Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition (ed. Andrea Lundsford, University of Pitsburg Press: 1995)
Andrea A. Lunsford, Editor--Lunsford is distinguished Professor and vice Chair of English at Ohio St. Univ. A very prolific writer, she has written or co-authored a number of articles and books on issues related to the theory and practice of writi ng. Many of these works are coauthored with her friend and collegue Lisa Ede. Their hope is often to make the academy a more inclusive place.
I. Book's Layout
This anthology presents fifteen chronological essays that tell the stories of women within the rhetoricial tradition who have been mis, under, or simply not represented in the history of rhetoric. The anthology begins with selections on Greek rhetorician s Aspasia and Diotima; and continues on through the Enlightenment with Margery Kempe, Christine de Pisan, and Mary Astell. From there, the essays focus on the early feminist dialogues of Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Fuller, Ida B. Wells, and Sojourner T ruth. The final selections cover more contemporary rhetoricians Susanne K. Langer, Louise Rosenblatt, and Julia Kristeva.
While each contributor has a unique theoretical base to his or her article, one major theme ties them together. They all struggle with many of the political issues that arise in feminist research and in the making of this anthology specifically: Some of the most difficult questions with which they grapple are: How do we accurately study these women without underplaying the views and values that differ from our own? In what way does broadening the scope of rhetoric to include nontraditional texts effe ct the field of rhetoric itself? How do we validate research on texts that have not previously been considered appropriate for scholarly investigation? And, what are the implications of labeling a specific type of rhetoric “feminine” or viewing certain linguistic structures as common to and thereby more appropriate for women?
James J. Murphy begins by giving us a framework in which to conceptualize this anthology. He says that this collection is not a history of women rhetoricians or orators. It is, instead, an “enthymeme” which “[guides] us down a path of partial knowledge until [we] make a personal, pleasurable jump to agreement with the speakers” (ix). The knowledge we obtain from this anthology is “partial” because, although the articles anthologized in this text uncover a surprising amount of information about women r hetoricians, much has yet to be discovered.
The project actually began at RPI under the direction of Annette Kolodny in 1987-88 when a group of graduate students came to her frustrated with the lack of female contributions to the history of rhetoric. Over two semesters, these students engaged in d ifficult archival research and at the project’s end, made the surprising realization that their research had given them core for a potentially important book. When Kolodny left RPI to be dean of faculty at the University of Arizona, the process of creati ng an edited manuscript became almost impossible. Desperate to see the project continue, a few of the contributers sent the manuscript to Andrea Lundsford. She immediately saw it as the first of its kind, volunteered to be the editor, and aided in its p ublishing.
IV. Abstracts of Selected Articles in Classical Rhetoric
1. Aspasia: Rhetoric, Gender and Colonial Ideology [Susan Jarratt and Rory Ong]--English Professor and Dir. of Women’s Studies Prog. , Miami Univ. Rereading the Sophists: Classical Rhetoric Refigured
In order to reconstruct Aspasia as a rhetorician of the fifth century B.C.E., Jarratt and Ong evoke three propositions from Gorgias, her contemporary: Did Aspasia exist? If so, can she be known? And then, is that knowledge communicable? Apasia left no w ritten remains but is referred to in Plutarch’s life of Pericles as well as alluded to by four of Socrates’ pupils. She is most interesting to us for her accomplishments in the political arts. Having taught the art of rhetoric to many including Socrates , there is evidence supporting the claim that she may have actually invented the “Socratic method.” After establishing probable proof of this rhetor’s existence as both a woman and a foreigner, Jarratt and Ong discuss how “gender and colonialism work as discursive technologies to construct layers of meaning in Plato’s text” (18).
2. A Lover’s Discourse: Diotima, Logos, and Desire [C. Jan Swearingen]--English Prof. at U of Texas in Arlington 1994-95 Radford Chair of Rhetoric at Texas Christian Univ. Rhetoric and Irony: Western Literacy and Western Lies.
Swearingen begins by admitting that Diotima is an unlikely candidate for inclusion in the rhetorical cannon. She encourages us, however, to extend Plato’s representation of Diotima in The Symposium beyond that of merely a “literary subject” or joke. She begs the important question: “If Socrates’ Diotima, as written b y Plato is “merely literary”, then what of Socrates, Protagoras, or Gorgias?” Swearingen would have us see the representation of Diotima as an extension of the rebukes directed at women in literature of the fifth and sixth centuries. In doing so, she s uggests a number of alternative interpretations on the position of women in earlier Greek religion and their certain role as teachers and speaking sophists in the community (47).
3. Reexamining The Book of Margery Kemp: A Rhetoric of Autobiography [Cheryl Glen]--St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing , presently completing Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity through the Renaissance.
Glen’s main argument in this essay is that despite Margery Kemp’s lack of formal training, she was a skillful and powerful rhetorician. Late in life, Englishwoman Kemp (1373-ca.1439) subscribed to her own version of the Continental mystic tradition. Hav ing never learned to write, however, she dictated to scribes “the trials and triumphs of her pilgrimage in the world and of the spirit” (54). From these dictations came The Book of Margery Kemp which is the earliest surviving English autobiograph y. Glen believes that because Kemp was both uneducated and a woman, she was unable to engage in the traditional sense of rhetoric. Subsequently, she was forced to gain her public voice through the telling of her private story.
4. Christine de Pisan and The Treasure of the City of Ladies: A Medieval Rhetorician and Her Rhetoric [Jenny R. Redfern]--came out of RPI, International Business Machines software lab. in California
Christine de Pisan seems an obvious choice for this anthology considering that her reputation as a rhetorician has already been established (indeed, we see her A Treasure in the City of Ladies in our anthology). This article intersperses fascinati ng biographical information with an indepth rhetorical analysis of Pisan’s lectures and texts. According to Redfern, Pisan envisioned a “feminine college” that would instruct women in Medieval times of the “humility, diligence, and moral rectitude of whi ch all women were capable” (73). As Pisan was not an advocate of change in the social and gender hierarchies and did not argue for equality with men, she was more readily accepted into medieval France society. She is particularily known for advising women to understand the balance of deliberative (decision making) and epideictic (praise and blame) rhetoric needed to achieve harmony within the home. (forensic was also important--speak for husband)
5. Mary Astell: Reclaiming Rhetorica in the Seventeenth Century [Christine Mason Sutherland]--Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. Coeditor of Woman As Artist: Papers in Honour of Marsha Hanen.
Mary Astell is often considered one of the earliest English feminists, but, like many women who have had a influential role in the public sphere during their lifetimes, she fell into obscurity after her death. Only recently, has research been done that h as shown Astell deserving of a place in the history of rhetoric. This rests not only on her eloquence as a speaker (her ability to anticipate and counter audience arguments), but in her belief in the ability and right of women to participate in the rheto rical tradition. Sutherland sees Astell most strongly connected with feminism in her objection to the win/lose premise that almost always underlies argumentation. Influences of Ramus, Descarte, and St. Augustine lend credit to her particular rhetorical style.