I started reading Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch’s Feminist Historical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies as it was selected for March/April by Goodreads Comp/Rhet Reading Group. This is my first time reading along with the club and attempting to participating, but unfortunately there hasn’t been much discussion happening. If you’re interested, you can (and should) check out the club!
I really enjoyed reading FHP, in part because it’s very different than most of the scholarly work I select on my own. That being said, I am seeing many connections between the practices that Royster and Kirsch discuss and my own strategies for research. It has certainly caused me to think more about where feminist research methods come into play and how I can connect those to my own work.
Royster and Kirsch provide an overview of the kinds of rhetorical strategies being employed by feminist researchers. They use a metaphor of mining for cold and assaying it for value to think through both the processes of conducting feminist research and analyzing the texts that we find through those processes, in the hopes of making “feminist rhetorical studies as an asset in RCL [rhetoric, composition, and literacy]. . .more visible and deemed worthy and valuable not only to RCL but perhaps even beyond” (chapter 1). They discuss the ways that feminist rhetorical scholars have gone on to look at ordinary texts created and placed value on those texts as actual rhetorical practices, something that more traditional rhetorical research fails to do.
Royster and Kirsch discuss four main rhetorical practices in their discussion: critical imagination, strategic contemplation, social circulation, and globalizing the point of view. While much of this discussion is centered on archival work–likely because this is the kind of research available to them, and it fits well with “the core agenda of rescuing, recovering, and [(re)inscribing] women into the history of rhetoric” (chapter 2)–these methods can also be applied to other research and teaching contexts. After discussing how these practices function, Royster and Kirsch use Clifford Geertz’s “tacking in” and “tacking out” metaphors to showcase how other scholars have previously used theses research practices. They follow this discussion with reflections from each of them (following their own strategy of strategic contemplation) to discuss how they have used these practices as scholars/instructors. Then, they provide pedagogical uses for each.
I found this overall organizational scheme to be very helpful. In addition to being more able to understand how each of these terministic screens function, I also found myself growing more interested in the scholarship they presented through their discussion. Looking back at my notes, I see that I highlighted not only key points but also the names of scholars and texts that I would like to look further into at some point in the future. I’m interested in looking especially at the research on “ordinary texts” (like church bulletins, club meeting minutes, etc.) and considering how it relates to some of the current transfer scholarship, especially considering that very little transfer research looks at how individuals develop practices between non-academic contexts (or between academic and non-academic contexts). It seems that investing myself further in some of this research could open up new doors my own scholarly interests.