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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Gesa Kirsch

Name: Gesa Kirsch, Bentley University.

Presentation Title: "Strategic Contemplation and Feminist Rhetorical Inquiry"

Date: March 11, 2010

Abstract

The range and scope of feminist rhetorical studies has increased vastly in recent years. The most interesting and unusual research conducted by scholars include studies of rhetorical activities of small town rural women (Charlotte Hogg, 2006); analyses of Virginia mountain women writing to government officials protesting the loss of their homes and the establishment of the Shenandoah National Park (Katrina Powell, 2007); resistant pedagogies developed by nineteenth-century women teachers of African American, Native American, and Chicano/a students (Jessica Enoch, 2008); rhetorical and literate activities produced by Japanese Americans imprisoned in Internment camps during WWII (Gail Okawa, 2008); and alternative sites of rhetorical educational for African Americans, such as sewing circles, religious singing, preaching, "hush harbors," and the black press (Shirley Wilson Logan, 2008).

These studies provide rich new opportunities for rhetorical research, Kirsch argues, but also raise methodological and ethical questions such as, "When we study women of the past, especially those whose voices have rarely been heard or studied by rhetoricians, how do we render their work and lives meaningfully? How do we honor their traditions? How do we transport ourselves back to the time and context in which they lived, knowing full well that is not possible to see things from their vantage point? Drawing on her collaborative work with Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster, Kirsch explores these questions by examining the notion of "strategic contemplation" as a critical term of engagement. In doing so, she seeks to re-claim the genre of the "meditation" in current scholarly practice in order to claim strategic contemplation as an important meditative dimension of scholarly productivity, especially when traditional, more publicly rendered sources of information are in short supply, as is often the case with the documentation of women's experiences.