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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