Failed feminisms? : inactive rhetoric and the ethos of early women writers' defenses of women

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Debra A. Combs (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Walter H. Beale

Abstract: The purpose of this dissertation is to analyze the ethos of deeply marginalized writers. The writers selected for analysis in this project, Christine de Pizan, Jane Anger, Rachel Speght, Ester Sowernam, and Constantia Munda, all implicitly engage their marginalizations in their writings. All of them are late medieval or early modern women who wrote defenses of women within their patriarchal context. Despite differences of class, country and century, these women resemble each other because they wrote such defenses without any well-known, secular precedents for their arguments. Christine de Pizan wrote before Jane Anger, and Anger wrote before Speght, yet the texts of the earlier writers were unknown to the later ones, which leaves each of them without direct precedent for either their arguments or their act of writing as women. This dissertation explores the nature of the ethos appeals these women used given the difficulties of their rhetorical situations. The methodology used in this dissertation is informed by rhetorical studies, feminism, and historiography. Each of these writers' texts is analyzed for the use of ethos appeals within the context of the writers' gender roles and their historical period. The study has two sections: the first delineates a generalization about the ethos appeals in Christine de Pizan's texts, while the second uses that generalization to analyze the work of the other women writers discussed here. The analysis primarily considers whether these ethos appeals are fundamentally similar given the writers' similar rhetorical situations.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 1995
Feminism and literature
Women authors $y Early modern, 1500-1700 $x History and criticism
Women authors $y Early modern, 1500-1700 $x Social conditions

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