The section rhetoric includes selections from the Rhetoric classes that I took as an English major at the University of South Florida. Classes include Rhetorical Traditions, Public Rhetorics, and The Expository Essay.
This project from April 2019 is an annotated bibliography addressing the possibilities of poetry as postcolonial rhetoric, particularly in service of indigenous women and women of color. It was the first extended bibliography I’d created. As an annotated bibliography, it demonstrates a convention of the discipline. It also shows critical thinking skills in gathering, synthesizing evaluating data around my research question.
Is poetry a form of feminist rhetoric in postcolonial Americas?
Poetry is an undervalued form of rhetoric. From the time of Sappho to modern day, it has been a faithful companion of more formal rhetoric, and is often the only voice allowed to oppressed peoples. Its very reputation as a refuge of fops and women, while completely spurious, has provided cover for the very loud political speech of such people as Madge Piercy, María Rentería, Pablo Neruda, and Federico García Lorca. It has proven an especially effective form of rhetoric for women and minorities. Our voices have been so easily discounted throughout history as weak, emotional, or ignorant. In poetry, none of this matters. The appeals of pathos and logos overwhelm what was perceived as a dearth of ethos based solely on gender or color of skin or country of origin.
My question, “Is poetry a form of feminist rhetoric in postcolonial Americas?” examines in broad scope the power of poetry as a tool to communicate ideas and information about women and the issues that confront women.
The categories into which this bibliography is divided overlap a great deal. Many of the articles belong in multiple categories. I endeavored to sort each into the category that most applied to its content. The categories are as follows:
Contemporary Poetry as Rhetoric – These articles speak of contemporary poets and how they address issues that face women and minorities in this century.
Examples of Poetry as Rhetoric – Articles in this category address the poetry itself and how it is used to create community, educate, or act as an agent of change.
Examples of Postcolonial Rhetorics – As examples of postcolonial rhetoric, these articles explain and exemplify the issues surrounding postcolonial rhetoric.
History of Feminist Rhetorics – Addressing issues of First Wave feminism that, for some, are still yet to be resolved, this category speaks to the roots of the feminist struggle in different populations.
Rhetoric Annotated Bibliography
Query: Is poetry a form of feminist rhetoric in postcolonial Americas?
Contemporary Poetry as Rhetoric
Causey, Tara D. 1.Tcausey2@gsu.ed. “Stories of Survivance: The Poetry of Karenne Wood.” South Atlantic Review, vol. 77, no. 1/2, Winter 2012, pp. 141–152. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=64&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=100078974&db=hus
Tara Causey argues in her introduction that Native peoples are almost incontrovertibly the first poets, citing the oral tradition and its connection to “cultural memory and survivance.” She uses the poetry of Karenne Wood to illustrate the unbroken line of Native American poetical tradition. Causey believes that the universality of Wood’s themes of environmentalism, domestic abuse, and cultural estrangement make her universally accessible. Also discussed are the ways in which Native voices have co-opted European cultural forms, discourses and themes to disrupt racial and cultural stereotypes.
de Assis-Wilson, Ivette M. “Black Womanhood as Performance of “Home” in the Poetry of Alzira Rufino and Georgina Herrera.” Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, vol. 7, no. 3, Fall 2017, p. 1. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/56z7s9ns
Ms. de Assis-Wilson writes compellingly of the poetry of Alzira Rufino and Georgina Herrera, both Afro-Caribbean poets. Her stated intention is to argue that the poetry of these women speaks to the condition of the African diaspora. She argues also for the ability of Rufino and Herrera’s poetry of “black womanhood” to create through their words a sense of “home.” Using their works and and referencing others’, she speaks to “struggle and resistance as pertains to the socio-historical treatment of Afro-descendants in Brazil and Cuba”(dI) and to the need to celebrate the women whose voices are at the center of the fight for social justice.
Gilbert, Sandra M. “A Life Written in Invisible Ink: In Her Rebellious and Much-Celebrated Poetry, Adrienne Rich Both Deciphered and Created the Feminist World She Inhabited.” The American Scholar, no. 4, 2016, p. 107. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=77&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.464145653
This article reads as a feminist paean to Adrienne Rich. Sandra Gilbert writes breathlessly of her own feminist awakenings concurrently with her first deep readings of Rich’s poetry. She speaks of Rich’s resistance to being biographied and the deeply personal but obscured information to be found in the new (in 2016) Collected Poems. I include this article in this bibliography to further my position that all feminist poetry in the US is necessarily post-colonial.
Gould, Janice. “American Indian Women’s Poetry: Strategies of Rage and Hope.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society, vol. 20, no. 4, Summer 1995, p. 797. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=63&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=9507200827&db=hus
In this extensive article, Janice Gould argues that Native American poetry is left out of the American poetical canon as envisioned by poets like Czeslaw Milosz and Carolyn Forche. She speaks of the ability of Native American poetry to speak to the collective memory of the entire population of the oppressed and dispossessed of the Americas. She cites the poetry of Laguna poet Paula Gunn Allen, Dineh poet Luci Tapahonso and others in examples of the rage and sorrow expressed by Native American poets. She says in closing, however, that their rage “is always tempered by sorrow, and balanced by humor and hope.”(JG,19)
Hertz, Jason. “Native American Poetry in the Academy: Recognizing the Potential and Peril of Ethnic Studies Formations for Indigenous Cultures.” Teaching American Literature, vol. 6, no. 2/3, Fall2013/Winter2014 2013, pp. 24–32. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=18&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01
In this article, non-Native American teacher and writer Jason Hertz offers a history of the argument around the teaching of Indigenous Studies in US universities. He wants, especially, to teach the poetry of Joy Harjo in a way that does not run contrary to her intention. In his argument, he speaks in favor of teaching in a way that emphasized Pan-Indian, regional, and other identities and remains silent on sacred stories and their traditional context. I was particularly interested in his resistance to the idea of teaching Native American studies in a post-colonial light, as it suggests that the US is anything other than colonial at present.
Kawada, Louise. “Enemies of Despair: American Women Poets Confront the Threat of Nuclear Destruction.” Papers on Language & Literature, vol. 26, no. 1, Winter 1990, pp. 112–133.http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=48&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=asu&AN=505479726
This lovely, if dated, article is an analysis of the poetry of American women poets writing in the 1990’s against the threat of nuclear war and power. Kawada speaks of their use of ethos, of language casual and formal, and of humor to express their dissent. A few of the many poets analyzed are Levertov, Piercy, Atwood, Jordan. The frailness and subaltern status of women is particularly referenced. It is an interesting step back into second wave feminism.
Kutchins, Laurie. “‘To Make Shadows Burn and Silence Loud’: Altars of Change and Continuity in Contemporary Chicana Poetry.” Western American Literature, vol. 35, no. 1, 2000, pp. 105–11.https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/article/534676/pdf
In language that is itself poetical, Laurie Kutchins offers up a paean to Chicana poets Naomi Quinonez, Gloria Velasquez, Demetria Martinez, and Alma Luz Villanueva. This article is more book report than analysis, each poet being given several paragraphs with quotes and loving commentary. It is an article length argument for the ethos and logos of Chicana poetry.
LaVoulle, Crystal; Ellison, Tisha Lewis.“The Bad Bitch Barbie Craze and Beyoncé: African American Women’s Bodies as Commodities in Hip-Hop Culture, Images, and Media.” Taboo: The Journal of Culture & Education, vol. 16, no. 2, Fall 2017, pp. 65–84. https://digitalcommons.lsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1122&context=taboo
In an example of Third, possibly Fourth Wave Feminism, this article speaks of the power of some African American women, particularly Beyoncé, to manipulate the objectification of their bodies to their benefit. “A Bad Bitch Barbie develops ways to move from survival to success, embracing the body while using it as a means for self-empowerment.” In their examination of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, they examine the ways in which the Bad Bitch Barbie uses language, music, personal power, and her often-exploited sexuality to show the whole experience of the Black woman from powerful, iconic woman to grieving mother and abused spouse. This article is transformative in the way that it approaches the use of voice and self-advocacy, in hip hop and in the classroom, in recreating the way that Black women are seen in the US, both in and out of the male gaze. (As a side note: I believe that both Beyoncé and hip hop qualify for the title of modern poetry. Defending this might require another paper.)
Martínez, Norell. “Femzines, Artivism, and Altar Aesthetics: Third Wave Feminism Chicana Style.” Chiricù Journal: Latina/o Literature, Art, and Culture, vol. 2, no. 2, 2018, p. 45. https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/article/697735/pdf
Martinez’ essay is an examination of the art and poetry of Chicana femzine Flor y Canto (Flower and Song) published by the feminist collective Mujeres de Maís (MdM). It is his thesis that this ‘zine, rather than solely conveying the values of Third Wave feminism, embraces and displays the full spiritual beauty of feminist Chicana epistemology. Named after a Catholic hymnal from the late 1980’s, the theme of the altar and offering pervades the art and poetry of MdM’s periodical. Martinez shows how the poetry and art chosen as “ofrenda” for this ‘zine contribute to the healing of the individual writers and artists and their community.
Rincón, Belinda Linn. “Estas Son Mis Armas”: Lorna Dee Cervantes’s Poetics of Feminist Solidarity in the Era of Neoliberal Militarism. no. 3, 2015, p. 55. https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/article/572233
Through the lens of Lorna Lee Cervante’s poem Coffee, this article gives a history of neoliberal militarism in the Americas. Pairing its rise to NAFTA, Rincon talks about the disenfranchisement of native populations and women through loss of land and free trade agreements. In her reading of the poem, she says that she is reminded that “undoing neoliberal militarism requires adaptive opposition and cross-national feminist solidarities bound by an unflagging personal commitment to fight for social justice ‘forever.’”
Rohrleitner, Marion Christina. “Chicana Memoir and the DREAMer Generation: Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us as Neo-Colonial Critique and Feminist Testimonio.” Gender & Research / Gender a Výzkum, vol. 18, no. 2, July 2017, pp. 36–54. https://www.genderonline.cz/uploads/a29d1f3bd174e2e859e5e676f12623372d5a8324_gender-2-2017-stat-2-rohrleitner.pdf
In her examination of Grande’s novel and poetry by Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, Rohrleitner addresses the uses of memoir, narrative, and poetry as rhetorical tools to affect social change in the world of DREAMers and other immigrants. She speaks of the explorations of Chicana authors in themes of gender, race, and ethnicity, and how they are aided by the blend of history, tradition, and trauma that is unique to each of them. It is her expressed hope that these works will facilitate immigration reform.
Examples of Poetry as Rhetoric
Andrews, Jennifer. “In the Belly of a Laughing God: Reading Humor and Irony in the Poetry of Joy Harjo.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring 2000, pp. 200–218. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=49&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=3876161&db=rgm
In this article, Jennifer Andrews addresses the poetry of Native American Joy Harjo. Her focus is on the way Harjo uses humor and irony to “acknowledge the pain and pleasure of her tribe’s history by directly addressing the topics of Indian removal, poverty, and alcoholism in a manner that is poignant, funny, and provocative.”(JA) She analyzes sections of Harjo’s poetry, explaining in each section how humor and irony are useful not only to create reality in her poems, but to convey her point.
Angelou, Maya. And Still I Rise. YouTube. Literature Today UK, posted 10 June 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qviM_GnJbOM
Maya Angelou’s gorgeous poem is an example of the feminist, post-colonial poetry that changed the lives of so many women from its first publication in 1978 up to this day. Her dyamic reading of it exhibits a physical rhetoric that is compelling. In addition to her words, her movements and evident enjoyment of the performance drive home her point. “And still, I rise.”
Carnes, Jeremy. “Reinventing the Enemy’s Intentions: Native Identity and the City in the Poetry of Joy Harjo.” Studies in the Humanities, vol. 42, no. 1/2, Dec. 2015, pp. 36–59. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=53&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=112225498&db=hus
In “Reinventing the Enemy’s Intentions…”, Carnes argues that the post-WWII Cold War policy of turning Native Americans off of the Reservation and integrating them into cities resulted in a failed policy of settler colonialism. He uses the poetry of Muskogee Creek poet Joy Harjo to illustrate the way in which the Native American diaspora from the Reservation to major US cities became a situation of a “both/and relationship rather than either/or.”(JC) He concludes that Harjo’s poetry is an example of the way that, instead of shedding their culture, the Native American population of New York City has adapted to city live and “subverted the enemy’s intentions.”(JC)
González, Sonia V. “Poetry Saved My Life: An Interview with Lorna Dee Cervantes.” MELUS, vol. 32, no. 1, Spring 2007, pp. 163–180. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=13&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01
In interview format, Sonia Gonzàlez allows poet Lorna Dee Cervantes to speak for herself about her influences and the meaning of her poetry. Cervantes says, “Reading African American women poets politicized me. And it was the fact that poetry politicized me that had to do with then saving my life.” She speaks of the power of the poetry of the oppressed to show her a path out of powerlessness and into a new understanding and appreciation of her heritage as a Chicana and a woman.
Greene Benjamin, Shanna. “The Uses of Anger: Wanda Coleman and the Poetry of Black Rage.” Hecate, vol. 40, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 58–79. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=30&sid=d1712830-
Benjamin begins her article with recounting of the reaction to the failure to indict the killers of Eric Garner and Michael Bell, and the institutional pleas for a “respectful response.” Her response is to turn to the under-examined poetry of Wanda Coleman, a prolific sonneteer who died mostly unsung in 2013. She analyzes Coleman’s powerful poetry and says, “Through the language of gangster braggadocio… Coleman demands that her peers and the poetic establishment give her credit where credit is due.”(SB,77)
Hernández-Avila, Inés. “Relocations upon Relocations: Home, Language, and Native American Women’s Writings.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 19, Fall 1995, pp. 491–507. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=37&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=509569028&db=hus
From the introductory paragraph, Inés Hernández-Avila keeps up a running argument with varying authors and people she meets in the context of her life and work as poet. It seems that the entire article is an attempt to answer as many points of view as possible in a plea for intersectionality. She compares and contrasts her experience especially to an article by Martin and Mohanty called “Feminist Politics: What’s Home (got to Do with It?(sic).” Her conclusion, however is startlingly revealing, saying, “In si(gh)ting their own voices, Native American women writers create for Native American students and readers the possibilities for si(gh)ting their own voices and their own and their people’s sovereignty.”(IHA)
Smith, Patricia. “Write Something.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Mar. 2019, p. 31. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=135467162&site=eds-live. http://www.phikappaphiforum-digital.org/phikappaphiforum/spring_2019/MobilePagedArticle.action?articleId=1473479#articleId1473479
This poem by Patricia Smith speaks to the rhetorical experience of first poetic blood. Shut in a closet and commanded to “just write something,” the child Smith produces proof of her incipient brilliance, much to the apparent dismay of the white man sent to “test” her. Using sensory and metaphorical images like “the backhanded slap of light” and “infected mopheads” in the closet in which she was stationed to write she draws a picture of the contempt in which she, as a black girl child was held. Her last lines “there was no way to do the killing he had come to do” speak to the very personal and ultimately political power of words.
The Way We Learn to Look’: A Conversation with Nick Flynn, Brenda Hillman, Dorianne Laux, Fred Marchant, Laura Mullen, and Patricia Smith.” Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature & Fine Arts, vol. 23, no. 1, Winter/Spring2011 2010, pp. 229–250. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=0d75b296-55e0-4a1e-80f0-432f891d7a37%40sessionmgr120
Had I the opportunity to do it over, I would do my presentation on this interview. In it seven poet activists have a conversation wide ranging conversaton about the use of language to obscure and minimize the Deepwater Horizon and other humanitarian and environmental disasters. In honest and direct language, they examine the ways corporations and the dominant culture hide and misdirect public attention. Each of them also talks about their own poetic process in the light of protest and how they keep from losing their minds and souls.
Zink, Amanda J. “Carlisle’s Writing Circle: Boarding School Texts and the Decolonization of Domesticity.” Studies in American Indian Literatures: The Journal of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures, vol. 27, no. 4, 2015, pp. 37–65. http://muse.jhu.edu.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/article/610739
Amanda Zink writes about the decimation of Native American culture by the means of the ideals of American domesticity. She quotes Pratt, a well-known administrator of Carlisle School, in his oft-repeated maxim, “Kill the Indian, Save the Man,” and says that it was widely believed that native culture could be destroyed “through the women.” In instilling in young women the tenets of Christian domesticity, Carlisle belittled and made foul the homes and families that they left behind. Through changing their narrative, Carlisle changed their world view.
Examples of Postcolonial Rhetoric
Foster, Jennifer D. “#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women.” Canadian Children’s Book News, no. 4, 2017, p. 26. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=61&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.524180933
This is a commentary on a book called, “#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women,” edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Marybeth Weatherdale. They have chosen poetry, art, and prose with the intention of dispelling the mythos around Native American women and girls and their history, identity, and trauma. These literary offerings speak to the damage that ignoring or whitewashing Native history does to the psyche of this population.
Horton, Jessica L. “Indigenous Artists against the Anthropocene.” Art Journal, vol. 76, no. 2, Summer 2017, pp. 48–69. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=40&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=125627531&db=asu
In her wonderfully insightful article, Jessica Horton gives an recent history of visual art in the Native American protest movements from the Columbus quincentennial in 1992, casting backward to the first European settlements, and moving forward again to present day. She gives in-depth information about the reaction of Native American artists to historic oppressions, climate change, globalization, and specific instances such as #DAPL and the 20th century nuclear explosions in the Southwest that exposed thousands of Native families to radioactive fallout.
Jarratt, Susan C.. “Beside Ourselves: Rhetoric and Representation in Postcolonial Feminist Writing.” JAC, vol. 18, no. 1, 1998, p.57 https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/stable/20866171?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
This article speaks, or wishes to speak, to applying rhetorical practice to the ideas of “difference” and “relation” in reference to postcolonial writings. Jarratt quotes Gayatri Spivak in her caution against accidentally (or not) obscuring the interests of the oppressed in a misguided attempt to speak for them. Overall, she (Jarratt) wishes to find a way to impart to students the ability to understand through metaphor/metonymy how to write the multiplicity of themselves, leading to an understanding of the multiplicity of the other.
Khan, Saleem Akhtar, and Awan, Muhammad Safeer . “Disruptive Colonial Discourse and Spatial Disorientations: Misrepresentation of the American and Indian Territories in the British Fictional Narratives of Wars of Independence.” The Dialogue, no. 4, 2018. http://www.qurtuba.edu.pk/thedialogue/The%20Dialogue/13_4/04-391-%20402%20,Saleemniazi,.pdf
Khan and Awan, themselves products of British colonial impulses, have a heyday with two novels from the American British Colonial period, Cornwell’s The Fort and Tracy’s The Red Year. They take issue with the “spatial misrepresentation” of both books as a form of propaganda. Quoting Edward Said, intellectual father of post-colonialism, in saying “colonialism and imperialism are rooted in the practice of the “geographical violence”—exploring, charting, and capturing—to which the postcolonial people respond by searching and restoring the “geographical identity.”
Lee, Judith Yaross. “The International Twain and American Nationalist Humor: Vernacular Humor as a Post-Colonial Rhetoric.” Mark Twain Annual, vol. 6, 2008, pp. 33–49. ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2014381653&site=eds-live.
Lee argues early in this article that Twain’s use of vernacular language was an intentional rhetorical and literary choice, intended to differentiate American English from British English, and in the process to point up the differences between British and American culture. She cites two articles that claim that he was, in tone and content, an imperialist because his continuous use of a vernacular style. These opposing authors saw his work as dismissive and contemptuous of his fellow Americans. However, by using the character of the eiron, the elevated bumpkin, Twain continually cast his vernacular characters higher than his often East Coast, well-educated narrator. His “commitment to the post-colonial ideology of the vernacular style” persisted, Lee states, throughout his career.
Sánchez-Martín, Cristina. “The Transcoding of ‘Women Empowerment’ as ‘Empoderamiento de La Mujer’: A Post-Colonial Translation Theory for Transnational Feminist Rhetorics.” Poroi: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Rhetorical Analysis & Invention, vol. 13, no. 1, July 2017, p. 1. https://ir.uiowa.edu/poroi/vol13/iss1/6/
This article takes on the rhetorical field of transcoding and translation. Explained by the author, transcoding resembles a later translation in which a similar word is substituted for one in the same language for ideological purposes. Specifically, the author is concerned with the translation of the concept of “women empowerment” for “empoderamiento de la mujer.”
Squint, Kirstin L. “Choctawan Aesthetics, Spirituality, and Gender Relations: An Interview with LeAnne Howe.” MELUS, vol. 35, no. 3, Fall 2010, pp. 211–224. https://muse-jhu-edu.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/article/394096
LeAnne Howe, poet, author, playwright and genius speaks in this interview with Kirstin Squint at the Society for the Study of Southern Literature Biennial Conference. Their conversation ranges over language, spirituality, trade and diplomacy, gender roles, literary criticism, and more. Of particular interest to a rhetorical focus is the discussion of language, particularly verbs, in Choctawean epistemologies.
History of Feminist Rhetorics
Billings, Linda M., and Alurista. “In Verbal Murals: A Study of Chicana Herstory and Poetry.” Confluencia, no. 1, 1986, p. 60. http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/eds/detail/detail?vid=82&sid=d1712830-5b0b-4a35-8a3e-4eb7c78643be%40pdc-v-sessmgr01&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU%3d#AN=edsjsr.27921699&db=edsjsr
Linda Billings and Alurista offer not only a thousand years of Chicana history, but samples and analysis of powerful Chicana poetry. Poets included are Sandra Cisneros, Cordelia Candelaria, Lorna Dee Cervantes, and others. They write about sexuality, culture, estrangement, and other issues facing Latina women. In their conclusion, they quote the critic Elizabeth Ordoñez in saying, “In verbal murals, they paint the beauty, glory, and even suffering which is shared by the pair – in partnership – their faces turned proudly toward the future, their spirits filled with the wisdom of the past.”
Enoch, Jessica. “‘Para La Mujer’: Defining a Chicana Feminist Rhetoric at the Turn of the Century.” College English, no. 1, 2004, p. 20. https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/stable/4140723?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents
Citing the common topics of Aristotle and Cicero, Enoch uses the idea of “definition” as a konoi topoi. She uses this rhetorical argument to show how the writings of Maria Rentería, Sara Estella Ramírez, and Astrea redefined the Chicana and her role in the Tejano borderlands. She gives an in-depth history of the conditions and situations in which women lived at the turn of the century and concludes by showing that the previous authors and poets created through redefinition new roles for women in the society in which they lived and wrote.
Perera, Sonali. “Rethinking Working-Class Literature: Feminism, Globalization, and Socialist Ethics.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, vol. 19, no. 1, Spring 2008, pp. 1–31. https://read.dukeupress.edu/differences/article/19/1/1/60586/Rethinking-Working-Class-Literature-Feminism
Rhetoric is served by poetry and fiction in this instance by giving a voice to populations that do not have a place in the history of the labor movement or of feminism. The seamstress, the machine operator, the pennies-a-day piece worker in impoverished countries strain the limits of the Marxist narrative by their complete lack of collective bargaining power. This work of literary and social criticism seeks to establish “a new shape and ideological grounding for the concept of a collective subject and other collectivities.” (SP)
Stanciu, Cristina. “An Indian Woman of Many Hats.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 3, Summer 2013, pp. 86–115. https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/stable/pdf/10.5250/studamerindilite.25.2.0087.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3Aa61d949232d7c25ee2f30c623cd73a07
Speaking of Laura “Minnie” Miriam Cornelius Kellogg, the author paints a vivid picture of a powerful and self-possessed orator and member of the Oneida tribe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Stanciu, in explaining her rhetorical power, speaks of her knowledge of her audience, her willingness to address sensitive and unpopular topics, and her use of her physical presence to make her point. Though most of the article is given over to her history, much of it is an examination not just of her points of view, but of how she captured and convinced her audiences.
Stanciu, Cristina1. “‘That Is Why I Sent You to Carlisle’: Carlisle Poetry and the Demands of Americanization Poetics and Politics.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 37, no. 1/2, Winter/Spring2013 2013, pp. 34–76. https://www-jstor-org.ezproxy.lib.usf.edu/stable/pdf/10.5250/amerindiquar.37.1-2.0034.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A3bd72e3d6c64f2cffe2c33df4a478ef0
Through an examination of “Carlisle poetry,” Stanciu addresses the rhetorical usefulness of verse to the children of the Indian schools of the 19th century. She talks about the quiet protest of subversive language as one of few avenues available to students to criticize the institution. Referring to the theories of Jurgen Habermas, she calls the student writers “poets in the public sphere.”
Background Evidence/Exhibit Argument Method
Feminism, as defined and well documented by Wikipedia, is a “range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve the political, economic, personal, and social equality of the genders. This includes fighting gender stereotypes and seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.” Under the blaze of intersectionality, feminism and feminists must now stand for the equality of all people, regardless of “race,” culture, religion (or lack of said). The sign I carried at the Women’s March on Washington in 2017 read, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights,” and they are and must be. We, as the mothers (and potential mothers) of the species, must stand for the entirety of it and, if necessary, send it to its room.
Postcolonial feminism is a particularly poignant form of feminism, embracing as it does almost the entirety of the non-European world. Postcolonialism is defined as the political or cultural condition of a former colony. Arguably, as the bodies of women in all major cultures have long been claimed by men as their particular property, all feminism might rightly be called postcolonial. These terms, however, generally apply to a feminism that directly addresses the conditions of the female survivors and heirs of the formerly colonized culture and their struggle to regain and maintain autonomy.
As a poet, I am drawn to the idea of poetry as rhetoric. In theory, it meets the definition in our text, as it certainly carries and puts to use “the energy inherent in emotion and thought, transmitted through a system of signs, including language” in order to influence the decisions or actions of others. All poetry is meant to persuade, whether it is to convince you to take action, to educate you, or simply to give you the opportunity to share in an unfamiliar point of view. It embraces the rhetorical situation, taking each poet’s skill to bring their issue to their chosen audience, or the audience that chooses them.
Feminism and postcolonial feminism, both as the mouthpieces of oppressed populations, find a ready tool in poetry. Native American poets like Joy Harjo and LeAnne Howe, African American poets like Patricia Smith and Wanda Coleman, and Chicana poets like Lorna Lee Cervantes and Sandra Cisneros all speak brilliantly of the histories of their oppression and the long reach of that oppression into today. Historically, women like Maria Rentería, Sara Estella Ramírez, and Astrea redefined the Chicana and her role in their borderland home. The Native American children of frontier “Carlisle schools” wrote and published poetry that alternately spoke of their growing disdain for their own culture and of their distress at being separated from it.
Is poetry a form of feminist rhetoric in the postcolonial Americas? I believe so. Everything referenced in this annotated bibliography leads to a resounding yes. Poetry is used by these women to convince, educate, and illuminate their history and lives. It speaks to their conditions as women and minorities in a way that is more accessible to a broad audience than direct protest or academic articles. Poetry has long been a subtle (or not so subtle) means to speak truth to power. Ultimately, it is up to the reader to decide.
Alfre Woodard Reads Sojourner Truth. YouTube, uploaded by Voices of a People’s History of the United States, May 10, 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vr_vKsk_h8
The Expository Essay
The Expository Essay class was a redux of the Public Rhetorics class. In it, we studied Edbauer and Bitzer and dove into our individual discourse communities. This essay lays out my case for the existence of a discourse community among the international ceramics community. This paper demonstrates skills of the discipline in evaluating how language works in a variety of artistic, historical, and cultural contexts.
How Does It Work?
How Does It Work?
Looking at the theory surrounding discourse communities (DCs) one wonders, how do they work? What is it that unifies such often disparate individuals into a single focus? Does that single focus actually exist? These are the questions one faces when seeking to analyze any discourse community.
Without assistance, these questions would be baffling. To aid in the attempt, and to establish whether or not one is looking at a true community of discourse at all, James Swales created a set of eight criteria/queries regarding shared goals, lexis and genres, and expectations for standards in communication within the group. As an example of these criteria in action, I offer my own community, the ceramics DC. Our goals are to share and perpetuate our art form and, individually, to create the best work we can. We share ideas, successes, and failures through social media and print publications, as well as at local and national gatherings. Our language is as puzzling to outsiders as is that of any good discourse community.
Though we do meet all of Swales’ criteria, it can be a loose fit at times. Slip-casters don’t always understand throwers who don’t always understand handbuilders. This misprision gave me pause in considering the whole of the community as a unified DC. As one narrows one’s view into the community the conventions and genres become less nebulous and more concrete, as they would in any specialist community. For the purposes of this paper, I will tighten the parameters of my discourse community to include only potters, rather than the wide scope of anyone who creates in clay. In this smaller section of the larger ceramics DC, genres and discourse conventions are distinct and revealing.
In the ceramic/potter’s community, discourse is not always in a verbal or written language. If we define discourse as a rhetorical engagement that relies on creativity and a common lexis, it is apparent that the most compelling texts produced by the DC, indeed the very purpose for which we exist as a community, are the ceramic objects themselves. As with any other communications, these “texts” are subject to conventions, or mutually agreed upon standards and expectations. In addition to the language that we use to describe our work, basic studio courtesies, and communal best practices, ceramic conventions extend to the work that we make. Mugs can be made in many (any) shapes and sizes, but they all have handles. Jars have lids, regardless of how well they fit. Teapots pour. Period.
Conventions and standards exist to maintain the quality of the general body of work. As Rhonda R. McClure says speaking of her genealogy community in her article “Why Must We Have Standards?”, “Standards are not intended to make the tracing of your family history more difficult. In fact, adhering to standards will make your research easier.” In adhering to a mutually agreed upon set of standards, even if it was determined long before we joined the DC, we take the responsibility for determining quality off of the shoulders of each successive generation and give the student a benchmark for their aspirations.
That is not to say that standards and conventions cannot or should not be examined. There will always be outliers like George Ohr, the Mad Potter of Biloxi, who irritated many in his one-man drive to expand the conventions of taste and craftsmanship at the
Fig. 1 – The pottery of George Ohr
start of the last century (fig.1). As occasionally happens with consistent outliers, Ohr is now revered as one who expanded the standards by which we judge studio and art pottery. Not everyone who challenges convention will be judged as kindly by history.
In tandem with convention, genres are also incredibly important in establishing a discourse community. Genre, according to Dirk, Bitzer and Freadman, is a unified response to a repetitive situation. Instead of functioning as a constraint and restriction on authorial ingenuity as is often thought, Chandler and others would have us believe that genres are useful in establishing a relationship between authors and readers, or artists and audience. They can be used, according to Gledhill, as a backdrop against which to create a personal sort of artistic tension. They can also be useful as a variety of “shorthand” to increase the efficiency of communication. Indeed, now considering genre utility from a consumer standpoint, Chandler suggests that readers and consumers of genres are aided by them in identifying, interpreting, and selecting texts. The rules intrinsic in genres set up expectations in their audiences which creators of texts, be they written or ceramic, can satisfy either by fulfilling them or by defying them in new and interesting ways. Genres also offer various pleasures to audiences in that gratification or alteration of expectation.
Genres can help us answer the questions that we consistently ask ourselves and others about the work that we do and the world we do it in. Not only do they (genres) speak to the work we make, they dictate how we talk about our work, how we talk about ourselves as makers, and how we offer ourselves and our work to our audiences. If we are concerned about staying within the protective aegis of a certain community (academic, guild, or social) a genre may even dictate the sum of our life’s work. Chandler also suggests that genre has the power to shape audiences, and not just through expectations. An attendance to genres allows the individual potter to “train” their audience to find certain curves, certain objects beautiful and useful.
Melissa Weiss is an excellent example of one who expanded a genre. With her hand-dug natural clay, reduction firing, geometric decoration, and (until recently) very basic color schemes, her work fit within a very strictly defined genre in a community that was well-known for rejecting those who failed to maintain purity. By slow and careful evolution and a strong individualistic mindset, she stretched her genre while maintaining her status within it. As a result, she continues to bring new people into her audience. When she started this new line of work, she gave much of it away. Now, her rustic kurinuki cups command $65 each and sell out every quarter within an hour of her opening her online gallery. Her most recent sale was over in twelve and a half minutes. This DC uses Instagram, magazines, small run books, and social media to allow ceramic artists to find and create their niches within the larger DC. Through a consistent social presence, a decade of hard work, and a successful book, Melissa created an audience that cleans out her online store every time she opens it up. Social and print media give ceramicists with less experience an opportunity to learn about the art and craft and the life of a professional, non-academic ceramic artist. They help us choose the sub-genre to which we will devote most of our creative energies, possibly for the rest of our lives.
Our writing is not confined, however, to social media or formal writing. We interact in writing in many ways and in many genres. From the letter of application to a ceramics grad school, to the individual email to the professor, to Instagram braggadocio, to texts I get from my students asking for reprints of my lessons, this DC is always in motion. Topics circulate within the community via conversation in person, on social media, and in professional publications. They pass from one medium to another as ideas and techniques jump from social media to magazines to individual artists to workshop to classes and back. The levels of formality and technicality of language change with the needs of each communication and intended audience. The grad school letter will contain much more formal language than the glaze recipes I send my students, though it should be much less technical. Even the articles on familiar techniques will vary according to publication and audience. Instagram posts, the most concise of the lot, always contain type of firing, clay, and glaze in the most specific language known to the writer. Genre and lexis must be determined by each writer based on their level of knowledge, what they need to say, and to whom.
An example of a topic that has been sliding back and forth between the mediums is slip transfer. Slip transfer is a very old idea taken from an older paper technique called monoprinting. Though it has been used in ceramics for hundreds of years, the last five years have seen it surge in popularity. From relative obscurity in folk pottery, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere. What happened? Circulation happened. A respected studio artist brought the technique to a workshop in the NC mountains. Photographs were taken and posted to social media. An attendee asked permission to teach it to his students when he got home. Interest spread. As it is not a new or difficult technique, ceramicists and teachers saw it, liked it, and began to experiment with it for themselves. New techniques were created. A major ceramic materials company directed their representative to attend a workshop and figure out how to use their products instead of the ubiquitous (and much cheaper) slip. This representative published an article in Pottery Making Illustrated and now teaches her version in workshops all over the country. YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook videos did the rest. What was several years ago an arcane technique is now one of the most popular ceramic decorating techniques in the U.S. The practice spread across the DC through various media, workshops, one on one interactions, classes, social media, print magazines, and promotional materials in a fascinating example of how topics can spread across a discourse community through many genres.
In the opening paragraph we mused over whether or not a single focus can exist in a DC. It can and does. In each of our communities of choice, genres, conventions, and a shared love of the materials bring us into clear accord, even if we then fracture, prism-like, into a full spectrum of ideas and practices. A discourse community is not a group of people who consistently fall into lockstep or form Stepford bridge clubs, though that is not outside the realm of possibility. People of all different walks of life may unite in one pursuit. My own discourse community is an international affiliation of people who may not share a native tongue, a religion, or a political bent, but who do share the desire (and sometimes the ability) to make beautiful things from the earth and enough words in any language to communicate about it.
Bitzer, Lloyd. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 1, 1968, pp. 1–14.
Chandler, Daniel (1997): ‘An Introduction to Genre Theory’ [WWW document] URL http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/intgenre/intgenre.html [12 March 2020]
Macdonell, Diane. Theories of Discourse: an Introduction. B. Blackwell, 1986, p.1-3.
McClure, Rhonda R. “Why Must We Have Standards?”Twigs and Trees, 22 Aug 2002. Genealogy.com. https://www.genealogy.com/articles/twigs/rhonda082202.html
Swales, John M. “Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings.” The Modern Language Journal, vol. 76, no. 2, 1992, p. 238., doi:10.2307/329786.
Your Pottery Primer
This video from the Expository Essay class demonstrates Civic Engagement skills in providing an introduction to ceramics for the absolute beginner. It also shows my newly won skills in creating and editing Microsoft Spark videos.