Volume 18 | Issue 2:
In the last few decades our discipline has greatly benefited from research focusing on the recovery of women in the history of rhetoric. This same research has made major contributions, but has also exposed the limitations of our historiography, calling attention to the need to reflect on our methods of analysis and the retrieval of our sources. A striking example of this need to discover new primary sources and new methods to analyze these sources emerged in 1973 when artifacts of ancient Roman writings were unearthed by archaeologists from a garbage dump whose damp, natural environment had sealed off oxygen and thereby miraculously preserved over 850 writing tablets from a remote Roman garrison in northern England. Among these priceless artifacts is evidence of the wives of Roman soldiers writing to each other as a normal feature of everyday activities. These artifacts of epistolary rhetoric provide a new perspective on the written rhetoric of women in c. 100 A.D., revealing yet another dimension of rhetoric undertaken by women in the history of our discipline. One particular artifact, Tablet 291, is especially relevant to our purposes, for it reveals a correspondence between two women concerning an invitation to a birthday party. Of special interest is the post-script that provides convincing evidence of the earliest specimen of a Latin text written by a woman’s hand. Benefiting from the inclusiveness of multi-modal research, this essay first summarizes and reviews archaeological and palaeographic research that provides a context for understanding the environment and conditions from which this artifact emerged and by which it was preserved. Subsequently, a rhetorical analysis of Tablet 291 is offered in order to lay groundwork for a more thorough and sensitive perspective of women and their uses of rhetoric in the history of our discipline.
Drawing from a nine-month ethnography of a sorority, this article shows how the discursive and material practices of crafting empower one group of sorority women to adopt a creative and critical approach to sorority life, explore alternative roles as sorority women, and theorize their sorority as an alternate formation of sorority culture. The sorority members pick up the three ideologies of crafting—having a vision, forming a community, and a feminist pedagogy for teaching group values—to navigate between the existing structures of a sorority and their present-day interests and needs.
Scholars such as Nancy Welch and Susan Jarratt argue that Neoliberalism shapes how everyday citizens are able to take action. Using what Jacquelyn Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch call “social circulation,” I analyze how Dr. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2012, used “whatever spaces are left” to challenge the dominant two party system, particularly in relation to the presidential debates. I argue that Stein demonstrates an activist literacy disposition that positions her to use the spaces, the literate and rhetorical means, and opportunities for storytelling to foster social action in our neoliberal climate.
While many scholars (Logan; Gere; McHenry; Royster) have discussed the Woman’s Era (1894-1897), this article adds to this research by revisiting the periodical as a single text (composed of years of articles and arguments) and as an example of rhetorical invention. By rethinking invention, this article argues that this aspect of the rhetorical canon can be understood not only as an act that helps create a text but also as something a text can do. In order to illustrate how the first publication by and for African American women invented their own vision of African American womanhood, this article looks specifically at the editors and contributors use of rhetorical methods of response and epideictic rhetoric as well as their creation of a formal communication network that connected thousands of women from across the country.
Developments in feminist historiographic and archival research methods have led to a stronger sense of Sarah and Angelina Grimké’s rhetorical history in Charleston, essential to understanding their later ethos as public rhetors. Enoch and Jack (CE 2011) and Kirsch and Royster (CCC 2010) offer complementary meta-rhetorical stances that encourage an awareness of both how historical narratives are built and work upon the public and how the researcher’s lived experience might enhance the process itself. Paired with a research narrative that culminates in a collaboration with the Charleston Museum to build a sense of public memory about the Grimké sisters, this article presents an expanded and more complex understanding of the Grimkés and the seeds of their rhetorical agency. Recovered through feminist rhetorical historiography, the Grimké sisters emerge from the skewed lens of historical tourism into clear focus as nascent social reformers.