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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Jacqueline Jones Royster

Name: Jacqueline Jones Royster, The Ohio State University.

Presentation Title: "Social Circulation and Sojourner Truth's 'Ain't I a Woman' Speech"

Date: April 22, 2010


In their collaborative work on feminist rhetorical inquiry, Gesa E. Kirsch and Jacqueline J. Royster focus on four terms of engagement: the use of critical imagination, strategic contemplation, social circulation, and linkages between local and global interests. In this presentation, Royster draws attention to "social circulation," a notion that invokes connections among past, present and future in the sense that rhetorical actions in the overlapping circles in which women travel, live, and work are carried on or modified from one circle to the next, from one generation to the next. By taking a closer look at such processes, we are able to see how they set in motion the idea that rhetoric is evolutionary, not just revolutionary. The use, then, of social circulation as a feminist practice helps to bring visibility to the extent to which women's legacies of thought and action are mediated through the complexities of ever-evolving personal, social, and political relationships and agenda and through the dynamic use and re-use of rhetorical moments for a range of rhetorical purposes. To illustrate this analytical approach, Royster will look again at the 1851 speech, popularly known as the 'Ain't I a Woman' speech, made by Sojourner Truth at the Women's Rights Convention in Akron Ohio, to show how it has functioned over time to power and periodically re-charge a social movement.