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Issue Brief: Feminism in Composition Studies

Cheryl Glenn and Heather Brook Adams

The Pennsylvania State University

cjg6@psu.edu

hba106@psu.edu

An integral feature of the rhetorical tradition continues to be the gendered limitations and opportunities for writing and speaking. As a public, political, and persuasive practice, Western rhetoric has long been the province of males only. Because the rhetorical tradition has long privileged men’s public speaking and writing, supposedly apolitical women were discouraged, if not forbidden, from participating discursively in the public sphere. Women’s “private” discursive practices (such as letter writing, cooking and health-related instruction, and translation), on the other hand, were socially sanctioned as benign, not (yet) considered to be sites of “real” rhetorical activity. 

Within the last fifteen years, feminist historiographers have recuperated many women as rhetorical theorists and practitioners, despite the male-centered rhetorical tradition. This concerted effort to write women back into the history of rhetoric continues to illustrate the numerous ways in which women have contributed to the rhetorical tradition, whether those contributions have appeared within or without the realm of public discourse.

In addition to feminist recovery work, many scholars are relying on gender studies to account for the power differentials that continue to inflect rhetorical history and practice—and composition studies as well. To that end, a number of scholars have demonstrated the many ways (pay, respect, hiring) in which composition is a feminized discipline, following a line of inquiry that (not coincidentally) implicates the central role women have played in the teaching of writing. From these inquiries, the story of rhetoric and composition continues to be renegotiated and revised.

Leading Journals

Advances in the History of Rhetoric  http://www.advances.umd.edu/

College Composition and Communication  http://www.ncte.org/cccc/ccc

College English  http://www.ncte.org/journals/ce

Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy  http://inscribe.iupress.org/loi/hyp

Peitho  http://www.cwshrc.org  

Quartery Journal of Speech  http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/RQJS

Rhetoric Review  http://www.rhetoricreview.com

Rhetoric Society Quarterly  http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/RRSQ

Rhetorica  http://ucpressjournals.com/journalSoc.asp?jIssn=0734-8584

Women’s Studies in Communication  http://www.cios.org/www/wommain.htm

Relevant Organizations

Berkshire Conference of Women Historians http://www.berksconference.org

Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition http://cwshrc.org

Organization for Research on Women and Communication http://www.orwac.org/about.html

Relevant Web Sites

Bibliography in Feminist Research and Gender Issues in Rhetoric and Composition http://www.ncte.org/cccc/committees/statusofwomen/bibliography

Feminist Pedagogies: Some Sources for Composition and Rhetoric (compiled by Rebecca Moore Howard) http://wrt-howard.syr.edu/Bibs/FemPed.htm

Feminist Rhetorics: Some sources (compiled by Rebecca Moore Howard) http://wrt-howard.syr.edu/Bibs/FemRhet.htm

Relevant Email Discussion Lists

RhetCompFem http://mail.cwshrc.org/mailman/listinfo/rhetcompfem_cwshrc.org

Rhetoric and Feminism http://culturecat.net/portal

Document and Site Resources

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