- Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods and Methodologies ed. by Eileen E. Schell and K.J. Rawson
Rhetorica in Motion: Feminist Rhetorical Methods and Methodologies grew out of a graduate seminar on feminist research, an origin similar to that of Andrea Lunsford’s Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1995). Indeed, Schell and Rawson’s collection—the first exploration of both contemporary and historical feminist rhetorical research methods—follows in the tradition of Lunsford’s collection of women’s rhetorics (the first of its kind published in composition and rhetoric). In her introduction to the collection, Schell describes how students enrolled in her Feminist Rhetorics course (2005) explored methods and methodologies for conducting what she refers to as the “burgeoning scholarship” on feminist rhetorics.
Like Schell and Rawson’s collection, this review also springs from a graduate seminar on feminist inquiry. We devoted time to reflecting on, and, yes, at times, passionately debating many of the theoretical possibilities and practical realities involved in conducting feminist rhetorical research as a result of our time spent with the provocative, experience-based, self-reflective arguments that we all agree are so skillfully assembled in this collection.
Outlining two goals for the book, Schell writes, “We wanted the volume to pull in two directions—to continue to map the terrain of well-defined areas of feminist inquiry such as archival research, literacy research, and online research and also to bring to the fore work in interdisciplinary areas of inquiry such as disability studies, gerontology/aging studies, Latina/o studies, queer and transgender studies, and transnational feminisms” (3). Rhetorica in Motion does precisely that, providing critical, reflective, yet forward-thinking accounts of various feminist research efforts and rhetorics “in action.” Contributing author Frances F. Ranney, for example, discusses her ongoing efforts to work ethically with the nonliving in archival research, while Joanne Addison offers an extended reflection on her attempts to create models for carrying out feminist empirical writing research. Rather than providing a singular formula for enacting feminist inquiry, then, the volume succeeds in forwarding a wide spectrum of useful possibilities for understanding and practicing rigorous, ethical feminist rhetorical research.
The book is organized into three sections. The first, “Theoretical and Methodological Challenges,” includes examinations of the difficulties and challenges [End Page 160] commonly involved with conducting feminist research within (and against) normalizing discourse. Here the reader will find thought-provoking discussions, from Jay Dolmage and Cynthia Lewiecki-Wilson’s look at intersections between feminist and disability studies to K.J. Rawson’s transgender critiques of the canonization processes within feminist theoretical work. In addition, Wendy S. Hesford traces the complexities of the shifting ground of transnational identity and difference, and Ilene Whitney Crawford reflects on the necessity of resisting meaning-making cultural efforts that reinscribe narratives of power and domination in the service of hegemonic ideologies. The second section, “Reflective Applications,” features equally engaging discussions on ways feminist methods and methodologies manifest themselves in specific practices, including contributions such as Kathleen J. Ryan’s reflection on her own experiences as junior faculty, Bernadette M. Calafell’s personal narrative on balancing work and identity, and Ranney’s imagine-activation-informed archival work. Additional pieces from Joanne Addison, as well as Heidi A. McKee and James E. Porter, look at the impact of feminist principles for researchers in the classroom as well as in cyberspace. The final section, “Pedagogical Postscript,” provides a helpful complement to the volume’s attention to research. In “Writing as Feminist Rhetorical Theory,” Laura R. Micciche contends that writing is central to feminist inquiry. To explore how feminists, as rhetorical theorists of writing, might enact pedagogical practices to disrupt and reinvigorate classroom writing, Micciche concludes with three detailed assignments designed to promote writing as playful, exploratory, and intentionally ambiguous.
Readers will find a clear and consistent focus across the chapters in Rhetorica in Motion: researcher/authors acknowledge the complexity and messiness...