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Cover of Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions
January 1996
Southern Illinois University Press

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Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions

Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich
Krista Ratcliffe

One of the few authors to define and focus on feminist theories of rhetoric, Krista Ratcliffe takes Bathsheba s dilemma as her controlling metaphor: "I have the feelings of a woman," says Bathsheba Everdene in Hardy's "Far from the Madding Crowd," "but only the language of men."

Although women and men have different relationships to language and to each other, traditional theories of rhetoric do not foreground such gender differences, Ratcliffe notes. She argues that feminist theories of rhetoric are needed if we are to recognize, validate, and address Bathsheba s dilemma.

Ratcliffe argues that because feminists generally have not conceptualized their language theories from the perspective of rhetoric and composition studies, rhetoric and composition scholars must construct feminist theories of rhetoric by employing a variety of interwoven strategies: recovering lost or marginalized texts; rereading traditional rhetoric texts; extrapolating rhetorical theories from such nonrhetoric texts as letters, diaries, essays, cookbooks and other sources; and constructing their own theories of rhetoric.

Focusing on the third option, Ratcliffe explores ways in which the rhetorical theories of Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly and Adrienne Rich may be extrapolated from their Anglo-American feminist texts through examination of the interrelationship between what these authors write and how they write. In other words, she extrapolates feminist theories of rhetoric from interwoven claims and textual strategies.


Krista Ratcliffe is a professor in the Department of English at Arizona State University. 

Praise for this book

"I’m impressed with the ground-breaking work this author has done. I believe this book has the potential to be a significant contribution to the new field of feminist studies in composition and rhetoric. There is a need to transform existing traditions through feminist readings."

Susan Jarratt
Miami University