ENGL708C - Seminar in Rhetoric; Feminist Rhetorics

ENG 708C: Feminist Memory Studies at the Suffrage Centennial


The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19thamendment—the amendment that pronounced the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Given this centennial anniversary, individuals and groups across the country will be crafting commemorations that memorialize the suffrage movement in different ways, from the National Archive’s “One Half of the People: Advancing Equality for Women” exhibit to Elaine Weiss’s popular book The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote to the live production of 19: The Musical. This anniversary offers a compelling and unique opportunity for scholars of public memory—and especially scholars of feminist memory—whose work is to study memorial significance by considering the claims the commemoration makes not just about the past but also the present and future. Our goal for this seminar will be to take up this work and analyze memorializations dedicated to the suffrage centennial. We will do so by developing expertise in suffrage history, feminist rhetorical theory, public memory scholarship, and feminist intersectional theory and then employing these lenses to read and gain insight on specific commemorative projects. Questions that will drive our semester’s work include the following: What arguments are these memorials making about suffrage history, feminist activism, voting rights, and women’s place in politics? How are these commemorative projects addressing (or not) the racism that inflected the suffrage movement? And, how are commemorations considering their 2020 context, especially given the fact that 2020 is a presidential election year? Students in the class will visit and study select commemorations in Washington, D.C. The class will also work with archivists in the UMD libraries to build our own centennial pop-up exhibit in late April.