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  • Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric ed. by Kathleen J. Ryan, Nancy Myers, and Rebecca Jones
  • Brittany Knutson
Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric. Edited by Kathleen J. Ryan, Nancy Myers, and Rebecca Jones. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2016; pp. vii + 304 $45.00 paper.

In response to the tension surrounding women who occupy spaces of authority, Kathleen J. Ryan, Nancy Myers, and Rebecca Jones published Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric. The essays collected in the book focus on the rethinking of ethos to account for subjects who do not traditionally embody authority. At the intersection of ecological thinking and feminist rhetorical theory, the collaborators combine essays that explore how "women's public ethos construction [is] relative to time, contexts, and different relationships" (2). Ryan, Myers, and Jones break the essays into three sections: interruption-interrupting (23–110), advocacy-advocating (111–194), and relation-relating (195–278).

The first selection of essays unpack how women's ethos can be an interruption, which "refers to breaks, divides, hitches, disruptions, disturbances, ruptures, or breeches … [in] the status quo of dominant values and practices" (23). The power of interruption is illustrated through examination of visual ethos, confrontation, pedagogy, and technological advancement. Kristie S. Fleckenstein contributes a narrative of interruption in her essay, "A Reformer Rides: Radical Photographic Ethos in Frances E. Willard's A Wheel within a Wheel" (26–49). Fleckenstein analyzes a set of six photographs of Frances E. Willard mastering a bicycle. Fleckenstein highlights how the progression of the photographs acts as an interruption and "mimics the progression of all middle-class white women from their sequestration in the parlor to their freedom in public spaces" (41). Valerie Palmer-Mehta also writes of an interrupting woman in her essay, "Andrea Dworkin's Radical Ethos" (50–70). Palmer-Mehta uses Dworkin as a figure to examine "a radical feminist ethos" as it "subverts traditional, masculinized accounts of ethos" (53). She shows how Dworkin's rejection of heteronormativity, [End Page 164] beauty norms, manners, and pornography acted as an interruption. Rather than analyzing an interrupting figure, Stacey Waite devotes her essay, "The Unavailable Means of Persuasion: A Queer Ethos for Feminist Writers and Teachers," to the creation of interrupting figures (71–88). Waite provides examples of queered reading and writing lessons in the classroom that allow students "to recognize what isn't available in the current moment and, through imagination, project what seems unavailable into a revised future" (87). In "Changing Audience, Changing Ethos," Beth Daniell and Letizia Guglielmo map the transition of women's ethos through social and cultural advancement (89–109). The progression they find uncovers "a new, though perhaps temporary, concept of women's ethos, one that is multivocal, grounded in lived—and shared—experience, facilitated by digital media, and directed at a different audience" (90). The authors in these works contributed to knowledge about the enactment of feminist interruption.

The next group of essays is devoted to unpacking the tactics of women advocates and the "continuous ethical consideration and adjustments to power, relationships, experiences, and imagined versus real needs" (111). The essays feature women who garner power by occupying expected roles of mothers and nurturers in strategic and persuasive ways. In the first essay, "Ethos as a Social Act: The 'Unauthorized' Susanna Wesley," Lynee Lewis Gaillet tells the story of Susanna Wesley, the woman often referred to as the mother of Methodism because of her influence on her son and founder of Methodism, John Wesley (114–131). Susanna's education and her commitment to the spiritual community catalyzed the development of a religion that valued women as educational and religious leaders. Sean Barnette, in his article, "Hospitality as Kenosis: Dorothy Day's Voluntary Poverty," uses Dorothy Day, a Catholic social activist, as a case study (132–149). He explains that Day dismantles the power structure between guest and host by strategically enacting powerlessness. Mary Beth Pennington also analyzes strategic powerlessness in her essay, "Powerlessness Repurposed: The Feminist Ethos of Judy Bonds" (150–172). Judy Bonds was an Appalachian woman and unlikely environmental activist. Bonds admitted that audiences might have reservations about her credibility but was granted authority because of...


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