Revolution Lullabye

October 5, 2013

Enoch and Bessette, Meaningful Engagements

Enoch, Jessica and Jean Bessette. “Meaningful Engagements: Feminist Historiography and the Digital Humanities.” College Composition and Communication 64.4 (June 2013): 634-660.

Enoch and Bessette, citing a disconnect between feminist rhetorical historiography and the digital humanities movement, explore what digital historiography could offer to feminist historians of rhetoric.  Their essay, which is organized around three terms used by Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch to describe excellence in feminist research (strategic contemplation, social circulation, and critical imagination), explains the surface-level contradictions between feminist rhetorical historiography and digital historiography, argues for the deeper connections between the two kinds of research, and offers suggestions and/or hesitations about how the two might adapt and affect each other. In the end, they call on feminist rhetorical historiographers to explore and question what the digital humanities bring to (or subtract from) their work. 

Enoch and Bessette interrogate specific digital historiography methods, including distant reading, visualization, multimodal production, and open or interactive online history projects. Enoch and Bessette point out that digital humanities often rely on the construction of online archives, which can open up research opportunities for feminist rhetorical historians (though, they do point out that the contents of these archives (e.g. Google Books) leave out many documents and works of interest to feminist rhetorical historians.) They also address two main issues of concern about feminist rhetorical historians becoming multimodal digital humanities scholars: first, that there hasn’t been enough scholarly attention to the effects of digital histories on audiences (what the histories do) and second, that many feminist rhetorical historians lack the technological skills set to produce multimodal scholarship, and the “culture of code” surrounding the digital humanities prevents women from participating in this area of research.

 

Notable Notes

Google’s Ngram as a useful research tool for feminist rhetorical historiographers, a distant reading tool that searches for words and phrases over the entire Google Books corpus and generates a visual graph that shows when those words or phrases appear over 200+ years.  These tools allow researchers to incorporate evidence (and find new questions) that would have been impossible for a single scholar to aggregate. (643-645) example: Aspasia

interactive online histories like the Harvard Film Study Center and Laurel Ulrich’s site DoHistory, which invites readers to read an 18th-century American midwife’s journal (Martha Ballard) and “translate” her diary, read other contemporary documents next to it and come to their own historical conclusions about events, etc. (650).  These interactive histories, though, bring to light a “different dynamic of power” between audience and scholar (650).

digital archives aren’t necessarily “disembodied” and therefore counter to the principles underlying feminist research – certain digital archives allow for “virtual proximity” with their abundance of data that researchers can use to find new connections, patterns in their digital recovery efforts.

Subheadings: “Digital Archives, Strategic Contemplation, and Virtual Proximity”; “Social Circulation, Evidence, and Distant Reading”; “Critical Imagination, Dangerous Moves, and Multimodal Histories” – these subheadings correspond to Royster and Kersch’s principles.

 

Quotable Quotes

“Evidence here becomes pattern, repetition, and aggregation” (645) – the kind of evidence generated through distant reading methodologies (e.g. Moretti)

“We intend this essay to function as a springboard for feminist historians (and all historians, in fact) to consider their relationship to the digital humanities” (637).

“The work accomplished in Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies” enables us to put feminist historiography in conversation with the digital humanities in general and digital historiography more particularly for the purpose of considering how the two fields of study may come together and invigorate one another, how they might complicate one another, and how they may run in contradistinction to one another” (636-37).

“Whereas we once confronted a seeming dearth of archival evidence, now it seems that opportunities for digital recovery are everywhere” (639).

“the culture of code is likely to be off-putting to women at best and discriminatory at worst” (652-653) – countered by local, smaller groups dedicated to teaching women scholars how to code.

“Since a great deal of feminist historiographic work hinges on the idea that women have been all but erased from rhetorical history and the rhetorical record, a marked characteristic of feminist research has been to recover forgotten figures whose rhetorical significance is often found in out-of-the-way places rather than institutional and federal archives with enormous holdings” (637-638).

June 16, 2009

Enoch, Refiguring Rhetorical Education

Enoch, Jessica. Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Enoch offers an alternative understanding to what rhetorical education is and is for through her analysis of the pedagogical and rhetorical practices of white and minority women teachers teaching marginalized American students from 1865-1911. Her case studies include Lydia Maria Child, who wrote The Freedman’s Book, a post-Civil War textbook for freed slaves, a book that offered freed slaves multiple perspectives and rhetorical models from black and white authors; Zitkala-Sa, a Sioux teacher who wrote autobiographical essays in the Atlantic Monthly that questioned the aims of Indian education; and Jovita Idar, Marta Pena, and Leonor Villegas de Magnon, three Chicana teachers in Laredo, Texas, who wrote articles in the Spanish-language newspaper La Cronica that argued for bicultural rhetorical education that places Anglican and Mexican heritages in conversation with each other, into a new kind of cultural citizenship. Enoch’s purpose is to complicate the field’s understandings of what rhetorical education meant in the late 19th-early 20th century (the field relies on accounts of what was happening in American universities) and where that education was taking place. Enoch elevates the female teacher from a passive transmitter of the dominant culture to a potential advocate, shaping pedagogies and rhetorical strategies to better teach and empower her students. Enoch also points out that rhetorical education does not have to be about full participation and engagement in the dominant political and cultural sphere: rather, it can be quieter and more personal, forming communal and civic identites and teaching rhetorical strategies that marginalized members of society can use to begin to disrupt the dominant hegemonic space.

Quotable Quotes

Enoch invites other scholars at the end of the book to find other historical and contemporary sites of rhetorical education by asking questions like “How have people learned to participate in civic, communal, and cultural discussions? How have teachers and students responded to models and skills for participation designated for them? How have they invented different strategies for participation? WHat did these strategies (dis)enable?” (173).

“A rhetorical education aimed at change and disruption rather than acceptance and submission” (32) – Lydia Maria Child’s work

rhetorical education = “any educational program that develops in students a communal and civic identity and articulates for them the rhetorical strategies, language practices, and bodily and social behaviors that make possible their participation in communal and civic affairs” (7-8)

Notable Notes

calls for first-year, rhet/comp to go back to rhetorical education principles – a rhetorical education that is always cultural and political, situated, personal and cultural as well as civic and public, a range of behaviors, skills, and practices

draws on rhet/comp scholarship in African-American, Native America, Chicano/a rhetorical practices and pedagogies; critical pedagogy; history of composition and rhetoric

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