Excited about Fall Class

This fall, I've decided to take "Gender, Rhetoric(s), and Literacy: Historical Bedfellows," a class taught by Dr. Lillian Bridwell-Bowles. Here's the course description:

Participants in this seminar will explore the gendered, entertwined histories of literacy and rhetoric, as well contemporary figures and discourses, with special emphasis on gendered rhetorical practices. While the faculty leader of the seminar has more expertise in feminist interpretations of these histories and practices, other readings of gender (queer, masculinist, etc.) are welcome. The exploration will begin with two precursors to the western rhetorical tradition, the Sumerian high priestess Enheduanna (2350 BCE) and the poet Sappho of Lesbos, whose poetic fragments can be contrasted to one by Alcaeus, a male poet from the same era. We will examine contemporary debates over philosophy and epistemology of the Sophists and the gendered implications of the collaborations of Plato, Aspasia, and Pericles, central figures in the founding of western rhetoric. According to participants


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Women in Classical Rhetoric

Sounds like a terrific class; I'm envious. One difficulty with the intersection of classical rhetoric and gender is that women weren't authorized, which is part of the reason why -- as admirable as the impulse to compare Aspasia and Plato or Hortensia and Cicero might be -- we don't have any original texts from which to work; the scant stuff about Aspasia and Hortensia is all secondhand, from male sources. Still, as always, the way in which Aspasia and Hortensia are represented is itself informative.

I'd suggest that the feminist scholarship on classical rhetoric is a lot more rigorous in classical studies than it is in rhetoric and composition, where people can often shape original texts to fit current theories with occasionally problematic results. I've seen very little classics scholarship on Appian's account of Hortensia's oration (doesn't mean it isn't there), but there's a good bit of work on the figure of Clodia Metelli as presented in Cicero's Pro Caelio that's really worthwhile and a lot of fun, too, starting with Marilyn Skinner's article "Clodia Metelli" in Transactions of the American Philological Association 1983, and going up through and beyond Anne Leen's excellent "Clodia Oppugnatrix" in The Classical Journal 96.2. (Just don't buy the largely discredited canard that Cicero's Clodia is the Lesbia of Catullus.) And if you're interested at all in the intersection of feminism and classical rhetoric, I'd urge you to ask around in your classics department -- seeing rhetoric from a different angle than rhet/comp's was really helpful to me, and I think the interdisciplinary thing tends to be rewarding in both directions.



This professor lets seminar participants choose some of the readings, so I'll look at some classics journals. It would be a nice change of pace.

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