Tag Archives: feminist historiography

Lunsford, Andrea, ed. — Rhetorica Reclaimed,

Rhetorica Reclaimed, Andrea Lunsford, editor (1995)


Aimed to disrupt the “seamless narrative” of the rhetorical tradition and create space for other rhetorics, Rhetorica Reclaimed offers a series of rhetorical studies of women’s rhetorics, which both reread classical texts and recover and theorize a plethora of rhetorical forms, strategies, and goals not previously considered in the rhetorical tradition.   To recover this body of rhetorics, rhetorical scholars take a historical approach to rhetorically analyze a wide variety of women’s rhetorics from antiquity through medieval times to the 20th century.  In their recovery of rhetorics employed by figures such as Aspasia, Diotima, Margery Kempe, Mary Astell, Margaret Fuller, Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth, and Julia Kristeva, feminist historiographers also rely heavily on gender analysis, genre analysis and draw on feminist and postcolonial theories.  As these scholars demonstrate, recovery of women’s rhetorics demand a turn toward alternative sites of oral and written persuasion used both in the public and private domain.  The wide range of sites include:  speeches, autobiographies, letters, fragments of classical texts, syllabi and other teaching materials, articles, lectures, scholarly work, and pamphlets.  Common strategies identified in women’s rhetorics across time and cultures include rhetorical strategies such as breaking silence; subverting traditional genres; naming in personal terms or truth telling; employing dialogics, recognizing and using the power of conversation; and valuing collaboration.  As well as diversity in terms of sites and strategies, studies of women’s rhetorics reveal that multiple purposes were achieved in women’s rhetorical practices that include but are not limited to:  empowerment of self and audience, inspiration, motivation, theoretical enlightenment, survival, self-expression, conversation, self-definition, articulation of fears, and promotion of action. 


Included in this anthology is Susan Jarrat and Rory Ong’s article “Rhetoric, Gender and Colonial Ideology,” which along with Cheryl Glenn’s work on Aspasia stimulated a series of debates about truth, evidence, and history.  In Jarrat and Ong’s article, the authors attend to questions of whether or not Aspasia existed, how we can come to know Aspasia, and what kinds of historiographical tasks are required to read Aspasia–as rhetorician–into the rhetorical tradition.  Jarrat and Ong argue that the recovery of Aspasia in classical texts such as Menexenus reveal that Aspasia “marks the intersection of discourses on gender and colonialism, production and reproduction, rhetoric and philosophy[ which] makes her a rich site for interpretative work” (10).  Jarratt and Ong employ their imagination in recovering what roles Aspasia might have played in sophistic rhetorics by analyzing the ways in which Plato gave voice to Aspasia.  It is this use of imagination, perhaps, that lead Gale to raise concerns about historiographical recovery work.  



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Glenn, Cheryl — Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity through the Renaissance

In this important text, Cherly Glenn studies the ways in which women from antiquity through the Renaissance contributed to rhetorical history and theory and performed gender through rhetorical practices.  Questions that arise in this study do not just attend to an identification of rhetorical strategies employed to achieve various rhetorical purposes at particular moments in time, but also what strategies were used to become visible in their particular communities and take an active role in public life.  Thus, this work studies the ways women enacted both resistance and negotiation to break through social and educational boundaries that confined women in silence, chastity, and domestic confinement.  In doing so, Glenn helps break through the silence in our own field that has contributed to a gendered landscape of rhetorical history that excludes the ways in which women across time and culture have employed rhetoric to construct culture.  By remapping rhetorical territory through a gender analysis of women’s rhetorics, Glenn attempts to rewrite rhetorical history, regender rhetorical theory, and remap the rhetorical tradition.  To do so, Glenn models a performative historiography that both looks back to and interrogates the never previously questioned rhetorical scholarship produced in our field. In addition, she recovers new rhetorical practitioners and practices that have been excluded in the rhetorical tradition and thus redraws the traditional boundaries of rhetoric.  Glenn concludes by offering four strategies to continue regendering the rhetorical tradition:  devise new methodologies that allow feminist historiographers to hear the women rhetoricans speak; engage in collaboration; investigate silence as a feminine rhetorical site; and expand our studies beyond famous historical women who have refused to be forgotten and silenced.  Glenn reminds us in her final words that there are endless possibilities to recover women’s rhetorics; we simply need to listen.


In Rhetoric Retold, Glenn locates Sappho Aspasia, , Diotima, Hortensia, Fluvian, Julian of Norwhich, Margery Kempe, Margaret More Roper, Anne Askew and Elizabeth I.   While some of these women left written poetry, speeches, letters, and books, some women such as Aspasia, and Diotima exist only in secondary texts written by men. 

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Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs — Man Cannot Speak for Her

Man Cannot Speak for Her  Karlyn Kohrs Campbell


In this seminal text in feminist historiography, Campbell attempts to write the early women’s feminist movement that primary focused on suffrage from the 1830s through the the mid-1920s into rhetorical history.  Working from a definition of rhetoric as the available means symbols can be used to persuade, Campell specifically recovers the rhetorics employed by women rights advocates and suffragists, who also used rhetoric in many cases for abolition and temperance efforts.   While Volume I of Man Cannot Speak for Her anthologizes the rhetorics used in the woman’s suffrage movement, Volume II offers a collection and annotation of the key rhetorical documents from this movement.  Together these offer an incomplete but important effort to recover early feminist rhetoric in the United States and write women into the rhetorical canon.  In addition to revising rhetorical history through these efforts, Campbell also attempts to broaden conceptions of rhetoric itself.  As she notes, many early feminists struggled for the right to speak by subverting concepts of “true womanhood,” venturing onto the public rhetorical platform, “masculanizing” their speech, and defying sexist biological assumptions.  Therefore, early feminist met much resistance and had to use rhetoric creatively to confront this resistance and be heard.  While women such as the Grimke sisters, Elizabeth Cady Canton, and Susan B. Anthony took a more assertive and less “feminine” approach to gain rights for women, social feminists such as Frances Willard took a more traditional “feminine” approach. In addition to difference in approaches, early feminist’s rhetorical style varied as well as their uses of evidence and appeals.  Man Cannnot Speak for Her documents not only these creative, rhetorical  approaches but the tensions inside the suffrage, temperance, and abolition movements that arose as early feminists disagreed on rhetorical strategies, goals, and ideals.  The end product is a useful documentary of the rhetorical diversity used in the struggle for woman’s advancement. 

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Royster, Jacqueline Jones Traces of A Stream


Methodologies:  “uses trends and practices in rhetorical criticism, discourse analysis, ethnographic analysis” and autobiography to argue for recognition of a long history of AA women rhetoricians for social justice and social action (283).


African American elite (well-respected) women used literacy “systematically as a variabl tool” to fight for social justice (5). 


Site:  AA women essayists and orators who have overcome obstacles, reconstituted themselves and left traces of stream (4) .  these women as foremothers to alice walker and bell hooks were committed and had deep level of rhetorical prowress.  These women used oral strategies from classical rhetoric in their written essays.  They used their understanding of rhetorical triad of context, ethos formation, and rhetorical triangle.  Royster examines African cultural traditions used in women’s rhetorics which lead to community action.  Example: alice walker—In search of our mother’s garden—use of narrative, storytelling, description, dialougue, poetry, powerful images, to appeal to ethos, pathos, logos. 


At end, royster reminds us to articulate our research interests and relationships to the work before writing about any project.—self reflexivity—critical awareness of need to read across cultural difference, figure out one’s subject position affects meaning making of rhetorical object,


Three major sections:

Rhetorical view—describes genre of essay, which reflects discursive flexibility and rhetorical awareness, and its significance to literacy practices and social advocacy in work of elite 19th century women—maria stewart, ana Julia cooper, Josephine st. Pierre ruffin; these women attempted to save lives through work; make sense of their experiences and the world; develop agency and authority to intervene in patriarchial and racist society—literacy and social action linked.   –link of literacy and orality create rhetorical competence—the “skill, the process, the practice of ‘reading’ and being articulate about ‘men and nations’” (61).  Rhetorical competence uses to as empowerment to take social action.  Ex.)  situated ethos and invented ethos used for mixed audiences.



Historical view—gives historical account of role of storytelling, religious beliefs, etc. and posits them as intellectually and rhetorically astute intentional reactions to poltical and social exigencies.  Also maps how these female rhetors educated themselves and postioned themselves in workplace to develop rhetorical prowress.  Black women’s club movement for instance was integral…as were national association of colored women, spelman and Oberlin colleges, African American periodicals.


  Ideological view—role of self-reflexivity in research and scholarship

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Gloria Anzaldua Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

In a radical genre she calls autohistoria, which offers an innovative way to write history, Gloria Anzaldua presents a non-linear history of both the geographical and psychological landscapes of Borderlands.  Anzulda’s autohistoria is a genre of mixed media—personal narrative, testimonio, factual accounts, cuento, and poetry—that refutes stasis just as the Borderlands from which Anzaldua comes.  According to Anzaldua, the Border is a “third country” whose history as been told on Anglocentric terms, which she attempts to disrupt through feminist analysis and issues.  As one of many subaltern Indian women of the Americas working hard to overcome the traditions of silence, Anzaludua  attempts to recover the female historical presence by restorying Border history and rewriting the stories of Malinali, la Llorona and the Virgen de Guadalupe.  As Sonia Saldivar-Hull writes in the introduction to La Frontera, Anzaldua’s recovery project “leads to the political, feminist, social awareness Anzaldua calls New Mestiza Consiousness” (8).  As Anzaldua explains it, this consciousness entails  a “shift out of habitual formations: form convergent thnking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals toward a more whole perspective, on ethat includes rather than excludes” (101). 


Anzaluda’s multilingual methodology invokes what Mignolo calls “border thinking,” which embodies a double consciousness and employing multi-languaging to think from the border and offer a new epistemology.   As Anzaldua describes it, border thinking creates a new mythos—“a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave” (102).  In essence, from the border, Anzaldua is creating another culture altogether, “ a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet” (103).  The first step in “the Mestiza way” is taking inventory of our own selves that have been constructed by traceless historical processes.  Then, we must put history “though a sieve, winnow out the lies, looks at the forces that we as a race, as women, have been part of” (104).  This process causes “conscious ruptures with all oppressive traditions of all cultures and religions.  She [then] communicates that rupture, documents the struggle, and reinterprets history, and using new symbols, she shapes new myths” (104).  Deconstruct in order to construct…


Part of this methodology that is so effective is the personal accounts that Anzaldua offers to describe the psyche of those on the border.  She explains, for instance, that she bought into Western claims that Indians are incapable of rationale thought and higher consciousness (59).  She admonishes Western intellectual thought for turning Indians into objects of study and making it shameful to speak their own language and trust their own ways of knowing–all of which are at the roots of violence.   She explains that ethnic identity is wrapped up in language; thus, those on the border attempt to create a language in which “they can create their own identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves—a language with terms that are neither espanol ni ingles, but both.  We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two language” (76). 


In attempt to explain the psyche of those on the border, Anzaldua explains that many on the border develop la facultad—“the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities to see the deep structure below the surface.  It is an instant “sensing,” a quick perception arrived at without conscious reasoning.  It is an acute awareness mediated by the part of the psyche that does not speak, that communicates in images and symbols which are the faces of feelings, that is behind which feelings reside/hide”  (60).  


Anzaldua also explains how important the role of art in Indian ways of life.  As she explains, art was not separated from daily life. “The writer, as shape-changer, is a nahual, a shaman” (88).   She deems her own writing as an art—an object, “an assemblage,  a montage, a beaded wrok with several leitomotifs and with a central core, now appearing, now disappearing in a crazy dance” (88).  She also considers her “stories” as “acts, encapsulated in time, ‘enacted’ everytime they are spoken aloud or read silently. [She] like[s] to think of them as performances and not as inert and ‘dead’ objects (as the aesthetic of Western culture think of art works).  Instead, the work has an identity; it is ‘who’ or a ‘what’ and contains the presences of persons, that is, incarnations of gods or ancestors or natural and cosmic powers.  The work manifests the same needs as a person, it needs to be ‘fed,’ la tengo que banar y vestir” (89).


Anzaldua argues that “western cultures behave differently toward works of art than do tribal cultures” (89).  “Ethnocentricism,” she claims, “is the tyranny of Western aesthetics” (90).  Western culture kills/conquers the power of art; it counts art as a “’dead thing’ separate from nature” (90).  “Lets stop importing Greek myths and the Western Cartesian split point of view,” she argues, “and root ourselves in the mythological soil and soul of this continent.  White America has only attended to the body of the earth in order to exploit it, never to succor it or to be nurtured by it.  [W]hites could allow themselves t shared and exchange and learn from us in a respectful way” (90). 


She explains the importance of images in Indian ways of knowing:  “An image is a bridge between evoked emotion and conscious knowledge; words are the cables that hold up the bridge.  Images are more direct, more immediate than words, and closer to the unconscious.  Picture language precedes thinking in words; the metaphorical mind precedes analytical consciousness” (90).


Anzaldua explains that her process of writing entails “picking out images from [her] soul’s eye, fishing forth the right words to recreate the images” (93).  Why is a reimaging of reality in our consciousness so important:  “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads” (109).


Key Concepts:


Borderland—vague and undertrmined placed created by the emotional residue of an unnatural border -25


Mexican—used to describe race and ancestry

Mestizo—used to affirm both Indian and Spanish ancestry

Chicano-used to signal political awareness of people born and raised in U.S.





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“Telling Evidence: Rethinking What Counts in Rhetoric” — Carol Mattingly

In this article, Mattingly identifies weaknesses of early recovery efforts, which because of our own acculturation and prejudices, have limited the scope of our understanding of rhetorically active women throughout history and asks us to redefine evidence to account for ways in which women enact rhetoric and thus complicate and enrich women’s rhetorical history. She explains that one reason why feminist historiographers in the past have promoted individual women who employ traditional, masculine rhetorical strategies in their texts is that historians felt need to prove the credibility of the women they promoted. They emphasized logical, antagonistic approaches in women’s rhetorics because those are the qualities that have been valued in the rhetorical tradition. Privileging this kind of women’s rhetorics has only excluded other rhetorically active women, however. Therefore, we must interrogate our own examine these early prejudices against less “traditional” forms of rhetoric and locate alternative women’s rhetorics. Becoming open to less masculine forms of rhetoric will open our eyes to more gendered rhetorical actions such as dressing a certain way, as Mattingly demonstrates was an effective means employed by nineteenth century women.

Mattingly’s point that “traditional ways of assessing rhetoric cannot provide effective understandings or appreciations of women’s rhetorics” (107) is also applicable to non-Western rhetorics, as I have attempted to illustrate in my own work on ancient Moche burial practices. Mattingly says we need to take time and resources to recover, evaluate, and make meaning from additional information in order to create a more complete picture of women’s rhetorical history (99). We also need to do the same in order to create a more complete picture on non-Western rhetorical history. One point made by a visual culture scholar that is all important in creating this picture of non-Western rhetorical history will be to begin exploring theories produced by non-Western scholars. Traditional Western ways of assessing rhetoric cannot provide effective understandings of non-Westerrn rhetorics. Not only must we then perhaps modernize rhetorical concepts such as epideictic rhetoric but also begin to seek out theories that will help us better understand the primary texts we are researching.

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“Feminist Historiography: Research Methods in Rhetoric” — Christine Mason Sutherland

A fan of primary research, Sutherland identifies common practices of feminist rhetorical history such as collaborating with other scholars; “living the research”–forming intellectual, spiritual, and emotional relationships with objects of research; building connections between facts and feelings in our scholarship; and employing an ethics of care. She also articulates her own bias against adopting adversarial positions and letting feminism as ideology trespass into their scholarship. Sutherland is also uncomfortable with relativism because, in a postmodern sense, the privileging of feminism that accompanies it is based on false categories of truth, values, and ethics. Therefore, Sutherland argues against claiming any kind of certainty, even in regards to feminism. In this regard, and yes, I am categorizing, it seems Sutherland is what some might call a moderate feminist. Sutherland believes in ultimate truth; yet she believes no single person or party can reach it. Nonetheless, we still must strive to find that truth and co-operate with each other in this endeavor.

I really like this last point Sutherland makes about cooperating with each other in order to move closer toward discovering some truth. In terms of scholarship, it helps to think of joining a conversation not because we are simply interested in the conversation but because we want to work with others to locate some truth of a matter that we deem important. Too often, I think we see ourselves in competition with each other rather than in cooperation.

I also appreciate Sutherlands point that research can’t be valued just for its practical value. Sutherland, in saying that modern feminists are doing “good” work, means I think that feminist scholarship is not just high quality but that in enacting an ethics of care, feminists are conducting scholarship for the common good. I wonder how different the rhetorical tradition would be if modern rhetoricians all adopted this ethics of care. In what ways might our field be enriched? On the other hand, how might an ethics of care also limit our field?

Lastly, Sutherland calls for theorizing sermo—the form of rhetoric typical of the private and semi-pubic discourse such as needlework samples, which Maureen Goggin has rhetorically analyzed and theorized. I really think she and Goggin are wise in making this move. Theorizing sermo will enlarge conceptions of rhetoric, open the rhetorical canon, and enrich our understanding of language itself. Theorizing non-Western sermo is especially provocative to think about…..and certainly creates all kinds of rhetorical artifacts which can be researched as primary texts.

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“Opportunities for Feminist Research in the History of Rhetoric”—Patricia Bizzell

In this article, Bizzell identifies three approaches to feminist research in rhetoric: resistant reading of canonical texts, recovering female authored texts which employ traditional rhetorical strategies, and locating work by women that has not previously been conceived as rhetoric in order to redefine the whole notion of rhetoric. Much like Kellnar’s notion of “crooked reading,” a “resistant reader” notices elements of canonical texts that have been previously unnoticed and draws on these elements to create resistance to commonly held views of the reality the texts are thought to purvey. Although this approach is often criticized for upholding canon of male-authored texts, using this approach, Bizzell argues, appropriates canonical texts for feminist uses. The second approach is also criticized for same reasons, but Bizzell claims in finding texts by women that is deemed rhetorical by traditional rhetorical standards, we are in essense expanding our conception of rhetoric by including women’s rhetorics. In terms of locating new texts not typically deemed rhetorical in traditional sense, Bizzell claims were are helping to redefine rhetoric. To help locate new kinds of rhetorical texts, rather than just searching for new names, we should search for issues, such as the temperance movement, which women voiced their opinions about. Recognizing that all these approaches tend to blur when enacted, Bizzell concludes by reminding us that these approaches can also be applied to the present.

I really appreciate Bizzell’s clear descriptions of these approaches and the examples she gives of these approaches in action. As a graduate student, these approaches are useful because they provide ideas for ways we can enrich our own scholarship. I am especially enamored with the last approach and feel that finding new kinds of rhetorical evidence is the most certain way the rhetorical canon can be opened. One fear might be that by opening the canon, we will be weakening the rhetorical tradition, but I feel that including new kinds of rhetorical artifacts will instead strengthen the rhetorical tradition by making it more inclusive. As Goggin has noted, the rhetorical tradition to a great extent is limited by the Western tendency to privilege verbal over visual. Not only will recovering alternative, non-discursive texts open the canon and help redefine rhetoric, it will also help deconstruct this bifurcation, which, in turn, will help us redefine language itself….

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Summary of Campbell’s “Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Critics, and Practice”

As evident in the Winter 2002 edition of Rhetoric Society Quarterly, feminist historiography in rhetoric has begun to play an important role in expanding the rhetorical canon and blurring the linear, coherent, grand narrative that by and large shapes our contemporary understanding of the rhetorical tradition. Each of the articles we have read this week enable us to better understand what the scholarship of feminist historiography in rhetoric entails. Bizzell identifies three approaches to feminist research in rhetoric: resistant reading of canonical texts, recovering female authored texts which employ traditional rhetorical strategies, and locating work by women that has not previously been conceived as rhetoric in order to redefine the whole notion of rhetoric. Mattingly identifies weaknesses of early recovery efforts, which because of our own acculturation and prejudices, have limited the scope of our understanding of rhetorically active women throughout history and asks us to redefine evidence to account for ways in which women enact rhetoric. Sutherland identifies common practices of feminist rhetorical history such as collaborating with other scholars; “living the research”–forming intellectual, spiritual, and emotional relationships with objects of research; building connections between facts and feelings in our scholarship; and employing an ethics of care. In her article “Consciousness-Raising: Linking Theory, Criticism, and Practice,” Karlyn Kohrs Campbell illustrates how much of the work in feminist historiography in rhetoric has entailed recovering discursive texts written by women, theorizing the rhetorical practices found therein, and recuperating effective feminist methodologies/practices employed by female rhetors through criticism.
Campbell also argues that the discursive mode of consciousness-raising links all three of these efforts. In attempt to make this link visible, Campbell shows how the preservation of female authored texts, which began well before the re-emergence of feminism in the 1960s, entails collecting consciousness-raising texts that attempt to help contemporary scholars better “understand and interpret women’s experiences, the sources of their oppression, and the ways in which to struggle against them” (46). Campbell also makes clear how an important part of the recovery process is the analysis of how women’s works came to be lost. She explains that “recovery and recuperation through criticism were thwarted by the state of rhetorical theory and criticism, which reflected assumptions about gender built into ancient and contemporary theorizing and were related to the cultural attitudes in which theorizing emerged” (48). More specifically, Campbell points out that theorizing about rhetoric emerged in patriarchal cultures that devalued women and in atmospheres in which rhetoric attempted to imitate philosophy and thus traditionally masculine forms of argument, namely logic and reasoning, were privileged over qualities associated with the feminine, such as emotion, belief, style, and performance. Consequently, much feminist scholarship includes the recovery and validation of these repressed “feminine” rhetorical elements.
In terms of recuperation, Campbell illustrates how important critical analysis is in understanding the ways in which women discursively confronted oppressive situations, employed rhetorical strategies in public speeches and/or written texts, and negotiated assumptions about the role of the rhetor. Campbell identifies key critical approaches used in feminist historiography in rhetoric, such as studying: the role identity, autonomy, and selfhood play in feminist rhetorics; the ways in which women used traditional roles to their rhetorical advantage; the sophisticated and artistic strategies used in masterpieces created by female rhetors; and the ways in which the media, acting as public discourse, frames meanings of feminism. Campbell claims feminist scholars have been by and large rather successful in these efforts; what major challenge feminists scholars still face is to reconfigure rhetorical theory by a.) extracting theory from rhetorical practices employed by women and b.) enlarging our conception of rhetorical action.
After demonstrating some theories that feminist scholars such as Krista Ratcliffe and Jane Donewerth have extracted, Campbell identifies an implicit theory she has located through recurring elements of consciousness-raising found in the texts of female rhetors. Campbell writes:
Because women have had little conferred authority, their discursive practices inevitably have involved struggles to shape an identity that gave them voice and assumed subordinate or egalitarian relationships to those addressed, which, in turn, presume an epistemic stance based on shared experience, participatory interaction in arriving at conclusions, strategic indirection in presenting evidence and argument, and conversation as the predominant mode through which influence occurs (60).
In such ways, Campbell explains, women have and continue to redefine the genres of public interaction.

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