cover of book

Wit, Virtue, and Emotion: British Women's Enlightenment Rhetoric
by Elizabeth Tasker Davis
Southern Illinois University Press, 2021
Paper: 978-0-8093-3827-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-3828-3
Library of Congress Classification HQ1593
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.420941


Women’s persuasion and performance in the Age of Enlightenment

Over a century before first-wave feminism, British women’s Enlightenment rhetoric prefigured nineteenth-century feminist arguments for gender equality, women’s civil rights, professional opportunities, and standardized education. Author Elizabeth Tasker Davis rereads accepted histories of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British rhetoric, claiming a greater variety and power of women’s rhetoric. This recovery of British women’s performative and written roles as speakers, spectators, authors, and readers in diverse venues counters the traditional masculine model of European Enlightenment rhetoric. Davis broadens women’s Enlightenment rhetorics to include highly public venues such as theaters, clubs, salons, and debating societies, as well as the mediated sites of the periodical essay, the treatise on rhetorical theory, and women’s written proposals, plans, defenses and arguments for education. Through these sites, women’s rhetorical postures diverged from patriarchal prescriptions rather to deliver protofeminist persuasive performances of wit, virtue, and emotion.

Davis examines context, the effects of memory and gendering, and the cultural sites and media of women’s rhetoric to reveal a fuller ecology of British Enlightenment rhetoric. Each chapter covers a cultural site of women’s rhetorical practice—the court, the stage, the salon, and the printed page. Applying feminist rhetorical theory, Davis documents how women grasped their rhetorical ability in this historical moment and staged a large-scale transformation of British women from subalterns to a vocal counterpublic in British society.

See other books on: Emotion | Emotions in literature | Enlightenment | Virtue | Wit
See other titles from Southern Illinois University Press
Nearby on shelf for The Family. Marriage. Women / Women. Feminism: