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The House of My Sojourn

Rhetoric, Women, and the Question of Authority

Written by Jane S. Sutton

Publication Year: 2010

Employing the trope of architecture, Jane Sutton envisions the relationship between women and rhetoric as a house: a structure erected in ancient Greece by men that, historically, has made room for women but has also denied them the authority and agency to speak from within. Sutton’s central argument is that all attempts to include women in rhetoric exclude them from meaningful authority in due course, and this exclusion has been built into the foundations of rhetoric.


Drawing on personal experience, the spatial tropes of ancient Greek architecture, and the study of women who attained significant places in the house of rhetoric, Sutton highlights a number of decisive turns where women were able to increase their rhetorical access but were not able to achieve full authority, among them the work of Frances Wright, Lucy Stone, and suffragists Mott, Anthony, and Stanton; a visit to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the busts that became the Portrait Monument were displayed in the Woman’s Building (a sideshow, in essence); and a study of working-class women employed as telephone operators in New York in 1919.


With all the undeniable successes—socially, politically, and financially— of modern women, it appears that women are now populating the house of rhetoric as never before. But getting in the house and having public authority once inside are not the same thing. Sutton argues that women “can only act as far as the house permits.” Sojourn calls for a fundamental change in the very foundations of rhetoric.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix


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pp. xi-xii

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Introduction: Scraping the Roof

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pp. 1-20

It was around noon on March 13, 2009. I was driving north on I-95 going over in my mind the recent revisions I had made to this book and sent to the press when, on the radio, I heard an NPR announcer say that President Barack Obama would be giving a speech shortly. “Now let’s go to the East Room,” said the voice...

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1. In the Palindrome of the

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pp. 21-50

The story around the Portrait Monument—its celebration in the Rotunda and its authorization in the basement—alerted me to the existence of another move- ment, one of women going down at the same time as they are recognized and os- tensibly included within the house. My personal experience of seeing the statue...

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2. What Time o’ Night It Is

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pp. 51-73

By the time I reach the top of the stairs, the atmosphere becomes palpable. I enter into the house of rhetoric above ground—that world where rhetoric envelops the contemporary sociopolitical atmosphere, like a frame of a house.1 As it becomes more and more tangible, the atmosphere actually gathers a material weight...

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3. The Path—Then

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pp. 74-88

I am in the Capitol, climbing the stairs out of the basement to the Rotunda. Once I enter the Rotunda, I actually cross the threshold of the house of rhetoric. In this house, the Portrait Monument is my cairn. I use it to locate a trailhead and start following the stepping-stones that women set down in the course of their moving toward the Capitol. Eventually, the course they set enabled others...

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4. The Building—of the Future

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pp. 89-110

In the last chapter I discovered Frances Wright in the house of rhetoric. I began moving down the halls and eventually came to Lucy Stone. Meeting up with Lucy Stone meant another trip to Washington, D.C. At the Library of Congress, I read some of the speeches and private letters she had written and that were written to her. Using Lucy Stone as a placeholder of women’s rise in the house of rhetoric, I left the library around noon for a walk. As luck would have it, the...

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5. Speakers As We Might Be—Now

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pp. 111-122

From the World’s Columbian Exposition, I venture down the hall of the house. My research quest takes me from the Woman’s Dormitory to New York where many of the working-class women, for whom the dormitory had been built, had originated from. As I go, I see ahead a colossal mural hanging on...

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6. Walking the Milky Way

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pp. 123-144

The top picture on p. 124 (figure 6.1) is the Portrait Monument as it stands in the Capitol Rotunda. The picture below it (figure 6.2) shows the back of the monument, its rough stone. What the pictures do not show is a group of high school students. They are standing in the front of the monument but their backs are to it because their attention is focused on the teacher standing in...


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pp. 145-179


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pp. 181-204


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pp. 205-219

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384821
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317157

Page Count: 219
Illustrations: 16 Illustrations
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 772460320
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The House of My Sojourn

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Women -- Intellectual life.
  • Women -- Social conditions.
  • Rhetoric.
  • Communication and culture.
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