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.