ENGL708 - Seminar in Rhetoric

This course has three main objectives: to become acquainted with the tradition(s) of women’s rhetorical theory from 1600 to 1900 and to use them in interpretation of women’s rhetoric (broadly defined), to learn to do archival research and to discover new sources of women’s rhetoric, and to align contemporary theory and historical research on rhetoric, composition studies, and literacy with your research. We will read rhetorical theory by women (such as Margaret Fell, Mary Astell, Maria Edgeworth, Hannah More, Lydia Sigourney, Gertrude Buck, and African-American elocutionist Hallie Quinn Brown), women’s rhetoric, studies from history of rhetoric, literacy studies, composition studies, and literary studies, and try out some interpretive methods for women's non-fiction prose, with students choosing an archive between 1600 and 1900 to explore. We will consider conversational rhetoric in humanist treatises, defenses of women's preaching, conduct books on letter writing and social communication, elocution handbooks, and composition textbooks by women. We will ask how women positioned themselves with regard to classical and more traditional empiricist and belles lettres rhetoric by men--did they borrow, revise, refuse these? We will ask whether women were influenced by rhetorical teachings or by social circumstances, both or neither, to prefer working in certain genres. We will explore women's education in reading and writing and ask how this affected their self-representations. And we will survey online collections  and archives at or near the University of Maryland for projects in history of rhetoric, history of literacy and composition, or prose studies. Class will be mainly discussion with occasional lectures, with student reports on crucial topics. Requirements will include oral reports,1-page papers, and an abstract, a 20-minute oral paper, and 15-20 pp. essay on a topic of the student's choice.