Books

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Flesh and Bones Available Free as a .pdf

AKMA is making his book of sermons, Flesh and Bones, available as a .pdf file. If you want to buy it, the money from the book sales will benefit St. Luke's Church. I've got my Christmas shopping (for my family) done!

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

I just found this reading diary entry written by my friend Darren on In the Time of the Butterflies by Alvarez. It had the same shattering effect on me too. If you haven't read it, read it now, and while you're at it, read her other books, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Yo!, and In the Name of Salomé. Alvarez is one of the few fiction authors I try to keep up with; when she comes out with a new novel, I buy the hardcover and read it immediately.

Birthday books have arrived.

For my birthday, my friend Andrea gave me a gift certificate from Barnes & Noble, specifically instructing me to "get something 'cupcake'" since I do a lot of theory-reading. So, with my gift certificate, I got The Bad Girl's 2004 desk calendar. However, I couldn't resist also getting a book I've been wanting to read ever since I heard a riveting NPR interview with its author, Aidan Hartley: The Zanzibar Chest. It's a memoir of Hartley's life in Africa. He says a lot about the devastating effects of colonialism.

Clay Spinuzzi has a blog

His blog mostly consists of book reviews--very nice! In an applied methods class I took, we had an "analysis of research study" assignment, in which we took a book-length study and analyzed the entire research design, including how well the choice of methods fit with the theoretical framework and research question, etc. One of the options was Spinuzzi's dissertation, which I chose. It's an excellent genre analysis and has been published by MIT Press.

Response papers are a'comin!

I love my classes this fall. Two of them are what we used to call "readings courses" at the University of Tennessee. In other words, they're meant to be foundation courses, not seminars, which translates to lots of short papers and no long seminar paper! The other is Carol Berkenkotter's Genre Theory course, which will be great too. The first class of my week is Feminist Theories and Methods with Jacquelyn Zita, in which we have a 2-3 page response paper due every week. Then there's Lillian Bridwell-Bowles's Gender, Rhetoric, and Literacy: Historical Bedfellows class, in which we have a one-page response due every week. I thought, why not post those responses here? You can read along with me if you like. Next week's responses will be on the following readings...

For the Feminist Theories and Methods class, which has specified themes for the response papers:

  • Beverly Guy-Sheftall, interview with Evelynn M. Hammonds, "Whither Black Women's Studies"
  • Robyn Wiegman, "The Progress of Gender: Whither 'Women'?"
  • Leora Auslander, "Do Women's + Feminist + Lesbian and Gay + Queer Studies = Gender Studies?"
  • Shirley Yee, "The 'Women' in Women's Studies"

and the theme is "Women's Studies: What's in a name?"

For the Gender, Rhetoric, and Literacy class, the readings are:

  • the first two chapters of Rhetoric Retold by Cheryl Glenn (which is awesome so far!)
  • the first three articles in Reclaiming Rhetorica edited by Andrea Lunsford: "On Reclaiming Rhetorica" by Lunsford, "Aspasia: Rhetoric, Gender, and Colonial Ideology" by Susan Jarratt and Rory Ong, and "A Lover's Discourse: Diotima, Logos, and Desire"
  • and the sections on Aspasia and Diotima from Available Means: An Anthology of Women's Rhetoric(s) edited by Joy Ritchie and Kate Ronald

I figure posting my responses will both beef up the scholarly content of my blog and force me to make the responses better than they'd ordinarily be, as more people will be reading them. Funny what motivates me.

It's synchronicity; it's kismet!

As you know if you read this previous post, I just read From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson, who fought and fasted for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And as you know, I've been despondent thinking about the state of the world and of feminism since. I've been thinking of feminism as similar to that movie Awakenings starring Robert DeNiro. If you haven't seen it, his character has Parkinson's disease. The scientists come up with this great new drug to treat the disease, and for a while DeNiro's character (who at the beginning of the movie was in a catatonic state) comes back to life, enjoys himself, etc. That only lasts for about 3-6 months, though, and he gradually starts getting worse again. It's a freaking sad movie. Anyway, I was thinking that there was a feminist awakening, and where is it now?

A few weeks ago, I went to the local Pride festival and put my name on the Minnesota NOW mailing list. The other day, they sent me a summer schedule. Thursday night, I went to the meeting. In attendance were 22 energetic, beautiful women of all ages. The first item on the agenda?

[drumroll]

"We have to get back to work on passing the Equal Rights Amendment."

I got such a rush! One woman in her 50s said that women in their 70s and 80s who fought for the ERA back in the 1970s want to see the ERA get passed before they die (IT NEVER PASSED, just for the record. Many people are surprised to learn that.). Before they die. We have to do this.

In the meeting, they also mentioned the Constitutional Equality Amendment, which is like the ERA but more specific. I'll have to do more reading about it.

In a funk...

Sigh. Yesterday I finally finished From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson. I took a long break in the middle of it, but yesterday I read the last 150 pages. This book was published in 1981 and written in 1980. Now that I'm finished, I'm bummed...not because it was a good book and I hate to see it end, even though that's true too. I'm sad because Johnson ends the book on such a positive note--saying that women need to get angry, to be "all on fire" for women. I agree. She ended the book on such a hopeful note that the Equal Rights Amendment would pass. It didn't, even though she and many others fasted for 37 days in Illinois--fought SO HARD--were willing to die for women's rights. For this sentence: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." That was twenty-one years ago. I'm just learning about all the things that happened in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and I can't let any of it go. I won't. I feel like some kind of quaint relic; it would seem strange to bring this up in casual conversation. But maybe I should anyway!

Eh, so much for pleasure reading. Now I'm on to reading for my fall classes.

Cross-posted at Blog Sisters.

Silence as a Feminist Rhetorical Strategy

Back in March, I did a presentation at CCCC titled "Looking to Lorde and Daly: When It's Not Okay to Be Silent in Feminist Rhetorical Theory." It was part of a panel titled "Actions Speak Louder Than Words? Using Feminist Rhetorical Theories to Rethink the Relationship Between Silence, Power, and Culture." I've provided the panel proposal below (proposal written by Merry Perry of the University of South Florida):

This session offers new ways of rhetorically conceptualizing silence as more than just the response of marginalized people to oppressive circumstances. Instead, each presenter uses feminist rhetorical theories to
analyze the interlocking relationships among language, power, knowledge, identity, and culture to argue that silence can serve as a rhetorically powerful tool. Moreover, because this panel is predicated on a belief in the intimate connections between theory and practice, each presenter explains the cultural implications and transformative possibilities of feminist rhetorics that acknowledge the power of silence.

In "The Rhetoric of Silence," Speaker #1 interweaves interpretations of classical rhetoric with marginalized theories of rhetoric in order to lay the groundwork for an understanding of women's silence as rhetoric. By
analyzing the assertive, active, and expressive qualities of silence, Speaker #1 argues that it may be a rhetoric of choice for women communicators. Thus, silence may be understood as a rhetorical strategy and the silent rhetor as an agent who actively participates in shared discourse.

In "Neither Seen Nor Heard: The Rhetoric of Birthmother Silence in Adoption Policy Debates," Speaker #2 uses the theories of Iris Marion Young and Kenneth Burke to explain how silence speaks louder than words in matters of public policy concerning birthmothers and adoption policy. By addressing the relationship between shame and secrecy in out-of-wedlock births, Speaker #2 explains how advocacy organizations appropriate this rhetoric of silence for their own purposes.

In "Looking to Lorde and Daly: When It's Not Okay to Be Silent in Feminist Rhetorical Theory," Speaker #3 analyzes how conflict and dialogue between feminist rhetors serves to erase the uncomfortable silence that may erupt over unexamined matters of identity such as race, class, sexuality, and so on. Using a debate between Audre Lorde and Mary Daly as a template, Speaker #3 considers contemporary feminist debates over voice and agency and offers useful theoretical alternatives to a rhetoric of silence.

In "Men Not Allowed: Silence About Masculinity in Feminist Composition Theory and Pedagogy," Speaker #4 argues that feminist compositionists have been conspicuously silent about masculinity studies. While many compositionists incorporate an analysis of femininity and of women's experiences into their scholarship and into their classrooms, discussions of masculinity remain largely ignored. In response, Speaker #4 argues for a move toward a feminist cultural studies approach to composition that centers on analyzing how cultural representations of women and men reinscribe power imbalances and reveal cultural assumptions about gendered identities.

By considering the unexamined theoretical implications of silence within multiple locations-rhetorical theory, public policy debates, feminist theory, and composition studies-this session offers new ways of envisioning feminist rhetorics that can transform relationships of power in theory, language, and culture.

[end snip]

My presentation was greatly influenced by recent work by Cheryl Glenn and Krista Ratcliffe on silence as a rhetorical strategy. At first (and I said this in my presentation too) I was skeptical of silence as feminist. How can women's silence, in a patriarchal society, ever possibly be feminist? Glenn and Ratcliffe work showed me, though, and today in my reading of From Housewife to Heretic by Sonia Johnson, I saw a particular moment in which silence could have served a feminist purpose. Johnson was engaged in one of many debates she had with church officials on the church's subjugation of women:

[excerpt]

I touched on this issue of insensitivity to women in the church. They turned the full force of their scorn--and of their bottomless ignorance about women--upon me and launched into what I call 'the exalted woman rhetoric' of the church. Finally, as the grand slam of logic, intended to knock me over the brink once and for all into belief in the church's great love for women, [Gordon] Hinckley intoned, 'You know that [Mormon church] President Kimball has done more for women than any living man!'

'Such as what?' I asked quietly.

Taken completely by surprise--Hinckley is not accustomed to having to account for his information, to being challenged; he simply hands down such pomposities for the nodding, unquestioning acceptance of the obedient mass--he flushed, swiveled his chair completely around, picked at his tie, cleared his throat and, trying to maintain his confident authoritative tone, trying to disguise the dreadful, threadbare weakness of the anticlimax he was about to create, said, 'He treats his wife so well.'

At that, I should have left a large silence while this excrescence slowly dripped down the air between us and gathered in turgid blobs on his desk. In absolute silence I should have made him watch this disgusting mess congeal before his eyes. But afterthought being by definition always too late, instead I said, 'A good many living men treat their wives well.'

'Yes, yes, exactly, exactly!' he burbled triumphantly, as if he had actually scored a point.

[end excerpt, emphasis mine. p. 155 of From Housewife to Heretic.]

See how it works? Such a "click moment" for me...I wanted to share it with you too.

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