English 312 AFeminist Rhetorics?

Andrea A. Lunsford

She didn’t write it.  (But if it’s clear she did the deed. . .)

She wrote it, but she shouldn’t have. (It’s political, sexual, masculine, feminist.)

She wrote it, but look what she wrote about.  (The bedroom, the kitchen, her family. Other women!)

She wrote it, but she wrote only one of it.  (“Jane EyrePoor dear, that’s all she ever. . .”)

She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (It’s a thriller, a romance, a children’s

                book. It’s sci fi!)

She wrote it, but she had help.  (Robert Browning. Branwell Bronte.  Her own “masculine side.”)

She wrote it, but she’s an anomaly.  (Woolf.  With Leonard’s help....)

She wrote it BUT. . .

                                Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women’s Writing


                                                                                                                                Silence can be a plan

                                                                                                                                rigorously executed

                                                                                                                                Do not confuse it

                                                                                                                                with any kind of absence

                                                                                                                                                –Adrienne Rich

Office: 223G Building 460, 723-0682,

Office hours: Tuesdays 9 - 11:30 and by appointment

                Course Description:

It is by now a commonplace to say that women’s voices have been absent from the Western rhetorical tradition, as either practitioners or theorists.  So total has been this erasure that no standard history of rhetoric includes even one woman, leading many to conclude that women had nothing to contribute to theories or practices of persuasion.  The last twenty years, however, have produced a number of challenges to such assumptions, as well as to the masculinist traditions of classical rhetoric.  As a result, an extensive recovery project has been underway, a project that has produced several of the books on our reading list.  But while recovering–and finally hearing–women’s voices is one thing, discovering or creating a feminist rhetoric as a corollary to the masculinist tradition is quite another.  Thus we will begin and end our course with a central question: do feminist rhetorics exist and, if so, what are their origins and originators?  As we explore these questions, we’ll consider women in the ancient world, including Enheduanna (Sumerian High Priestess, argued by some to be the first self identified author in world literature), then Sappho, and then Aspasia and Diotima, reading them as much as possible against the tradition of Plato and Aristotle.  We’ll then leap to nineteenth century African American and Anglo American women’s writing, focusing on Margaret Fuller, Frances Harper, and Ida B. Wells.  We will conclude with contemporary women’s rhetorics/writings, focusing here on the work of Donna Haraway, Adrienne Rich, and perhaps Starhawk.  These core readings will be supplemented by the work of writers selected by members of our seminar.

                Course Texts:

Bernard, Mary, ed.  Sappho: A New Translation.  Berkeley: U California P, 1999.

Foss, Karen, Sonja Foss, and Cindy Griffin.  Feminist Rhetorical Theories.  Thousand Oaks, CA:


Fuller, Margaret.  Woman in the Nineteenth Century.  Dover P, 1999.

Glenn, Cheryl.  Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity to the Renaissance.

                Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1997.

Haraway, Donna.  Modest Witness, Second Millennium: Female Man Meets Oncomouse.  New

                York: Routledge, 1996.

Logan, Shirley. ‘We Are Coming’: The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth Century Black

                Women.  Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1999.

Lunsford, Andrea, ed.  Reclaiming Rhetorica.  Pittsburgh, U Pittsburgh P, 1995.

Ratcliffe, Krista.  Anglo American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Tradition.  Carbondale:

                Southern Illinois UP, 1995.

Rich, Adrienne.  On Lies, Secrets, and Silence.  New York: Norton, 1995.

                Course Procedures and Requirements:

We will set up a closed website for our class (I hope!), through which we can communicate and to which we can contribute our work.  In addition, seminar participants will prepare a brief (no more than one page, single spaced) “conversation starter” in response to each week’s reading.  These short essays may include an explanation of one or more concepts you have come to understand from the readings, a counterproposal or counterpoint to the readings, an exploration of a question the readings raised for you, a meditation on the connection between the readings and the project you are working on, etc.  During each class, one or two participants will present their conversation starters orally and lead class discussion.  Finally, each participant will choose a subject related to our course work for intense study and take that project as far as possible in ten weeks aiming at, for example, a conference presentation, an essay for publication, a grant proposal, or section of a thesis or dissertation.  The proposal for this project is due during Week 3.


Center for Teaching and Learning     For oral presentation skills, see the CTL speaking

                Center on the 4th floor of Sweet Hall.

Disability Resource Center: 123 Meyer Library, MC 3094.  Call 723-1066.   Students who have a disability that

                may necessitate an academic accommodation or the use of auxiliary aids and services in

                a class must initiate the request with the Disability Resource Center (DRC).  The DRC

                will evaluate the request along with the required documentation, recommend appropriate

                accommodations, and prepare a verification letter dated in the current academic term in

                which the request is being made.  Please contact the DRC as soon as possible; timely

                notice is needed to arrange for appropriate accommodations.  The DRC is located at

                123 Meyer Library (phone 723-1066 Voice; 725-1067 TTY).

Sexual Harassment Policy Office:    Building 310, room 201.  Call 723-1583.

                Course Schedule:

January 10: What is rhetoric and what might a feminist rhetoric be?

Introductions.  Re-schedule class scheduled for 1/18.

                Ritchie, Joy and Kate Ronald.  “Riding Long Coattails, Subverting Tradition: The Tricky Business of Feminists Teaching Rhetoric(s).  Feminism and Composition Studies. Ed. Susan Jarratt and Lynn Worsham.  New York: MLA, 1998: 217-238.

                Ede, Lisa, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea A. Lunsford, “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism.  Rhetorica 8:4 (Autumn 1995): 401-442.

January 18: What do rhetorical histories do?  (rescheduled to meet on Friday, January 26, at 5:00)               

Biesecker, “Coming to terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women into the History of Rhetoric.”  Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 (1992): 140-61.

Campbell, “Biesecker Cannot Speak for Her Either.”  Philosophy and Rhetoric 26 (1993): 153-59.

Glenn, Rhetoric Retold, chapter 1

Lunsford, chapters 2 and 3                                                                                  

January 24: Who gets to write rhetorical history?

Gale, “Historical Studies and Postmodernism: Rereading Aspasia of Miletus.” CE. 62:3 (Jan. 2000): 361-86.

Glenn, “Truth, Lies, and Method: Revisiting Feminist Historiography,” same volume: 387-89.

Jarratt, “Rhetoric and Feminism: Together Again,” same volume: 390-93.

Bizzell, “Feminist Methods of Research in the History of Rhetoric: What Difference Do They Make?” RSQ.  30:4 (Fall 2000): 5-18.

 January 31: Rhetoric’s foremothers?

Enheduanna - Please see the Enheduanna Research Pages

Sappho - Please see the Tufts Sappho Pages

Glenn, chapters 3, 4, 5

Proposal for term project due

February 7: Speaking in Public

Logan, We Are Coming

Lunsford, chapters 9

Kates, “Elocution and African American Culture: The Pedagogy of Hallie Quinn Brown”

February 14: Conversational Models of rhetoric?

Fuller, Woman in the 19th Century

Lunsford, chapter 8

February 21:

                Johnson, “Reigning in the Court of Silence: Women and Rhetorical Space in Postbellum America.”  P & R. 33:3 (Special Issue, 2000):221-242.

Donawerth, “Poaching on Men’s Philosophies of Rhetoric: Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-

                century Rhetorical Theory by Women.”  P & R.  33:3 (Special Issue, 2000): 243-258.

February 28: Rethinking Early Feminisms

Rich, selections from On Lies, Secrets, and Silence

Ratcliffe, chapters 1 and 4

March 7: Feminist Challenges or Feminist Rhetorics?

Ratcliffe, chapters 3, 4, 5

selections from Foss, Foss, and Griffin, Feminist Rhetorical Theories

Haraway, Part One and selections from Part Two

March 14: Feminist Rhetorics?

Term project due