance. There can be...

  16. 15 A Rhetoric for Audiences: Louise Rosenblatt on Reading and Action
    (pp. 285-304)
    Annika Hallin

    When she was teaching at Barnard College in the 1930s, Louise Rosenblatt became involved in the publication of a series of books by the Commission on Human Relations, which was part of the Progressive Education Association. The books were one way that the commission met its assigned responsibility of “helping young people with the urgent problems of personal and social living today,” as Alice Keliher, chair of the commission, explained (xi). Rosenblatt’s contribution to the book series wasLiterature as Exploration, published in 1938. InLiterature as Exploration, she directed attention to the audiences of literary texts—especially student audiences...

  17. 16 Julia Kristeva: Rhetoric and the Woman as Stranger
    (pp. 305-318)
    Suzanne Clark

    In this essay I am going to return to the themes of otherness and colonial ideology with which this volume begins. Like Aspasia, Julia Kristeva is a stranger from the East; like Aspasia, she reminds us of an “Asian” rhetoric, a practice linked with excess, passion, and what Susan Jarratt and Rory Ong call a “dangerous femininity.” The theme of strangeness marks the way woman unsettles language. But it is this very unsettling that has made rhetoric interesting again. Rather than reclaiming a place for women within a tradition of rhetoric that has excluded so many, the figure of Rhetorica...

  18. Afterword
    (pp. 319-336)

    “The strands of research and work and lived experience that have come together inReclaiming Rhetoricaseem so much a beginning, a portent of things to come, that we have attempted to resist any traditional sense of finished coherence, unified sameness, or full closure in this volume. In the spirit of ongoing collaboration, then, this work ends with a discussion of several questions I have raised for consideration, and with an open and enthusiastic invitation to readers to join in and thus continue the conversation. In the pages that follow, contributors toReclaiming Rhetoricamuse in print on some of...