In silence my tongue is broken: The social construction of women's rhetoric before 1750.
AuthorMerrill, Yvonne Day.
Committee ChairMiller, Thomas
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Abstract"In Silence My Tongue is Broken": The Social Construction of Women's Rhetoric Before 1750 examines the rhetorical strategies that Sappho (c. 600 B.C.E.), Christine de Pizan (1364-1430?), Lady Elizabeth Cary (1585-1639), and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762) used to speak for the female experience. These women became autonomous subjects of discourse by adapting the language of the dominant Western tradition to speak from the position of women. In appropriating the masculine language that defined them, they were able to construct personal identities that could respond to and renegotiate male-defined reality to articulate female experiences and reconstruct feminine identities. The silencing of women's voices usually accompanied the strengthening of patriarchy through institutionalized misogyny and the domestication of women during periods of bourgeois ascendancy, which affected the latter two women more than the former. The introduction explains the epistemological reasons why social constructionism is the critical lens for this analysis. The four discussion chapters treat the rhetorical context in which each woman wrote, including a discussion of Aristotelian misogyny; the ways each woman justified her authorial voice to express peculiarly female experience; and the rhetorical choices each made at the register, genre, and discourse levels, which reveal their degree of authorial confidence. The conclusion illustrates how these authors spoke from the margins of male experience by becoming culturally multilingual.