A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

A Review of Enoch's Refiguring Rhetorical Education

A Review of Refiguring Rhetorical Education: Women Teaching African American, Native American, and Chicano/a Students, 1865-1911 by Jessica Enoch 2008; Southern Illinois University Press

Romeo Garcia, Syracuse University

Enculturation: http://www.enculturation.net/refiguring-rhetorical-education (Published: September 3, 2015)

Feminist historiography is a method for "seeing" how women are represented within patriarchal structures and gender hierarchies. It examines the ways in which gender ideology and society has disciplined the subject position of womanhood and regulated the rhetorical behavior of women within the ‘perceived’ dominant discourse of the symbolic. Its methodology is one of rescuing, recovering and re-inscribing women to history and restoring history to women. By restoring a complex history to women, such Feminist work counters male-constructed images and representations that have created narrow gender scripts and roles for women. To materialize the ideological apparatus that enabled the circumscribing of women’s bodies and circumventing of women’s politics, control of spaces and control of women across a range of social sites, this scholarship also articulates the historical production of the oppressive patriarchal structural axis of power and social capital. The intellectual project of writing women into history, therefore, encompasses an analysis of genealogies, historical geographies, gender ideologies, and the gendering of discourse. This has been the dominant model for feminist historiography projects.

In recent years, however, there there has been a shift. As Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch have noted in their most recent publication, Feminist Rhetorical Practices, the cross-fertilizing of feminist research with other fields has produced an intersection of feminist historical and rhetorical research. For example, in Available Means, there is the rhetorical move of gathering women’s rhetorics and locating women within and outside the rhetorical tradition. Such a work demands the discipline reconsider its own past, rhetorical theories, and notions of embodied rhetorics. Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics is another example of an interdisciplinary project that expands the trajectory of feminist rhetorics. Here the theoretical and practical practices of feminist rhetorical methods and methodologies are also to articulate a political agenda directed towards promoting equity within the academy and society. That is, this study asks the reader to consider how our institutions, beyond the rhetorical tradition, carry on the legacy of patriarchal structures—structures that embody their own gendered biases and assumptions. Lastly, Feminist Rhetorical Practices affirms the shift to the rhetorical. Royster and Kirsch offer a new analytical model and operational framework for inquiry-based research reflective of this shift.

Part investigative and part interrogative, Jessica Enoch’s feminist rhetorical historiography project in, Refiguring Rhetorical Education, includes the methodological approaches of recovery and gendered analysis. To establish the relationship between rhetoric and feminist research, Enoch provides an analysis of women as educators of rhetoric with a focus on literacy and citizenship. She highlights how women used language and rhetoric to enact a type of rhetorical education, across multiple periods and geographical locations, for the purposes of politicizing their seemingly apolitical gender roles and moving beyond assimilationist policies and discourses. Enoch argues they did so by refiguring rhetorical education by placing pedagogical emphasis on civic participation, civic identity, and rhetorical strategies. To make her case, Enoch positions educators such as Lydia Maria Child, Zitkala-Sa, Jovita Idar, Marta Pena, and Leonor Villegas de Magnon as female rhetors participating and contributing to a rhetoric that is “made up of remnants of a classical past, layered over by accumulated practices from nearly three millennia in which structures and values of patriarchy dominated, wrapped up with over three centuries of Enlightenment logic” (Dolmage and Lewiecki-Wilson 23). With a gendered analysis, Enoch demonstrates how these five female rhetors, working under the constraints of domesticity and male-centered ideological apparatuses, reform this rhetoric to advocate a political position for themselves and their students. That is, these teachers articulated a type of rhetoric that countered the dominant discourse, at the same time that they redefined social/cultural participation and citizenship through awareness and construction of a critical consciousness. While Enoch does not focus on whether such audiences achieved new political structures of meaning and representation, what is rhetorically significant is that these five female teacher’s interrogated dominant forms of life and ‘business-as-usual’ rhetorical education by enacting a rhetoric and pedagogy of resistance. Indeed, she demonstrates that each teacher reconceived the rhetorical activity of rhetorical education by emphasizing two of the cannons of rhetoric, invention and memory. Against rhetoric(s) of assemblage(s) that created racial symbols for disenfranchised students and gendered symbols for the female body, these teachers/rhetors entered, occupied, and claimed the classroom through invention and memory. As such, Enoch’s work shows how women do “have a place inside the history of rhetorical education” and how women over time and space have participated, contributed, and have been essentially vital to rhetoric (11).

One of the strengths of Enoch’s feminist rhetorical historiography is how it reveals shifts in rhetorical situations and theoretical frameworks of each rhetor/educator from 1865-1911. Another strength is how Enoch contextualizes. In chapter one, Enoch discusses how historically, the professional and cultural construction of the female teacher was apolitical in both their roles in the social sphere and within rhetorical education. An underlying assumption was that such teachers were passive and subscribed to and perpetuated the ideological positions of white dominant society (Enoch 4). Another underlying assumption was that the role of female teachers, “like the mother, was to nurture and form the character of her students” (3). In positioning the female teacher as, “reproducing in students those preexisting norms, language practices, and behaviors already firmly entrenched in dominant American society,” the female teacher was assumed to take on the role of securing the nation, sustaining social order, and preserving the dominant ideology. Enoch next discusses Americanization that was suppose to occur through rhetorical education. Such rhetorical education articulated a particular type of process, the shaping and molding of civic identity according to hegemony and the expectation of a particular form of civic participation for African American, Native American, and Mexican American students. From 1865-1911, Enoch argues whiteness was inculcated into marginalized students and female bodies to preserve and sustain social order. Chapter two examines the ways Child’s educated African American students as a white northern woman, chapter three examines how Zitkala-Sa wrote to a predominately white readership about Indian education, and chapter four examines the rhetorical education that authors composed for their community through La Cronica. Each particular era represented new rhetorical situations for the female teacher and her students. However, each teacher refigured rhetorical education with culturally-based rhetorical education that, “enabled their students to enter into and change dominant society without having to surrender their cultural heritage and language practices” (4).

The strength of Enoch’s recovery and gendered analysis is her demonstration of: 1) how each teacher resisted the social construction of the female archetype by a patriarchal society; 2) how each teacher had a politicized agenda to enable students to redefine civic identity and participation through various theoretical frameworks of rhetorical negotiation; and 3) how each teacher incorporated invention and memory. The theoretical and research concepts Enoch employs, notably build upon Royster and Kirsch’s new analytical tools. For example, Royster and Gesa invoke critical imagination, an inquiry tool for “seeing something not previously noticed or considered” (72). Enoch considers how gender, race, and culture intersect as to inform the rhetorical practices that women deploy (Enoch 17). Enoch also incorporates their inquiry tool of strategic contemplation, attending to spaces and places and how each female rhetor rhetorically and physically occupied the classroom, demonstrating resistance and signs of social change. Finally, her work relates to their term strategic contemplation, which is also an inward journey, which is reflected in Enoch’s discussion of pedagogical implication in the latter part of her text. The rhetorical situations and theoretical frameworks may have varied from 1865-1911, but using such terms, Enoch demonstrates how each teacher considered “how culture and race are imprinted onto every aspect of the educational experience, including the figure of the teacher” (170). Each rhetor inter-embodied a ‘rhetorical self’ whose “movement and difference cannot be contained by or reduced to a grammatical category” (Vivian 314). Each rhetor used discourse to create unique subject positions and used discourse to change the language and grammar of ‘business-as-usual’ rhetoric and practices.

In chapter two, Lydia Child, a white Northern woman, is portrayed as fitting the image of a typical dutiful, obedient, and passive woman in the mid-1860s. Her students, African Americans, are portrayed as newly freed slaves who were considered a threat to national stability. These African American students needed to be taught obedience and prepared for civilization. According to Enoch, “White women were expected to carry out the prescribed duties that the freedmen’s societies set out for her and to follow a particular pedagogical program” (40). Child’s, The Freedmen’s Book, was a site of invention and memory because it invented new arguments from new memories for African American identity and participation. Because history is a kind of memory, Child encouraged her students/audience(s) to “choose for themselves the kinds of history that they want to call their own” (66). Child’s rhetorical education was a “complex pedagogy that questioned and challenged” (70). The cross-cultural presence in The Freedmen’s Book also encouraged Child’s students/audience(s) to rethink the dominant logics that had oppressed them. As such, Enoch argues Child was a sponsor of literacy whose rhetorical education prepared students to self-define terms of civic identity/participation and provided them with rhetorical strategies to engage in society.

In chapter three, Zitkala-Sa, a Native American, was presumed to reflect the ability of Carlisle’s education program to transform the barbaric and crude behavior of the Indian to a civilized ‘white’ Indian, in the late 1800s. This program invented a history. The Indians needed to be civilized. A primary goal of this education was “preparing the Indian woman to refine and civilize the Indian home, much like the well-mannered and virtuous white American wife and mother” (87). Zitkala-Sa was presumed civilized as she herself went through the program. She spoke English without a trace of her tribal tongue and she performed as a ‘lady’ (91). Zitkala-Sa, however, having experienced the crude and barbaric behaviors of the Carlisle school, sought rhetorical sovereignty for her Native American students. She did this through her publications in the Atlantic Monthly in which she spoke to white mainstream readers and argued for a type of rhetorical education/learning that did not attempt to replace tribal ways or cultural erasure. Zitkala-Sa also traveled, engaging in rhetorical debates on Indian citizenship and rights. By publishing and debating, Zitkala-Sa invented a counter history, which encouraged students/audience(s) to reclaim a sense of possibility for the Native American people (110).

In chapter four, the time period is post-Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848. Jovita Idar, Marta Pena, and Leonor Villegas de Magnon strived to connect “both the old and new” political and cultural demands of the Laredo/Nuevo Laredo geopolitical border. Connecting to the ‘old’ meant preserving the language, culture, and tradition of these students Mexican heritage, and the ‘new’ meant preparing these students for the Anglo society in Texas where the border ‘literally migrated’ over the people as consequence of the Treaty (129). These three rhetors occupied a space within a space, La Cronica, in which they published articles that offered a type of rhetorical educations steeped in cultural citizenship—“the ways a community defines itself on its own terms and then positions itself within the national landscape” (123). La Cronica became a type of rhetorical activity that was used to reinscribe a new political subject position, encouraging civic participation without the surrendering of their Mexican identity (144). For instance, Idar argued for English instruction in a bilingual context. Pena argued for civic education, learning and understanding the rules of citizenship and the workings of government. Magnon argued that Mexico was on par with other civilized nations and also argued that the Mexican culture belonged within the U.S.

Their cultural pedagogies dealt specifically with space, social access, civic identity, and civic participation. Similar to Child’s, these three female rhetors taught their audience(s) to self-define civic identity, cultural membership, and civic participation. Idar, Pena, and Magnon provided rhetorical strategies for participation by placing the Mexican culture in conversation with Anglo society (123). The cultural, social, and political backdrop for their students was the systemic presence of coloniality of power (management and control), knowing (grammar of naming), and being (grammar of domination): ethnic Mexicans were forced to be economically dependent upon a new capitalist order with the denial of political and property rights (Carrigan and Web 418); ‘The Mexican,’ as a rhetoric of assemblage and as a racialized palimpsest of identity, 1 “subliminally grafted Mexicans to the American psyche as foreigners and inferior” (Urbina, Vela, and Sanchez 26); and, the sociopolitical and economic displacement of ethnic Mexicans was proceeded by designated ‘Mexican Colonies’ (topological zones of exclusion), Americanization through institutionalization, and Mexican tracks that placed emphasis on manual and domestic education (Bedolla 56). There was a whole scientific approach of teaching inferiority through segregation and English-Only language pedagogy (Blanton 73). All these colonial creations discursively and materially reflect a reneging of the promise of the Treaty. Despite such conditions, Idar, Pena, and Magnon provided a type of rhetorical education that placed emphasis on civic participation without rejecting the Mexican culture, which in turn provided ‘possibility’ for thinking the community out of spaces of domination. 

In these four chapters, then, Enoch is (re)mapping a rhetorical history to reconstruct and refigure such women who have been overlooked, women that used language as means for rhetorical negotiation not only for themselves but for their audience(s). In doing so, Enoch shows how patriarchal ideology and hierarchies of rule occupied intellectual spaces as part of the social history of the U.S. As is clear from above, the book is about race and efforts towards whitening. Whiten(ed), as I refer to it, is a branding of ‘race,’ connoting ‘colonial’ subjectivity and ensuring the discursiveness of white privilege over the perceived ‘other’ by dispensing the ‘body’ to and within demarcated borders that accentuate the minoritization and racialization of said body. Because historically whiteness has been key to exercising the rights of citizenship (Bedolla 41), white “functions overtly as a racial category that is privileged even if all white people do not share identical social and economic privileges” (Ratcliffe 12). Inequities within Enoch’s text are based on race and gender. Yet, each teacher/rhetor invented “new forms of rhetorical education that aimed to reshape dominant power structures by considering how issues of race, language, and culture inflect every aspect of this pedagogical program” (7) and encouraged students to, “enter into and change dominant society without having to surrender their cultural heritage and language practices” (5).

Chapter five discusses how women were presumed to prescribe to the values and beliefs of the dominant white-American society and the implications these five female rhetors should have on contemporary pedagogies and scholarship. Enoch encourages readers to consider how dominant forms of rhetorical education are often linked to cultures of whiteness. Rhetorical education, as exhibited by such teachers was, “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” (8). These five educators and rhetors “transformed the definition of teacher by renaming themselves as authorities who could argue for change in their students’ work in school and position in society” (15). This is rhetorically significant, provided the relationship between the body and a perceived dominant discourse, the body and the imprints of masculinity and race within spaces and places, and the body and its ability to display modalities of action and agency within contexts that historically have been linked to women’s oppression. Even more significant is the decision to act, to “choose to violate the proscriptive limits of our subject position and speak differently by drawing up the resources of another subject” (Phillips 312). This is what is meant by the ‘rhetorical self’ and the act (rhetorical maneuver) to change the language and grammar of rhetorical education. By demonstrating how these women rhetors created their rhetorical selves in the classroom, Enoch has provided an important contribution to the field.

I must enter a serious caveat that stems from Enoch’s 2004 "Para la Mujer." In "Para la Mujer," Enoch attempts to illustrate Chicana feminist rhetorical traditions (21) and claims that she can historicize a Chicana feminist rhetoric that rejects essentializing descriptions (22). This sensibility is foregrounded in Refiguring Rhetorical Education. The historiographer is the filter and lens from which we come to know histories of rhetorics and rhetorical practices. Linda Smith’s words here are fitting; when we reject to honor and respect the local, we deny them further opportunities to be creators of their own histories. There is a fetishizing of ‘Chicano/a’ that has filtered through and across disciplinary spaces, presenting particular histories and rhetorical practices as ‘truth’ while erasing or excluding others. And, while there is recovery work that speaks back to this erasure (Enoch 2008; Limon 1974; Gonzales 2008; Orozco 2009; Rocha 2000; Zamora 2000), Enoch’s work reflects a type of universalistic and essentialist rhetorical practice that does indeed essentialize.

On the one hand, Steve Parks reminds us of the historical legacy of the grafting of disciplinary structures upon historical moments of racial contention. One the other hand, Mario Garcia, Craig Kaplowitz, and to an extent Carlos Munoz all speak to an essentializing effect (and affect) of Chicano/a discourse. Rosaura Sanchez, for example, forwards an argument that Chicano/a discourse can become a hegemonic discourse. Even as Diana Fuss and Gayatri Spivak highlight the importance of essentialist discourses, they caution and argue that essentialist spaces must be kept from solidifying and creating its own hierarchies (Fuss 18). Because there exists a legacy of tension between Chicano/as and Mexican Americans, to invoke a master-term such as Chicano is to erase colonial (and even regional) differences and conflate border epistemologies and epistemic embodiments. It is not ethical to import academic agendas at the expense of erasing difference(s), which is central to the possibility of locating new loci of enunciations. We must consider what is at stake when essentialist discourse is used, even when it is repurposed, such as the case with Enoch. We must reject the universal narrative and value the geopolitics of knowledge that derives from specific communities in specific locales. There is an issue when every article we read in [our] field refers to ethnic Mexicans as Chicano/as and when Mexican American histories are referred directly and/or solely as Chicano/a histories. It is crippling to ways of knowing for the field. Mexican Americans are not homogenous groups, nor do we share monolithic experiences and not all borders are the same. Critical acts of enunciations occurred prior to Chicano/a discourse and we must acknowledge this within its own context. Necessary interventions and correctives are needed from our field. Intersectional work seems to be the most effective methodology to ensure ‘la gente’ does not disappear when we talk of and speak for ‘la gente’ in the academy. Linda Alcoff’s words are applicable even to both scholars and the minoritized/racialized, “the practice of speaking for others is often born of a desire for mastery” that often erases representations and re-inscribes types of hierarchies (29). We must be resistant to such hierarchies. I suggest a turning inward to current relational framework(s) of ethics and adding more nuances to understandings of relational accountability and social responsible scholarship.

  • 1. Alma Garcia refers to palimpsest as the ways in which the “past shapes the present, the present re-imagines the past, and the present reflects on the future” (27).
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