This course pursues two primary inquiries. First, what methodologies and methods do scholars use to examine women’s and feminist rhetorics? And second, how may we engage with this scholarship to construct and analyze those archives of women’s and feminist rhetorics that interest us?
We begin by considering the history of women and rhetoric. We will read feminist rhetorical scholarship that details the constraints women have faced—and the various ways women rhetors have subverted, challenged, or otherwise negotiated these constraints through private and public discourse as well as silence. We will read feminist historiography that describes how women were written out of histories of rhetoric—and shows how feminist scholars in the last three decades have worked to recover and theorize these women’s contributions to the history of rhetoric.
As we engage with this scholarship, we will explore questions about the stakes, debates, and implications of feminist historiography in rhetoric. How do feminist historians use archival methods, both traditional and digital, to undertake their research? How do feminist scholars attend to the ways gender intersects with other forms of identity, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, and sexuality? How do these scholars retheorize the categories “woman,” “rhetoric,” and “history”? How do such retheorizations contribute to the field of rhetoric as a whole? And how are feminist scholars continuing to develop new methods for researching present-day gendered rhetorical practices within globalized, networked environments?
Like the published scholars we read, we too will examine instances of women’s and feminist rhetorics. Rather than assigning an anthology, though, I will collaborate with you to curate online collections of those rhetorical practices we are interested in studying. We will work together as a class to compile instances of women’s and feminist rhetorics from across historical periods and cultural locations. Throughout the semester, these collections will serve our efforts to utilize feminist methodologies and methods for analyzing specific rhetorical practices and situating our analyses within broader scholarly conversations.
Ultimately each student will select a specific archive of historical or present-day rhetorics to theorize and study in his/her/hir final research project. Final projects may focus on a relatively traditional brick-and-mortar archival collection at a nearby institution, such as ODU’s Florence Crittenton Home of Norfolk Records, 1894-1977. Or you may conduct your research through digital archives of historical materials ranging from the New York Public Library’s Digital Schomburg collection, African American Women Writers of the 19thCentury, to the Library of Congress’s Rosa Parks Papers; from the Lesbian Herstory Archives’ Herstories: Audio/Visual Collections to the Digital Transgender Archive’s collection, South Africa Media Coverage. You may compose your own archive, compiling born-digital artifacts while theorizing how they function as an archive of, say, “women’s rhetorics of autism,” “feminists in technical communication,” or “digital Latin@ rhetorics.” Or your project may focus on a living archive of social media, such as #LikeAGirl, #HowToSpotAFeminist, #BlackWomenDidThat, or #IllGoWithYou.