“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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Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

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