Merrill, Yvonne D.

Social Construction of Western Women's Rhetoric Before 1750
1996 0-7734-8851-0
This volume examines the rhetorical strategies used by Sappho, Christine de Pizan, Lady Elizabeth Cary, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu 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. The introduction explains the epistemological reasons why social constructionism is the critical lens for this analysis. 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 they spoke from the margins of male experience by becoming culturally multilingual.