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Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics

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Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies gathers significant, oft-cited scholarship about feminism and rhetoric into one convenient volume. Essays examine the formation of the vibrant and growing field of feminist rhetoric; feminist historiographic research methods and methodologies; and women’s distinct sites, genres, and styles of rhetoric. The book’s most innovative and pedagogically useful feature is its presentation of controversies in the form of case studies, each consisting of exchanges between or among scholars about significant questions.

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Published 12 January 2010
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WALKING & TALKING
LANDMARK ESSAYS
& CONTROVERSIES
FEMINIST RHETORICS
Rhetoric and Composition
PARLOR
PRESSWalking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies gathers WALKING AND TALKING signifcant, oft-cited scholarship about feminism and rhetoric into one convenient volume. Essays
examine the formation of the vibrant and growing feld of feminist rhetoric; feminist historio -
graphic research methods and methodologies; and women’s distinct sites, genres, and styles of FEMINIST RHETORICS rhetoric. Te book’s most innovative and pedagogically useful feature is its presentation of contr- o
BUCHANAN
versies in the form of case studies, each consisting of exchanges between or among scholars about & RYAN
signifcant questions. Tese debates have shaped the feld’s past and continue to infuence its pr - es
ent and future directions. Te collection provides both students and teachers with an accessible
introduction to and comprehensive overview of the intersections of feminisms and rhetorics. LANDMARK ESSAYS AND CONTROVERSIES
In Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics, Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan “have
presented the feld of feminist rhetorics . . . with an important and timely collection of primary
scholarly work, the frst collection of late twentieth and twenty-frst century published scholarship
in this feld that they claim is here to stay. Feminist rhetorics, they assert, is ‘no longer a promising
possibility or a nascent area of study but has, in fact, arrived.’ I agree with them, and I applaud
their bold yet careful stance in framing this ‘walk through’ feminist rhetorics.”
— Kate Ronald, “Foreword”
Contributors include Barbara Biesecker, Patricia Bizzell, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Vicki - Tolar Col
lins (Burton), Celeste. M. Condit, Robert Connors, Jane Donawerth, Bonnie J. D Lisa E ode, w,
Jessica Enoch, Sonja K. Foss, Xin Liu Gale, Cheryl Glenn, Cindy. L. Grifn, Susan Jarratt, Nan
Johnson, Shirley Wilson Logan, Andrea Lunsford, Carol Mattingly, Roxanne Mountford, Mary
Queen, Krista Ratclife, Susan Romano, Mary B. Tonn, Hui Wu, and Susan Zaeske.
Lindal Buchanan is Assistant Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Old Dominion U- ni
versity. Kathleen J. Ryan is Associate Professor of English and the Director of Composition at
the University of Montana.
Lauer Series in Rhetoric and Composition
Edited by Patricia Sullivan, Catherine Hobbs, Tomas Rickert and Jennifer Bay
EDITED BY
LINDAL BUCHANAN & KATHLEEN J. RYAN
816 Robinson Street
West Lafayette, IN 47906
http://www.parlorpress.com
S A N: 2 5 4 – 8 8 7 9
ISBN 978-1-60235-137-0Walking and Talking Feminist RhetoricsLauer Series in Rhetoric and Composition
Series Editors: Catherine Hobbs, Patricia Sullivan, Thomas Rickert, and Jennifer Bay
The Lauer Series in Rhetoric and Compositio nhonors the contributions Janice Lauer
Hutton has made to the emergence of Rhetoric and Composition as a disciplinary study. It
publishes scholarship that carries on Professor Lauer’s varied work in the history of written
rhetoric, disciplinarity in composition studies, contemporary pedagogical theory, and written
literacy theory and research.
Other Books in the Series
Transforming English Studies: New Voices in an Emerging Genr, ee dited by Lori Ostergaard,
Jeff Ludwig, and Jim Nugent (2009)
Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics, edited by Carol S. Lipson and Roberta A. Binkley (2009)
Roman Rhetoric: Revolution and the Greek Influence. Revised and Expanded Edition, by
Richard Leo Enos (2008)
Stories of Mentoring: Theory and Praxis, edited by Michelle F. Eble and Lynée Lewis Gaillet
(2008)
Writers Without Borders: Writing and Teaching in Troubled Times by Lynn Z. Bloom (2008)
1977: A Cultural Moment in Composition, by Brent Henze, Jack Selzer, and Wendy Sharer
(2008)
The Promise and Perils of Writing Program Administration, edited by Theresa Enos and Shane
Borrowman (2008)
Untenured Faculty as Writing Program Administrators: Institutional Practices and Politics,
edited by Debra Frank Dew and Alice Horning (2007)
Networked Process: Dissolving Boundaries of Process and Post-Process, by Helen Foster (2007)
Composing a Community: A History of Writing Across the Curriculum, edited by Susan H.
McLeod and Margot Iris Soven (2006)
Historical Studies of Writing Program Administration: Individuals, Communities, and the
Formation of a Discipline, edited by Barbara L’Eplattenier and Lisa Mastrangelo (2004).
Winner of the WPA Best Book Award for 2004–2005.
Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures: Refiguring College English Studies (Expanded Edition) by
James A. Berlin (2003)Walking and Talking Feminist
Rhetorics
Landmark Essays and Controversies
Edited by
Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan
Parlor Press
West Lafayette, Indiana
www.parlorpress.comParlor Press LLC, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906
© 2010 by Parlor Press
All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
S A N: 2 5 4 - 8 8 7 9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Buchanan, Lindal, 1958-
Walking and talking feminist rhetorics : landmark essays and controversies / edited by Lindal Buchanan and
Kathleen J. Ryan.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-60235-135-6 (pbk. : alk. paper) -- ISBN 978-1-60235-136-3 (hardcover : alk. paper) -- ISBN
9781-60235-137-0 (adobe ebook)
1. Rhetoric--History. 2. Feminist literary criticism. 3. Feminism and literature. 4. Women’s studies. 5.
Speeches, addresses, etc.--Women authors. 6. Women--Language. 7. Rhetorical criticism. I. Ryan, Kathleen
J., 1968- II. Title.
PN183.B828 2010
808’.0082--dc22
2009053935
Cover Image: “Nature Background 3” by © Hougaard Malan. Istockphoto.com
Cover design by David Blakesley
Printed on acid-free paper.
Parlor Press, LLC is an independent publisher of scholarly and trade titles in print and multimedia formats. This
book is available in paper, hardcover, and Adobe eBook formats from Parlor Press on the World Wide Web at
http://www.parlorpress.com or through online and brick-and-mortar bookstores. For submission information
or to find out about Parlor Press publications, write to Parlor Press, 816 Robinson St., West Lafayette, Indiana,
47906, or e-mail editor@parlorpress.com.Contents
Chronological Subject Listing of Historiographic Essays vi ii
Foreword: Talking the Talk/Walking the Walk: The
Path of Feminist Rhetorics ix
Kate Ronald
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction: Walking and Talking through the Field of Feminist Rhetoricsx iii
Part 1. Charting the Emergence of Feminist Rhetorics 3
Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 7
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric 18
Susan C. Jarratt
sex, lies, and manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the History of Rhetoric 3 5
Cheryl Glenn
Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism 53
Lisa Ede, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea Lunsford
Bathsheba’s Dilemma: Defining, Discovering, and Defending
AngloAmerican Feminist Theories of Rhetoric(s) 79
Krista Ratcliffe
Part 2. Articulating and Enacting Feminist Methods and Methodologies 107
Feminist Methods of Research in the History of Rhetoric:
What Difference Do They Make? 1 11
Patricia Bizzell
The Historical Catalina Hernández: Inhabiting the Topoi
of Feminist Historiography 123
Susan Romano
vvi Contents
The Speaker Respoken: Material Rhetoric as Feminist Methodology 1 44
Vicki Tolar Collins (Burton)
Historical Studies of Rhetorical Women Here and There: Methodological
Challenges to Dominant Interpretive Frameworks 168
Hui Wu
Survival Stories: Feminist Historiographic Approaches to
Chicana Rhetorics of Sterilization Abuse 182
Jessica Enoch
Transnational Feminist Rhetorics in a Digital World 2 01
Mary Queen
Part 3. Exploring Gendered Sites, Genres, and Styles of Rhetoric 219
Conversation and the Boundaries of Public Discourse in
Rhetorical Theory by Renaissance Women 223
Jane Donawerth
The “Promiscuous Audience” Controversy and the Emergence
of the Early Woman’s Rights Movement 234
Susan Zaeske
Black Women on the Speaker’s Platform (1832–1899) 254
Shirley Wilson Logan
Reigning in the Court of Silence: Women and Rhetorical
Space in Postbellum America 274
Nan Johnson
Woman’s Temple, Women’s Fountains: The Erasure of Public Memory 2 91
Carol Mattingly
“Feminine Style” and Political Judgment in the Rhetoric of Ann Richards 3 13
Bonnie J. Dow and Mari Boor Tonn
Part 4. Examining Controversies: Four Case Studies 333
Case Study 1: Debating Disciplinary Directions: Recovery versus Retheorizing 335
Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women
into the History of Rhetoric 337
Barbara Biesecker
Biesecker Cannot Speak for Her Either 355
Karlyn Kohrs CampbellContents vii
Case Study 2: Debating the Aims of Discourse: Persuasive
versus Invitational Rhetoric 360
Samuel R. Evans
Beyond Persuasion: A Proposal for an Invitational Rhetoric 3 62
Sonja K. Foss and Cindy L. Griffin
In Praise of Eloquent Diversity: Gender and Rhetoric as Public Persuasion 3 81
Celeste Michelle Condit
Case Study 3: Debating Causality: Women and the Demise of Rhetorical Education 398
Gender Influences: Composition-Rhetoric as an Irenic Rhetoric 4 00
Robert J. Connors
Feminization of Rhetoric? 432
Roxanne Mountford
Case Study 4: Debating Ethos: Traditional versus Feminist Research Methods 439
Barbara Hebert
Historical Studies and Postmodernism: Rereading Aspasia of Miletus 4 42
Xin Liu Gale
Comment: Truth, Lies, and Method: Revisiting Feminist Historiography 462
Cheryl Glenn
Comment: Rhetoric and Feminism: Together Again 465
Susan C. Jarratt
Selected Bibliography 469
Works Cited 473
Index 477
About the Editors 483Chronological Subject Listing of
Historiographic Essays
sex, lies, and manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the History of Rhetoric 3 5
Cheryl Glenn
The Historical Catalina Hernández: Inhabiting the Topoi of Feminist Historiography1 23
Susan Romano
Conversation and the Boundaries of Public Discourse in
Rhetorical Theory by Renaissance Women 223
Jane Donawerth
The Speaker Respoken: Material Rhetoric as Feminist Methodology 1 44
Vicki Tolar Collins (Burton)
The “Promiscuous Audience” Controversy and the Emergence
of the Early Woman’s Rights Movement 234
Susan Zaeske
Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 7
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
Black Women on the Speaker’s Platform (1832–1899) 254
Shirley Wilson Logan
Gender Influences: Composition-Rhetoric as an Irenic Rhetoric 4 00
Robert J. Connors
Reigning in the Court of Silence: Women and Rhetorical
Space in Postbellum America 274
Nan Johnson
Woman’s Temple, Women’s Fountains: The Erasure of Public Memory 2 91
Carol Mattingly
“Feminine Style” and Political Judgment in the Rhetoric of Ann Richards 3 13
Bonnie J. Dow and Mari Boor Tonn
Survival Stories: Feminist Historiographic Approaches to
Chicana Rhetorics of Sterilization Abuse 182
Jessica Enoch
Transnational Feminist Rhetorics in a Digital World 2 01
Mary Queen
viiiForeword
Talking the Talk/Walking the Walk:
Te Path of Feminist Rhetorics
Kate Ronald
I’ve spent a most pleasant few weeks reading this collection and a decidedly frustrating -morn
ing trying to find the origin of a phrase that haunted me as I read. Lindal Buchanan and
Katie Ryan have presented the field of feminist rhetorics (as well as composition and rhetoric,
women’s rhetoric(s), women’s studies and just plain rhetoric—just to complicate the terrain we
travel a bit more) with an important and timely collection of primary scholarly work, the first
collection of late twentieth and twenty-first century published scholarship in this field that
they claim is here to stay. Feminist rhetorics, they assert, is “no longer a promising possibility
or a nascent area of study but has, in fact, arrived.” I agree with them, and I applaud their bold
yet careful stance in framing this “walk through” feminist rhetorics.
First, putting this collection together was clearly no walk in the park. Although Buchanan
and Ryan use meandering metaphors to describe both their choices and the paths they hope
their readers will take, the authors and stances they collect here require the reader to spend
more time at certain stops than others, and I’m particularly grateful for the editors’ candor in
admitting that “the essays gathered here do not delineate a hierarchy of scholars, a chronology
of events and ideas, a stable or fixed body of knowledge, or the parameters of feminist -rheto
rics. They simply reflecout r walk through this metaphorical field and record our journey to
this point in time.” I frankly don’t see how they managed to make the difficult choices I know
that they faced. After all, “landmarks” can be individual, personal as well as communal-, pub
lic. And yet, in their careful introductions to these essays, particularly the case studies of -“con
troversies” in the field, Buchanan and Ryan frame this research in ways that are bold, new,
and indeed present a field that has arrived, that wants more to look forward than backward.
In other words, they retrace our paths—walking familiar ground—but as we amble, we hear
new talk about what the journey might mean and where it might lead.
ixx Foreword
Reading Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetoric, sthough, I just couldn’t get the lines about
“talking the talk” vs. “walking the walk” out of my head. It’s usually phrased as “Don’t talk
the talk if you can’t walk the walk.” Or more pejoratively, “Sure, he can talk the talk, but can
he walk the walk?” (I use “he” deliberately because I’m confident that this maxim is de-cid
edly male. In fact the OED tells me that it’s been in use since 1921, and its contexts include
wrestling and prison sentences.) Like the maxim “Talk is cheap,” to “talk the talk” means that
you are able to talk theoreticall—y or “talk a good game”—about how something is/should be
done; but if you can “walk the walk,” you know what you’re talking about. In other words,
walking denotes firsthand, practical experience, and moreover, it means connecting that p-rac
tice to theory. It strikes me that feminist rhetoricians almost always do both, by necessity.
Denied the right to speak historically, as the scholars collected here show, feminist rhetors
more often than not devised theory from practice, not the other way around. Determined to
chart new ground, as the essays here also show, feminist researchers and teachers insist on the
consequences of theory. And, as the editors of this collection show in both their openin-g defi
nitions of feminist rhetoric and in their listing of strands they see in the collection, theorizing
practice, holding theorists accountable for practice and practitioners for theory, remains the
ground of all we do. Feminist rhetoricians, it occurs to me, might be one group that also turns
this expression around to insist that someone who can walk the walk must also talk the talk.
One more expression kept running around in my head as I read Walking and Talking
Feminist Rhetorics. It’s most commonly associated in rhetoric, composition, literacy, and education
with another liberatory project, the book that Myles Horton and Paulo Freire “talked” into
being: We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations in Education and Social Change (1990).
That book was dedicated, as is this one, to the collaborative enterprise of dismantling o-ppres
sive structures of power and creating new methods of inquiry and pedagogy. But the phrase
comes originally from a poem by Antonio Machado, a twentieth century Spanish poet (1875–
1939). The full lines are: “Searcher, there is no road/We make the road by walking” (s-ome
times translated as “Wanderer, Traveler” or as “Wayfarer, there is no road”). I would argue
that Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen Ryan, along with all their collaborators, both current and
past, have walked us onto a new road, our steps a little surer, all the while holding themselves
to the promise of continuing the journey and the conversation.
Works Cited
Horton, Myles and Paulo FreireW. e Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social
Change. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1990.
Machado, Antonio. Selected Poems. Trans. Alvin S. Trueblood. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982.Acknowledgments
We are grateful for the assistance of many friends and colleagues on this project. Nancy
Myers, Rebecca Jones, Paul Butler, and Carol Mattingly provided us with guidance, enc- our
agement, and feedback at various stages; their contributions inspired us to express ideas more
clearly, fully, and convincingly. We also appreciate Kate Ronald’s wit and wisdom in writing a
foreword that gives us new ways to explore the metaphors that shape this book. Additionally,
we’d like to thank Old Dominion University for its help, particularly for funding research
assistant Xiang Li. Xiang gathered and then “translated” the collection’s many essays into the
required format, a time-consuming process with many technical complications; she overcame
them all with diligence, enthusiasm, and imagination. Thanks, too, to Ana Timofte, who
compiled the works cited list for the volume.
Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics would not have been possible without the ge-ner
osity of publishers and authors who graciously waived or reduced permission fees. Further,
many writers worked with us to condense essays when the collection grew too long. Finally,
our colleagues at Parlor Press have been a pleasure to work with: we appreciate the support of
series editors Thomas Rickert and Jennifer Bay as well as David Blakesley’s eternal readiness
to answer questions throughout the review and publication process. Thank you.
xiIntroduction
Walking and Talking through the
Field of Feminist Rhetorics
Having passed through the familiar and patriarchal territory of exclusionary rhetoric, we
are moving into a frontier—the rhetorics of the future that await our exploration, our
settlements, and our mapping.
—Cheryl Glenn, “sex, lies, and manuscript”
In response to Cheryl Glenn’s call to explore new rhetorical frontiers, feminist scholars have
left familiar terrain and begun to produce the inclusionary “rhetorics of the future” envisioned
above. Historiographers, rhetoricians, and theorists have challenged established tradition(s)
and canon(s) and, in the process, created a unique interdisciplinary field of study—feminist
rhetorics. What do we mean by feminist rhetorics? We use the term as an umbrella of sorts to
encompass the many projects and purposes of ongoing work in the field. First, feminist rh-eto
rics describes an intellectual project dedicated to recognizing and revising systems and -struc
tures broadly linked to the oppression of women. Second, it includes a theoretical mandate,
namely, exploring the shaping powers of language, gender ideology, and society; the location
of subject(s) within these formations; and the ways these constructs inform the production,
circulation, and interpretation of rhetorical texts. Third, it constitutes a practice, a scholarly
endeavor capable of transforming the discipline of rhetoric through gender analysis, critique,
and reformulation. This feminist practice entails identifying and examining women rhetors
and women’s rhetorics, making claims for their importance and contributions to the di-sci
pline, and, in so doing, regendering rhetorical histories and traditions. Fourth, it consists of a
body of scholarship recording the field’s intellectual, theoretical, and practical pursuits. Fifth,
the term encompasses a community of teacher/scholars with shared interests in the interse-c
tions of gender and rhetoric. Sixth, it describes a political agenda directed toward promoting
gender equity within the academy and society. In other words, the rhetorical work of this
community of feminist teacher/scholars—in the classroom, at conferences, in publications,
xiiixiv Introduction
through outreach—encourages others to think, believe, and act in ways that promote equal
treatment and opportunities for women.
The field of feminist rhetorics, then, is both broad and deep. One of our goals in creating
Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversie sis to demonstrate
that the field is no longer just a promising possibility or a nascent area of study but has, in
fact, arrived. As we undertook the tasks of selecting and arranging significant work in feminist
rhetorics, we were mindful of Nedra Reynolds’ admonition to choose guiding metaphors with
care, especially when describing the efforts and accomplishments of pathfinders and explorers
(an apt description of the scholars and women rhetors included in this volume). Spatial m-eta
phors, such as Glenn’s figuration of feminist historiography as a mapping of new territories,
are inspiring for their depiction of trailblazers making new discoveries, so it’s not surprising
that Glenn’s (re)mapping metaphor has been taken up in many other works, including Jacqu-e
line Jones Royster’s “Disciplinary Landscaping, or Contemporary Challenges in the History
of Rhetoric.” Other spatial tropes have also proven fruitful, for instance, Gloria Anzaldùa’s
border-crossing metaphor, which emphasizes movement and “resistance to territoriality or
containerization” (Reynolds 36). It, too, has been widely adopted by feminist rhetorical s-chol
ars, as is evident, for instance, in an essay in this volume, Lisa Ede, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea
Lunsford’s “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism.”
However, the tropes that, ultimately, proved most helpful to us in framing our project were
walking and talking. The walking metaphor derives from Reynolds’s Geographies of Writing:
Inhabiting Places and Encountering Differences and connotes “continual improvisation, a type
of performance that continually privileges, transforms or abandons the spatial elements in the
constructed order”; it also signifies agency, for “walkers can pause, cross, turn, linger,
doubleback and otherwise have control of their actions” (69). We especially liked how the walking
metaphor valorized intellectual flexibility and openness as well as the reflexivity and curiosity
necessary in interdisciplinary studies. Further, it helped us to envision our project as a jo-ur
ney into the metaphorical field (or meadow) of feminist rhetorics. There were no established
paths to follow, so we made our own way, directing our steps toward regions that enticed us.
We frequently paused, zigzagged, or circled back to examine things more closely—sometimes
together, sometimes apart—and when we resumed our travels, carried part of what we’ve seen
within us. Although this edited collection necessarily reflects our particular journeys, we are
confident it acknowledges many of the terrain’s most important landmarks.
If walking allowed us to explore the field of feminist rhetorics, then talking enabled us to
understand what we’d seen. Discussion was essential to our effort because the landscape we
traversed was forever in transition and often seemed to change before our eyes. Ttalhke ing
metaphor, therefore, emerged naturally from our exchanges, which helped us process ou-r ob
servations and develop a richer and fuller sense of the field together than we could have apart.
We also appreciated the insights and contributions of Samuel R. Evans and Barbara Hebert,
doctoral students in rhetoric at Old Dominion University, who wrote introductions to Case Introduction xv
Study 2 and 4 respectively. Our collective efforts ensured that an assortment of “voice-s, per
spectives, and representations” were incorporated into the project, a feminist objective that
was important to us (Hawisher and Selfe 112).
The walking and talking metaphors further suggest that our particular path through the
field of feminist rhetorics necessarily differs from the ones that others might take or make.
Our account of the journey (as represented by the selection and arrangement of material in
Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetoric)s is, therefore, partial, encompassing aspects of rather
than the entire field. We acknowledge this limitation at the outset. Due to space constraints,
we could not attend equally to every area of feminist rhetorical scholarship, so this -collec
tion necessarily reflects our own concerns and locations. We have selected work that focuses
on historical and contemporary women rhetors and women’s rhetorics, chiefly in the West;
on gender bias within the discipline as well as the changes that occur when bias is ackn-owl
edged and contested; on research methods and methodologies capable of recuperating f-orgot
ten or devalued rhetors; and on the distinct rhetorical sites, means, and manners employed by
women. What is less well represented than we would like is feminist scholarship on gender
and rhetorical education; on the impact of culture, nation, and ethnicity on women’s rhetorics;
on transnational feminisms and global communications; and on gendered rhetorics in digital
environments. Our selected bibliography acknowledges work in these areas to suggest starting
points for those interested in learning more about them. Moreover, the essays gathered here do
not delineate a hierarchy of scholars, a chronology of events and ideas, a stable or fixed body
of knowledge, or the parameters of feminist rhetorics. They simply refoluerc wt alk through
this metaphorical field and record our journey to this point in time. Our journey is ongoing,
so we invite readers to amble and ruminate alongside us, whether this constitutes their first or
fortieth foray into feminist rhetorics.
Before detailing the contents oWf alking and Talking Feminist Rhetoric, sa brief overview of
the rhetorical situation that produced the field is in order. As has been well documented by
Gerda Lerner and Marilyn French among others, patriarchal structures and institutions -de
veloped some ten to twelve thousand years ago, producing a gender hierarchy that effectively
controlled women’s reproductive bodies and proscribed their participation in public spaces.
This hierarchy had an enormous impact on the emergent discipline of rhetoric (in the West),
which flourished 2,500 years ago when Athens became a democracy and granted male citizens
a voice in determining the direction of the city/state. It soon became apparent that those who
spoke well might convince others of the existence of problems or the best means of resolving
them, thereby not only shaping the course of political events but also acquiring power in the
process. The resultant demand for instruction in the arts of public speaking produced teachers
and, ultimately, the discipline of rhetoric. At the time of its inception and for most of i-ts his
tory, the presumed student, teacher, practitioner, and theorist of rhetoric has been male, so the
discipline’s pedagogies and precepts evolved to meet his needs. Consequently, the discipline
was founded and developed with elite male speakers as the prototype. As Robert Connors - obxvi Introduction
serves, “rhetoric was the domain of men, particularly of men of property. The continuing- disci
pline of rhetoric was shaped by male rituals, male contests, male ideals, and masculine agendas.
Women were definitively excluded from all that rhetoric implied” (“Gender Influences” 24).
As a result, the traditional rhetorical tradition—spanning Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian,
and Augustine to Campbell, Blair, and Burke—was saturated with gendered biases and -as
sumptions (Bizzell, “Editing” 110).
Scriptural, social, and ideological constraints limited women’s discursive opportunties-, con
straints that ranged from Saint Paul’s injunctions against female preaching to the cult of true
womanhood. Although excluded from public forums of influence and power and ignored by the
discipline itself, women, nevertheless, thought about, studied, and practiced rhetoric, indirectly
for much of western history and, incrementally over the past 350 years, more directly. Sc-hol
arly efforts to excavate this history began with Doris Yoakum’s “Women’s Introduction to the
American Platform” (1943) and Lillian O’ConnorP’s ioneer Women Orators: Rhetoric in the
Ante-Bellum Reform Movement (1954), both of which made early cases for the existence and
significance of pre-Civil War women’s speeches on woman’s rights, abolition, temperance, and
moral reform. However, it is Karlyn Kohrs CampbellM’s an Cannot Speak for Her: A Critical
Study of Early Feminist Rhetoric (1989)—a two-volume work that detailed the distinctive r-he
torical style and accomplishments of nineteenth-century women rhetors and recovered their
work—that conventionally marks the beginning of contemporary feminist scholarship on
women rhetors and women’s rhetorics.
Since the publication of this milestone, a near avalanche of feminist research has appeared
and profoundly altered the discipline of rhetoric. Why? Once its prototypical elite male -speak
er was replaced by a woman, the discipline required deep revision in order to accommodate
the constraints and particular strategies of a new constituency. In fact, incorporating women
into the traditional rhetorical tradition “require[d] not merely the readjustment of existing
scholarly priorities, but a whole new set of priorities” (Bizzell, “Editing” 113). Feminis-t his
toriographers developed research methods and methodologies capable of recovering women
rhetors of whom little record remains. Further, feminist scholars discovered women’s r-heto
rics in formerly disregarded sites and genres and, in the process, broadened what counted as
rhetoric and as evidence, necessary moves as the standards “traditionally used to value rhetors
simply did not always apply well to women” (Mattingly, “Telling” 105). In short, femin-ist re
searchers not only questioned established rhetorical categories, definitions, criteria, principles,
and practices but also identified gender biases that slighted the full range and inventiveness of
marginalized rhetors.
The field of feminist rhetorics has emerged from these investigations. Although initially
centered on women in the United States, scholars have begun to branch out and examine
women’s rhetorics in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and other global regions and ethnic l-oca
tions. This expansion signals feminist rhetoric’s vitality, as does the number of field-specific
organizations, conferences, publications, publishers, and teaching materials now in existence. Introduction xvii
Feminist rhetorics incorporates scholarship in women’s studies, history, philosophy, law, anth-ro
pology, communication, and English, but the latter two disciplines, in particular, have produced
important organizations for those investigating the nexus of gender and rhetoric. In English, the
most significant is the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Com-posi
tion (the Coalition), a group that meets yearly at the Conference on College Composition and
Communication (CCCC). Dues-paying members stay in touch year round via a list-serve and
newsletter, Peitho. Meanwhile, the Organization for Research on Women and Communi-ca
tion (ORWAC) provides a similar gathering place for feminist scholars in communications.
ORWAC meets yearly at the Western States Communication Association Conference and
maintains contact through the biannual ORWAC Newsletter. Both disciplines sponsor n-a
tional and regional conferences that provide feminist scholars with presentation and networking
opportunities. The Coalition, for instance, sponsors the biennial Feminism(s) and Rhetoric(s)
Conference, and many major conferences in English studies regularly include panels, pre-senta
tions, and workshops on feminist rhetorics, including the CCCC, Rhetoric Society of A-mer
ica Conference, International Society for the History of Rhetoric Conference, and National
Communication Association Conference. Important regional venues include the Western States
Rhetoric and Literacy Conference and the Western, Southern, and Central States Commu-ni
cation Association Conferences. Publishing opportunities in the field have also multiplied,
with a number of journals welcoming work in feminist rhetorics. The longest running focused
journal is Women’s Studies in Communication, which has been in operation since 1977 and is
sponsored by ORWAC. The Coalition hopes to follow suit and devPeleiothp o into a journal
dedicated to feminist scholarship in rhetoric and composition. General journals in comm-uni
cations and English studies also welcome work in feminist rhetorics, includCionlgle ge English,
College Composition and Communication, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Quarterly Journal of Speech,
Rhetoric Review, Rhetorica, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Finally, a number of academic presses
publish scholarly monographs and collections in feminist rhetorics. The most active is arguably
Southern Illinois University Press (SIUP). SIUP regularly produces rhetoric and composition
texts written from a feminist perspective and also sponsors the Studies in Rhetorics and Fe-mi
nisms series, edited by Cheryl Glenn and Shirley Wilson Logan. Since its inception in 2002, this
series has published many noteworthy books in the field of feminist rhetorics (see the selected
bibliography).
A growing body of resources for courses in feminist rhetorics and rhetorical history has also
appeared although some critical needs remain, chief among them being a collection of landmark
scholarship in the field. Granted, useful compilations of research in feminism and composition
are available (e.g., Jarratt and Worsham’sF eminism and Composition: In Other Words, Kirsch
and her collaboratorsF’ eminism and Composition: A Critical Sourcebook, Phelps and Emig’s
Feminist Principles and Women’s Experience in American Composition and Rhetoric), but they
include little on women’s rhetoricWs. alking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays xviii Introduction
and Controversies responds to this gap, gathering significant work on gender, feminism, and
rhetoric responsible for creating a new area of study and reshaping the discipline as a whole.
As editors of this collection, we have read and reread a great many books and articles about
women and rhetoric over the past two years and—through the processes of analyzing and -syn
thesizing, selecting and arranging, introducing and explicating this material—have developed
a kairotic sense of the field’s major lines of inquiry and areas of controversy. In the course of
our efforts, we have identified five major strands in the work of feminist rhetorical scholars:
• Reclaiming forgotten or disparaged women rhetors and rhetoricians and making c- on
vincing cases for their contributions and accomplishments. An example of this type
of research is Jacqueline Jones RoysterT’s races of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change
among African American Women, an interdisciplinary study of nineteenth-century
black women’s literate practices and rhetorical efforts to protest racial injustice and
promote racial uplift.
• Examining the interrelationships among context, location, and rhetoric and tracing
how these shape women’s discursive options, strategies, and choices. For instance, in
A Feminist Legacy: The Rhetoric and Pedagogy of Gertrude Buck, Suzanne Bordelon
first situates the educator within the Progressive Era; then details her interconnected
theories of rhetoric, citizenship, and equality; and, finally, traces their application in
Buck’s classroom, theatrical, and suffrage activities. Bordelon places Buck’s rhetoric
within surrounding systems of power, gender, politics, economics, and education and
shows how they mutually inform and illuminate one another.
• Searching for gender bias and, when it is found, retheorizing (or regendering) - rhe
torical traditions. Lindal Buchanan’Rs egendering Delivery: The Fifth Canon and
Antebellum Women Rhetors illustrates this approach, replacing the male orator at the
center of the fifth rhetorical canon with a woman and speculating on the changes that
gender makes to the theory and practice of delivery.
• Interrogating foundational disciplinary concepts—such as rhetorical space, argument,
genre, and style—in order to expand and, when necessary, redefine the realm of rh-eto
ric. The 1996 special issue oAf rgumentation and Advocacy illustrates this approach.
Because many “feminists contend[ed] that argument as a process [was] steeped in
adversarial assumptions and gendered expectations,” this journal issue examined -al
ternative approaches and conceptions in order to “open up studies of argumentation”
(Palczewski 164, 168). Feminists undertake this sort of critical scrutiny and con-cep
tual reframing in order to generate novel approaches to established disciplinary -pre
cepts and practices.
• Challenging traditional knowledge-making paradigms and research practices (inc- lud
ing criteria, methods, and methodologies) when they prove inadequate for inv-estiIntroduction xix
gating women rhetors and women’s rhetorics and developing inventive and robust
alternatives. In “A Lover’s Discourse: Diotima, Logos, and Desire,” C. Jan Swearingen
interrogates questionable applications of evidentiary criteria, which are often used to
support textual (re)constructions of figures like Socrates, Jesus and Moses and im t-o
pede the recovery of women rhetors (28). Through skillful interpretation and ap-plica
tion, Swearingen transforms Diotima from a shadowy figure in PlatSoy’s mposium to
a feminist priestess and healer who teaches Socrates about “love, discourse, and birth”
(26, 28). Swearingen’s critical (re)readings of historiographic methodology and r-ecov
ery of Diotima thus illustrate an important goal of feminist research.
This list of research concerns is not comprehensive, but it does provide a starting point for
distinguishing among the various approaches to feminist rhetorics represented in this sour-ce
book. What is more, these lines of inquiry guided the organization and arrangement of our
project. Part 1. Charting the Emergence of Feminist Rhetorics presents five early essays that cr-e
ated a foundation for the field by challenging women’s exclusion from rhetorical history and
theory. Additionally, they introduced some key concerns and knowledge-making paradigms
that emerged as scholars began to challenge gendered assumptions within the rhetorical - tra
dition. In Part 2. Articulating and Enacting Feminist Methods and Methodologies, six essays
examine distinctive issues in feminist rhetorical scholarship. Of particular concern are the
ethical, interpretive, and methodological questions that researchers confront when recovering
women rhetors of whom there is little trace or when examining unconventional rhetorics. The
six essays in Part 3. Exploring Gendered Sites, Genres, and Styles of Rhetoric address areas little
studied within the traditional discipline of rhetoric. Private conversation as well as bricks and
mortar become the available means of persuasion employed by women to shape public life and
assert the value of their collective efforts. FinaPlalryt , 4. Examining Controversies: Four Case
Studies presents exchanges between or among scholars on matters that not only shaped the
field’s past but also inform its present and future directions. Case Study 1 considers whether
feminist scholarship best proceeds by integrating women rhetors into the established canon
of public speakers or by retheorizing the discipline through the lens of gender. Case Study 2
concerns the nature of persuasive discourse and debates whether it constitutes a gendered form
of violence or means to power. Case Study 3 examines how nineteenth-century women’s entry
into American colleges influenced rhetorical education while Case Study 4 explores cr-edibil
ity and ethics in feminist historiography. The book concludes with a selected bibliography of
feminist rhetorical studies, identifying anthologies, edited collections, special journal issues,
and significant monographs for those interested in further study.
The discipline of rhetoric—which consists of the study, practice, and theorizing of public
discourse—developed in response to the Athenian context and has survived due to its a-bil
ity to adapt to social, ideological, political, economic, and technological changes. Thanks to
the efforts of feminist rhetorical scholars, rhetoric is being reshaped once more, this time in xx Introduction
order to accommodate gender and incorporate women rhetors who have existed but have been
largely ignored throughout history. As you read the essays in this volume and learn abou-t re
searchers’ efforts to recover the forgotten and retheorize the discipline, we hope that your walk
through the field of feminist rhetorics will be rich and rewarding. We encourage you to create
your own path and to “pause, cross, turn, linger, [or] double-back” to contemplate what you
find along the way (Reynolds 69). And when you are ready, we invite you to add your voice to
the field’s continuing conversations about women, language, and power.Walking and Talking Feminist RhetoricsPart 1. Charting the Emergence of Feminist Rhetorics
It is true that considering women as active participants in the history of rhetoric will
alter our accounting of our history and may even compel us to adjust our understanding
of what rhetoric itself means. Yet, we should embrace, not resist, rival and innovative
considerations.
—Richard Enos
Richard Enos makes an insightful point regarding the potential impact of feminist pers-pec
tives on the traditional rhetorical tradition, namely that they may change—in fact, have
changed—the discipline as a whole. Feminist scholars’ attention to women on the margins
has transformed rhetoric’s single-minded focus on discourses of power. Further, their distinct
vantage point has heightened awareness of, first, the ways that women’s standpoints disrupt
long standing assumptions conflating privileged, elite, male experience with universal e-xperi
ence and, second, the potential contributions of postmodern theory to rhetoric. As a result,
feminist scholarship has altered not only the subjects, genres, styles, and sites of rhetorical
inquiry but also the research methods used to study them.
The five readings in this section present the sometimes divergent, sometimes overlapping
paths that feminist historiographers, theorists, and rhetoricians first took to interrogate w-om
en’s exclusion from rhetorical histories and traditions. Presented chronologically in their order
of publication, they introduce the distinct research questions and knowledge-making -para
digms that arose as scholars examined the intersections of feminism(s) and rhetoric(s), q-ues
tioned the gendered assumptions embedded within the discipline, and recuperated women’s
historical and contemporary rhetorical contributions. In other words, these essays represent
the torrent of feminist scholarship that appeared between the late 1980s to the mid 1990s and
trace the emergence of the field of feminist rhetorics.
The first reading is excerpted from Karlyn Kohrs CampbelMl’as n Cannot Speak For Her
(1989), a landmark two-volume study of the early woman’s rights movement. Volume 1 p-res
ents Campbell’s analysis of nineteenth-century women’s rhetorical contributions while - vol
ume 2 anthologizes a selection of their neglected speeches. The first book-length femin-ist rec
lamation of women rhetors and rhetorics, Campbell is committed to “rescu[ing] the works of
great women speakers from the oblivion to which most have been consigned” (15). She, th-ere
34 Part 1. Charting the Emergence of Feminist Rhetorics
fore, promotes an informed understanding of gendered rhetorics and advocates incorporating
women into the male-dominant rhetorical canon. More specifically, Campbell identifies the
formidable gender constraints that confronted nineteenth-century women rhetors—fo-r in
stance, the expectation that they exhibit such “feminine” qualities as domesticity and subs-er
vience, both of which were antithetical to the demands of public speaking. To compensate for
defying dominant gender norms, women developed a strategfiec minine style of rhetoric that
enabled them to negotiate public work and private expectations. Campbell’s work articulates
perspectives, motives, and methods that continue to inform discussion in the field.
Susan Jarratt’s essay “Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric” (1990)
likewise seeks to “create histories aimed at a more just future” (191). Jarratt reflects on her
earlier call for feminist scholars to prioritize regendering rhetorical theory over recovering
women’s rhetorical history. Revising her stance, she explains how feminist standpoint theory
and Gayatri Spivak’s postmodern theory of representation suggest the necessity of pursuing
both objectives at once. The essay presents a well-theorized discussion of the issues con-front
ing feminist scholars and concludes by anticipating how their work will impact the design
and content of courses in rhetorical history, a topic that continues to garner attention as Kate
Ronald and Joy Ritchie’s recent edited collection Teaching Rhetorica (2006) indicates.
Cheryl Glenn’s “sex, lies and manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the History of Rh-eto
ric” (1994) earned the Richard Braddock Award for best article Cin ollege Composition and
Communication, recognition that, for many, signaled the arrival of feminist rhetorics. Glenn
speaks, broadly, of the need for feminists to revise rhetorical history and remap the discipline
and, specifically, of Aspasia of Miletus, a resident of fifth-century BCE Athens known only
through second-hand accounts. Marked as an outsider because of her non-citizen status and
as sexually suspect because of her intimate relationship with Pericles, Aspasia is recovered as
a rhetorician. In the process, Glenn models how feminist historiographers can recuperate a
woman’s rhetorical legacy when, as is so often the case, only traces of it remain; she also refutes
arguments that interpret a paucity of evidence as proof of women’s rhetorical inactivity. This
essay has generated considerable controversy and conversation regarding ethics and methods
of feminist historiography, as Case Study 4 details.
In this section’s fourth essay, Lisa Ede, Cheryl Glenn, and Andrea Lunsford employ Gloria
Anzaldúa’s metaphor of border crossing in order to consider the impact of feminism on the
discipline. “Border Crossings: Intersections of Rhetoric and Feminism” (1995) examines the
five canons of rhetoric—consisting of invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery—
and their conventional heuristic value in speech making. After tracing the canons’ formation
in Greece and Rome, Ede, Glenn, and Lunsford explore how traditional conceptions of the
canons change when (re)considered in light of women’s rhetorical practices and experiences.
Their essay, like many others in this collectiotnal, ks back to patriarchal privileging of agon- is
tic, linear discourse; to the denigration of composing strategies and language traits gendered
as “feminine”; and to the discipline’s grounding in genres, media, and methods developed Part 1. Charting the Emergence of Feminist Rhetorics 5
exclusively for male elites. Ede, Glenn, and Lunsford not only make a persuasive case fo- r gen
dered revisions of foundational rhetorical precepts in order to meet contemporary needs and
interests but also demonstrate that feminism and rhetoric have much to offer each other.
The final reading is excerpted from Krista RatclifAfneg’s lo-American Feminist Challenges
to the Rhetorical Tradition: Virginia Wool,f Mary Daly, and Adrienne Rich (1995). Ratcliffe
opens with the dilemma confronting Bathsheba Everdene, the protagonist of Thomas Hardy’s
Far from the Madding Crowd, who bemoans having only “the language of men” to express “the
feelings of a woman” (1). Bathsheba’s dilemma encapsulates Ratcliffe’s objective—redressing
disciplinary genderblindness through studying women’s rhetorical theorizing. After reviewing
four interrelated methodologies for challenging a genderblind rhetorical tradition (recovering,
rereading, extrapolating, and conceptualizing), she establishes the exigency, terms, and nature
of her own study (the subject of the essay included in this section). Within the book’s larger
framework, Ratcliffe ultimately extrapolates Virginia Woolf’s, Mary Daly’s, and Adrienne
Rich’s rhetorical perspectives from their “essays, diaries, letters, and poems” (28), and, in the
process, discovering, defining, and defending Anglo-American feminist theories of rhetoric
that present possibilities for resolving Bathsheba’s dilemma.
Collectively, the feminist scholars in this section have called attention to the barriers that
women historically confronted when crafting rhetorical performances in resistant socia-l con
texts. They have also (re)read male-centered texts and traditions and explained why it is - im
portant to recognize, challenge, and rethink genderblind perspectives. After all, as Jarratt
observes, “If the Western intellectual tradition is not only a product of men, but constituted
by masculinity, then transformation comes not only from women finding women authors but
also from a gendered rereading of [. . .] masculine rhetoric” (“Feminist Rereadings” 2). Finally,
these scholars have inspired others to rewrite rhetorical histories, tenets, and traditions, a
legacy that has produced a distinct field of study, feminist rhetorics, and the (re)construction
of a more equitable, inclusive discipline.*Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
Men have an ancient and honorable rhetorical history. Their speeches and writings, from
antiquity to the present, are studied and analyzed by historians and rhetoricians. Public p-er
suasion has been a conscious part of the Western male’s heritage from ancient Greece to the
present. This is not an insignificant matter. For centuries, the ability to persuade others has
been part of Western man’s standard of excellence in many areas, even of citizenship itself.
Moreover, speaking and writing eloquently has long been the goal of the humanistic tradition
in education.
Women have no parallel rhetorical history. Indeed, for much of their history women have
been prohibited from speaking, a prohibition reinforced by such powerful cultural aut-hori
ties as Homer, Aristotle, and Scripture. In the Odyssey, for example, Telemachus scolds his
mother Penelope and tells her, “Public speech [mythos] shall be men’s concern” (Homer 1980,
19). In the Politics, Aristotle approvingly quotes the words, “Silence is a woman’s glory” (1923,
1.13.12602a.30), and the epistles of Paul enjoin women to keep silent. As a result, when
women began to speak outside the home on moral issues and on matters of public policy, they
faced obstacles unknown to men. Further, once they began to speak, their words often were
not preserved, with the result that many rhetorical acts by women are gone forever; many o-th
ers can be found only in manuscript collections or rare, out-of-print publications. Even when
reprinted, they frequently are treated as historical artifacts from which excerpts can be drawn
rather than as artistic works that must be seen whole in order to be understood and appre-ci
ated. As a rhetorical critic I want to restore one segment of the history of women, namely the
rhetoric of the early woman’s rights movement that emerged in the United States in the 1830s,
that became a movement focused primarily on woman suffrage after the Civil War, and whose
force dissipated in the mid-1920s. I refer to this as the early movement in contrast to cont-em
porary feminism.
This project is a rhetorical study, which means that all of the documents analyzed [. . .] are
works through which woman’s rights advocates sought to persuade others of the rightness of
* From Karlyn Kohrs Campbell’s Man Cannot Speak for Her: A Critical Study of Early Feminist
Rhetoric. Vol. 1. Greenwood Press, 1989. 1-16. © 1989 by K.K. Campbell. Reprinted with permission of the
copyright holder. Note: This essay has been condensed.
78 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
their cause. In the broadest sense, rhetoric is the study of the means by which symbols can be
used to appeal to others, to persuade. The potential for persuasion exists in the shared s-ym
bolic and socioeconomic experience of persuaders (rhetors) and audiences; specific rhetorical
acts attempt to exploit that shared experience and channel it in certain directions.
Rhetoric is one of the oldest disciplines in the Western tradition. From its beginnings in
ancient Greece, it has been a practical art, one that assesses a persuader’s efforts in light of
the resources available on a specific occasion in relation to a particular audience and in order
to achieve a certain kind of end. As a result, rhetorical analysis has focused on invention, the
rhetor’s skill in selecting and adapting those resources available in language, in cultural values,
and in shared experience in order to influence others.
The aim of the rhetorical critic is enlightenment—an understanding of the ways symbols
can be used by analyzing the ways they were used in a particular time and place and the ways
such usage appealed or might have appealed to other human beings—then or now. Rheto-ri
cal critics attempt to function as surrogates for audiences, both of the past and of the present.
Based on their general knowledge of rhetorical literature and criticism, and based on fam- iliar
ity with the rhetoric of a movement and its historical milieu, critics attempt to show how a -rhe
torical act has the potential to teach, to delight, to move, to flatter, to alienate, or to hearten.
The potential to engage another is the aesthetic or symbolic power of a piece of persuasive
discourse. Such assessments are related to a work’s actual effects. However, many rhetorical
works fail to achieve their ends for reasons that have little to do with their style or content.
In a social movement advocating controversial changes, failure to achieve specific goals will
be common, no matter how able and creative the advocates, whether male or female. For - ex
ample, a woman might urge legal changes to give a wife a right to her own earnings, but in
a single speech to men opposed to the very idea of a woman speaking, she cannot succeed in
practical terms, even though her speech is powerful and noteworthy. If she were extremely
skillful, she might increase awareness of the plight of married women and arouse sympathy
for them among some members of the audience. As a result, critics must judge whether the
choices made by rhetors were skillful responses to the problems they confronted, not whether
the changes they urged were enacted. Nevertheless, where evidence of impact exists, it will be
noted, although such evidence is not a reliable measure of rhetorical skill, because it, too, can
be the product of extrinsic factors.
Selecting appropriate terminology to refer to women in the early movement has proved
something of a problem, because the meanings of some key terms have changed. I call the
activists of the earlier movement feminists only in the sense that they worked to advance the
cause of women. To themselves, they were woman’s rights advocates (working for the rights of
woman) or suffragists (working for woman suffrage), and for the most part, I shall retain these
labels. In the United States, only their opponents called them “suffragettes,” whereas in Great
Britain, the radical wing of the movement, the Women’s Social and Political Union, led by
Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, adopted this epithet as their own. The term “feminism” Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 9
existed in the mid-nineteenth century, but it meant only “having the qualities of a female.” In
the 1890s the term came into use, primarily by anti-suffragists, to refer negatively to woman’s
rights activists, that is, those committed to the legal, economic, and social equality of women.
After the turn of the century, the term became more acceptable, and mainstream suffragists
used the term but redefined it (Shaw 1918, in Linkugel 1960, 2:667-83; Cott 1987, 3-50); early
in this century more radical feminists in the National Woman’s Party claimed it as their own.
As this study will demonstrate, women in the early movement differed over goals; my use of
“feminism” here is inclusive and catholic, referring to all those who worked for the leg-al, eco
nomic, and political advancement of women, beginning in the 1830s. [. . .]
Movement History
Woman’s rights agitation was in large measure a byproduct of women’s efforts in other reform
movements. Women seeking to end slavery, to attack the evils of alcohol abuse, and to - im
prove the plight of prostitutes found themselves excluded from male reform organizations and
attacked for involving themselves in concerns outside the home. A distinctive woman’s rights
movement began when women reformers recognized that they had to work for their own
rights before they could be effective in other reform efforts.
Many early woman’s rights advocates began as abolitionists, but because they were excl-ud
ed from participation in male anti-slavery societies, they formed female anti-slavery societies
and ultimately [. . .] began to press for their own rights in order to be more effective in the
abolitionist struggle (Hersh 1978). Both Lucretia Coffin Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
dated the beginnings of the woman’s rights movement from 1840, the year when five female
delegates from U.S. anti-slavery societies, one of whom was Coffin Mott, were refuse-d seat
ing at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London. The outrage they felt at the debate that
culminated in the denial of women’s participation in the convention fueled their decision to
call a woman’s rights convention, a decision that eventuated in the Seneca Falls, New York,
convention of 1848. [. . . The] struggle to abolish slavery was [. . .] closely related to th- e earli
est efforts for woman’s rights, and [. . .] female abolitionists’ speeches show them struggling to
find ways to cope with proscriptions against speaking [. . .].
Woman’s rights activism took an organized form at the 1848 Seneca Falls convention at
which Elizabeth Cady Stanton made her first speech, and the movement’s manifesto, the
“Declaration of Sentiments,” was introduced and ratified. Local, regional, and national -wom
an’s rights conventions were held until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. During the war,
women activists bent all their efforts toward supporting the Union cause, primarily through
work on the Sanitary Commission, and toward abolishing slavery, primarily through the
Woman’s National Loyal League. Because of their important contributions, women expected
to be rewarded with suffrage. Instead, they were told that their dreams were to be deferred.
Woman suffrage was so controversial that it was feared it would take suffrage for Afr-o-Amer
ican males down to defeat. As a result, in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment for the first time 10 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
introduced the word “male” into the U.S. Constitution. Bitterness and frustration caused the
movement to split into rival organizations in 1869. However, a final effort was made to obtain
suffrage through the courts. Based on the argument that the Fourteenth Amendment had -de
fined citizenship, and that citizenship implied suffrage, in 1872 Susan B. Anthony and other
women registered and voted, or attempted to do so. In 1875, however, the Supreme Court
rejected that argument, making a separate federal amendment necessary.
During this period a major impetus toward woman suffrage came from an unexpected
source—the temperance movement. This reform effort, like abolitionism, was a major source
of woman’s rights advocates. The struggle against the evils of alcohol abuse caught fire in
1874, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded. Per capita c- on
sumption of alcohol by Americans in the 1820s is estimated to have been three times that of
1980, and by 1909, Americans spent almost as much on alcohol as they did on all food p -rod
ucts and nonalcoholic beverages combined. In the 1820s, hard liquor was inexpensive, cheaper
than beer, wine, milk, coffee, or tea; only water was cheaper, and it was often polluted. -Con
sumption of alcoholic beverages had been an integral part of U.S. life since colonial times, and
alcoholic beverages were thought to be nutritious and healthful. Such traditions and beliefs,
combined with low cost, increased consumption (Rorabaugh 1980; Lender and Martin 1983).
In 1870, there were some 100,000 saloons in the country, approximately one for every fifty
inhabitants (Giele 1961, 41).
Women were vulnerable to the effects of alcohol abuse. Although some women became
drunkards, primarily due to the high alcohol content of patent medicines, alcoholism among
males was the major problem. Women married to drunkards were at the mercy of their hu-s
bands. As late as 1900, in thirty-seven states a woman had no rights to her children, and all
her possessions and earnings belonged to her husband (Bordin 1981, 7).
Temperance was an acceptable outlet for the reformist energies of women during the last
decades of the nineteenth century. Unlike earlier woman’s rights and woman suffrage a-dvo
cacy, which implied at least a redefinition of woman’s sphere, temperance work could be done
by a “true woman.” Because brothels were often attached to saloons, alcohol was perceived as
an inducement to immorality as well as a social and economic threat to the home. Women
who struggled against its use were affirming their piety, purity, and domesticity. Because the
sale and consumption of alcohol was associated with immorality, and because temperance
work implied no change in woman’s traditional role, churches that opposed other reforms
supported temperance activities. WCTU branches often grew out of existing churchwomen’s
organizations. As a result, temperance efforts exacted fewer social costs from women than did
work for other woman’s rights. Although the WCTU accepted traditional concepts of - wom
anhood, it came to argue that woman’s distinctive influence should be extended outside the
home via the vote. Consequently, woman suffrage became acceptable to more conservative
women (and men), who had rejected it before, when presented as a means for woman to p-ro
tect her domestic sphere from abuses related to alcohol.Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 11
In 1890, the rival suffrage organizations merged into the National American Woman -Suf
frage Association (NAWSA). Although 1890 was the year Wyoming became the first state to
give women the right to vote, in the period around the turn of the century women activists
made little progress. Anti-suffrage activity was at its height, and movement leadership was
in transition as the initiators died and a younger generation took over. With the rise of the
Progressive movement, particularly in the West, the climate for woman’s rights improved.
Women such as the Rev. Dr. Anna Howard Shaw traveled throughout the nation speaking in
support of woman suffrage. In 1915, the skilled administrator Carrie Chapman Catt assumed
leadership of NAWSA, developing a “Winning Plan” to maximize pressure on Congress to
pass a suffrage amendment. Finally, Alice Paul and her cohorts in the National Woman’s
Party (NWP) paraded, picketed, and demonstrated in order to draw attention to the issue and
to keep it at the top of the congressional agenda. These efforts, energized by the pressures of
World War I, led to passage of an amendment and its ratification on August 26, 1920. For the
first time, all U.S. women were eligible to vote in the 1920 elections.
Sadly, that achievement meant less than women activists had hoped. Few women voted,
and in a short time it became clear that women did not form a distinct voting bloc or -con
stituency. The limited meaning of woman suffrage was manifest in 1925 when an amendment
prohibiting child labor failed to gain ratification, and that event symbolizes the end of the
early movement.
Many causes contributed to the demise of the movement. In the “Red scare” of the 1920s,
women activists were attacked for their support of progressive causes, including the Parent
Teacher Association (PTA) and the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Activists
also hastened their own end by bitterly dividing over the equal rights amendment, introduced
in 1923 at the behest of the National Woman’s Party. On the one hand, the NWP took an
inflexible and absolute natural rights position, rejecting any special legal consideration for
women. In opposition, the League of Women Voters, descendant of NAWSA, and women
trade unionists, among others, fought to retain protective legislation, which would have been
imperiled by such an amendment. Conflict over similar issues and over the ERA persists
among U.S. women, underlining the links between the earlier movement and contemporary
feminist concerns.
This Study
[. . .] I have analyzed and anthologized discourse that appeared at critical moments in this
movement and that represents particular issues or groups within the movement. But, although
some of these works have great historical significance, all of them were selected for th-eir rhe
torical significance, in order to reveal the variety and creativity of woman’s rights advocacy. In
this sense, the works anthologized and analyzed are persuasive masterworks of the early m-ove
ment. As such, they contributed to the development and survival of that movement, and they
represent skillful human artistry in the face of nearly insuperable rhetorical obstacles. [. . .]12 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
I offer this two-volume study to call into question what has become the canon of public
address in the United States, a canon that excludes virtually all works by women (Campbell
1985). It is my hope that the analyses of this volume and the texts in volume II will prompt
re-examination of U.S. rhetorical literature and the inclusion of some of these works in courses
that survey the history of rhetoric and that explore artistic excellence in speaking.
In addition to making texts available and correcting rhetorical history, still another goal
of this project is to make it clear that the rhetoric of women must be studied if we are to - un
derstand human symbolization in all its variety and to identify touchstones that illustrate the
peaks of human symbolic creativity. Rhetorical invention is rarely originality of argument,
but rather the selection and adaptation of materials to the occasion, the purpose, and the -au
dience. Early feminist rhetors rose to inventive heights as they sought to overcome the special
obstacles they confronted because they were women, and because they were attempting to
alter traditional conceptions of gender roles. The relationship between rhetoric and feminism
is pertinent to all facets of this study, and the remainder of this chapter explores that special
relationship.
Struggling for the Right to Speak
Early woman’s rights activists were constrained to be particularly creative because they faced
barriers unknown to men. They were a group virtually unique in rhetorical history because
a central element in woman’s oppression was the denial of her right to speak (Lipking 1983).
Quite simply, in nineteenth-century America, femininity and rhetorical action were seen as
mutually exclusive. No “true woman” could be a public persuader.
The concept of “true womanhood” (Welter 1976), or the “woman belle ideal” (Scott 1970),
defined females as “other,” as suited only for a limited repertoire of gender-based roles, and
as the repository of cherished but commercially useless spiritual and human values. The-se at
titudes arose in response to the urbanization and industrialization of the nineteenth century,
which separated home and work. As the cult of domesticity was codified in the United States
in the early part of the century, two distinct subcultures emerged. Man’s place was the world
outside the home, the public realm of politics and finance; man’s nature was thought to be
lustful, amoral, competitive, and ambitious. Woman’s place was home, a haven from amoral
capitalism and dirty politics, where “the heart was,” where the spiritual and emotional needs
of husband and children were met by a “ministering angel.” Woman’s nature was pure, pious,
domestic, and submissive (Welter 1976, 21). She was to remain entirely in the private sphere of
the home, eschewing any appearance of individuality, leadership, or aggressiveness. Her purity
depended on her domesticity; the woman who was compelled by economic need or slavery
to work away from her own hearth was tainted. However, woman’s alleged moral superiority
(Cott 1977, 120, 146–48, 170) generated a conflict out of which the woman’s rights m-ove
ment emerged.Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 13
As defined, woman’s role contained a contradiction that became apparent as women -re
sponded to what they saw as great moral wrongs. Despite their allegedly greater moral s-ensi
tivity, women were censured for their efforts against the evils of prostitution and slavery (Berg
1978; Hersh 1978). Women who formed moral reform and abolitionist societies, and who
made speeches, held conventions, and published newspapers, entered the public sphere and
thereby lost their claims to purity and piety. What became the woman’s rights/woman su-f
frage movement arose out of this contradiction.
Women encountered profound resistance to their efforts for moral reform because rh-etori
cal action of any sort was, as defined by gender roles, a masculine activity. Speakers had to be
expert and authoritative; women were submissive. Speakers ventured into the public sphere
(the courtroom, the legislature, the pulpit, or the lecture platform); woman’s domain was
domestic. Speakers called attention to themselves, took stands aggressively, initiated action,
and affirmed their expertise; “true women” were retiring and modest, their influence was - in
direct, and they had no expertise or authority. Because they were thought naturally incapable
of reasoning, women were considered unsuited to engage in or to guide public deliberation.
The public realm was competitive, driven by ambition; it was a sphere in which the desire to
succeed could only be inhibited by humane concerns and spiritual values. Similarly, speaking
was competitive, energized by the desire to win a case or persuade others to one’s point of view.
These were viewed as exclusively masculine traits related to man’s allegedly lustful, ruthless,
competitive, amoral, and ambitious nature. Activities requiring such qualities were thought
to “unsex” women.
The extent of the problem is illustrated by the story of educational pioneer Emma Hart
Willard (Scott 1978; Willard 1819). Encouraged by Governor De Witt Clinton in 1819 to
present “A Plan for Improving Female Education” to the New York Legislature, Hart Willard
presented her proposal to legislators, but carefully remained seated to avoid any hint that she
was delivering a speech. In her biography of this influential educator, Alma Lutz writes-: “Al
though this [oral presentation] was very unconventional for a woman, she did not hesitate, so
great was her enthusiasm for her Plan. . . . She impressed them not as the much-scorned female
politician, but as a noble woman inspired by a great ideal” (Lutz 1931, 28).
In other words, a woman who spoke displayed her “masculinity”; that is, she demonstrated
that she possessed qualities traditionally ascribed only to males. When a woman spoke, she
enacted her equality, that is, she herself was proof that she was as able as her male counterparts
to function in the public sphere. That a woman speaking is such proof explains the outraged
reactions to women addressing “promiscuous” audiences of men and women, sharing a p-lat
form with male speakers, debating, and preaching, even on such clearly moral issues as slavery,
prostitution, and alcohol abuse. The hostility women experienced in reform efforts led them
to found female reform organizations and to initiate a movement for woman’s rights, at base a
movement claiming woman’s right to engage in public moral action.14 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
Biology, or rather ignorance of biology, was used to buttress arguments limiting woman’s
role and excluding her from higher education and political activity. On average, women were
smaller than men. As a result, it was assumed that they had smaller brains, and that ther-e
fore their brains presumably were too small to sustain the rational deliberation required in
politics and business. Moreover, their smaller, and hence more delicate and excitable, nerves
could not withstand the pressures of public debate or the marketplace. Menarche, the onset
of menstruation, was viewed as a physical cataclysm that rendered women unfit for normal
activity. For example, Harvard medical professor Dr. Edward Clarke (1873) argued against
higher education for women on the grounds that the blood needed to sustain development of
the ovaries and womb would be diverted to the brain, which he believed was a major cause of
serious illness.
Because of the conceptions of their nature and the taboos that were part of the cult o-f do
mesticity, women who spoke publicly confronted extraordinary obstacles. For example, a-boli
tionist Abby Kelley [Foster]
faced such continuous and merciless persecution that she earned the title
“our Joan of Arc” among her co-workers. Lucy Stone later described Kelley’s
career as “long, unrelieved, moral torture.” . . . Because she often traveled
alone, or (worse) with male agents, she was vilified as a “bad” woman. . . . She
was further reviled when she continued to appear in public while pregnant.
(Hersh 1978, 42–43)
On the one hand, a woman had to meet all the usual requirements of speakers, demonstr-at
ing expertise, authority, and rationality in order to show her competence and make herself
credible to audiences. However, if that was all she did, she was likely to be judged - mas
culine, unwomanly, aggressive, and cold. As a result, women speakers sometimes searched
for ways to legitimate such “unwomanly” behavior and for ways to incorporate evidence of
femininity into ordinary rhetorical action. In other instances, their own defiance and outrage
overwhelmed their efforts at adaptation. In still other cases, rhetors found womanly ways of
persuasion that were self-contradictory, and hence ultimately damaging to their cause. Yet on
occasion, extraordinarily skilled women persuaders found symbolic means of responding to
these contradictory expectations, and produced masterpieces. The problems women faced as
speakers are a recurring theme of this book, a theme that remains relevant for contemporary
women who still must struggle to cope with these contradictory expectations, albeit in s-ome
what modified forms.
Feminine Style
Analysis of persuasion by women indicates that many strategically adopted what might be
called a feminine style to cope with the conflicting demands of the podium. That style
emerged out of their experiences as women and was adapted to the attitudes and experiences Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 15
of female audiences. However, it was not, and is not today, a style exclusive to women, either
as speakers or as audiences.
Deprived of formal education and confined to the home, a woman learned the crafts
of housewifery and motherhood—cooking, cleaning, canning, sewing, childbearing,
childrearing, and the like—from other women through a supervised internship combining expert
advice with trial and error. These processes are common to all craft-learning, includi-ng car
pentry, horse training and plumbing, but craft-related skills cannot be expressed in universal
laws; one must learn to apply them contingently, depending upon conditions and materials
(McMillan 1982). Learning to adapt to variation is essential to mastery of a craft and the
highly skilled craftsperson is alert to variation, aware of a host of alternatives, and able to read
cues related to specific conditions.
If the process of craft-learning is applied to the rhetorical situation (and rhetoric itself is
a craft), it produces discourse with certain characteristics. Such discourse will be personal in
tone (crafts are learned face-to-face from a mentor), relying heavily on personal experience,
anecdotes, and other examples. It will tend to be structured inductively (crafts are learned bit
by bit, instance by instance, from which generalizations emerge). It will invite audience -par
ticipation, including the process of testing generalizations or principles against the experiences
of the audience. Audience members will be addressed as peers, with recognition of au-thor
ity based on experience (more skilled craftspeople are more experienced), and efforts will be
made to create identification with the experiences of the audience and those described by the
speaker. The goal of such rhetoric is empowerment, a term contemporary feminists have used
to refer to the process of persuading listeners that they can act effectively in the world, that
they can be “agents of change” (Bitzer 1968). Given the traditional concept of womanhood,
which emphasized passivity, submissiveness, and patience, persuading women that they could
3act was a precondition for other kinds of persuasive efforts.
Many of the qualities of the style just described are also part of the small-group phe-nom
enon known as consciousness-raising, associated with contemporary feminism as well as other
social movements, which is a communicative style that can be incorporated into speaking or
prose writing (Farrell 1979). Because oppressed groups tend to develop passive personality
traits, consciousness-raising is an attractive communication style to people working for social
change. Whether in a small group, from the podium, or on the page, consciousness-raising
invites audience members to participate in the persuasive process—it empowers them. It is a
highly appealing form of discourse, particularly if identification between advocate an-d audi
ence is facilitated by common values and shared experience.
Based on this description, it should be obvious that while there is nothing inevitably or
necessarily female about this rhetorical style, it has been congenial to women because of the
4acculturation of female speakers and audienc eIst . can be called “feminine” in this context
because it reflects the learning experiences of women who were speakers and audiences in this 16 Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
period, and because, as a less authoritative and aggressive style, it was a less confrontational
violation of taboos against public speaking by women.
Because the very act of speaking publicly violated concepts of womanhood, the rhetoric
of early woman’s rights advocates always had at least two dimensions—presentation of their
grievances and justification of woman’s right to function in the public sphere, to speak with
authority in any area of human life. From the beginnings of the movement, women justified
their demands based on what Aileen Kraditor (1965, 43–74) calls the argument from justice
and the argument from expediency. The argument from justice was drawn from natural rights
philosophy and affirmed the personhood of women and their right to all the civil and political
5privileges of citizenship .It was a demand for rights affirming that, at least in law and politics,
there were no differences between the sexes. By contrast, the argument from expediency -pre
sumed that women and men were fundamentally different, so that it would be beneficial, that
is, desirable and prudent, to give women rights because of the effect on society. For example, it
was argued that if women were educated, they would be better able to fulfill their obligations
as wives and mothers; if married women had the right to sue, to enter into contracts, to c-on
trol their earnings, and to own property, they would be able to protect themselves and their
children against profligate husbands, or to fulfill their duties to their children in widowhood.
If women were allowed to vote, they would bring to bear on politics their purity, piety, and
domestic concerns, and thus purify government and make it more responsive to the needs of
the home.
Most woman’s rights advocates mixed these arguments, often in a somewhat self-con-tra
dictory way. In the earliest period, natural rights arguments predominated, but most adv-o
cates still assumed that women were naturally better suited to motherhood and that the aim
of a woman’s life was wifehood and motherhood. However, even in that period, some argued
chiefly from the benefits that increased opportunities or rights would produce for woman’s
traditional qualities and duties—education would make women more virtuous, increased -eco
nomic rights for married women would produce better mothers. In the 1870s, arguments from
expediency predominated, with emphasis on the societal benefits of the woman’s ballot, -par
ticularly in fighting the evils of alcohol. Yet as time passed, those who argued from benefits
frequently incorporated arguments from natural rights into their rhetoric, and in this later
period there were speakers, such as Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, who argued almost exclusively
from the natural rights position (Linkugel 1963).
Natural rights arguments were perceived as less feminine. “True women” were unselfish—
their efforts were for others, particularly their husbands and children. Women who claimed
their rights were seen as selfish, as wanting to abandon their traditional womanly roles to enter
the sphere of men, and this made such arguments and advocates particularly unappealing to
many women (Camhi 1973, 113). Arguments from benefits were “feminine” in part because
they presupposed the qualities of “true womanhood” and in part because they appeared u-n
selfish. Women who argued from expediency did not seek rights for their own sake but only Introduction to Man Cannot Speak for Her 17
for the good that could be done with them for others. This argument achieved its ful-lest de
velopment in the WCTU’s support for woman suffrage as a means to protect the home against
the abuses of alcohol.
The obstacles early women persuaders faced persist, although in altered forms, in the - pres
ent. As a result, my goals in this project are simultaneously scholarly and feminist. As a sc- hol
ar, I wish to rescue the works of great women speakers from the oblivion to which most have
been consigned; above all, I wish to show that the artistry of this rhetoric generated enduring
monuments to human thought and creativity. Because early feminists faced obstacles whose
residues still haunt contemporary women, their rhetorical efforts are a rich source of illu-mina
tion. As a feminist, I believe that [these works . . .] represent a particularly abundant mother
lode of rhetorical creativity from which contemporary women speakers and activists may draw
examples and inspiration.
Notes
1 Translations of this line vary, but all renmdeyr thos similarly: “Talking must be men’s concern”
(1946, 34); “Speech shall be for men” (1935, 11); “Speech shall be the men’s care” (1932, 11); and
“Speech is man’s matter” (1897 rpt.1967, 20). [. . .]
3 Passivity, modesty, patience, and submissiveness were integral parts of “true womanhood,” c-on
cepts reinforced by nineteenth-century women’s total lack of economic, social, legal, or political power.
The impact of such attitudes is apparent in more contemporary studies of women’s self-concepts -(Mc
Clelland 1964). Freeman (1971) cites a study done in the 1950s in which women were asked to pick
adjectives to describe themselves: they selected “uncertain, anxious, nervous, hasty, careless, fearful,
childish, helpless, sorry, timid, clumsy, stupid, silly, domestic, understanding, tender, sympathetic,
pure, generous, affectionate, loving, moral, kind, grateful, and patient” (165). Many of these qualities
are at odds with a sense of being capable of effective action.
4 Unlike Farrell (1979, 917n), I do not presume that “feminine” style is rooted in biologica-l dif
ferences.
5 Natural rights philosophy grew out of ancient and medieval doctrines of natural law that were
modified by an emphasis on the individual in the seventeenth century. Fundamentally, natural rights
philosophy took the view that individuals had rights no government could abridge or deny. As a result,
the function of government was to protect such rights, requiring plebiscites to determine the consent
of the governed and revolution if the government failed in its proper functions. [. . .]
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Berg, Barbara. 1978. The Remembered Gate: Origins of American Feminism , The Woman and the City,
1800–1860. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bitzer, Lloyd. 1968. The Rhetorical SituatioPnh. ilosophy & Rhetoric 1: 1–14.
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Camhi, Jane Jerome. 1973. Women Against Women: Antisuffragism, 1880–1920. Ph.D. diss.,
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Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs.1985. The Communication Classroom: A Chilly Climate for Women?
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Cott, Nancy. 1987. The Grounding of Modern Feminism. New Haven: Yale University Press.
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frage and Woman’s Temperance, 1870–1920. Ph.D. diss., Radcliffe College.
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Homer. Odyssey. 1980. Trans. Walter Shewring. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kraditor, Aileen. 1965; rpt.1981. The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement 1890–1920 .New York:
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Lutz, Alma. 1931. Emma Willard: Pioneer Educator of American Women. Boston: Beacon Press.
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Robert Jay Lifton, 173–92. Boston: Beacon Press.
McMillan, Carol. 1982W. oman, Reason and Nature: Some Philosophical Problems with Feminism.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
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Scott, Ann Firor. 1970.T he Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politic,s 1830–1930. Chicago: University
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Education ed. Anna Callender Brackett, 1–46. New York: Harper & Brothers.Speaking to the Past: Feminist
*Historiography in Rhetoric
Susan C. Jarratt
The past is made of meaning,s actions, and events far more eclectic and various than any
hegemonic culture would be eager to tolerate were the past to become present, or, and this
is the real worry, were it to become actively a source of inspiration for the future. Thus
for its own protection, such a culture is impelled to create out of its variegated history a
much narrower but also differently varying “significant” past, by selecting only certain
meanings and events for emphasis and celebration; isolating others for the purposes of
revilement and stigmatization; neglecting or excluding others; and diluting or converting
the rest into non–threatening forms.
—Joan Cocks, The Oppositional Imagination
If, in one respect, the function of history expresses the position of one generation in relation
to preceding ones by stating, “I can’t be that,” it always affects the statement of a no less
dangerous complement, forcing a society to confess, “I am other than what I would wish
to be, and I am determined by what I deny.” It attests to an autonomy and a dependence
whose proportions vary according to the social settings and political situations in which
they are elaborated.
—Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History
Long ago, this issue of PRE/TEXT was proposed to engage a question about ethics and histo -ri
ography. At that time, I was troubled by the prospect that the revitalized project of histor-iciz
ing rhetoric might take shape as a scientific or positivistic “research” practice. Some of us were
arguing over whether an historical account should strive for objectivity, could discover the
* Pre/Text 11 (1990): 189-209. Note: This essay has been condensed.
1920 Susan C. Jarratt
unknown and make it known; or, on the other hand, whether history-writing had more to do
1with making than finding, with selection and narration than repor tD. e Certeau voices this
concern as an absence of theory: “in history as in other fields, one day or another a practice
without theory will necessarily drift into the dogmatism of ‘eternal values’ or into an apology
for a ‘timelessness’ ” (57). I believe those of us who work in the history of rhetoric—a g- row
ing number—have come some distance in the last few years from a relatively unreflective
historical practice to a reflective one. The conference on Writing Histories of Rhetoric held
in October 1989 in Arlington, Texas (proceedings of which will be published at some point)
and Stephen North’s description of historical practice as a series of confrontations between
alternative narratives (78–90) are signs of wider and wider agreement that history-writing is
an interpretive act and has to do with the construction of a narrative by a writer located in
time, place, institution.
My concern now is quite different. I am writing here “as a woman,” describing
historywriting as a social practice that contributes to a radical critique of dominant discourses on - gen
2 der. The question here is how feminists writing histories of rhetoric can take up the challenge
posed in the two epigraphs: to create histories aimed at a more just future. Certainly a gend -er
ing of history requires the kind of historiographical revision currently under way in rhetoric;
turning away from an “Edmund Hillary” approach to history—one encounters it because
it’s there—a feminist historiography points the way to a different set of subjects for historical
inquiry and questions the narrative logic operative in traditional histories. But acknowl-edg
ing that histories are socially constructed narratives is no guarantee of a particular ideological
valence or of an ethical practice. It only prevents a certain kind of scientistic blindness to the
ways choices get made within institutions. How can feminist practices in the history of rh-eto
ric become an active source of inspiration for the future, as Cocks proposes? How can they
best elicit the recognition of which de Certeau writes: “ ‘I am other than what I would wish to
be’ ”? The mode of discourse I use for exploring these questions might be termed “normative
ethics”: i.e., I am proposing an ethical way of acting, to be argued about, refuted, or taken up
by other members of my social group. I am not engaging in a metaethical discourse, est-ab
lishing a definition of “ethics” or carrying out a philosophical exploration about ethics as a
category of thought. Ethical decisions are understood in anthropological or sociological terms
to express communal values—what the sophists callend omoi—always susceptible to reform-u
lation. Such reformulation is central to feminism, a transformative social practice contested
from outside and from within. Those internal contestations, so consuming at this historical
moment, will later become the focus of this discussion.
Having some time in the past proposed a practice of history-writing based on the rhetoric
of the first sophists, I have enjoyed very much hearing ideas from colleagues about how that
3 work connects with other historiography, both feminist and otheI r.found in the two works
cited above, as well as in my readings of feminist utopian novels, a way of seeing history that
looks backward and forward. Joan Cocks speaks of a forward-looking history-writing an-d deSpeaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric 21
scribes the way hegemonic histories work ideologically to narrow and control historical -under
4 standing. De Certeau outlines the simultaneous working of determination and agency; I like
the element of danger in his account. Histories are powerful; much is at stake in their writing,
and in writing about their writing. The point of a feminist excursion into ethics and h-isto
riography will be to speculate about how current differences within feminist theory might
direct heterogeneous practices of history-writing in rhetoric toward the aims suggested by the
opening epigraphs. The inquiry begins with some reflections on two kinds of historical work:
histories about women who spoke and wrote in the past and histories that concern themselves
not solely or even at all with women but with the category of gender.
Feminist Histories of Rhetoric: Women’s
History/Gendered Historiography
Though Elizabeth Flynn is right in pointing out that feminism and composition/rhetoric have
been slow to align themselves within English departments, feminist work in the history of
rhetoric has gained an exciting momentum in the few years since it first appeared. In two of
the last three College Composition and Communication Conference conventions, seven out
of 36 history panels were devoted to women in the history of rhetoric. In 1988, three and one–
third out of 20 panels on history of rhetoric/history of writing instruction concerned women;
6
in 1989, there were four women’s panels out of 16 history session [s.. . .]
As I began listening to conference presentations about women in rhetoric, I listened both
with excitement and enthusiasm but also with sense of hesitation. Would feminist work in the
history of rhetoric be limited to women’s history? Feminist historians like Joan Scott and Joan
Kelly, as well as women working on curriculum transformation, are wary of developing -a sepa
rate women’s canon, or of simply adding a few titles to a list constructed within a masculinist
system of knowledge and value. At the Writing Histories of Rhetoric conference (October
1989), I used Joan Scott’s key article on gender in history to argue that in rhetoric as well as in
other disciplines we needed not only women’s history but gendered readings of male-authored
texts. Gendered analysis, unlike “women’s history,” applies feminist perspectives in periods of
history when women’s issues or gender had not been taken up in texts authored by women. I’d
like to present that case as I made it then and afterwards offer a critique of it.
The Case for Gendered Histories of Rhetoric over “Women’s History”
Joan Wallach Scott’s essay, “Gender as a Useful Category for Analysis in History,” fir-st ap
peared in American Historical Review (December 1986) and has since been reprinted in Gender
and the Politics of History. I draw on Scott’s essay as a way marking a point in the development
of feminist histories of rhetoric paralleling a development in feminist literary studies and
other feminist histories. In rhetoric, we are recapitulating the movement from a discovery of
women’s history—i.e., women in history—to a diversification of projects focused not only 22 Susan C. Jarratt
on the presence of biological women but on gender as a discursive and social category. In
numerous commentaries on the recent history of American and French feminisms, a similar
taxonomy has been employed, contrasting an empirically oriented American practice with a
theoretically self-conscious French tradition. Toril Moi’s controvSerxsuial l/Textual Politic,s
for example, diminishes the achievements of the first American feminist literary critics, - be
cause of their privileging of unmediated women’s experience, in favor of French feminism’s
engagement with the ways discourse operates to shape understandings of experience, self, and
history. Among efforts to negotiate this supposed difference are works like Betsy Draine’s
review article, “Refusing the Wisdom of Solomon,” which evaluates work by American -femi
nists seeking a “cautious engagement” with European critical issues (148–49).
Because feminist work in rhetoric has come rather lately into the conversation, we might
be able to use these commentaries to avoid some of the conflicts of the American/French -divi
sion. Rather than proceeding solely under the banner of “women’s history,” I suggest a shift in
emphasis, or an expansion of the feminist project in rhetoric, to include gendered analysis as
well. We should learn from feminist historians in literary studies that the relations of feminist
history to “history” should not be only additive. Writing women into history “implies not
only a new history of women, but also a new history” (Scott 82). Scott points out the need
for theoretical synthesis of descriptive case studies. Without such theorizing, marginalization
seems almost inevitable: history of rhetoric herew , omen’s history of rhetoric over there. In Joan
Kelly’s terms, “compensatory history” is not enough (2). Gender as a category—i.e., as con-sti
tutive of social relations and as a way of signifying power—allows for more than addition: it
shakes up dominant disciplinary concepts. Gender is relational: a history conceived in terms
of gender as an analytic differs from “women’s history” in that it investigates the ways social
categories are constituted around or in the absence of each other. With Scott, I feel we should
be asking not only “Who are the neglected women rhetoricians?” but also “How does gender
give meaning to the organization and perception of historical knowledge?” (83). A feminist
history sees woman’s place in human social life not only as a product of things she does but
in terms of the meaning her activities acquire through concrete social interaction (Scott 91).
Thus, even in the work of men within a patriarchal tradition, the category of gender -is op
erative because of the meanings ascribed to all by gender differences. Shakespearean scholar
Phyllis Rackin imagines the operation of gender visually:
In androcentric culture, the female principle is negative, like the blank space
that defines a positive pictorial image or like the concept of feminine gender
that allows the male to define itself as masculine; it is also supplementary,
like the artistic imitation that represents natural life. (34)
Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, literary critics like Nancy Armstrong and Susan
Morgan chart the gendering of a literary age or genre across the lines of biological sex - of au
thors and characters. Morgan argues for the feminization of heroic virtue in some examples Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric 23
of nineteenth-century fiction, culminating her study with a visionf Henry James’s character
Lambert Strether as the embodiment of this new “feminine” heroism. Historians of rhetoric
might likewise investigate the relationships between gender and genre in particular historical
periods. Is rhetoric a feminine supplement to philosophy in some ages and a masculine master
discipline in others? Have certain figures (male or female) feminized rhetoric in their times?
These are broadly stated questions awaiting more refined answers availatbhlreo ugh the
practice of a gendered historiography.
In supporting a feminist history built on gender as a category my intention is not to c-or
rect women’s history of rhetoric but rather to connect with it. Along with Mary Jacobus (and
against a post-feminist position), I would argue for the preservation of gender-specific terms
to describe historical texts. Jacobus argues,
we need the term “women’s writing” if only to remind us of the social c-on
ditions under which women wrote and still write—to remind us that the
conditions of their (re)production are the economic and educational d-isad
vantages, the sexual and material organizations of society, which, rather than
biology, form the crucial determinants of women’s writinRge. a(ding Woman:
Essays in Feminist Criticism quoted in Draine 63)
Though the phrase “women’s writing” calls up the specter of biological essentialism for
historians committed to poststructuralist theories of textuality, feminists such as Gayatri
Chakravorty Spivak havem anaged to position their concern for the livaens d suffering of “real
women” within the terms of poststructuralism (see “Displacement”). Gender as the constit-u
tion of social relations locates dominant forms of discourse—for rhetoric, politics, law, and
performance—within the fuller context of what they excluded, thus providing a ground for
examining discursive energies deflected into the drawing room, the nursery, the personal -let
ter, the “literary” text.

I am still convinced of the importance of Scott’s historiography and find in the 1990 4Cs
program confirmation that feminist historical work in composition and rhetoric has moved
in the direction she indicates. Panels were distributed between women’s history and gender

issues, including some feminist analysis of male-authored texts in rhetorBicu.t I now have
some reservations about sharply dividing the two practices. Any division risks separation and
hierarchization—a sort of ranking like that created by the typologies of American feminism
of the first two decades on which I was drawing. While works like Alison JagFg eemr’is nist
Politics and Human Nature, Linda Alcoff’s “Identity Crisis in Feminism,” and Jean Bethke
Elshtain’s Public Man, Private Woman respond to an urgent need to keep a running account of
the rapid changes and proliferating arguments in feminist theory, like all typologies they have
had undesirable effects. The categories offered in those accounts and elsewhere narrate an 24 Susan C. Jarratt
early feminism called cultural/radical, acknowledge a middle-stage liberal feminism seeking
equal rights, and culminate in poststructural feminism, which seems to out-shine its dowdy
sisters in sophistication and analytic power. Though my description is over-simplified, and
none of the authors mentioned above advocates simply a renunciation of earlier feminisms in
favor of poststructuralism, the narrative power of these stages creates such an effD eecstp.ite
their differences, all these pieces and many more do taxonomize feminisms.
With some distance from that original talk, I have come to see that dividing histories of
rhetoric carries the same risks as categorizing feminisms. In one sense, this sequence simply -re
ports how feminist historiography has developed in the field and for individual scholars: first
comes a question about women, then a perspective on gender itself as a determining factor in
all historical accounts. But emphasizing the theoretical differences between these two kinds of
feminist historiography can lead to the binarism that always puts one above another. Though
deconstruction might be called in here as a therapeutic reading practice, a masculinist de-con
struction (as many feminists have argued) creates particular problems for the feminist reader.
There is, then, a need for ways to articulate multiple feminist historical practices without
taxonomizing. The issue here concerns women’s identification w aos men with each other and
with a reconstructed history without the construction of a “woman’s voice” in history out of
nostalgia for lost origins. How to do a history informed by poststructural analysis of the way
difference constructs language—i.e., a gendered analysis—but responsive to women’s desire
to “find” themselves in history? My current thinking on the problem takes in two issues—a
politics of location and the question of representation—which I will pursue in the rest of this
essay, ending with some notes on teaching history.
Location as an Ethical Orientation for Feminist Historiography
When “gender” totally eclipses “women” as the focus for feminist research, there is a sense of
loss—loss of a common place. But searching for “identity” raises the specter of essentialism.
I’ve found that the theoretical discourses formulating this association in terms of space, place,
or location cross the lines of damaging taxonomies without erasing differences. The themes of
location have been important from the beginning of second wave feminism, as women have
described their relation to patriarchy in terms of location. They found themselves positioned
at the margins, “elsewhere,” in the “space off” the centers of power (de Lauretis). While for
some feminists, moving into the center has been an important agenda, others seek to explore
the implications of being located at the margins. Adrienne Rich’s “Notes toward a Politics of

Location”speaks eloquently of the “need to understand how a place on the map is also a place
in history within which as a woman, a Jew, a lesbian, a feminist I am created and trying to c-re
ate” (212). For Rich, this sense of location is a way of taking up “the long struggle against lofty
and privileged abstraction”: an old, familiar difference between rhetoric and the philosophy
that tries to deny not only place, but time, and specific embodiment. Location means starting
with the material, but it never stays simply or unreflectively in a single experience or history. Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric 25
In this long passage, Rich captures in a striking but sympathetic way my hesitation about
feminist historiography settling simply into “women’s history”:
I’ve been thinking a lot about the obsession with origins. It seems a way
of stopping time in its tracks. The sacred Neolithic triangles, the Minoan
vases with staring eyes and breasts, the female figurines of Anatolia—weren’t
they concrete evidence of a kind, like Sappho’s fragments, for earlier
womanaffirming cultures, cultures that enjoyed centuries of peace? But haven’t they
also served as arresting images, which kept us attached and immobilized?
Human activity didn’t stop in Crete or Çatal Hüyük. We can’t build a so-ci
ety free from domination by fixing our sights backward on some long-ago
tribe or city.
The continuing spiritual power of an image lives in the interplay between
what it reminds us of—what it brings to mind—and our own continuing a-c
tions in the present. When the labrys becomes a badge for a cult of Minoan
goddesses, when the wearer of the labrys has ceased to ask herself what she is
doing on this earth, where her love of women is taking her, the labrys, too,
becomes abstraction—lifted away from the heat and friction of human - ac
tivity. The Jewish star on my neck must serve me both for reminder and as a
goad to continuing and changing responsibility. (227, emphasis in original)
The way labrys becomes abstraction is the way “woman” can become an abstraction. We—
i.e., those who wish to write feminist histories of rhetoric—can avoid that, I believe, by m- ov
ing in two directions: moving earthward in the gesture of locating oneself as a person writing
in a particular context and moving outward from women’s experience to an analysis of how
women are represented within a gendered system—never upward in a transcendence, attemp-t
ing to supersede, for where’s the history in that? This locatedness might be called Antaean,
from the Greek wrestler Antaeus whose strength came from contact with the earth. Only this
coinage would recast the “he” who struggles alone into the “s/he” who thinks, talks, and acts
with others.
The aim of the first move is to correct the illusion of universality created by occupying the
space at the center of power. Of course women have not historically occupied that space. But
as academics, we are trained to masquerade as those who have, a cross-dressing more difficult
12
and complex when color, class, and sexual orientation increase the distance from the model.
From my safe, now tenured position in a well-funded state university filled with well-fed,
white, middle-class students, it is easy to sink back into the white privilege (McIntosh) and
arrogant perception (Lugones) characteristic of many North Americans, in the academy and
out, feminist or not. By naming these locations, I engage an always partial effort to discover
where they blind me. They may help explain the appeal of the roots of Western civilization in
classical antiquity, while reminding me to ask questions about color and class that often seem 26 Susan C. Jarratt
to interrupt a line of thinking or research. Stated simply, feminists have helped us to see how
all discourses are located, but that some fail to locate themselves, assuming an omnipresence.
In the writing of history, this failure of location expresses itself through the oracular voice
proclaiming the (single) truth of the past. For women’s history, that voice can become the
mother’s voice of truth and right. Embodying and specifying voices requires locating them in
time and space.
I see connections between Rich’s politics of location and two more recent feminist uses
of the metaphor of space. Alcoff’s essay offers “positionality” as a way to describe a desirable
relationship among contradictory theoretical foundations in contemporary feminisms. -Posi
tionality offers subjectivity through historicized experience (431). Describing the subject as a
complex of concrete habits, practices, and discourses, Alcoff then names gender as a position
from which to act politically. She is not essentializing women in this move and rejects a - uni
versal, ahistorical definition of gender. Gendered identities are constructed by a position in an
existing cultural and social network:
[A woman] herself is part of the historicized, fluid movement, and she th-ere
fore actively contributes to the context within which her position can be - de
lineated . . . the identity of a woman is the product of her own interpretation
and reconstruction of her history, as mediated through the cultural dis-cur
sive context to which she has access. (434)
Alcoff argues for a concept of positionality as “a place from which values are interpreted and
constructed rather than as a locus of an already determined set of valu(4e3s”4 ). Women’s lived
experience becomes part (not all) of their equipment for theorizing and historicizing. Louise
Wetherbee Phelps asserts this in her Preface to Composition as a Human Science when she calls
theory autobiography. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak offers a characteristically elegant and - cau
tiously circumscribed version of herself as critic in “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Questioning
the role of the Western intellectual in contemporary relations of power, she uses situations of
British colonialism in India to demonstrate the problem of representation from within opp-res
sive economies (namely, world-wide capitalism) and from dominant ideology:
First, a few disclaimers: In the United States the third-worldism currently
afloat in humanistic disciplines is often openly ethnic. I was born in India
and received my primary, secondary, and university education there, inclu-d
ing two years of graduate work. My Indian example could thus be seen as
a nostalgic investigation of the lost roots of my own identity. Yet even as I
know that one cannot freely enter the thickets of “motivations,” I would
maintain that my chief project is to point out the positivitist-idealist variety
of such nostalgia. I turn to Indian material because, in the absence of - ad
vanced disciplinary training, that accident of birth and education has -pro
vided me with a sense of the historical canvas, a hold on some of the pertinent Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric 27
languages that are useful tools fobr ra icoleur especially when armed with the
Marxist skepticism of concrete experience as the final arbiter and a critique
of disciplinary formations. Yet the Indian case cannot be taken as represen-ta
tive of all countries, nations, cultures, and the like that may be invoked as the
Other of Europe as Self. (“Subaltern” 281, emphasis in original)
I quote this long passage because in it Spivak locates herself so carefully without engaging a
discourse of “identity” or privileging personal experience outside of discursive analysis.
Spivak’s evocation of Marxism provides a transition to another form of feminism using the
metaphor of place: the socialist feminist conception of standpoint. Standpoint theory finds its
roots in Marx’s recognition that different practices create different ways of knowing. Georg
Lukacs, in his elaboration of Marx’s theory, locates epistemological standpoints in group -expe
rience, groups being defined as economic classes within capitalism. Following this line -of ar
gument, Nancy Hartsock has identified general characteristics of the standpoint of the p-role
tariat and then applied these to women’s labor, claiming that women have an understanding of
oppression “from beneath” the dominant ideology, enabling them to see the “perversien
versions” practiced by patriarchal, capitalist institutions (Hartsock 284–85). Because of the -spe
cial forms of exploitation and oppression experienced by women under capitalism today, their
standpoint, Hartsock argues, “carries a historically liberatory role” (285). According to Alison
Jaggar, standpoint is “a position in society from which certain features of reality come into
prominence and from which others are obscured” (382). Feminist standpoint theory draws on
the variety of women’s experiences and considers the “epistemological consequences” of d- iffer
ences (Jaggar 386); experience and difference are key terms in standpoint theory, which id-en
tifies “not simply an interested position (interpreted as bias) but interested in the sense of being
engaged” (Hartsock 285). No one can “see” all perspectives, but by foregrounding specific
epistemological and political claims, a standpoint can offer “engaged vision” (Hartsock 285).
This spatial politics creates an ethics of experience but avoids a naive privileging of any single
person’s “experience” thought to be transmitted unmediated through transparent language.
Standpoint theory provides a more specific emphasis on economy and ideology than -po
sitionality, but as it has been theorized thus far, it has some drawbacks. Hartsock has been
criticized for identifying reproduction as the defining feature of women’s experience and for
ignoring the complex ways women are positioned in power relations other than gender. I
would reject Hartsock’s view that women’s experiences can be brought together under the
wing of “reproduction” but do support a more basic Marxist position that sees “conceptual
frameworks as shaped and limited by their social origins” (Jaggar 369–70). On the second
objection, Jane Flax has noted that standpoint theory disturbingly assumes “that women, u- n
like men, can be free from participating in relations of domination” such as those rooted in
race and class differences (642). While I agree that Hartsock’s concept of “perversion” effects
only a binary reversal of power relations, I wouldn’t go so far as Flax in rejecting totally the
epistemological claims of standpoint theory. The approach seems to me to offer new po-ssibili28 Susan C. Jarratt
ties for thought and action to all marginalized groups. Fredric Jameson here describes such
an extension:
Standpoint analysis specifically demands a differentiation between the -vari
ous negative experiences of constraint, between the exploitation suffered by
workers and the oppression suffered by women and continuing on through
the distinct structural forms of exclusion and alienation characteristic of
other kinds of group experience. (70)
Though I would not argue for the necessary epistemological prioritwy oom f en’s experience
in particular (or that every woman, by virtue of biology, will necessarily see the world in the
same way), I endorse feminist standpoint theory because it creates a “capacity for . . . seeing
features and dimensions of the world and of history masked to other social actors” (Jameson
70). Feminist standpoint theory does not produce the Truth, but rather makes possible a
“principled relativism,” under which epistemological claims may by “inspected (and respected)
for their . . . respective ‘moments of truth” ’ (Jameson 65). When the “subject” is understood
as the locus of a multiplicity of subject positions on axes of class, race, gender, and so on, then
standpoint theory can be used to call into play multiple, sometimes overlapping, sometimes
contradictory epistemological perspectives. Here the connection with classical rhetoric-, spe
cifically sophistic rhetoric, suggests itself. The sophists trained their students to work with
dissoi logoi, contradictory propositions available for every position; this heuristic opens up
ideological tension and lays out courses of possible action.
Standpoint theory cannot be a sufficient means of accounting for the calls one heeds amid
the cacophony of voices in late capitalism; it doesn’t, for example, speak of the unconscious.
Jaggar acknowledges that
Although a standpoint makes certain features of reality visible, however, it
does not necessarily reveal them clearly nor in their essential intercon-nec
tions with each other . . . [T]he standpoint of women is not expressed directly
in women’s naive and unreflective world view. (382, 371)
Like Jaggar, I see the relevance of discourses such as psychoanalysis and sociology of science
in dialogue with standpoint theory for the project of developing more complex concep- tual
izations of reality. Despite reservations about some forms of standpoint theory, I find that
collectively these ideas of place, position, and standpoint in contemporary feminisms offer to
feminist historiography a way of maintaining connection with a collective identity and - pur
pose without falling into abstraction.
Historical Practice: From Identification to Representation
The most obvious extension these processes of positioning for feminist history is that women
writing history in a male-centered tradition and academy seek female sources. In locating Speaking to the Past: Feminist Historiography in Rhetoric 29
themselves as female within a male tradition, they look for the same in history. But given the
now-common understanding of history as constructed, the problem of representation arises.
To reformulate the original dilemma, how does one acknowledge that women seek an identity
in history—i.e., the same—while also arguing for history as a process of constructing the
“other”? Or again, how does a located feminist historian create the “other” of history, when
that “other” is a woman? The terms of “otherness” I use here come both from earlier work of
my own (Introduction and chapter 3 in Rereading the Sophists) and from the work of Michel
de Certeau, who defines history-writing as “intelligibility established through a relation with
the other” (3). For Certeau, “the other is the phantasm of historiography, the object that it
seeks, honors, and buries” (2). His fascination with identity and difference in the practice of
historiography make him a compelling source for feminist ruminations, though he does not
concern himself directly with gender issues. He offers a scenario for history-writing much like
the positioning I’ve described above when he sees the fundamental situation of historiography
expressed in the relationship of a history to its preface, in which the historian speaks of his
own labor: “two uneven but symbolic halves, join[ing] to the history of the past the itinerary
of a procedure” (38).
Certeau frames his theoretical speculations within the notion of place as well. Finding
history on the boundary that both joins and separates a society from its past, he figures the
constant movement along that margin through a modernist visual metaphor:
[History] takes place along these lines which trace the figure of a current
time by dividing it from its other, but which the return of the past is co- n
tinually modifying or blurring. As in the paintings of Miró, the artist’s line,
which draws differences with contours and makes a writing possible (a -dis
course and a “historicization”), is crisscrossed by a movement running c-on
trary to it. It is the vibration of limits. The relation that organizes history is
a changing rapport, of which neither of its two terms can be the stable point
of reference. (37–38)
How provocative to apply this shifting, sliding, vibrating image of history to women! I-f his
tory eludes us, fixing itself on a margin at the limits of reason or of the possible (43), this
marginalized space sounds much like the space of “woman” as a figure of difference from
many versions of “man” in Western history: man as rational animal, man as self–created by
thought, man as polis animal or citizen, creating in negative woman as irrational, woman as
uncreated, woman as outside the boundaries of the polis. If history is a construction of an
“other”—i.e., the past as other—how does a woman author such a text? As a disguised man?
Another “other”? Would that make her the “same”?
The theory of representation Spivak lays out in “Can the Subaltern Speak?” offers not a

model but guidance in this problem. The essay begins as a critique of intellectual invisibility
in a conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. Spivak observes that these two

)