We are now approaching the tenth anniversary of Peitho as a journal, and we would like to take the opportunity to reflect on the history of the journal, the newsletter before it, and the field, as well as look forward to imagine futures of feminist work in rhetoric and composition studies.

“Go and Love Some More”: Memorializing and Archiving Feminist Grief

Hal Ashby’s classic 1971 black comedy Harold and Maude tells the irreverent love story of Harold, a young man obsessed with his own death, and Maude, a 79-year-old woman with a love for life. The two meet the week before Maude’s 80th birthday, a day which Maude herself has designated as her last, though this is unbeknownst to Harold. Throughout the course of the film, Maude teaches Harold how to live and love. Thus, when she announces on her birthday that she has taken pills to end her life, Harold is understandably heartbroken. Near the end of the film, Harold rides with Maude in an ambulance, begging her not to die. As Harold tells Maude again of his love for her, she smiles, telling him, “that’s wonderful. Go and love some more.” Harold, in the midst of his grief, takes what he has learned from Maude to heart, and resolves wordlessly to “love some more” by going into the world and emulating Maude’s joie de vivre. Harold’s grief is offset by Maude’s joyful imagining of Harold’s life, knowing that, though she will not remain with him, he will go on and be better for having known her. For Maude, grief is fertile ground for envisioning an active future filled with continual loving.  

Reading across the in memoriam sections published in Peitho between 2013 and 2022, we find Maude’s imperative to “love some more” an apt descriptor of how grief is processed in the tributes to Linda Bergmann, Win Horner, C. Jan Swearingen, Nan Johnson, Lisa Ede, Kate Ronald, and bell hooks. In this piece, we wander through this grief archive, as we’re calling it, to take stock of memorializing as a potentially feminist act, especially when guided by an ethic to keep on loving. The extensive memorials ranging from 15 to 44 pages exceed typical announcements of a colleague’s passing published in other academic venues. In Peitho, grief is not inconspicuous or quiet reflection; it needs more than a paragraph or a page; it is showy, indulgent, and, above all, active. Readers encounter usable grief in each collection of vignettes and assorted materials. Here, we read this grief archive multiply—as feminist memory pitched toward change, as evidence of the tight braid between our personal and professional lives, and as a reminder to keep on loving one another through the ordinary moments, the celebrations, and the walloping losses.  

Documenting Presence, Embodying Grief (Laura)  

On April 10, 2020, feminist compositionist Alice Gillam passed away. She mentored me and  many others who were beyond lucky to work with her at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she taught for nearly three decades. After she died, a group of her former students wrote tributes to Alice and shared them on what was then the WPA-L. Threaded through our accounts were details about Alice’s infamous gatherings at her home, often accompanied by wine, fresh fruit, pastries, and her favorite, a gin martini. Reading through the Peitho memorials, I began to conjure Alice in my mind—her iridescent white hair that seemed to fall in place effortlessly, her warm easy smile, her mischievous sense of humor and infectious laugh. Her mentoring, teaching, and collaborative practices were legion and admired by many. But, upon meeting Alice and getting to know her, what came first was an appreciation for her as a person—the immediate sensory experience of being in the presence of someone you’d want to know your whole life. 

The person, the personal, matters. Living, feeling women inhabit this archive, reminding us that we are all more than the sum of our professional accomplishments. While this is not a profound statement, sometimes academia obscures the obvious and mires us in layers of bullshit. The archive, however, takes us to the person. It teems with sensory details that resist quiet contemplation and instead court life and activity. Lynée Lewis Gaillet will miss Nan Johnson’s “soft yet urgent voice.” Linda Hughes’s memory of first meeting Win Horner was her “wearing a blazer—red?—and holding her shoulders in a way that conveyed confidence, excitement, complete delight.” Writing about C. Jan Swearingen, Cheryl Glenn recalls “how good she always smelled. I think of her perfect posture (she was always reminding me that I could stand taller—and she was right!) and that way her little finger fluttered so elegantly.” We almost smell her trademark scent of patchouli, mentioned by Jennifer Bay and Beth Brunk-Chavez in their tribute. We can almost see her upright posture, finger in flight. We do see her in a photograph seemingly snapped in mid-sentence, hands near either side of her face, gesturing. Grief can be specific like this; it can turn us away from abstraction to how someone once moved through the world and left traces, imprints, stories. 

Grieving bodies of those left behind also appear throughout the in memoriam contributions. Writing about bell hooks, Sophia Greco notes, “I am at odds with myself trying to find direction within institutions that perpetuate violence both figurative and literal. I wonder if this sentiment is part of what we call grief; a grief for the liberatory education we seldom (if ever) have; a grief that expands tenfold with the news of her passing.” Michael Faris ends his memorial to Lisa Ede by describing his writing and emotional situation: “I write in coffee shops and bars, with a body—elated, frustrated, crying. I pay attention to the materiality of my writing because of Lisa. I write this at my favorite bar, with Lisa and Andrea’s book near me, a whiskey and coke, a pack of cigarettes, my eyes flooded with tears.” The physicality of grief, the way it wears on bodies and takes over—floods—reminds readers that these accounts are not just about teachers, students, colleagues; they are about human connection and loss that exceeds usual relationship boundaries. 

Where do we look for traces of others in our lives? What personal archives do we assemble in the moment of loss as an act of remembrance? It’s almost like our sense of someone finds a material trace. When writing about Nan Johnson, Judy Segal began by surrounding herself “with the materials of my Nan archive,” which included Segal’s class notes, Johnson’s publications, and “dissertation chapters with [Nan’s] penciled marginal notes in her almost illegible handwriting.” In conjuring Alice, I turn to photos, but also to the cat trinkets she gifted me over the years, the baby blanket she sent on the birth of my son 18 years ago, and my file of seminar papers, where I see her messy handwriting and take in her advice to “look at this idea again.” Likewise, about Ede, Jess Restaino seeks to “count, to label, to weigh” Ede’s presence and loss through their email correspondence. “I searched my email and found over a thousand threads between us. Each thread contains multiple messages. Who knows how many, total?” (emphasis in original). Restaino continues: “Lisa had a habit of titling the subject line of an email thread as a kind of ‘hook’ or half-sentence that she’d finish only when her reader opened the message: ‘Just a quick email to say that…’ or ‘Can’t believe that I forgot to mention…’” This participatory audience-centric habit is a way of saying we’re making something together, similar to how Katie describes patchworking below. Communal grief, multivoiced witnessing, personal-professional knots—perhaps these are ingredients of feminist memorializing.  

Patchworking Memory Together (Katie) 

I got my first knitting kit from my grandmother, a sewist. Although I didn’t fully learn to knit until after she passed, I still think of that kit fondly, and of my knitting, crocheting, and sewing as an inherited love. One of my current projects is a patchwork cropped sweater for my sister made up of different thicknesses of wool yarn, which requires different techniques to stitch them together evenly. Despite the differences in each patch of yarn, when placed together, they all work to create a new visual display. The fabric these yarns make will be called a sweater and will reflect love for the person they are made for, as most crafted objects do. 

It was this patchwork sweater that I thought of when reading Michael Faris’s “For Lisa: A Patchwork Quilt.” His description of his own memorial as a “patchwork” piece prompted me to think about the ways in which his vignettes—varying in size, style, and shape—work to mimic the patchwork sweater I’m making. Each portion of either the memorial or the sweater is individual and contributes something unique to the overall piece. These portions, or patches, should not work together as cohesively as they do, given how different they are. And yet, when placed together, they create something new and whole, something altogether more complex either narratively or visually than you might’ve at first thought.  

This stuck with me as I continued to read through the in memoriam issues. I became struck by how each unique piece of writing within each issue, each patch, contributes to the larger patchwork quilt that comprises each in memoriam. Similar to how Faris’s patchwork piece includes differing styles and lengths, so too do the in memoriams.  Essays, narratives, speeches, songs, photographs, and (re)printed works of those remembered are compiled together to memorialize the scholar as a whole complex individual. Even beyond genre, mourners contribute different types of recollections of those who have died, including sensory narratives, advice passed down, and values shared, explored by Laura, Jayne, and Brooke respectively. While memorializing each scholar, these in memoriams also give friends, colleagues, and loved ones the space to grieve on the page. This, in turn, is reflected in each “patch,” or memorial entry, that makes up the in memoriam. 

Each patch within these patchwork quilts becomes not just an individual representation of the scholar and their impact, but of the relationships and connections these women made, as Laura and Jayne note. And just as crafting is not inherently a solitary craft, the crafting of these memories is not solely an individual act, but also a collaborative one. Most commonly, these collaborative pieces utilize the collective “we” as the main point of view. Rebecca Dingo, Ben McCorkle, and Rara Pauliny utilize third person and the collective we in “Dim the House Lights” to narrate Nan Johnson’s individual and collective impact on their personal and professional lives. The collective we in this narrative notably allows for shared memories of Nan’s personality as a performer to shine through. Using a combination of the collective we and third person, “The Last Time We Saw Lisa” is a narrative of a final picnic with Lisa Ede written by her students, Vicki Tolar Burton, Tim Jenson, Kristy Kelly, Sarah Tinker Perrault, and Ehren Helmut Plugfelder. Here, the usage of “we” and the third person highlights both the collective group memory of the picnic and each individual’s recollection of it. Finally, Connie Kendall Theado and Brenda M. Helmbrech use “we” in “Begin Again” to create a singular narrative remembrance of Kate Ronald that emphasizes the lessons they learned from her. Like Faris’ patchwork quilt, these collaborative in memoriams demonstrate a way of grieving that relies on community to reflect on the shared memory of an individual, one that uses narrative to showcase not just their contributions to the field, but also a shared understanding of the scholar as a whole person. 

In many ways, it’s almost impossible for me to fully grasp the wide ranging impact these women have had on the field. It’s hard to conceptualize the idea that one person, let alone these seven, could each have had such a wide reach throughout their careers, when I myself am only at the beginning of mine. And yet, I feel these impacts in each of these in memoriams. With each passing issue, I could not help but think about my mentors. The stories shared by past graduate students of these women—the meetings, the jokes, the advice—all feel so close to me. After all, the early days of mentorships shared within these narratives, through letters, through narratives, through patches, are recently developed for me, or developing now. It hurts to think about what grieving those people might look like. But it helps to consider the community that I will likely grieve with, how that community and our stories can all be stitched together in remembrance of them, in all their wonderful complexity. 

Remembering Their Words (Jayne) 

 As Brooke, Laura, Katie, and I sat in Laura’s inviting and homey dining room, sharing what had surfaced for each of us as we read through these in memoriams, I felt compelled to share a sort of confession in our safe, feminist space. “Can I be vulnerable for a minute?” I started. “As I read through these tributes, I kept returning to the thought: I can only hope that I am written about in these ways when my time comes.” I thought I was admitting a self-centered notion, and it had been difficult for me to decide to say it out loud. As a graduate student so early in her career, who was I to suppose I’d make enough of an impact during my career that my death might prompt such wide and personal grief? However, when every single one of my co-authors admitted having the same thought, I realized that that was part of the power of the feminist action undergirding this grief archive. That is, to offer stories and memories about strong, loving women scholars is to, in part, offer vicarious advice and inspiration to the rest of us in the field as our own paths unfold. In that way, the tributes that populate the archive act as mentors, for they simultaneously remind us who these late women were and, in turn, inspire us towards who we ourselves strive to be. In short, they encourage us to “go and love some more.” Though I had no relationship with any of the women for whom these in memoriams were written, the ripple effects of their mentorship—including the words they spoke—reach me through these grief archives.  

A complement to Laura’s compelling claim that “living, feeling women inhabit this archive” is my suggestion that so, too, do those women’s words. This seems an obvious statement if we think only of their written words and scholarship, but what is less obvious are the ways in which this archive is populated with their oft-spoken words. For example, Jennifer Bay and Beth Brunk-Chavez, in their tribute to Swearingen, lovingly recount that Jan always ended class with the phrase “Same bat time, same bat channel.” They tell readers how they long to “hear [Jan] make that promise one last time.” 

Other contributors to the grief archives do continue to hear the words of their mentors. Remembering Winifred Horner, Lynée Lewis Gaillet writes, “While I miss knowing she is physically in the world, I continue to hear Win’s sage advice whispered in my ear.” I am struck by the present tense in this statement—Win is alive not just through her scholarship, but through the words she spoke aloud in life. We get to hear some of that advice as her in memoriam unfolds, for her words also live on in the minds of Nancy Myers, Sue Hum, and Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Win’s “three angels.” They provide a list of “Winnerisms,” which they jointly remember from time spent with her. Such an offering crystallizes the collaborative aspect of processing grief which Katie highlights, and it works to honor and cherish Win’s familiar advice. Among these bits of advice is the reminder that “[a]ll ideas are meant to be shared.” Publishing the short list of Winnerisms acts on this very statement, and doing so also serves both as a way to memorialize Win and to keep her words alive so they may help others brave the profession.    

In fact, -isms are a recurring feature of these in memoriams. Lisa Shaver, for example, provides two “Kateisms” in her tribute to Kate Ronald. “One of many wonderful Kateisms,” she writes, “is, ‘When you agree to direct a graduate student’s dissertation, you take them on for life,’ and she did.” We are reminded here that these women enacted their own advice; they strove to live the life they touted. Their -isms often reflect this tendency. A group of Linda Bergmann’s former students recounting a list of Linda-isms showcases this, too; one, “Build trust,” is exactly what contributors tell us she did.     

The -isms that these women leave in their perpetual wake continue to shape the field, just as the Maude-ism to “go and love some more” rippled out to shape Harold’s and others’ lives after hers had ended. Contributors to the grief archive collect their mentors’ words, revisit them, remember them, and recite them. From this I am reminded of Libby Falk Jones describing the way bell hooks collected, revisited, remembered, and recited others’ words: “bell loved having favorite words of other writers in her heart and voice. She memorized and recited poems, making the words her own.” As we revisit the in memoriams of these late feminist scholars and look toward the future of the field, let’s do the same. Let’s be guided by the Linda-ism which tells us, “Don’t be a jerk (and if you have to be a jerk, don’t be a discouraged jerk)”; the Kateism that reminds us that “Academia will break your heart”; and the Winnerism which advises that we all “Quit flagellating [ourselves] and get on with [our] writing.” 

Mentoring through Activist Relationships (Brooke) 

As I wander through these in memoriam pieces, I am unable to stop myself from drawing parallels to my own grief. At the time of writing, my best friend has been dead for eleven weeks. I wear their ashes around my neck and commissioned a tattoo in their honor that is still healing. Though this friend was not an academic mentor, per se, I still shared with them all of my writing and eagerly asked for their feedback on my scholarly ideas. Their lived experiences worked to direct, shape, and deepen my research, ensuring it traveled beyond the realm of the “ivory tower.” The in memoriam dedications in Peitho discuss the mentorship offered by the women being remembered, which was complex, motivated by something more than simply ambition. For Rachel Daugherty, “feminist mentoring” was the key to her relationship with Lisa Ede, who “decenter[ed] herself and lift[ed] those around her.” Feminist mentoring, as revealed in these texts, is a key part not only of scholarly work, but also feminist activism. 

Activism is woven throughout the patchwork quilt of these in memoriams and appears in a variety of ways. Mentorship is crucial in the narratives of these women’s lives. Krista Ratcliffe notes how Win Horner’s mentorship impacted women scholars, as “[s]he helped them learn how to write conference papers. She helped them get a job. She helped them get a book published. She helped keep them sane as they began their careers.” This mentorship was an act of feminist activism, as Win helped these women counter gender-based difficulty and taught them how to “have it all.” Teaching also provided a space for the activism of these women. Sherri Craig writes about bell hooks: “Love, eros, the erotic, the ecstasy of teaching is how we all get the pleasure of overcoming oppression. hooks knew.” These women were, as my co-authors have also noted, deeply relational, and the love they held for their fellow students and women scholars nurtured and motivated their activism. 

The enduring impact of the feminist mentoring and activism of these women is not limited by life or death. In remembering Lisa Ede, Michael J. Faris rhetorically asks “How much of our reading and writing is haunted by death and the loss of loved ones? How much of our scholarly work is a collaboration over time, with the voices of our mentors shaping us, and the texts and memories they have given us carried with us?” Faris forges an explicit connection between the work of the living and the inspiration of those who have passed. His acknowledgment that the mentorship offered by these women is temporally and spatially unbound speaks to the activist potential of relationship. The women being remembered in these issues focused on loving and building relationships which, in turn, furthered the work of other feminist scholars, creating an activist coalition existing across time and generations. 

The circumstances of death, both in these pieces and in Harold and Maude, serve to reorient our focus on life. Grief is funny that way—it compels the mourner to, as Jayne and Laura both observe, think about oneself after the loss of someone who made an impact. In the way they lived, the women mourned in Peitho compel those who did and did not know them to live a certain way. That way of living can be a change or a new direction, or it can be an invitation to continue down the path of love and relationship. As Hephzibah Roskelly notes in her dedication to bell hooks, “bell’s point…was that dismantling racism, ending patriarchy, finding justice—required mutuality. We have to become vulnerable to the people around us if we would build trust and make change.” Building trust, as Jayne notes, is an -ism used by many of the women from the in memoriam sections, including Lisa Ede and Linda Bergmann, revealing the crucial role that community played in the lives and deaths of these women. Death and life are inextricably bound together, and grief can be a powerful force for change in an individual’s life, which can subsequently lead to larger change. As Katie writes, this push for change can compel the individual to remain in relationship and community with others. Grief, perhaps ironically, brings people together.  

Memorializing as a Feminist Act 

The impact of these women through their words, actions, and capacious love exists outside temporality, threatening the seemingly immutable state of death with a grief that sponsors continued and abundant life. Dana Driscoll’s tribute to Linda Bergmann expresses this beautifully when she writes that Bergmann’s “work isn’t done as long as we continue to do it . . .  Her careful nurturing can become our careful nurturing. I know that all of us already do this work—but now, we can do it with more purpose and determination because we know we are Linda’s living legacy.” This decided intention to honor and keep alive a cherished colleague’s legacy is a linchpin of the grief archive. Among other examples, Abhiruchi Chatterjee writes in an open letter to bell hooks, “You may not be with us physically, but your words have immortalized you. Rest now, for you have been heard. Rest peacefully, for the flame that your works have sparked in our minds, in the ways that we engage with the everyday, in seeing experience as a critical category, each in our own realities and locations, will keep your legacy alive.” Keeping these late women’s legacies alive informs our continued work and keeps us hopeful and determined. 

More than that, these legacies often have important implications for women scholars’ material realities. Not only do feminist scholars in our field put immense value on mentoring young, burgeoning scholars through their intangible support and guidance, but several late scholars honored in the grief archive established what might be called “material legacies,” as well. The Nan Johnson Archival Research Fund and Award, established by the Ohio State Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies program, provides funds to support research on the Nan Johnson Collection on Elocution and Rhetoric, an immense archive of materials donated by Johnson. Likewise, Horner and her husband established a scholarship that provides funds for single mother undergraduate and graduate students who are pursuing their educational and career goals. Acts like these establish and maintain legacies and remind us in material ways that feminist action doesn’t have to end with one’s passing, that it can persist– and even take on new significance–through the awareness brought on by individual and collective grieving.     

Harold and Maude is focused on this kind of grief, which is threatening only insofar as it demands change. A puzzling and darkly humorous element of Harold and Maude is that Harold repeatedly attempts—unsuccessfully—to take his own life throughout the film. A possible message behind these attempts is that Harold, despite being young and alive, does not value life, and so reaches instead for death. Maude’s death, on the other hand, is devastating for Harold and the viewer alike. Her death is made more difficult because of the exuberant life she lived, full of activism, love, and tenacity. Near the end of the film, Harold asks Maude what she was fighting for, to which she responds, “Oh, big issues. Liberty. Rights. Justice.” Her activism, like the women in this grief archive, was a fully integrated part of her love for others. Maude’s relationships in life demanded love and vulnerability, and Harold, having experienced her love, had no choice but to change because of the impact of her death. The same can be said of the women remembered in Peitho. The archives reveal the power and activist potential of feminist grief, which teaches us to take the lessons learned from a life well lived and implement them into our own life praxis.  

We leave the reader with one final Maude-ism. Among many, this one offers a succinct description of the relationship between life and death and, more importantly, the lasting power of a life well lived. “I like to watch things grow. They grow and bloom and fade and die and change into something else. Ah, life!” 

Works Cited 

Angeli, Liz. “Liz Angeli’s Reading.” Peitho, v. 16, no. 1, 2013, pp. 67-69.  

Ashby, Hal. Harold and Maude. Paramount Pictures, 1971. 

Bay, Jennifer, and Beth Brunk-Chavez. “Taking a History of Rhetoric Class with C. Jan Swearingen.” Peitho, v. 20, no. 1, 2017, pp. 7-8. 

Burton, Vicki Tolar, Tim Jenson, Kristy Kelly, Sarah Tinker Parrault, and Ehren Helmut Plugfelder. “The Last Time We Saw Lisa”. Peitho, v. 24, no. 1, 2021, pp. 40-42. 

Chatterjee, Abhiruchi. “An Open Letter to bell hooks.” Peitho, v. 24, no. 2, 2022, https://cfshrc.org/article/an-open-letter-to-bell-hooks/ 

Craig, Sherri. “embracing the erotic.” Peitho, v. 21, no. 2, 2022, https://cfshrc.org/article/embracing-the-erotic/ 

Daugherty, Rachel. “The Gift of Feminist Mentoring.” Peitho, v. 24, no. 1, 2021, pp. 43-44. 

Dingo, Rebecca, Ben McCorkle, and Rara Pauliny. “Dim the House Lights”. Peitho, v.22, no. 1, 2019, pp. 14-16.  

Driscoll, Dana. “Dana Driscoll’s Reading (including remarks by Danielle Cordaro and Jaci Wells).” Peitho, v. 16, no.1, pp. 69-71.  

Faris, Michael J. “For Lisa: A Patchwork Quilt.” Peitho, v. 24, no. 1, 2021, pp. 19-28. 

Gaillet, Lynée Lewis. “Learning from Nan Johnson: ‘discovery of the unexpected.’” Peitho, v. 22, no. 1, 2019, pp. 8-10. 

Glenn, Cheryl. “Friend and Colleague: Jan Swearingen.” Peitho, v. 20, no. 1, 2017, pp. 4-5. 

Greco, Sophia. “Embracing a Pedagogy of Love and Grief.” Peitho, v. 24, no. 2, 2022, https://cfshrc.org/article/embracing-a-pedagogy-of-love-and-grief/ 

Hughes, Linda K. “Win at Texas Christian University.” Peitho, v. 16, no. 2, 2014, pp. 130-33.  

Jones, Libby Falk. “Remembering bell.” Peitho, v. 24, no. 2, 2022, https://cfshrc.org/article/remembering-bell/ 

Myers, Nancy, Sue Hum, and Kristie S. Fleckenstein. “Win’s Angels.” Peitho, v. 16, no. 2, 2014, pp. 125-126. 

Ratcliffe, Krista. “RSA Mourns the Loss of Winifred Bryan Horner.” Peitho, v. 16, no. 2, 2014, pp. 121-123. 

Restaino, Jessica. “Deep Doldrums: On Loving (and Learning from) Lisa Ede.” Peitho, v. 24, no. 1, 2021, pp. 29-35. 

Roskelly, Hephzibah. “A Story of bell hooks.” Peitho, v. 21, no. 2, 2022, https://cfshrc.org/article/a-story-of-bell-hooks/  

Segal, Judy. “Encomium for Nan.” Peitho, v. 22, no. 1, 2019, pp. 11-13. 

Shaver, Lisa. “So Much Passion, So Much Love.” Peitho, v. 23, no. 2, 2021, https://cfshrc.org/article/copy-of-tributes-to-kate-ronald/#shaver 

Theado, Connie Kendall and Brenda M. Helmbrech. “Begin Again.” Peitho, v. 23, no. 2, 2021, https://cfshrc.org/article/copy-of-tributes-to-kate-ronald/#theado.   

Growing Pains: Intergenerational Mentoring and Sustainability of the Coalition’s Mission

As a member of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (CFSHRC) since its early days and President of the organization from 2006-2008, I’ve been an active participant in and witness to the organization’s formation and growth—its awkward stages as well as its notable successes. I’ve grown up in CFSHRC, been mentored by the organization since my time as a graduate student in the late 1980s (a story often echoed by so many other members), and over the years formed my academic identity through membership and service to this group. Like any family story, however, that history is never as neat and succinct as commemorative narratives might suggest. My retrospective contribution to the 2022 Cluster traces ways in which the CFSHRC, long recognized and cited as a model of networked and multidirectional mentoring (Eble and Gaillet), experienced struggles and overcame challenges along the way, including failed attempts to transform Peitho from newsletter to scholarly journal. At every turn, the path forward occurred at the nexus of intergenerational mentoring and listening. 

The 2000s represent a pivotal time in the Coalition’s history, one that set in motion revitalized membership rosters, legislative and governing bylaws, transformation of Peitho from newsletter to journal, creation of awards and prizes, and formal sponsorship of the Fems/Rhets conference. These accomplishments weren’t seamless and required the members’ dedication to collaboration atypical of most professional organizations, especially ones with no hired staff. The answer to the Coalition’s plateau in membership numbers and stagnant coffers came from feminist cooperation and problem solving. Subsequently, the organization witnessed a reconceptualized and reignited commitment to diverse feminist scholar-teachers and their interdisciplinary work, reflected in the 2016 name change. CFSHRC regained its financial footing and grew the membership by tapping into the mutually-beneficial mentoring network that represented the very foundation of the group’s work and raison d’etre (“History”), and in the process began to free itself from creeping perceptions of the Coalition as an “old girls club.” 

The Journal: Peitho’s transformation path from 1996 newsletter to the robust, vetted, online journal of today experienced a rocky start, particularly in the initial shift from print to digital delivery. I served as President of CFSHRC during one of the earlier failed attempts in the process of this important pivot. The organization marshalled resources, interviewed interested editorial teams, and engaged in year-long conversations and negotiations with finalists. We came tantalizingly close to brokering a partnership for moving the journal online but ultimately failed to come to an agreement over issues of editorial control. From this failed experience and as the organization crystalized sponsorship of the expanding Fems/Rhets conference, the need to rewrite by-laws, raise funds, and formalize operational procedures became apparent. Up to this point, the organization had financially limped along with limited resources, relying upon modest membership fees and donations from founding members to cover minimal expenses.  A small team of volunteers rolled up their sleeves, gathered input from vested groups, and began the process of creating a transparent business blueprint for expanding, funding, and sustaining the slate of events, awards, and publications. Desired results included a comprehensive plan for broadening the scope of the organization and journal, establishing new (compensated) service positions, and developing an outreach plan to invite and include new members. 

Stagnation: The Coalition’s strength has always stemmed from the position of filling mentoring gaps in the lives of members—striving to provide information (navigating one’s institution, publishing opportunities, balancing home life and work), support (writing letters of recommendation, research and writing mentoring, networking), and opportunities and rewards for disseminating research (establishment of Peitho as a vetted journal, expanded sponsorship of Fems/Rhets, creation of a growing slate of awards and prizes). The founding mothers sought to mentor emerging scholars by sharing their experiences (failures and successes) but more importantly by bringing together new generations of teacher-researchers from across institutions. Historically and still now in some cases, rhetoric scholars often experienced isolation within departments where their academic specializations, methodologies, writing and teaching practices, and even bodies defied expectations. For many feminist scholars in the 1990s, particularly those who received little mentoring and found few peers at their home institutions, the Coalition provided a rare and much-needed safe space, a community where they could relax and learn from one another at a time when collaboration was not a hallmark of English departments. However, the Coalition’s initial appeal for women working in the history of rhetoric and composition began to lose cachet as fields expanded, as emerging feminist scholars took up broader areas of inquiry and adopted hybrid and varied interdisciplinary research methodologies.  The advisory board recognized this stagnation and responded on multiple fronts by 

  • seeking 501(c) non-profit status for the organization under the leadership of Lisa Mastrangelo and Nancy Myers, resulting in renewed funds to support the efficacy and expansion of CFSHRC’s aims, and to compensate new service positions  
  • strengthening and formalizing the bonds between the initially independent organization, conference, and journal—enlarging the original membership of the Coalition 
  • expanding platforms, opportunities, and mentoring initiatives (including online longitudinal partnerships, face-to-face individual meetings at conferences, and Peitho manuscript mentoring) to encourage graduate students and junior faculty to disseminate research and serve on governing boards and task forces 
  • adding new awards and prizes in addition to the original book and journal awards, including graduate travel grants, research grants, a mentoring award, dissertation prizes, and diversity scholarship 
  • and revisiting the hallmark Wednesday night event at CCCC to include a broader range of programming and conversations led by intergenerational table leaders and paired facilitators.   

Intergenerational and Multidirectional Mentoring: The spring 2021 (49.1) issue of Composition Studies included a feature titled “Intergenerational Exchanges,” which concretized ways in which collaborating across rank and age can facilitate reinterpreting and recalibrating existing scholarly conversations. Journal editors Kara Taczak and Matt Davis explain how this chorus of scholarly voices from “early, mid, late, and emeritus stages of their academic lifecycles” offer “a particular way of knowing in our current moment that offers a more complex understanding of who we are as a field and how we might move productively forward together” past our present moment (13). The Coalition wisely recognized the value of this kind of multi-directional, networked mentoring years ago, tapping into members’ different experiences, knowledge, and skillsets to work together on multiple fronts, including a shift from traditional feminist and historical concerns to include an ever-expanding broader range of conversations, interactions, and interventions. 

John Brereton and Cinthia Gannett adopt the term “accompaniment” to describe the ways intergenerational scholars might address a given cultural moment, suggesting that this renewed view of collaboration ensures “that our stories reflect and honor our diverse literacy histories” and that new and “diverse generations of scholars” are necessary to “undertake this critical recovery work” (122). Existing institutional and organizational narratives can be disrupted when an organization’s members partner across divides to examine silences, absences, and erasures in extant operations; this collaboration serves to highlight and create new community-driven initiatives. Embracing intergenerational editing and vetting, issuing topical and innovative CFPs (distributed via social media), and seeking research that falls outside narrowly defined repositories traditionally associated with the history of rhetoric and composition provided heuristics for reshaping Peitho’s scholarly discussions through a feminist lens. The value of this work may be obvious, but it certainly isn’t easy, not recently—as the Coalition took several breaks (some forced, others elective) to reexamine our mission, to do some tough talking and listening, to establish inclusive and diverse programs and initiatives—and not at earlier junctures when the organization similarly addressed growing pains and threats of stagnation. Yet, at moments of change, the result of listening and responding (as in most relationships) is worth the effort, creating a professional home where members come to know they are valued and integral to ongoing initiatives, and where the organization’s ability to meet central goals is optimistic and sustainable. Establishing new programs and positions, raising and reallocating funds, expanding committee and membership makeup, and renewing participation within every facet of the organization occurred as a result of thoughtful responses to growing pains and listening to members working across academic ranks, then and now.  

The Coalition is adaptable, endures because from its inception the primary goal and strategic plan always focuses on the needs of members, and because collaborative ethics of care practices work best when regularly reexamined and enlarged. The CFSHRC, its revisited rotating governing body, and its publication and programs are built upon the understanding that “the ethics of care starts from the premise that as humans we are inherently relational, responsive beings and the human condition is one of connectedness or interdependence” (Gilligan). At various points in my career, I’ve enjoyed membership in sponsoring organizations of like-minded colleagues, groups associated with my shifting administrative duties, research interests, and pedagogical concerns. However, the continuous camaraderie and scope of CFSHRC’s support of research, teaching, service, and institutional/personal concerns is unsurpassed and adapts to welcome new members and address shifting needs as they progress through their careers; recent governance changes in the organization help to ensure a forum where scholars from varying positions and points of view can be heard. This group has sustained countless members over the last thirty years, fulfilling broadly-defined professional needs (for graduate students to late-career professors) through the organization’s platform to promote intergenerational conversation, willingness to adapt and evolve, and perhaps most importantly by bringing us all together in conversation during times of cultural and professional trial and adversity. On the tenth anniversary of Peitho, I welcome the opportunity to reflect upon and applaud the recurring growth and efficacy of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition—an organizational history encapsulated and reflected in the expanded readership, mission, new features, and scope of the journal. I am excited for the next ten years. 

Works Cited 

Brereton, John and Cinthia Gannett. “Intergenerational Exchange in Rhetoric and Composition: Some Views from Here.” Composition Studies, 49.1, 2021, pp. 119-124. 

Eble, Michelle and Lynée Lewis Gaillet. “Re-inscribing Mentoring.” Retellings: Opportunities for Feminist Research in Rhetoric and Composition Studies. Eds. Jessica Enoch and Jordynn Jack. Parlor, 2019, pp. 283-303.  

Gilligan, Carol. “Interview.” Ethics of Care. 11 June 2011. https://ethicsofcare.org/carol-gilligan/. Accessed 26 May 2022. 

“History.” The Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. https://cfshrc.org/history/. Accessed 13 April 2022. 

“Intergenerational Exchange in Rhetoric and Composition: Some Views from Here.” Symposium, Composition Studies, 49.1, 2021. https://compstudiesjournal.com/current-issue-spring-2021-49-1/. Accessed 2 June 2022. 


Writing Together or (Co)-Writing Together?: Collaboration and Co-Authorship in 10 years of Peitho


On January 23, 2022, the Los Angeles Times published an interview written by pop music critic Mikael Wood titled “For Damon Albarn, Modern Life Is Still Pretty Much Rubbish.” The next day, the Los Angeles Times (@latimes) released a number of tweets highlighting snippets of the interview, revealing Albarn’s disinterest in the anniversary of Blur’s album, his love-hate relationship with England, and his thoughts on today’s most famous popular music artists. This final tweet begins with, “Albarn also spills his thoughts on some of today’s chart-topping music artists,” and then provides the following quotes from the interview: “Billie Eilish? ‘I think she’s exceptional.’ Taylor Swift? ‘She doesn’t write her own songs.’” The tweet ends with a link to the full article (fig. 1). 

The article reveals a more complete picture of Albarn’s opinion on co-writing and authorship. When Mikael Wood responds to Albarn’s initial refutation of Swift as a songwriter, he says, “Of course she does. Co-writes some of them.” Albarn responds, saying, “That doesn’t count. I know what co-writing is. Co-writing is very different to writing… there’s a big difference between a songwriter and a songwriter who co-writes.” Not only does Albarn claim that Swift isn’t a songwriter, that she doesn’t write her own songs, but he insists that co-writing is not the same as writing. Less than two hours after the initial tweet, Swift retweeted with a reply to Albarn (fig. 1) stating: “@DamonAlbarn I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this. I write ALL of my own songs. Your hot date is completely false and SO damaging. You don’t have to like my songs but it’s really fucked up to try and discredit my writing. WOW” (Fig. 1).  

Figure 1 image description: a screenshot of a quote-tweet by Taylor Swift in which Swift responds to an LA Times tweet containing an allegation from Damon Albarn that she doesn’t write her own songs. Swift writes, “@DamonAlbarn I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this. I write ALL of my own songs. Your hot take is completely false and SO damaging. You don’t have to like my songs but it’s really fucked up to try and discredit my writing. WOW.”

Figure 1 image description: a screenshot of a quote-tweet by Taylor Swift in which Swift responds to an LA Times tweet containing an allegation from Damon Albarn that she doesn’t write her own songs. Swift writes, “@DamonAlbarn I was such a big fan of yours until I saw this. I write ALL of my own songs. Your hot take is completely false and SO damaging. You don’t have to like my songs but it’s really fucked up to try and discredit my writing. WOW.”

As many commenters on the twitter thread pointed out, Swift was an odd choice for Albarn to critique as not being a songwriter. As one twitter user commented, “I’ve frequently heard people say that even if you don’t like her music there’s no denying she’s an amazing songwriter” (@juliemsosa). Swift’s identity as a songwriter has been linked to her public persona since early in her career, and she has had to consistently push to maintain authorial control of her songs and ensure the public’s awareness of her ability to write her own songs. While her transition from country to pop was certainly a turning point in Swift’s creative process, resulting in new collaborative projects, to claim that collaboration negates authorship and writerly identity is indeed damaging. 

 Albarn’s claim echoes traditional notions of authorship, creation, and intellectual property in academia. Coupled with the pressure to publish or perish, the notion of the single author has been particularly damaging to underrepresented faculty such as women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ scholars. Albarn’s claim and Swift’s response highlight the persistent nature of the issue of co-authorship and perceptions of its credibility and reputability, and the public nature of twitter allows for a glimpse at the sort of conversations surrounding authorship and collaboration that are taking place. Although twitter doesn’t necessarily represent the nuanced understandings of co-authorship and collaboration in RCWS, it usefully highlights a critique that feminist scholars have long refuted. Given Peitho’s decade of publishing feminist work and in this way representing feminist scholarship, it is useful to examine this archive to better understand if we have fared any better than Taylor Swift in our work to understand co-authorship and collaboration in nuanced ways. First, I discuss the terms collaboration, co-writing, and co-authorship, briefly describe how they are used in the field, and consider how misusing or conflating these terms can be damaging. Then, I describe my research methods and methodology and consider how flagship journals reflect the values of a given field. After sharing the results of my research, I conclude by highlighting the complicated practice of collaboration and the (in)visible ways it manifests in our scholarship.  

Writing Together or Writing Together? 

 Does collaborative writing assume co-authorship? Are there ways in which scholars are talking about collaboration as the practice of working together on writing projects without actually writing the same piece?  In what other ways does collaboration manifest among feminist scholars in writing studies? As a field obsessed with words, it is necessary to consider what we mean when we talk about collaboration, co-writing, and co-authorship. Writing together, or collaboration, is an act between two or more writers who come together to write or work on projects without necessarily explicitly intending to co-author a piece for publication (examples include writing communities, writing partnerships, mentor/mentee work, etc.). Writing together, or co-writing/co-authorship, is when two or more writers who work together on writing a single, cohesive text with the intent of publishing the text as a co-authored piece.  

In “Why Write…Together?” Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford describe co-authorship as a blanket term that shifts in meaning contextually, but which they define in the following way: “co-authorship has meant the two of us creating one text–together” (151). How does Albarn’s understanding and articulation of co-writing and writing help us understand collaboration, co-writing, and authorship in the field? 

Ede and Lunsford’s work on collaboration has been a staple text among graduate students in the field for decades, steadfast in its influence, and feminist work within rhetoric and composition has maintained a sustained interest in collaborative writing—how we teach it in our classrooms (Eodice & Day, Kennedy & Howard), the ways in which new technologies pose new challenges and opportunities (Duffy, Schendel et al., Selfe, VanHaitsma & Book), questions of authorship and intellectual property (DeVoss, Kennedy & Howard, Kirsch, Lunsford, Lunsford et al., Lunsford & West, Ratliff, Robbins) to name a few of many ongoing conversations. In a piece titled, “Deep Doldrums: On Loving (and Learning from) Lisa Ede,” Jessica Restaino shares a conversation she had with Ede where Ede insisted that graduate students shouldn’t be reading her work anymore. Restaino postulates that, “Lisa’s impulse to cross her own work off the canon of grad student reading lists…was rooted in her deep resistance to any sense that she or anyone had conceived of anything that might be somehow totalizing or immutable.” What seems to be immutable among feminist scholars is the value of collaboration. I am certainly not suggesting that Ede and Lunsford’s work should no longer be read or even revered by graduate students, quite the opposite: I do suggest that we resist immutability by re-evaluating our values and how we project them out into the world. 

Digital Histories 

Scholars in the field of composition and writing studies are all too aware of the power of flagship journals in reflecting the intentions and priorities in the field (Buck). As I began developing my research methodology for this study, I found echoes of my own research question in Neal Lerner’s 2014 article, “The Unpromising Present of Writing Center Studies: Author and Citation Patterns in “The Writing Center Journal“, 1980 to 2009,” which traces authorship and citation patterns in The Writing Center Journal (WCJ). In his study, Lerner explains that the topic of co-, or multiple, authorship is important to investigate for two reasons: first, “the writing center field’s ethos is built on collaborative learning (Bruffee) and collaborative knowledge building” and second, “the notion of single authors pursuing work alone seems anathema to writing center notions of the social construction of knowledge (Lunsford) and to composition studies as a whole…” (Lerner 73). Lerner then reveals that 82% of all articles appearing in WCJ from 1980 to 2009 were single authored. Therefore, if scholarly journals are meant to be representative of a discipline’s values and keep record of critical conversations, then calling attention to the ways in which the feminist project of collaboration is taken up in feminist academic journals can serve as a method of self-assessment.  

Methods and Methodology: A Study of Peitho Authorship Practices 

Although Peitho began in 1996 as a newsletter, its history as a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal began in Fall 2012. Digital archives are available for the full ten years, with a total of 25 issues. My methods were straightforward. I created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with four columns: issue number, number of articles in the issue, number of articles with multiple authors, and number of authors for each collaborative article. The first time I went through the archive, I only included pieces included under the header “Articles” (this excluded book reviews and editor’s notes, for example) as the number of total articles. However, the number of co-authored articles based on these criteria was incredibly low; several issues would pass without a single co-authored article. So, I decided to create another spreadsheet, this time tallying the number of total pieces in any given issue as every single entry type. I was much more interested in the trends that this data revealed, noting milestones like the first co-authored book review; thus, this is the data you will find in my results. Finally, I relied on Excel functions to create the visual graphics in my results section. 

Results: Peitho & Collaboration as a Feminist Practice 

Ten years of Peitho provided me with a dataset of 316 articles. Of these 316 articles, 58 were credited with more than one author. Only 18.35% of published pieces in Peitho up to the present day are co-authored (Although sometimes understood as two people, I use co-authorship to describe any piece with more than one author). This statistic mirrors Lerner’s findings: 18% of the articles in his dataset were co-authored, 82% single authored. What might this finding suggest about how feminist collaborative work is recorded in our journals? As figure 2 indicates, the most recent issue of Peitho is the first in the journal’s history that does not have a single collaborative piece. 

Figure 2 image description: a bar graph with the heading “Peitho Journal Archives” showing a pair of bars for each issue of the journal: one with the total number of pieces in the issue and a shorter one to its right representing the number of co-authored pieces in that issue.

Figure 2: a bar graph with the heading “Peitho Journal Archives” showing a pair of bars for each issue of the journal: one with the total number of pieces in the issue and a shorter one to its right representing the number of co-authored pieces in that issue.

However, it is important to note that there is no real pattern to the number of collaboratively written works in Peitho; it is clear by looking at figure 2 that the fluctuation is fairly random. And, despite this most recent statistic, a look at Peitho’s archives reveal a number of milestones in terms of collaboration and co-authorship. While the first two issues both had one co-authored piece, the Editors Note, the third issue included a second co-authored piece: “Celebration of Life”: Memorials for Linda S. Bergmann (1950-2014).” The sixth issue (vol 17.2) reveals the first co-authored piece under the header Articles: “Mapping Topoi in the Rhetorical Gendering of Work,” co-authored by Sarah Hallenbeck and Michelle Smith. The seventh issue (vol 18.1) includes the most co-authored pieces, as visualized in figure 1. Published in Fall/Winter 2015, nearly half of the pieces in this journal are co-authored, including the editor’s note, three articles, three key concept statements, and a digital insert titled “From Installation to Remediation: The CWSHRC Digital New Work Showcase.” The ninth issue (Vol 19.1) includes the first co-authored book review.  

It is worth noting that this dataset is incomplete and can only tell us so much. By looking at this data alone, I don’t know what percentage of submitted pieces were co-authored, or what percentage of co-authored pieces were accepted. I don’t know if past Peitho CFPs utilized language that welcomed and/or encouraged co-authored, or collaborative, pieces. I don’t know if young scholars in the field were discouraged by mentors from co-authoring pieces they hoped to submit for publication. 

This is also just one dataset from one journal, and promising statistics regarding the status of collaboration in feminist rhetorical scholarship do exist. Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch’s Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies proclaims that 

Feminist rhetorical scholarship (and other work as well) is being done quite regularly by colleagues working together rather than alone…thus defying a dominant image in the history of rhetoric, that is, an individual genius at work alone and often in solitude. In contrast to the solitary figure, the vibrancy in rhetorical studies with which colleagues are working together is creating a much-enlivened space in scholarship for various forms of collaboration. (43) 

To support this claim, they cite the number of Braddock Awards (for the best article in College Composition and Communication) that has been given to co-authored work: twelve out of thirty-five awards from 1975 to 2009 (43-44). It is also important to recognize that much of the collaborative work done by feminist scholars is invisible. An analysis of the Peitho journal archive authorship patterns, for example, does not reveal data on mentorship, Coalition Advisory and Executive Board meetings, sponsored informal meetups, or collaborative conference presentations. What it does reveal, however, is collaborative practices manifested in ways that encourage a reconsideration of traditional assumptions of co-authorship. For example, out of 130 articles listed under the “articles” sub header of each issue, 35 of these include acknowledgements by the author(s). These acknowledgements range in recipient(s), but a number were directed at anonymous reviewers, graduate student researchers, and mentors. 

Lerner’s study suggests that collaboration manifests as co-authorship, or at the very least, that the two terms are fairly interchangeable. However, the practice of collaboration is nuanced, and the process and product of collaborative work takes different forms. While co-authored pieces likely cannot exist without collaboration, collaboration exists without published proof of existence. When collaboration occurs that doesn’t result in a co-authored publication, it is more difficult to assess how feminist scholars are upholding the commitment to collaboration.   


As I conclude this piece, I think back to Albarn’s damaging claim, and Taylor’s public defense of her own ethos as a songwriter who also co-writes. Here are the facts: Swift has at least a co-writing credit on every single one of her songs. She is credited as the sole songwriter on fifty-four tracks, including her entire studio album Speak Now, but she also collaborated heavily on her later albums (Reputation was entirely co-written). She both writes her own songs and co-writes her own songs. Is she a songwriter, a co-writer, or a collaborator? Or is she all three? What’s at stake with each label? Time and time again, Swift protects her identity as a songwriter who collaborates. She sets the record straight, asserting that she writes all of her own songs, and to suggest otherwise is false. As a field, we can learn from this, and take a cue from Taylor.  

So how can we set our record straight? If our journals, and perhaps co-authorship more generally, are not the spaces we need to look at to understand feminist collaboration, then where, or what, is that space? Swift’s defense serves as a timely reminder of just how damaging certain unexamined perceptions of (co)-authorship can be. In asking ourselves honest questions about our values, how we show and enact them, my hope is that we can enter the next ten years of Peitho with generative, productive conversations about collaboration and co-authorship as a feminist practice.  

Works Cited  

Buck, Elisabeth. Open-Access, Multimodality, and Writing Center Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.  

DeVoss, Danielle Nicole. Intellectual Property in College English–and English Studies.College English vol. 75. no. 5, 2013, pp. 534-54.  

Duffy, William. The Technology of Talk.Beyond Conversation: Collaboration and the Production of Writing. University Press of Colorado, 2020, pp. 53–70.  

. Collaboration (in) Theory: Reworking the Social Turn’s Conversational Imperative.” College English, vol. 76 no. 5, 2014, pp. 416-435.  

Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. Rhetoric in a New Key: Women and Collaboration.” ​Rhetoric Review, vol. 8, no. 2, 1990, pp. 234-241. 

. Singular Texts/Plural Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing. Southern Illinois University Press, 1990. 

. Why Write… Together?Rhetoric Review, vol. 1, no. 2, 1983, pp. 150–57. Eodice, Michele, and Kami Day. Learning from Coauthoring: Composing Texts Together in theComposition Classroom.Teaching With Student Texts: Essays Toward an Informed Practice, edited by Joseph Harris et al., University Press of Colorado, 2010, pp. 190–99.  

Kennedy, Krista, and Rebecca Moore Howard. “Introduction to the Special Issue on Western Cultures of Intellectual Property.” College English, vol. 75 no. 5, 2013, pp. 461-9 

. Collaborative Writing.Guide to Composition Pedagogies, edited by Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper Taggart, Kurt Schick, and H. Brooke Hessler. Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 37-54. 

Lerner, Neal. The Unpromising Present of Writing Center Studies: Author and Citation  Patterns in The Writing Center Journal, 1980 to 2009.The Writing Center Journal, vol. 34, no. 1, 2014, pp. 67–102. 

Lunsford, Andrea Abernethy. Rhetoric, Feminism, and the Politics of Textual Ownership.College English, vol. 61, no. 5, 1999, pp. 529-544. 

Lunsford, Andrea et al. College Writing, Identification, and the Production of Intellectual Property: Voices from the Stanford Study of Writing.College English, vol. 75 no. 5, 2013, pp. 470-492. 

Lunsford, Andrea A., and Susan West. Intellectual Property and Composition Studies.College Composition and Communication,vol. 47, no. 3, 1996, pp. 383-411. 

Melancon, Julie (@juliemsosa). She has a whole album that she wrote entirely on her own. Oh,and an award from the Songwriting Hall of Fame. Also, Ive frequently heard people saythat even if you dont like her music theres no denying shes an amazing songwriter.” Twitter, 25 Jan. 2022. https://twitter.com/juliemsosa/status/1486036480472535044?s=20&t=FZTTsWUiQgYu2Ayg_pzv1w. 

Ratliff, Clancy. Feminist Authorial Agency: Copyright and Collaboration in the Boston Womens Health Book Collective.Peitho, vol 21. no. 3, 2019. 

Restaino, Jessica. Deep Doldrums: On Loving (and Learning from) Lisa Ede.Peitho, vol. 24, 2021.

Robbins, Sarah. Distributed Authorship: A Feminist Case-Study Framework for Studying Intellectual Property.”​ College English,vol. 66, no. 2, 2003, pp. 155-171. 

Royster, Jacqueline Jones and Kirsch, Gesa E. Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for  Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2012. 

Schendel, Ellen et al. Toward a theory of online collaboration.Multiple Literacies for the 21st  Century, edited by Brian Huot, Beth Strobel and Charles Bazerman. Cresskill: Hampton, 2004, pp. 195-209.  

Selfe, Cynthia. L. Computer-Based Conversations and the Changing Nature of Collaboration.New Visions of Collaborative Writing, edited by Janis Forman. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1992, pp. 147-69. 

VanHaitsma, Pamela and Cassandra Book. Digital Curation as Collaborative Archival Methodin Feminist Rhetorics.Peitho, Vol. 21.2, 2019.  

Wood, Mikael. For Damon Albarn, Modern Life Is Still Pretty Much Rubbish,Los Angeles  Times, 23 January 2022. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/music/story/ 2022-01-23/damon-albarn-blur-gorillaz 

Feminists (in) Dialogue: Mapping Convergent Moments and Telling Divergent Histories of the CCCC Feminist Caucus and the CFSHRC

TO ACKNOWLEDGE the impact of all the feminist energy and commitment expressed in the high level (sound and content) of our table talk in KC 

TO CHANNEL some of the humanistic power swirling over the lukewarm soup, limp lettuce, and greasy chicken.  

To ASSERT a founding momma’s right to defer to the energy and vision of the Young.

from a 1978 newsletter circulated by leaders of  “The Women’s Committee” of 4Cs

Though the discipline of rhetoric and writing studies (RWS) has a clear trajectory of feminist scholarship stretching back decades, the impact of disciplinary work that has taken place in spaces outside of scholarship and publication is less visible (and often, less valued: see Almjeld and Zimmerman, “Invaluable”; Cole and Hassel, Surviving; Detweiler, LaWare, and Wojohn, “Academic Leadership”; Hassel and Cole, Academic Labor; Gindelsparger, “Trust on Display”). This article traces the evolution of two feminist groups in the field: the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, more recently known as the Feminist Caucus (the CSWP/FC),[1] and the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (the Coalition)[2]. This retrospective piece maps the parallel, intersecting, and sometimes divergent stories of feminist collaborations in RWS, including the spaces we have yet to reach. It also reflects the somewhat porous boundaries of RWS as both the Caucus and the Coalition have historically attracted members from outside of Rhetoric and Composition.  

In particular, we trace the trajectories of both organizations using different views of feminist work based on our examination of available archival materials, and we offer a selective visual timeline of the two groups’ activities and an analysis and overview of their structure, development, and values. As the CSWP/FC and the Coalition have matured and stabilized as organizations, some priorities have intensified and others have fallen away. This article attempts to better understand their relationship to each other and how their priorities and efforts have evolved over time, capturing their diverging perceptions as much as is reasonable here.[3] Our hope is that by placing these stories in conversation, we can show how each group negotiates certain ideological, practical or institutional tensions, and, thus, where new tensions and interventions related to feminist work can be more productively shared and lived out. 

In attempting this work, we acknowledge the impossibility of “telling the story correctly,” as well as the danger of a “single story” (Adichie). We emphasize the necessarily selective and uneven nature of this work and of our timelines, and we acknowledge that historians interested in studying our organizations’ histories must always contend with a potentially lopsided view of things, i.e., where more attention is drawn to recent initiatives and debates over those that occurred in decades past. As such, we offer a preliminary reflective commentary on the challenges of building and using feminist archives. It is safe to say that both organizations have yet to recover their earliest periods of activity through archival documentation, some of which has been subsumed into individual members’ private collections, or exists better in the form of yet untapped oral histories. Moreover, all participants in both our organizations perceive their own sense of each group’s histories. By documenting this feminist work, we hope only to strengthen our disciplinary understanding of the relationships between the two groups and the potential for coalitional feminist advocacy, as well as the importance of staying close to our histories even as we reach beyond them. 

That said, we approach this project with critical minds and full hearts, a bodymind orientation (Price) that takes into account our relationship to these organizations, ones that we think are important to the discipline and to which we have literally contributed our blood, sweat, and tears. We are by no means distant observers (of course, no one is), and as former chairs of these groups, we are invested in their successes and feel at times complicit in their missteps and oversights, even as we have supported their evolution. We are acutely aware of how no organization is able to shed its beginnings and instead carries its initial structures, missions, and composition through its lifetime. We are also acutely aware that others have had the same ideas before us. All of us, whether we have served our organizations as leaders or as members, strive to hold our own ideas lightly and with humility—to be aware of how those ideas have been responded to in the past, what has been proposed and rejected, what has been successful but forgotten, whose efforts have been celebrated and then erased. Ultimately, we are reminded that longer-term thinking is still and always essential for feminist work in our field.  

 Our project, then, attempts to capture the impact of these beginnings and follow these traces to the present day. Our roles in the organizations and our subject positions as tenured women faculty provide us privileged windows inside the inner workings, but they also make invisible some of the inherent tensions, and we welcome further attention to and research that draws on the archives from which we offer the following analyses and observations. Even amongst these three co-authors we struggle to offer a single coherent story, to offer an ethical interpretation of living documents, and we invite feminists in the discipline to further weave these beginning threads into fuller (even contestable) narratives. In discussing the task of rhetorical historiography, Cheryl Glenn notes that “historiographies must do more than simply rescue, recover, and reinscribe neglected rhetors” (105). We take this to heart in constructing a brief, incomplete, rhetorical near-history of feminist work in RWS. 

(Re)Constructing an Archive 

Welcome to the first issue of _____ There is a blank at the beginning of our project, just as the histories we’re in the process of creating often begin with blanks where the women should be. We begin this newsletter with two kinds of names: one very long and cumbersome and the other, not yet created (see the contest information on page 2), an antithesis that captures the challenge of creating new histories.  

—“Letter from the Editors,” Peitho: Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, vol. 1, no. 1, Fall 1996 

For this work we draw on extensive but incomplete archives. The documents that comprise each group’s history exist in multiple sites and formats, such that neither of the two groups has a single, comprehensive archive from which to draw conclusions. While we have access to some founding documents, part of the difficulty of archival work, and the early 1970s work of the CSWP/FC in particular, is that our records are woefully incomplete, and we must draw on critical imagination (Royster and Kirsch) to recognize the collective of women who contributed to its beginnings. The CFSHRC, in particular, is richer in its memories of the conversations that led to its founding than in actual founding documents. The more recent artifacts in the archival records of these two organizations prompt us to question what we understand about the groups and our relationships to them. Thus, we’re struck by Jenny Rice’s question in Awful Archives, “How does evidence happen?” and her recent examination of the nature of evidence in archival work.  

For our purposes, we’re interested in how the patchwork evidence we have examined tells different, sometimes conflicting stories of feminist work in RWS that periodically differs from our own memories and experiences. Thus, we triangulate these discursive artifacts with our own, disparate memories of key events, and even our calendars, emails, and notes from conferences and related activities. In her work accounting for the complexities of archival research and constructing attendant histories, Jennifer Clary-Lemon reminds us how  

[we] do not ever have a discrete set of “facts” in the recovery and positioning of archival history […] rather than push away the messiness of archival research processes that come up against various limits, absences, and distances, we need to recognize that that meaning we draw from such concepts cannot be separated from the matter and material of archives. (“Archival” 398) 

In this project we embrace the “limits, absences, and distances” as a necessary part of our process, one that co-authorship usefully complicates and problematizes.

Figure 1: Masthead from a 1978 newsletter of the 4C’s Feminist Exchange. Image Description: Screen shot of the header on a 1978 newsletter for the 4C’s Feminist Exchange. The title is handwritten, but the typed text reads: “a newsletter conceived in the joy and enthusiasm of all 139 of us sharing, listening, thinking, responding, laughing, planning.”

Figure 1: Masthead from a 1978 newsletter of the 4C’s Feminist Exchange. Image Description: Screen shot of the header on a 1978 newsletter for the 4C’s Feminist Exchange. The title is handwritten, but the typed text reads: “a newsletter conceived in the joy and enthusiasm of all 139 of us sharing, listening, thinking, responding, laughing, planning.”


Since the CSWP/FC was originally conceived as a CCCC Committee (in 1983), the Feminist Caucus has written yearly reports. These reports as well as membership lists have been archived by NCTE and made available to us in advance of this work. In 2019, the Feminist Caucus began the work of organizing archival documents of the Feminist Workshop, a pre-convention gathering held annually at the Conference on College Composition and Communication’s national gathering, and launched the Feminist Workshop archive on their website. Formal reports to the organization and the CCCC Executive Committee were provided to us by the CCCC Staff liaison, starting with the earliest available in 1987, and there is a somewhat robust set of documents that can help trace the activities of the group between 1987 and the present.  

To learn more about the feminist work taking place in formally charged groups prior to 1987, we requested and received copies of correspondence (letters and memos),  data, and membership lists dating back to 1970 that had been archived by the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign in the NCTE archives housed there. These materials suggest that what became the Feminist Caucus started as what operated for a length of time as the “NCTE Women’s Committee,” initially charged by NCTE in 1970 as the NCTE Committee on the Role and Image of Women in the Profession and Council and simultaneously meeting informally at CCCC in the early 1970s. The group was often led by and included members working in higher education and who were college faculty, though NCTE is broadly inclusive of K-12 needs and interests.[4]

Later efforts of the group included the Women’s Exchange (sharing of documents, books, and other resources at the annual NCTE and CCCC conventions), women’s gatherings at the events (lunches or breakfasts). Significant labor was directed toward work that really did directly target the “role and status” of women: these included implementing the nonsexist language guidelines by reviewing issues of the major NCTE journals at the time (Language Arts, College Composition and Communication, College English, and English Journal) and provided a detailed set of feedback on the year’s issues in terms of comportment with the guidelines. They also advocated heavily to ensure that the annual conventions were not held in states that had not yet ratified the Equal Rights Amendment (including a proposed boycott of the Kansas City convention to be held in Kansas City, KS in 1977); developing and issuing awards for books that used nonsexist language to be presented at the annual convention; preparing and publishing a book, Classroom Practices in Teaching English: Responses to Sexism, with members of the group sharing guest editor credit for the work with the series editor, Ouida Clapp.  

Some documents suggest that a survey was circulated on the status of women in 1985 that aimed to gather information about the demographics and experience of women in the profession; however we have not yet located any documents that report on the results of the survey. The work of the CSWP/FC includes documents from relatively diffuse activities, inclusive of the CCCC Women’s Network SIG, the Feminist Workshop, and the Annual Business Meeting. Coupled with the ongoing work of the Feminist Caucus, the materials we have only tell us so much about the organization, and there are stories we hope to tell in the future as we continue to unearth materials, learn from past members, and make sense of this rich history. In this article, we focus primarily on the governance and service work of the group that began as the NCTE committee on the Role and Image of Women in the Profession, and as the timeline shows, over time became its own CCCC committee and is now at present a Standing Group of the organization, the CCCC Feminist Caucus.  

Figure 2: Header from the Coalition’s website, reflecting the 2016 name change. Image description: Screen shot of the current website header for the CFSHRC, with the name in block letters, and each letter containing the line drawing of a feminist historical figure. The accompanying tag line reads “Rhetorics from the 5th century BCE; Coalition since 1989.”

Figure 2: Header from the Coalition’s website, reflecting the 2016 name change. Image description: Screen shot of the current website header for the CFSHRC, with the name in block letters, and each letter containing the line drawing of a feminist historical figure. The accompanying tag line reads “Rhetorics from the 5th century BCE; Coalition since 1989.”

The Coalition 

The Coalition was originally conceived in 1988–1989[5] as an auxiliary group to the Rhetoric Society of America and CCCC, but operating independently of both groups, that would host semi-annual business meetings, sponsor an evening meeting at the annual CCCC, and meet formally and informally throughout the year, usually depending upon who was available to meet among the founding members and Advisory Board. Even before co-sponsoring the first Feminisms and Rhetorics conference in 1997, most of the Coalition’s business and outreach occurred at or around field conferences and, eventually, via e-mail or online. Lacking a single institutional or organizational home, and thus lacking a physical repository for its documents, archiving the CFSHRC’s histories has presented an ongoing challenge. In addition, defining what can and should constitute the  organization’s “archives” is a subject of ongoing conversation, as there has always been a full slate of official business conducted by the Advisory and Executive boards, but just as important to the Coalition’s identity are the activities of its members, and its discursive activity across three social media channels (“Count ‘em”).[6] For these reasons and more, just like the CSWP/FC, the Coalition’s histories are multiple and its archives are still emerging.  

Between 2011 and 2013, the Coalition began building a web-based archive of key administrative documents for its officers and members. In 2013, that digital archive project expanded in scope, with the goal of capturing and organizing its past and present histories in a way that made sense for an organization conducting most of its business through e-mail or electronic exchange, while also making visible information that would most interest feminist researchers. Constructing it in this way has helped spawn several creative historical projects, including a series of videos and films, and an overview of the Coalition’s rhetorical activism within its own conference spaces. However, much of the organization’s early activities—if they were captured in paper or digital documentation—were unable to be recovered or are best observed through oral histories of founding members and past presidents (“Past Presidents”), through video and film, through the evolution of the Peitho journal, and through conference programs.[7] Unbound by a single historical narrative, the Coalition’s archive showcases several attempts at telling its histories during key moments in the organization’s growth, often to honor  the retirement or memorialize the career of a past president or founding member. 

Because the archive’s overarching structure was chosen to accommodate its first digital platform, we find that, at a glance, it does not reveal the range of activities undertaken by Coalition members over the years. However, a comprehensive finding aid was created in 2020, intended to illuminate both members’ and officers’ activities, and intended to be updated each year. At present, materials are available in a range of categories, including annual meetings, governance documents, treasurers’ reports, membership lists, photographs, videos, and artifacts from committee and task forces. In addition, there are annual volunteer surveys and there is evidence of a long-standing tradition that outgoing presidents compose reflections on their terms of service. These reflections were first published in the Peitho newsletter, then published in annual meeting reports and, since 2014, have been composed as posts on the Coalition’s public blog. Ultimately, some years and conversations are meticulously represented through these genres, as well as more recent blog posts, podcasts, and e-mail activity, while many others are not. Some administrative information is only accessible to the Executive Board each term, but most of the currently digitized holdings are publicly accessible to Coalition members and other researchers on request.   

Preparing this article allowed us to reflect on the challenges of not just searching archives, but also building them. Archiving living organizations is a difficult task; archiving organizations whose members, missions, and documentation evolve only multiplies the difficulty.  

Annotated Timeline 

The CCCC Feminist Caucus was originally founded in 1983 and constituted as a CCCC special committee named the “Committee on the Status of Women.” However, it has a 13-year history prior to that first instantiation, emerging from work that took place beginning in 1970 as the NCTE Committee on the Role and Image of Women in the Profession. Figure 1 presents a visual timeline of the group’s structures, names, and major activities from 1970 to the present. Throughout its various iterations, the CSWP/FC has focused on the labor conditions for teaching faculty.  

 Figure 3: CCCC Feminist Caucus Development. This timeline highlights select accomplishments, structural changes, and evolution of the CSWP/FC from 1970 to 2019. Image Description: An infographic on a white background, conveying a visual timeline of CCCC Feminist Caucus Development through selected events from 1970 to 2019. The timeline constitutes the middle of the infographic as a series of dates in gradated colored squares progressing from light orange to pink, while each event on the timeline is explained above or below the date and is illustrated by an icon that visually depicts its sentiment, ranging from cranes to mountain ranges to stars to buildings to rocket ships

Figure 3: CCCC Feminist Caucus Development. This timeline highlights select accomplishments, structural changes, and evolution of the CSWP/FC from 1970 to 2019. Image Description: An infographic on a white background, conveying a visual timeline of CCCC Feminist Caucus Development through selected events from 1970 to 2019. The timeline constitutes the middle of the infographic as a series of dates in gradated colored squares progressing from light orange to pink, while each event on the timeline is explained above or below the date and is illustrated by an icon that visually depicts its sentiment, ranging from cranes to mountain ranges to stars to buildings to rocket ships.

The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition was founded as a para-academic organization in 1989 and emerged with a two-pronged mission: to support feminist scholarly and historical projects, given that those projects were often marginalized in academic departments and throughout  tenure and promotion processes; and to help women faculty and graduate students navigate the politics of the profession, including teaching and coping with work-life balance. They began hosting an annual pre-conference evening event at CCCC in 1990. At the 2016 annual business meeting, after a long discussion of survey and focus group results that were presented by a task force on mission articulation, the Advisory Board voted to officially change the organization’s name to Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition (“Annual”), reflecting both a shifting demographic and an expansion on topics, methods, and attitudes that  might be called “historical” (Mastrangelo). 

Figure 4: Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition Development. This timeline highlights select accomplishments, structural changes, and evolution of the organization from 1990 to 2021. Image Description: An infographic on a white background, conveying a visual timeline of CFSHRC Development through selected events from 1990 to 2021. The timeline constitutes the middle of the infographic as a series of dates in gradated colored squares progressing from light green to forest green, while each event on the timeline is explained above or below the date and is illustrated by an icon that visually depicts its sentiment, ranging from people groups to tickets to rocket ships to buildings.

Figure 4: Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition Development. This timeline highlights select accomplishments, structural changes, and evolution of the organization from 1990 to 2021. Image Description: An infographic on a white background, conveying a visual timeline of CFSHRC Development through selected events from 1990 to 2021. The timeline constitutes the middle of the infographic as a series of dates in gradated colored squares progressing from light green to forest green, while each event on the timeline is explained above or below the date and is illustrated by an icon that visually depicts its sentiment, ranging from people groups to tickets to rocket ships to buildings.

Genre and Structure of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession (CWSP) 

The CCCC Feminist Caucus has an august history within the organization, though some of its earliest work is not well-documented. What available documents confirm is that the group that eventually became the Feminist Caucus was originally called the “NCTE Women’s Committee.” Reports provided by the CCCC organization show that the 1983 committee first was assembled as a “Special Committee,” which is defined in CCCC constitution and bylaws as follows: “Special committees may be appointed by the Chair. b. Special committees will be appointed for a period not to exceed three years, but they may be renewed by action of the Executive Committee” (Constitution). The 1983 Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, first chaired by Miriam Chaplin of Rutgers University,[8] was structured as and functioned within this kind of entity, requiring reconstitution every three years by the chair, officers, and/or Executive Committee, and with members appointed from the top down, by the organization’s elected leadership, typically the officers or the chair alone, as special committees have been convened. During a leadership period of 2014–2017, the CCCC officers sought to pare down the number of committees that had been functioning essentially as endlessly reconstituted special committees, and the leadership of the CSWP opted not to pursue reconstitution and instead apply to function as a Standing Group in 2016, also defined in the CCCC governing documents.[9]  

With greater levels of grassroots agenda-setting possible and a greater level of self-determination, the SGSWP opted to be renamed as the Feminist Caucus in 2017, and the group has been operating according to open principles and within the functions provided for as organizational standing groups: standing groups are given particular privileges and have particular responsibilities, including a guaranteed sponsored panel/session at the annual convention, and a business meeting slot. However, with this level of autonomy and standing within the organization, the group has obligations (and constraints) within the larger organization, both CCCC and NCTE. For example, any standing group must provide a biannual report to the Executive Committee summarizing their activities, must receive CCCC approval before using the name on public documents; and official statements or documents must be reviewed by the CCCC officers prior to dissemination. Funding applications and surveys, as well, require review and approval by the sponsoring organization, CCCC and NCTE.  This is to say that while the status within CCCC of a standing group provides access to some resources available through the organization (for example budget requests for group activities and local outreach grants to support group-sponsored activities at the annual convention) it is accompanied with responsibilities to the organization in the level of autonomy to make public statements when the CCCC name is used.  

Genre and Structure of the Coalition 

The Coalition has a multilayered structure, including a governance board since the first year of its existence, frequent volunteer groups and task forces, and an active membership on top of that. The group was formed from the outset as an independent entity, with the constitution serving as an article of incorporation and signed in 1990. The original statement of purpose indicated “The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition is a learned society composed of women scholars who are committed to research in the history of rhetoric and composition” (“Constitution”). The group evolved as a professional entity focused on scholarly and pedagogical support and mentoring (“Mentoring”; Fishman; Graban; Pettus), with a multi-pronged set of activities intersecting with and separate from CCCC (both the annual convention and the conference of NCTE), although one of its hallmark activities, mentoring tables, became a consistent presence at the annual CCCC in 1994.  

The current mission prioritizes the “advancement of feminist research and pedagogy across histories, locales, identities, materialities, and media” and “the education and mentoring of feminist faculty and graduate students in scholarship, research methods, praxis, and the politics of the profession” (“About Us”). While work-life balance and institutional labor are not articulated as explicit goals, they are reflected in several documents across the archive as being inherent aspects of “politics of the profession,” and regularly appear as a mentoring offering at the annual pre-CCCC evening event.    

In 2007, the Constitution was superseded by a more detailed set of bylaws that formalized the Coalition as a 501c3 corporation, which granted particular status in relation to its purpose, goals, and tax reporting, as well as outlined in significant detail the rights and responsibilities of the governing board and members. The bylaws emphasize activities related to professionalization and mentoring as the group’s primary focus, including “[f]ostering and encouraging scholarship, research, and interest in feminist histories, theories, and pedagogies of rhetoric and composition,” “[e]ncouraging exploration of the roles played by feminism and gender in the stories told about rhetoric and composition,” “sustaining a network of diverse scholars,” “providing education and mentorship in scholarship, research methods, and praxis,” “supporting, publicizing, and sponsoring events at conferences, institutes, and symposia,” and other activities related to research and scholarship such as publishing the Peitho journal and offering scholarships, travel grants, and awards.  

Evolution of CSWP/FC: Purpose, Mission, History  

Early in its constitution, the CCCC branch of the NCTE Women’s Committee appeared to exist as a loose assembly of women who met for breakfast and were connected via a print newsletter. An early report (1978) opened with “4C’s Exchange: a newsletter conceived in the joy and enthusiasm of all 139 of us sharing …… listening ….. thinking ….. responding ….. laughing ….. planning at the Women’s Luncheon in Kansas City,” with references to a breakfast held the previous year in Philadelphia. As a grassroots group, there was no stated charge attached to the group, though the 1978 document (listing Anita Sheen, as chair; and Lou Kelly as the founder of the group) defined its focus as “…between connections, this newsletter, for exchanging our concerns and discoveries and accomplishments. For helping us take charge and work out the new concepts, the new styles and roles our frontier requires” (1). The earliest formal documentation is also found in a June 21, 1977 letter from, with the note that “Lou Kelly asked 4C’s officers to authorize a 4C’s Women’s Committee with members not to be designated by 4C’s chair. So we’re now an official component of a  professional organization that really supports us” (1, emphasis original). However, later documents suggest that from the start, the desired work of the Women’s Committee was at cross-purposes with the organization, and elements of their work from its name to its structure were in passive aggressive tension. It’s worth recounting the June 21, 1977 letter in which Robert Hogan (then holding the title of Executive Secretary of NCTE) recognizes the development of the CCCC Committee on the Status of Women and his suggestion that there need not be such a committee. He writes:  

One thing I don’t like about myself is that I put off doing the things I feel uncomfortable doing. But, damn them, they just won’t go away. So I’m taking up one of them in this letter. […] Although the officers of CCCC did authorize in principle the formation of a women’s committee under the aegis of CCCC, that’s all they did. Had I been alert during that part of the officer’s meeting, I would have asked for a delay. But what I thought was merely a report of a request relayed through Betty Renshaw, turned out, in Betty’s and Nancy’s notes, as a formal motion, seconded, and carried.  

Robert Hogan notes as his concerns the difficulty the NCTE Committee on the Role of Women had in the beginning of its tenure, which he characterizes as “a call for volunteers without any battle plan;” a lack of money; a “duplication of effort”; and a lack of staff support. Despite these concerns, the CCCC committee was formed (June 21, 1977, “Letter to Lou Kelly”). The persistent, stealth advocacy represented by the work of “Betty’s and Nancy’s notes” exemplifies CSWP/FC work across its existence.  

The first Charge to the NCTE Committee on the Role of Women in the Profession and Council is clearly mirrored in the CCCC CSWP. Their 1971 charge includes the following concerns: 

  1. Salary schedules, promotions, administrative capacities.  
  2. Representation on Council Commissions, Board of Directors and Executive Committee.  
  3. Representation of women in material used in the teaching classrooms.  
  4. Impact of women/men on children in the classroom: research.  
  5. Awarding of grants, fellowships, awards to promising women in the English profession.  
  6. Self-image and attitude. 
  7. Discriminatory practices in any area involving sex differentiation.  
  8. Sources or lack of sources available for child day care so that women with children can successfully pursue graduate study and/or half or full time teaching.  
  9. Nepotism rules that prohibit married couple teaching on the same faculty.  

Clearly, labor conditions, representation, and the impact of personal conditions on professional experiences is focal from the CSWP/FC’s beginnings. The CCCC Committee on the Status of Women was convened in 1983 with the following charge:  

To review the status of women in the profession, especially women who identify themselves with the aims of CCCC; to continue to promote the participation of women in the annual convention, on CCCC committees, and in positions of leadership within CCCC; to keep the officers and membership of CCC advised of the concerns of women; to cooperate, when appropriate with the NCTE Women’s Committee in recommendation policies and actions affecting the status of women; to initiate, respond to and/or implement projects of special relevance to women; and to recommend appropriate political and financial actions when, in the future, Congress passes a new constitutional amendment supporting equal rights for women. (Letter to John Bodnar from Don Stewart, July 28, 1983). 

The next available formal report to CCCC (of the C’s-specific group) is in 1987, which states that its purpose is to “attempt to promote greater solidarity and communication among women in the CCCC,” with a reference to a goal of educating new women faculty about career and scholarly development.  

Over the next half dozen reconstitutions and recharging of the group, the activities and focus of the group evolve, whereas the early charge focused primarily on support and solidarity, the 1993-1996 charge assigns the following: “This committee will identify specific projects it might undertake to 1) develop a coalition to represent the needs and interests of all women in CCCC, with special attention to the diversity represented by these women; and 2) address specific issues, such as sexual harassment, that affect women disproportionately.” This charge was extended for the 1997–1999 and 2001–2004 reconstitution.  

In 2005, however, the charge is adjusted with a historical focus. The new charges initially read (for the 2005–2008 term):  

“Charge 1: To review the history of CCCC, with respect to its activities on behalf of women, for purposes of historical recording: what activities were undertaken, and what did they contribute to the CCCC and to its women members? 

Charge 2:  To share the historical record in appropriate venues. 

Charge 3:  To identify continuing woman-gender specific concerns that should be brought to the attention of the members for reasons of scholarship and/or action; to recommend appropriate actions to the officers and the EC.” 

And then, after just a year of composition, the committee requests that the language of Charge 3 be revised to read, “To identify feminist concerns and continuing woman-gender specific concerns that should be brought to the attention of the members for reasons of scholarship and/or action; to recommend appropriate actions to the officers and the EC.” The charge continues to emphasize feminist and women-specific areas of interest, while emphasizing a passive or received set of activities; that is, the group is charged with “reviewing” and “sharing” as well as “identifying” issues and concerns, which are then necessary to take to other leadership and governance groups to act on.  

A distinct shift takes place in the 2014–2017 charge, reflecting the desire throughout the group’s history to have more agency and self-determination about a) its work, b) the outcomes, and c) acting on and creating change on the basis of their work. It also reflects a more inclusive shift mirrored in gender studies, to feminist concerns, rather than gendered concerns. The 2014-2017 charges read as follows:  

“Charge 1: Identify feminist questions, concerns, and points of inquiry within the field of rhetoric and composition in areas of relevance to CCCC members and the profession at large 

Charge 2: Lead appropriate forms of inquiry into feminist concerns in the field of rhetoric and composition with the goal of proposing solutions, taking a position, or generating action items 

Charge 3: Make recommendations to CCCC Officers and Executive Standing Group based on inquiry, examination, or CSWP.”  

Though there is still an emphasis on “identifying,” the language focuses on feminist questions, concerns, and points of inquiry, while charge 2 includes the verb “lead” and links that inquiry leadership to the “goal of proposing solutions, taking a position, or generating action items.” The structure of the group, however, is limiting in the sense that the group itself is not empowered to bring about large scale structural or fiscal changes in the priorities of the organization. As this overview of the evolving charge shows, the more heavily unidirectional channels of direction that distinguished the group’s work in the first three decades meant that the group was empowered to identify priorities and projects, but only some were fully accomplished or achieved traction within the organization.  

Evolution of the Coalition: Purpose, Mission, History 

While not charged as a CCCC task force, the Coalition’s evolutions in purpose, mission, and history appear to be member-driven. One way of marking its evolution is by drawing attention to five types of organizational movement we see evidenced in the archives: constitution creation and bylaws revisions (the latter revisions occurring at least four times between 2007 and 2022); conference formation and Action Hours; journal formation; non-profit status; and webinars. In Lifting as We Climb, a retrospective documentary celebrating 25 years of the Coalition’s existence, inaugural president Kathleen Welch traces the immediate exigence for the group as a four-hour phone conversation. Over the phone, Welch and her colleague considered the shared difficulty they saw women colleagues in the profession having in being awarded tenure, “no matter how hard they [worked].” They agreed that they needed a venue to address this and similar concerns and to work towards bringing visibility to research on and by women in the history of Rhetoric and Composition, and to mentor women new to the profession. As Andrea Lunsford succinctly remembers: “more about women, more about women.”  

The constitution was co-written by the original executive board members: Kathleen Welch, the late Winifred Bryan Horner, the late Nan Johnson, Marjorie Curry Woods, and the late C. Jan Swearingen, and the first public meeting of the Coalition occurred during a specially designated slot on Wednesday evening just prior to the annual CCCC in the early 1990s. (Some accounts date 1990, while others cite 1993. For the purposes of this article, we acknowledge that the group began meeting as an organized caucus from 1990 forward). Feminist scholar Carol Mattingly, then a graduate student, recalls attending the meeting as a newcomer, and both she and the organizers were disappointed at the lack of turnout. Because only a few participants showed up, the organizers left for dinner. However, membership grew as the Wednesday evening event included “mentoring tables,” an outgrowth of the original mission intended as a space for political action for women (Welch). Soon, membership dues were regularly collected, and the Peitho newsletter, edited by Susan Jarratt and Kay Halasek, began to circulate in 1996 (“Letter”).[10] In 2007, after several rounds of drafting, a set of bylaws consisting of seven articles became the organization’s governing document, outlining in more detail the names, offices, purposes, and membership of the organization, and formally establishing election protocols and terms of office that would ensure rotating membership among both Executive and Advisory Boards (“Bylaws”).  

In 1997, the Coalition co-sponsored the first biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference at Oregon State University, co-chaired by the late Lisa Ede and Cheryl Glenn, with plenary addresses offered by Jacqueline Jones Royster, Barbara Warnick, Joy Ritchie, Patricia Sullivan, Angeletta Gourdine, Susan Jarratt, Nancy Tuana, Andrea Lunsford, Susan Brown Carlton, Arabella Lyon, Shirley Logan, and Krista Ratcliffe. As past presidents Cheryl Glenn, Shirley Logan, Kate Adams, and Lynée Gaillet recall during their vignettes in “In Their Own Words: The History and Influences of the Coalition,” putting new and emerging scholars on stage alongside more senior scholars had been an inherent goal of the plenaries at the annual CCCC caucus event (Eble and Sharer; Ramsey-Tobienne and Graban).[11] Thus, providing additional space and visibility for nurturing feminist scholarship in Rhetoric and Composition through a dedicated conference, where emerging and seasoned scholars could listen and learn alongside one another in an intimate setting over one long weekend, was another extension of that goal.  

One of the primary successes for the Coalition was transitioning Peitho from an online newsletter first circulated in 1996, to a peer-reviewed journal first re-released in Fall/Winter 2012 (“CWSHRC Board Meeting”), a change that aligned with their values to recognize and amplify women’s scholarship and to support forward progress toward tenure. After three revisions of its development proposal, in 2011 a specially appointed ad-hoc committee successfully laid out plans to convert the newsletter into a biannual peer-reviewed journal, suggesting a new journal structure, a budget, a set of bylaws, and an organizational structure that included a publication committee, an editor, an associate editor, and an editorial board (“Peitho Development”). As a web-based open-access publication, Peitho publishes four times a year, and in the 2021 editors’ report, the journal had received more than 30 submissions that year. 

By 2010, the Coalition had met its long-term goal of gaining non-profit status, a structure that allows them to do more fundraising, solicit tax-free donations, and distribute scholarships, travel grants, and awards (“Strategic Plan”). This change in status preceded another of the Coalition’s more significant evolutions: the group’s name change from “Women Scholars” to “Feminist Scholars” in 2016, in part to reflect the gendered inclusivity already promoted by the group, and in part to un-gender the group’s mission and goals. Inclusivity has remained a central focus for the Coalition since then, much of it occurring as a result of stated or expressed needs by the membership, many of whom represent neurologically diverse, nonbinary and trans identities; many of whom do work that is informed by social justice pedagogy; and many of whom prioritize the enfranchisement of scholars of color, graduate students, and NTT or contingent faculty. These initiatives are marked more recently by the Coalition’s retrospective on the challenges of claiming intersectional work (Graban et al); by its “Advancing the Agenda” webinar series, initiated during the COVID-19 pandemic in lieu of the 2021 Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference; by the development of a Shared Values Statement at CCCC 2022; and by the official integration of graduate students into leadership roles on both the Executive and Advisory Boards.  

Early leaders in the Coalition historically expressed interest in taking their work “beyond the academy,” intending, as Andrea Lunsford reminds us in Lifting As We Climb, to “carve out a new public understanding of the role women might play,” a goal that aligns with the equity work that orients the Feminist Caucus’ plans. While Coalition meeting agendas as early as 2006 indicate webinars as a venue for this public outreach, it isn’t until 2021 that a formal webinar series gets initiated, partly in response to the 2021 CCCC remote conference (“Event”), partly as an alternative venue for the 2021 Feminisms and Rhetorics conference (“Online Event!”), and partly in response to organizational critiques that the Coalition’s anti-racist agenda could be made more visible. At the Spring 2022 annual business meeting, the Executive and Advisory Boards voted to continue this “Advancing the Agenda” webinar series for 2022–2023 (“Advisory”). 

Intersections of CSWP and Coalition 

Although they have evolved to address many of the same intersectional feminist concerns in RWS, and although CCCC marks as the primary meeting space for both entities, one of the primary elements that stands out in differentiating their histories is the way in which each group has developed and been sustained over many decades. Whereas the CCCC Feminist Caucus developed within an established organization as a way to inform the organization and (perhaps) reform it from within, the Coalition developed on its own terms as a response to a perceived absence of spaces for addressing feminist concerns within the discipline. In this way, the two groups offer different pathways for addressing concerns and highlight the various challenges associated with each path. There has been cross-pollination of people and ideas across the Caucus and the Coalition for decades, particularly manifesting in participation in the Women’s Network SIG, the Feminist Workshop, and the Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference, and publishing in Peitho. Notably, there is less observed overlap in leadership, although this observation deserves to be revisited as new material is submitted to the archives. 

The first explicit Coalition-Caucus collaboration we see in our archives is a 2003 session  at CCCC entitled “Electric Rhetoric.” Then, the two groups co-sponsored mentoring SIGs at the 2004 CCCC. In the following decade the groups’ work overlapped in their respective venues, with the Committee-sponsored Women’s Lives in the Profession Project taking center stage with the DALN at the 2011 Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference, and Peitho publishing the results of the Committee’s Service Mapping Project, “Key Concept on Service.”  

The Coalition continually marshaled their considerable social media networks to amplify Feminist Caucus work, and once the Feminist Caucus Business Meeting was opened broadly as a result of their Standing Group status, they encouraged participants to attend Coalition events. In 2019, when the three of us were Chairs of the respective groups, we began exploring opportunities for collaborative feminist work in the discipline. The Feminist Caucus created an informational blogpost for the Coalition website (Hassel and Pantelides), Feminist Caucus Co-Chairs attended the Feminist Rhetorics 2019 business meeting, and created a brief slideshow detailing Feminist Caucus information and photos for display during the conference. Further plans for collaboration at the 2020 CCCC were foiled by the pandemic. Yet, in tracing our organizational work alongside each other across the decades, and now facing familiar conversations regarding inequity, lack of support for caregivers, workplace harassment, attacks on academic freedom, and reproductive rights, we are doubly encouraged to consider what we might be able to accomplish together as a feminist body.  

Inclusivity, Diversity, and Community 

Though some effort throughout the history of both groups was paid to coalition-building with other groups who had a shared investment in social justice and equity, both structural challenges and white and class privilege interfered with those aims. Early documents, for example note that the NCTE Women’s Committee co-sponsored “a workshop in New York with the Task Force on Racism and Bias, the Minority Affairs Committee, and the Council on Interracial Books for Children” (6-9-1977, letter from Lallie Coy (Chair) to the Members of the Committee). However, the committee structure (which by the mid-1980s was relatively formalized within the organization) operated as a governance body of CCCC and not as an open group; likewise, the Women’s Network SIG which was held starting in 1996 at the annual convention was scheduled like most SIGs, concurrently during four dedicated slots (6:30–7:30 pm and 7:30–8:30 p.m. on the Thursday and Friday of the conference). This means that attendees often had to select the special interest group meeting they wished to attend, creating barriers for participation in multiple groups, a factor repeatedly brought up as a concern in committee reports. Because of these organizational limitations, of the various CSWP/FC opportunities, the Feminist Workshop was perhaps best able to consistently reflect and sponsor the diverse work and membership of feminists in RWS, as noted in the CSWP/FC charge, throughout its existence.  

In addition, though the stated aim (and charges) throughout the group’s work beginning in 1983 as a special committee focused on equity, diversity, inclusion, and the status of women within the field, little direct and specific attention is visible in the documents that report on the groups’ work, and their efforts at feminist advocacy were not explicitly intersectional, let alone prioritizing issues of importance to women of color.  In the 1980s, in particular, the priorities of the group included a single-axis focus on gender with no consideration of other issues (as was often the case in feminist advocacy work at that time). For example, the “Questionnaire: CCCC Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession,” circulated by the group through a variety of channels questions about institution type; gender of faculty leadership; proportion of women and men at various ranks and employment status; and methods of recruitment; but there are no questions related to other identity categories such as race or ethnicity that might help disaggregate the responses and pinpoint issues of specific value to women of color. Priorities that show up through the 1980s include nonsexist language, the visibility of women’s scholarship and women’s writing (for example, in the form of requesting categories on the convention program guide on ‘women and writing’ and emphasis on nonsexist language efforts without an accompanying emphasis on antiracist language practices).  

Yet, despite the repeated stated interest in selecting a representative committee, there are numerous points in the Feminist Caucus’ history in which the committee was entirely composed of white women. Further, though the Caucus-sponsored events, the Feminist Workshop and the Women’s Network SIG, were open to CCCC membership, the Business Meeting was closed to members selected by the CCCC EC until the change to a Standing Group structure in 2016. The CCCC Executive Committee selected members for the committee and suggestions for committee members were taken as recommendations. For instance, in 2009, Eileen Schell noted, “We would like to expand the racial and ethnic diversity of our committee.  We have a great group of women on the committee who represent varied institutions and career paths, but we are now a completely white committee… We have no representation of Asian, Latina, and Native American women faculty on this committee and have not in recent memory…We realize that we cannot just add members, but we do encourage the EC and the CCCC officers to consider how our committee membership might be diversified.”  Thus, the repeated interest in creating a more inclusive Caucus by changing the structure of the group was not realized for decades. As a result, the work of the committee did not necessarily meet the broader needs of faculty across RWS.  

Likewise, the Coalition has similarly sought to increase inclusivity, and fostering a climate that invites participation has also been a goal intermittently realized for the Coalition, with work both behind and ahead.  From what we have observed in the archives, the achievement of a dedicated spot on the CCCC pre-conference program, traditionally Wednesday evenings from 6:00–8:00 p.m., did help to raise visibility of the organization at that conference for those who could arrive and attend early. Even still, like many feminist organizations, a recurring challenge for the Coalition has been to fully center the diversity of its membership in the structures and programming of the group. In her interview for Lifting As We Climb, Joyce Middleton cautioned the group about “whiteness taking over,” indicating that the marked identification of the group had changed since her early involvement. This remark would foreground the organization’s renewed efforts to address the marginalization of members of color in the late 2010s. Other initiatives the Coalition has committed to, for example, include a standing group on graduate student engagement, Wednesday night mentoring events at CCCC accompanied by deliberate attempts to feature graduate students and new scholars or new faculty, primarily because their work hadn’t been featured in other venues, and ensuring that contingent faculty, independent scholars and unaffiliated scholars feel enfranchised to participate. 

The Fem/Rhet conference themes have historically aligned with the organization’s priorities, from the earliest convention focused on “From Boundaries to Borderlands” to themes centering on “Intersections,” “Diversity,” “Complexities” and “Activism.” Following challenging critiques from marginalized scholars, including graduate students and early career attendees, about keynote events at the 2019 Fem/Rhet conference and the need for more accessible conferencing practices, the Advisory Board of the Coalition again actively grappled with the issues that were raised. For example, at a session facilitated by Coalition leaders at the virtual Watson conference in 2021 (whose theme itself was “Toward the Antiracist Conference: Reckoning with the Past, Reimagining the Present”), participants focused on the following: 

In March of 2020, the Advisory Board of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition voted to cancel the 2021 Biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics (FemRhet) Conference. This decision was made in light of COVID, but, more significantly, it reflected long-standing (and growing) concerns about the inclusivity of the conference. Concerns about the whiteness of conference programs, concerns about the costs of attending (for graduate students in particular), and concerns about the inaccessibility and exclusionary histories of the places and spaces within which the conference had been held all contributed. (“Intersectional”). 

The summer resolution, “That the Coalition delay of the re-release of the call for 2023 Feminisms and Rhetorics site hosts until the spring of 2021 and require within this call that potential site hosts front themes of anti-racist activism and center the work of feminists of color” (Sharer) served as a touchstone to direct subsequent governance, values, and process work to engage in rigorous self-examination.  


It is difficult to evidence change. As Nancy Prichard, Assistant Executive Secretary of NCTE noted in 1970 regarding the creation of the NCTE Committee on Women, “Obviously, the only conclusion for this memorandum is that women’s work is never done.” Similarly, these brief overviews of the work of the CSWP/FC and the Coalition underscore that feminist work in RWS is never done, and it seems likely we’re on the cusp of a moment in which feminist work is more important than ever. In fact, as this article goes to press, we acknowledge national protests over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, reminding us that the history of how women and underrepresented members of RWS have been included in or excluded from certain opportunities in the field, and—more importantly—how they have navigated those inclusions and exclusions with one another, is still what drives us.[12] As each organization performs its response to the decision, we recognize how this and all related conversations are frustratingly reminiscent of the 1970s discussions that laid the groundwork for the CSWP and the systemic tensions from which the Coalition was eventually born. We are also reminded of some important distinctions between our groups.  

The CSWP/FC has always prioritized the material and practical realities of women’s lives (employment equity, childcare, composition classroom, bias/harassment/bullying), and their large scale research projects have often sought to quantify inequity to build arguments for better institutional resources, both from CCCC as an organization and for feminists to use at their own institutions. Created grudgingly by the CCC EC as an offshoot of work in NCTE, modeled on work in MLA, the CCCC Committee on the Status of Women tried “to acknowledge the impact of [feminist energy and commitment…], channel …humanistic power…, [and] assert a founding momma’s right to defer to the energy and vision of the Young.” In this way, the CSWP/FC demonstrates efforts to do feminist work within an organization, and the various difficulties associated with that work.  

The Coalition demonstrates efforts to do feminist work outside an existing organization, to create both inter- and intra-disciplinary spaces for doing feminist work. As Kathleen Welch notes in Lifting As We Climb, she and the founding members of the Coalition were fed up with women colleagues not getting tenure and not having their work recognized, both inside and outside of the classroom. They found strength in organizing outside of their institutions, outside of the existing disciplinary organizations that were, in many ways, reifying the problems they experienced at their home institutions. At the same time, this para-organizational stance has, in certain historical moments, contributed to confusion about the positioning, identification, and responsibilities of the group.  

The archives of both entities show an evolution responsive to members’ needs, thus mirroring the needs of whichever members are most active at the time. The CSWP/FC does make changes within the organization that reflect the members’ and partner groups’ consistent requests, perhaps most notably in the organization’s financial commitment to providing dependent care grants, and, after nearly five decades of requests, fundamental changes to the convention and committee structures. The CFSHRC’s Advisory Board agendas, meeting minutes, and public blog posts indicate that they, too, expect development beyond the goals and ideas of their founders. And both entities have developed in response to tensions within the discipline—including disagreements about where scholarship and public activism did and should intersect, about invisibility, and stultifying patriarchal structures. Both have identified different structures for outreach.  

Of course, as with any archival project, there are many stories we could tell, should tell, and hope to tell at some point. There are also stories that these archives cannot tell. As familiar as we are with our respective organizations, performing this archival trace only complicated our understanding of how the groups are similar and different. In fact, our trace has raised questions about how current understandings of feminist work in the discipline might spur us to encourage future collaborations amongst the two groups, but also—and somewhat surprisingly—about whether and how the groups can and should work together moving forward. How can each group serve its diverse memberships, sustaining, as the Coalition writes in its mission statement, “all who do feminist work, inclusive of all genders, sexualities, races, classes, nationalities, religions, abilities, and other identities, in their research and classrooms”? With charges this vital, how can each group make its distinctive spaces more welcoming and more attractive for feminist members of cultural, ethnic, or religious groups that are bound by professional or community politics and who necessarily operate outside of a Eurocentric framework? Moreover, how will each group work independently and together to make room for disagreement and discord? Until those questions are answered, our archival work continues.  

We write with the conviction that our institutions and the discipline writ large have benefited from intersectional feminist work, and that the advocacy and mentoring efforts that have characterized the CSWP/FC and Coalition have made a difference, even as we are made aware of how those organizations have not addressed all the needs. Yet going forward, we do not recognize a single successful blueprint for organizational feminist praxis. Whether our readers in RWS choose to adopt stealth advocacy practices—like Betty and Nancy, the founders of the CSWP—or whether they get fed up and create their own new spaces for our work—like Kathleen Welch and her colleagues—we hope they will reflect on these practices as we have done, and consider the unique challenges of building feminist community, past, present, and future. Moreover, we hope readers find this archival tracing useful for charting possible intersections of each group’s motives and methods, for identifying points of productive disagreement and discord, and for identifying other ways to respond to new calls to focus on activism, labor, scholarship, teaching, and being in the academy.    

End Notes

[1]The group was initially activated as the CCCC Womens Committee and then operated for many years as the Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession.

[2]The group was known until 2016 as the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, founded in 1989 as a CCCC affiliatealternatively referred to as a Caucus or Special Interest Group.

[3]Anecdotally, we have heard some scholars who have participated across these organizations wonder aloud whether their separation is meaningful, intentional, or, as a colleague questioned more pointedly: “Was there some sort of schism?

[4]See Womens Committee 1977. 15/74/3: Conference on College Composition and Communication Administrative Subject Files, 1944-2006. Box 12. National Council of Teachers of English Archives. University of Illinois, Champaign, IL. 

[5]A Wikipedia article, citing Richard Nordquist, reports the group’s founding as 1988 (“Feminist”), though the Coalition’s archives situate its initial organization at the end of the 1989 academic year, and its formal founding in 1990. At different points in its history, the CFSHRC sought affiliation with the Modern Language Association, the Rhetoric Society of America, and the Alliance of Rhetoric Societies, before the latter group’s dissolution in 2011 (Myers).

[6]To wit, until construction of the first finding aid was begun by Alexis RamseyTobienne, the task of searching through the Coalition’s digital archives was daunting. While much of the organization’s activity is documented in various e-mail chains, agendas, meeting minutes, and newsletters, the Coalition’s blog (https://cfshrc.org/blog/) offers a more publicly accessible way of reading into the organization’s activities—at least since 2012, with most blogging activity picking up in 2014 after the first redesign of the organization’s website, and again in 2020 after the second reconstruction of its website. The organization’s original two sites were pulled down by Susan Romano (University of New Mexico) in 2008, at the request of the Advisory Board (“CWSHRC Board Meeting”). 

[7]It should be noted that Peitho and the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference have their own histories that are necessarily flattened in this brief archival trace.

[8]Other members included John P. Bodnar (Prince Georges Community College), Lynn Bloom (Virginia Commonwealth University), Sylvia Holladay (St. Petersburg Community College), and Neil Nakadate (Iowa State University). 

[9]Standing Groups are member-organized coalitions approved by the CCCC Officers. Standing Groups begin as Special Interest Groups and may apply for SG status after fulfilling the requirements outlined for that status. Standing Groups define their own mission and charges in conjunction with the broad mission and vision of CCCC (https://cccc.ncte.org/cccc/about/constitution). 

[10]From 2002–2006, Jarratt co-edited the newsletter with Susan Romano. In 2009, Barb L’Eplattenier assumed editorship through its 2012 transition to a journal.

[11]This goal was further corroborated by the evolution of the pre-CCCC Wednesday evening caucus event into “action hours,” beginning in 2015 with the “New Works Showcase” that reconfigured the platform talks into interactive poster sessions (Adams et al) or action tables (“Join Us”).

[12]See, for example, the CFSHRC’s “Statement on the Overturning of Roe vs. Wade,” reflecting the organization’s tradition of composing and circulating statements of advocacy to support the mobilization of its members.

Works Cited 

Adams, Heather B., Erin M. Andersen, Geghard Arakelian, Heather Branstetter, Lavinia Hirsu, Nicole Khoury, Katie Livingston, LaToya Sawyer, Erin Wecker, and Patty Wilde, with Trish Fancher, Tarez Samra Graban, and Jenn Fishman. “From Installation to Remediation: The CWSHRC Digital New Work Showcase.” Peitho, vol. 18, no. 1, Fall/Winter 2015. https://cfshrc.org/article/digital-new-work-showcase-presentations-from-the-coalitions-session-at-cccc-2015/ 

“Advisory Board Meeting Agenda.” 9 March 2022. TS. CFSHRC Digital Archives, AB_meeting_agenda_3-9-2022. 

Adichie, Chimamanda. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED Global, 2009.   

Almjeld, Jen, and Traci Zimmerman. “Invaluable but Invisible: Conference Hosting as Vital but Undervalued Intellectual Labor.” Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics, vol. 4, no. 2, Winter 2021, http://journalofmultimodalrhetorics.com/4-2-issue-almjeld-and-zimmerman 

“Annual Advisory Board Meeting Minutes.” 6 April 2016. TS. CFSHRC Digital Archives, AB_meeting_minutes_4-6-2016. 

“Bylaws of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” Updated March 2022. http://cfshrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/CFSHRC-BYLAWS-revised-3-2022.pdf  

“Call for Site Hosts: 2023 Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. July 2021. https://cfshrc.org /exciting-feminisms-and-rhetorics-news/ 

Conference on College Composition and Communication. “Constitution of  the Conference on College Composition and Communication of the National Council of Teachers of English.” https://cccc.ncte.org/cccc/about/constitution 

CCCC Status of Women Reports and Governance Documents. Received from the NCTE archives at University of Illinois, Champaign, IL, and via Kristen Ritchie at the CCCC office.  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1pel9xov5x6rlx6/AAAnBBCiE1U5_tZ_x0yyWvC4a?dl=0 

CCCC Feminist Caucus. “CCCC Feminist Caucus: It’s Time to Bring the F-Word Back.” https://sites.google.com/view/feministcaucus/home 

—. “Feminist Workshop.” https://sites.google.com/view/feministcaucus/feminist-workshop 

“CFSHRC Statement on the Overturning of Roe vs. Wade.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 1 July 2022. https://cfshrc.org/cfshrc-statement-on-the-overturning-of-roe-vs-wade/ 

Cole, Kirsti. and Holly Hassel. Surviving Sexism in Academia: Strategies for Feminist Leadership. Routledge, 2017. 

Clary-Lemon, Jennifer. “Archival Research Process: A Case for Material Methods.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 33, no. 4, 2014, pp. 381–402. Web. 16 Dec. 2016. 

“Count ‘em: 5 New CWSHRC Opportunities!” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 15 October 2014, https://cfshrc.org/scholarly-opps/. 

“CWSHRC Board Meeting at CCCC.” 2 April 2008. TS. CFSHRC Digital Archives, Minutes_CCCC_2008. 

Detweiler, Jane., Margaret LaWare, and Patti Wojohn. “Academic Leadership and Advocacy: On Not Leaning In.” College English, vol. 79, no. 5, 2017, pp. 451–65.  

Eble, Michelle F, and Wendy Sharer, eds. In Their Own Words: The History and Influences of the Coalition. Produced 2008, re-mastered 2014. 

“Event: ‘Art in the Time of Chaos’ Featuring Alexandra Hidalgo.’” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, 25 March 2021. https://cfshrc.org/event-art-in-the-time-of-chaos-featuring-alexandra-hidalgo/ 

“Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference Hosts for 2023 and 2025.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 11 April 2022. https://cfshrc.org/feminisms-and-rhetorics-conference-hosts-for-2023-and-2025/  

“Feminist Rhetoric.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 12 June 2022. 15 July 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_rhetoric. 

Fishman, Jenn. “Volunteer to Mentor a CWSHRC Scholar.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition 9 September 2014. https://cfshrc.org/volunteer-to-mentor/ 

Gindlesparger, Kathryn Johnson. “Trust on Display: The Epideictic Potential of Institutional Governance.” College English, vol. 83, no. 2, 2021, pp. 127–46. 

Glenn, Cheryl. Rhetorical Feminism and This Thing Called Hope. Southern Illinois UP, 2018.  

Graban, Tarez Samra. “Expanded Mentoring Program Begins!” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 19 October 2020. https://cfshrc.org/expanded-mentoring-program-begins/. 

Graban, Tarez Samra, Heather Adams, Jenny Unghba Korn, Lana Oweidat, Sarah Singer, and Jen England. “Re-Examining Intersectionality in Our 30th Year: A Remediation of the 2019 CFSHRC Action Hour.” Peitho, vol. 22, no. 1, Fall/Winter 2019. https://actionhour2019.cfshrc.org/ 

Hassel, Holly and Kirsti Cole, eds. Academic Labor beyond the Classroom: Working for Our Values. Routledge, 2019.  

Hassel, Holly and Kate Pantelides. “Writing Our Future: Feminist Collaborations between CCCC Feminist Caucus and the Coalition.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 2 December 2019. https://cfshrc.org/writing-our-future-feminist-collaborations-between-cccc-feminist-caucus-and-the-coalition-2/ 

Hidalgo, Alexandra. “Lifting as We Climb: The Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition 25 Years and Beyond.” Peitho Journal, vol 18, no. 1, 2015. https://cfshrc.org/article/lifting-as-we-climb-the-coalition-of-women-scholars-in-the-history-of-rhetoric-and-composition-25-years-and-beyond/  

“Intersectional Imperatives: Steps toward an Antiracist and Inclusive Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference.” Watson Conference. Conference Schedule. 22 April 2021.  

“Join Us for Our 4C17 Event: Building Sustainable, Capable Lives, or Tilting at Windmills?” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 10 February 2017. https://cfshrc.org/join-us-for-our-4c17-event-building-sustainable-capable-lives-or-tilting-at-windmills/ 

“Letter from the Editors.” Peitho: Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, vol. 1, no. 1, Fall 1996, p. 1. 

Mastrangelo, Lisa. “Welcome to the Coalition of FEMINIST Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, 16 May 2016. https://cfshrc.org/welcome-to-the-coalition-of-feminist-scholars-in-the-history-of-rhetoric-and-composition/. 

“Mentoring.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. https://cfshrc.org/mentoring/ 

Meyers, Nancy. “Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition Advisory Board Meeting Agenda.” 6 April 2011. TS. CFSHRC Digital Archives, AB_agenda_CCCC_apr2011. 

“Mission.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. https://cfshrc.org/about-us/#mission 

“Online Event! ‘Let’s Talk about Mentoring: A Feminist Approach to Compassion and Care in Academic Spaces.’” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, 22 October 2021. https://cfshrc.org/online-event-lets-talk-about-mentoring-a-feminist-approach-to-compassion-and-care-in-academic-spaces-tues-9-9-4-530-pm-est/ 

“Past Presidents’ Gallery.” Part of “A Remediation of the 2019 CFSHRC Action Hour.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. https://actionhour2019.cfshrc.org/30th-anniversary/past-presidents-gallery/ 

Peitho Development Proposal, Version 3.” 16 October 2011. TS. CFSHRC Digital Archives, 2011_10_proposal_final. 

Pettus, Mudiwa. “Announcing the Fellowship Pods Program.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, 7 June 2021. https://cfshrc.org/announcing-the-fellowship-pods-program/ 

Price, Margaret. “The Bodymind Problem and the Possibilities of Pain.” New Conversations in Feminist Disability Studies. Spec. issue of Hypatia, vol. 30, no. 1, 2015, pp. 270–84. 

Ramsey-Tobienne, Alexis E., and Tarez S. Graban. “‘Lifting As We Climb,’ Since 1989.” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 2019. https://cfshrc.org/history-in-film/ 

Rice, Jenny. Awful Archives: Conspiracy Theory, Rhetoric, and Acts of Evidence. Ohio State UP, 2020.  

Royster, Jacqueline Jones, and Gesa E. Kirsch. Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies. Southern Illinois UP, 2012. 

Sharer, Wendy. “Exciting Feminisms and Rhetorics News!” Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. 9 July 2020. https://cfshrc.org/exciting-feminisms-and-rhetorics-news/  

“Strategic Plan. Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” 8 October 2005. TS. CFSHRC Digital Archives, AB_peitho_development_plan_2005.  

An Archival Analysis of the “Material Turn” in Feminist Rhetorics

In the call for this Cluster Conversation, the editorial board of Peitho asked us to meditate on our stories of the discipline. Reading the call, I (Michelle) thought immediately of the way that I narrate the story of feminist rhetorics for my students: a narration describing three historical approaches to feminist rhetorical research. Because we consider these approaches largely through readings in Lindal Buchanan’s and Kathleen Ryan’s anthology, Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics, I’ll briefly explain them here with reference to examples in that collection. 

First, I explain, feminist scholars worked to recover women’s rhetorics, adding women’s speaking and writing to the rhetorical canon. As they began considering historical women’s words, feminist scholars also considered what led those voices to be silenced in the first place, enacting a revision of rhetorical criteria and reworking central theoretical concepts in the field. In the Buchanan and Ryan collection, some examples of this mode of feminist rhetorical scholarship are Krista Ratcliffe’s work on Anglo-American feminist theories of rhetoric, Jane Donawerth’s analysis of Renaissance women’s conversational rhetoric, and Shirley Logan’s analysis of black women’s nineteenth-century oratory.  

The second approach I describe is the study of what people say about women’s words. This approach might include studies of the reception of or injunctions against women’s public speaking, for instance, or pedagogical texts and conduct literature instructing women in “appropriate” rhetorical means. Vicki Tolar Collins Burton’s study of the texts surrounding Methodist Hester Ann Rogers’s diary is one example in Walking and Talking, as is Susan Zaeske’s examination of the designation of the “promiscuous audience” in the nineteenth-century U.S. As I acknowledge, some scholars who might have hoped to do recovery work are forced into this second kind of research due to a lack of extant primary sources: Cheryl Glenn’s work on Aspasia is a prime example in the anthology.  

Finally, I introduce the third approach: the study of the rhetorical gendering of spaces, objects, occupations, roles, and technologies. I explain that studies of how women came to occupy masculine-associated spaces like the platform and the pulpit led scholars to wonder how those spaces and roles had become gendered masculine in the first place. My own interest in the rhetorical gendering of space was piqued in just this way by Roxanne Mountford’s The Gendered Pulpit, which explores first the masculine gendering of the pulpit in fictional and theological texts before examining how contemporary female preachers occupy and speak from that space. This area of inquiry has been expanded through a variety of works that consider the rhetorical circulation of gender apart from any necessary connection to sexed or gendered bodies. While the essays in Walking and Talking largely precede this turn, my students routinely remark upon a telling moment in Carol Mattingly’s analysis of the WCTU’s Woman’s Temple that indicates the promise of a material approach: specifically, Mattingly describes how particular architectural styles were gendered masculine (modern, straight lines, right angles) or feminine (ornate, curved edges, nooks) (294-96). We also read more recent work modeling this third approach by scholars like Sarah Hallenbeck and Jessica Enoch. 

By charting these approaches, I narrate the history of the field as a shift from studies of women’s rhetorics to studies of rhetorics of gender, a shift that parallels the material turn in rhetorical studies and the humanities writ large. As Enoch explains, scholars of the “rhetorical process of gendering” must examine not only the discursive, but also the material and embodied “articulations and performances that create and disturb gendered distinctions, social categories, and asymmetrical power relationships” (68). Thus, our use of the term “material” in this essay follows the contours of the material turn in rhetoric by insisting upon three tenets that frame the relationship of rhetoric and materiality. First, we understand rhetoric itself as material, recognizing that words and ideas are not free floating or abstract but always—and essentially—circulated through material means, among and between bodies, human and nonhuman.[1] Second, we maintain that material entities have rhetorical force, that bodies, objects, and spaces have suasive force beyond and apart from the words on, within, or surrounding them.[2] Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we embrace a theoretical and scholarly stance that sees rhetoric and materiality as mutually imbricated, refusing common dichotomies of words and things, meaning and materiality.[3] Each of these tenets addresses what Wendy Sharer identifies as a key “omission from scholarship in the history of rhetoric—a hesitancy to address the physical and material,” an omission that “has had a disproportionate impact on how bodies gendered as women have been studied” (386).  Attention to materiality thus opens and expands the field of feminist rhetorics; however, charting the course of the material turn does not tell the whole story of the field’s development.   

In this essay, we analyze the shift from analyses of women’s rhetorics to rhetorical processes of gendering through an archival analysis of the Coalition’s Newsletter archives. As it has become commonplace to locate the 1992-93 Campbell/Biesecker debate in Philosophy and Rhetoric—also anthologized in Walking and Talking—as an initiating moment in this transition, the timing of the Newsletter’s inaugural issue in 1996 provides an opportunity to explore how the Coalition engaged these concerns.[4] In addition to searching for direct references to the debate or Biesecker’s article, we also sought evidence of a material turn in feminist rhetorics through references to materiality (material, materialist, materialism) and material rhetorical analysis (of space, bodies, time, dress, things, objects, technology) throughout the Newsletter archives. Through this analysis, we aim to investigate and complicate the narrative of a shift from recovery to material analyses of gender. We ask: was such a shift evidenced in the Coalition’s Newsletter? How else might this shift of attention or priority be narrated, and towards what ends? More broadly, with the expectation that all three “types” of research sketched above coexist (sometimes within a single work) and continue in the present, what can an archival analysis show about what this narrative reveals or obscures? 

The archives of the Coalition’s Newsletter suggest two major findings relevant to a (re)consideration of the story of feminist rhetorical studies. First, while in general the Newsletter achieves a balance between recovery and theoretical approaches like those suggested by Biesecker, there is also evidence that recovery was a more dominant mode in earlier years (and for newer members of the discipline), with more attention to materiality and rhetorical gendering (particularly by more established scholars) around and after the turn of the twenty-first century. Second, while there is indeed some evidence of the “material turn,” the Newsletter archives illustrate that this interest in materiality derived in large part from the Coalition’s attention to questions of mentorship and positionality in and beyond academia.  

Below, we explore each of these findings in more detail, concluding with some reflections on what the narrative of a shift from women’s rhetorics to rhetorics of gender obscures. We stress that the language of “turning” away from recovery or of a “debate” between recovery and material methods depicts these approaches as more oppositional and exclusionary than the engagement in the archive suggests. In addition, the insight that the material turn in feminist rhetoric was homegrown, stemming from our work as mentors and teachers—from our commitment to fostering feminist community—is a refreshing corrective to the impetus to attribute especial value and status to theoretical approaches imported from outside the discipline, particularly those stemming from continental philosophy. 

Into the Archives 

The inaugural newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition was published, without a name, in the fall of 1996. By the second issue one year later, the Newsletter had its title: Peitho, the Greek goddess of persuasion (see Fig. 1). In total, the Peitho Newsletter covers nearly 15 years with 21 issues, spanning 1996-2012, when Peitho transitioned to a peer-reviewed journal. The Newsletter was largely a space to garner community: its contents document proceedings from the coalition meetings at CCCC’s, promote mentorship opportunities, announce newly published monographs and edited collections of interest, and provide an outlet for emerging feminist scholarship.  

Figure 1: The first two issues of the Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, published in 1996 and 1997. Image description: a screenshot of the first issue of “Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” “Newsletter” is centered in large serif font at the top. “Volume 1 number 1” is at the top left, and “autumn/winter 1996” is at the top right, both in all lowercase. On the left side of the image is the image of Rhetorica from the Mantegna Tarocchi: a woman in robes and a crown, holding a scepter, flanked by two young children blowing horns. To the right of the Rhetorica image is a block of text titled “Letter from the Editors.”

Figure 1: The first two issues of the Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, published in 1996 and 1997. Image description: a screenshot of the first issue of “Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” “Newsletter” is centered in large serif font at the top. “Volume 1 number 1” is at the top left, and “autumn/winter 1996” is at the top right, both in all lowercase. On the left side of the image is the image of Rhetorica from the Mantegna Tarocchi: a woman in robes and a crown, holding a scepter, flanked by two young children blowing horns. To the right of the Rhetorica image is a block of text titled “Letter from the Editors.”

As I (Haley) began reading through the Newsletter archives, I found myself seeking a neat, linear narrative of the field. But trajectories of a discipline are hardly ever linear. In the pages of the Peitho Newsletter, feminist rhetorics coalesces as a growing field grappling with its scholarly and institutional identity. Below, we consider these impulses, with a particular focus on the conversations that emerge regarding recovery, re-theorizing, and materiality. First, we elaborate scholarly response to the Campbell/Biesecker debate and outline a general shift in research emphasis from recovery to materiality. Then, we show how materiality percolated through the Coalition’s attention to mentorship and positionality––mirroring but not dependent upon the broad material turn beyond feminist rhetorics––adding nuance to any linear narratives about the progression of the field.  

A Shift in Emphasis: From Recovery to Rhetorical Gendering  

In Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics, Buchanan and Ryan present the Biesecker/Campbell controversy as a “discussion of the relative merits and dangers of recovery work versus retheorizing rhetoric,” where Campbell represents a camp dedicated to “recuperating forgotten women rhetors and rhetorics” while Biesecker promotes scholarship “interrogating the exclusionary premises and practices responsible for [women’s] silence” (336). Buchanan and Ryan initially position Campbell and Biesecker’s viewpoints as mutually exclusive; however, they conclude by recognizing that feminist scholars largely engage recovery and retheorizing as “complementary efforts” (Ibid). There is clear evidence of this engagement in the early issues of the Peitho Newsletter; the featured scholars seem to take as a given that both recovery and retheorizing are necessary to advance the field. The figure of Peitho, the ambiguous Greek goddess that resists clear definition, herself embodies the balance between recovery and retheorizing: as a female deity, Peitho’s ability to cross boundaries represents women who “broke out of conventional feminine frames” as well as those who “wrote and spoke from within them” (Halasek and Jarratt 8). Kristen Kennedy articulates this balance in the first piece of original scholarship published in the Newsletter, an article version of her 1997 Coalition meeting presentation. On the surface, Kennedy seems to be doing recovery work in “Hipparchia the Cynic;” however, she frames her analysis of Hipparchia beyond recovering a forgotten rhetor, urging scholars to theorize how recoveries themselves can lead to inquiry regarding “important issues of gender, sexual difference, and embodiment” (6-7). In particular, Kennedy explores a feminist ethic of rhetoric––an ethic that is only revealed by retheorizing traditional ethical theories through recovery work. 

This early example of retheorizing bespoke established scholars’ interest in expanding the field beyond recovery, a commitment that becomes apparent by the 1999 issue. A summary of presentations from the previous year’s Coalition meeting shows a scholarly impulse to balance recovery and re-theorizing, evident especially in Malea Powell’s “I Write the Words with Blood and Bone” and Charlotte Hogg’s “My Grandma’s Stories.” Nonetheless, the first issues of the Newsletter devoted space to scholarship that is specifically recovery work. For example, the Fall 1997 issue features a summary piece by Janet Carey Eldred and Peter Mortensen that recovers women instructors of rhetoric, and the next issue (Winter 1999) features original scholarship by Jacqueline Rhodes, a graduate student at the time. In “A Vichian Vindication,” Rhodes confronts contradictions between Mary Wollstonecraft’s public and private life. This rehearsal of recovery work demonstrates the Coalition’s commitment to furthering established lines of inquiry in its publications, even as meeting notes indicate scholars’ inclination to balance recovery and retheorizing.    

Recognizing this balance in the early issues of the Peitho Newsletter requires readers to pay particular attention to the scholarly work being done outside of the Newsletter’s pages: the work presented at the Coalition meetings and monographs being published, several of which appear as book reviews. Reviews of Jacqueline Jones Royster’s Traces of a Stream and Shirley Wilson Logan’s We are Coming, both featured in the Spring/Summer 2001 issue, show that the Newsletter’s writers frame retheorization as part and parcel of recovery work, focusing more on the recovery aspect of the research rather than contributions to retheorizing the field of rhetoric. A specific call to retheorize did not appear until 2002, in a review of Nan Johnson’s Gender and Rhetorical Space written by Jacqueline Bacon; tellingly, this was also the first reference to the Campbell/Biesecker debate. Bacon writes that Johnson negotiates the tension between recovery and retheorizing, suggesting that scholars must both revise the canon and consider “how canons are formed and why” (8). This clear call articulates the ethos of balance in the early issues of the Newsletter: a pattern that negotiates any disciplinary divide by engaging the possibility of a both/and imperative. Retheorizing would not necessarily disrupt the field or negate the important work of recovering women rhetors, but it would allow scholars to engage more deeply with why this recovery work was both imperative and tricky. 

Within this space, the inaugural issues also offer a glimpse into the beginnings of the material turn. Kennedy’s 1997 Hipparchia article is an early example: she considers how location and corporeality might provide new insights into recovery work. It is worth noting here that Kennedy’s work is significantly influenced by feminist philosophy and a full, revised version of the article is published in Hypatia in 1999, suggesting that Kennedy’s attention to materiality may have derived from developments beyond rhetorical studies. As diverse fields began to contend with corporeality in new ways, the Newsletter shows that feminist rhetoricians deployed these ideas as a means of weaving recovery with re-theorizing. Articles engaging materiality in this way begin to appear by the Fall 2000 issue. At first, materiality is a hint, a suggestion, as in Jill Swiencicki’s allusions to phenomena such as the “gendered conditions of rhetorical production” (7). Tellingly, Swiencicki cites the afterword of Reclaiming Rhetorica as inspiring her perspective: “I further a notion of rhetoric that sees it not as a single set of options for realizing one’s self, but a set of discursive and spatial norms which bring certain selves into being and which validate certain selves over others” (3). Although Reclaiming is largely focused on recovery, its afterward includes provocations from contributors, including Cheryl Glenn’s invitation to accept “the plasticity of rhetoric”––to redefine rhetoric through the material differences of gendered rhetorical activity (329). Swiencicki and others answer this call through attention to the material within the realm of recovery work. 

The pages of the Peitho Newsletter negotiate this balance of recovery and retheorization, hinting toward materiality as a route to retheorize; nonetheless, recovery is present throughout the issues, as are references to Campbell’s Man Cannot Speak for Her. Scholars continued to build on Campbell’s work, largely without referencing Biesecker. This clearly demonstrates, as Buchanan and Ryan suggest, that scholars’ response to the Campbell/Biesecker debate was largely to supplement recovery work with retheorization, to expand the field without surrendering its initial impulses. An outlier to this broad characterization, however, appears in the Spring/Fall 2010 issue of the Peitho Newsletter. Here, Lisa Mastrangelo and Lynée Lewis Gaillet ponder methodology, flouting any talk of material turns, instead arguing for historical research for the sake of history. They ask, “Is it because our discipline is relatively new…that we feel the need to be sure that our history is recognized as ‘legitimate’ by connecting it to current practices and theories at every turn?” (22). Challenging the scholarly trend to retheorize, to examine materiality in order to “do history,” Mastrangelo and Gaillet urge scholars to “acknowledge the important work that history can do on its own” (23). Despite this, retheorization through recovery work, particularly incorporating considerations of materiality, blossoms as a scholarly pursuit throughout the Newsletter. As the next section suggests, we can see the material turn as emerging from the Coalition’s early imperatives. 

A Percolating Turn: Materiality in Service to Mentorship and Community 

To coherently narrate the evolution of feminist rhetorics (and other disciplines), it is tempting to delineate a clear material turn: that scholars one day decided that materiality mattered and immediately and irrevocably changed their modes of research. The pages of the Peitho Newsletter elide this neat narrative; instead, the archive shows material concerns and questions percolating through the pages of the Newsletter, seeping into the field from disparate sources and congealing in new and surprising ways as the field applied, engaged, and experimented with its possibilities. The material “turn”––writ large––is of course a broad shift across disciplines, but in the pages of the Peitho Newsletter, scholars initially engage materialist methods through discussions of positionality in pedagogy, in the academy, and in research. The archive conveys the Coalition’s impulse for mentorship and attention to positionality, providing feminist scholars with tools for considering embodiment and materiality that begin to manifest in research topics and methodologies. In this section, we provide an alternate reading of the material turn, one that emerges not from some prestigious scholarly trend outside feminist rhetorics––as Mastrangelo and Gaillet fear––but from a feminist attention to the embodiment of the researcher, a researcher who is also a teacher, mentor, colleague, and collaborator.  

Early talk of materiality in the Peitho Newsletter emerges in the second issue as scholars begin to consider their own positionality within research and the academy. In her reflection on the Coalition meeting in March 1997, Rebecca Greenberg Taylor writes that several presenters spoke to need to “consider our selves, bodies, and corporeal and material positions” (2). This comment is echoed in the 1999 Coalition caucus theme, “We Are All Bound Up Together: Women Writing, Writing Women,” which explicitly ties scholars’ embodiment to both research and mentorship. The subsequent summary of the caucus is equally telling, as Tara Pauliny writes: “These presentations by women scholars, which articulated other women’s relationship to their identities, their professions, and their wider cultural spaces helped me to recognize my own position within the field” (2). Through these examples, we can see how the material turn speaks to the imperative to consider positionality and subjectivity—the embodiment—of women scholars.  

This approach to materiality is also seen in increasing consideration of the archive and attention to the positionality of researchers in archival scholarship. The Fall 2002 issue invites scholars to “send a letter to your younger colleagues [to be published in the Newsletter], sharing the benefits of your experience and providing mentorship by way of example and narrative. This invitation, the editors note, follows a “new level of attention to archival research in rhetoric and composition” (Jarratt and Romano 10). The letters published in subsequent issues (2003-2004) dispense research advice through first-person and conversational accounts of the process of archival scholarship. Importantly, these accounts repeatedly emphasize the materiality of the process through positionality. In Fall 2003, Jane Donawerth and Lisa Zimerelli explain: “Feminist archival research demands that we not only find lost women of the past but also become conscious of our positionality in relation to their positionality” (4). And in Fall 2004, Gesa Kirsch takes readers on a journey of recovering the writings of an early 20th-century female physician, weaving a discussion of her own positionality throughout. Kirsch writes:  

The simple fact of being there, in Berkeley, walking across campus many times, jogging on the local trails, joining a campus tour, reading street and building names––all these activities made it much easier for me to decipher the hand-written correspondence and diary entries which prominently featured local places and events. Suddenly I understood what it had meant when a fire swept down Strawberry Canyon…and I could picture the events organized by women students…social gatherings in the Hearst Women’s Gymnasium…or recitals held in the Greek Theater….History came to life as I walked the streets of Berkeley. (4)  

Kirsch’s example demonstrates that the material turn does not require scholars to turn away from recovery work, but rather to consider how materiality might complement the enduring project of feminist scholarship.   

Similarly, materiality manifests in scholarship that considers the embodiment of women rhetors and the spaces they occupy. The Newsletter contains early references to such approaches, specifically through a quote attributed to Jacqueline Jones Royster in 1999 suggesting the need to get at “the materiality of what it means to live and do work as women” (Pauliny 4). That year’s panelists—which included June Hadden Hobbs, Carol Mattingly, and Cheryl Glenn, among several others—presented work that expanded the notion of rhetorical texts and subjects to incorporate materiality: Hobbs explored how women used hymns, cemetery icons, and epitaphs; Mattingly examined the material affordances of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union; and Glenn considered silence as rhetorical. In the next Newsletter, Danielle Mitchell reviews the 2000 Coalition panel, noting that Nan Johnson “makes room for exploring how history, language, and texts construct the world––both overtly and covertly––as forms of cultural power that privilege some sociopolitical positions over others” in the graduate classroom (3). This shows the impulse to reframe graduate education in rhetoric through materiality and intimates attention to the rhetoric of gender as an area of study distinct from “women’s rhetorics.” 

Attention to the material becomes overt by the time Susan Romano becomes Newsletter co-editor in 2002 (see Fig. 2). In her article featured in the Fall 2002 issue, Romano articulates clear material feminist arguments, noting that her “analysis derives from propositions advanced by a group of social theorists who consider patterns of bodily movement and spatial structures as fundamentally involved in the production of human agencies and ideologies” (2). Here, Romano gestures toward theorists such as Elizabeth Grosz, John Law, Allan Pred, and Nigel Thrift in order to account for her use of body and theories of spatialization in analyzing historical figures, particularly “given the scant and suppressed documentary evidence of writing or speech” (Ibid). Romano frames materiality and rhetorical gendering in service to recovery, a move that feminist scholars rehearse throughout the Newsletter. For example, in a review of Jacqueline Jones Royster’s Traces of a Stream, Roxanne Harde highlights Royster’s project as recovery, recognizing the literacy practices of African American women, rather than emphasizing Royster’s contribution in theorizing the material conditions that contribute to these practices. In a later review of Jaqueline Bacon’s monograph, The Humblest May Stand Forth, Shevaun E. Watson writes that Bacon uses a plethora of primary sources beyond traditional rhetorical texts “not only to glean rhetorical strategies, but also to understand the racialized and gendered notions of nineteenth century Americans” (7-8). But here again, the materialist methodology and notions of gendering are superseded by recovery. Watson contends: “the force of Bacon’s work is both her compilation of alternative abolitionist rhetoric into one definitive resource and her astute analysis of their diverse texts” (8). Through these examples, the Newsletter demonstrates how a feminist materiality percolates from diverse fields as well as from imperatives within feminist historiography, emerging simultaneously from unexpected and unanticipated spaces rather than from a desire to capitulate to broader scholarly trends.  

Figure 2: The cover page of the Summer 2002 Peitho Newsletter, featuring Susan Romano as the new co-editor. Image description: a newsletter screenshot with a two-column layout and a centered headline reading “Peitho: Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” On the next line, “Volume 6, number 1” and “Summer 2002.” On the left is a color image of the goddess Peitho

Figure 2: The cover page of the Summer 2002 Peitho Newsletter, featuring Susan Romano as the new co-editor. Image description: a newsletter screenshot with a two-column layout and a centered headline reading “Peitho: Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” On the next line, “Volume 6, number 1” and “Summer 2002.” On the left is a color image of the goddess Peitho

Regardless of its origins, the material turn and attention to the rhetorics of gender seems to be solidified in the pages of the Peitho Newsletter by Spring 2005, in an issue featuring a bibliography compiled by Victoria Smith and Susan Jarratt (see Fig. 3). In their introduction, Smith and Jarratt note that what unites the works included is the scholarly commitment to recognize “the embodied nature of all writing” and the fact that “these bodies [that are writing] have material significance and thus powerful rhetorical, political, and ideological significances” (1). Smith and Jarratt further note that the diverse works invite questions about spatiality, about marked and unmarked bodies, and about the rhetorical work of gender. By curating such a bibliography, Smith and Jarratt outline what they see (and, ostensibly, what the editors of the Peitho Newsletter and coalition members view) as essential moves in feminist research. This involves sustained attention to materiality in addition to the Coalition’s evergreen commitment to recovery work.  

Figure 3: The cover page of the Spring 2005 issue of the Peitho Newsletter featuring an introduction to Victoria Smith’s and Susan Jarratt’s “Women, Gender, Writing, Rhetoric” bibliography. Image description: a screenshot of the newsletter with a two-column layout. The left column at the top has the “newsletter of the coalition of women scholars in the history of rhetoric and composition” in all lowercase, and on the right at the top, Peitho in large retro typewriter font. In the left column is a list of the Coalition officers and a line drawing of the goddess Peitho. In the right column is the bibliographers’ introduction.

Figure 3: The cover page of the Spring 2005 issue of the Peitho Newsletter featuring an introduction to Victoria Smith’s and Susan Jarratt’s “Women, Gender, Writing, Rhetoric” bibliography. Image description: a screenshot of the newsletter with a two-column layout. The left column at the top has the “newsletter of the coalition of women scholars in the history of rhetoric and composition” in all lowercase, and on the right at the top, Peitho in large retro typewriter font. In the left column is a list of the Coalition officers and a line drawing of the goddess Peitho. In the right column is the bibliographers’ introduction.

The Danger of a Single Story 

In the prior two sections, we answered our first two research questions. Having asked— “Was such a shift [from recovery to material, gendered analysis] evidenced in the Coalition’s Newsletter?”—we found that this shift was evident, but that there was also a broad commitment to balancing recovery and retheorizing (with attention to the material construction of gender) throughout the Coalition’s archive. Our second research question asked: “How else might this shift of attention or priority be narrated?” We were intrigued to find that the Peitho Newsletter illustrates a material turn percolating from within rather than one imposed or introduced from without. The increased attention to material factors in our research followed naturally from the attention to positionality animating the Coalition’s mentoring and community building initiatives.  

Beyond the newsletter, authors publishing in the Peitho Journal have carried material and gendered analysis forward and further. From Erin Frost’s 2014 analysis of activism as apparent feminism and David Gold’s 2015 investigation of bobbed hair to more recent studies like Jennifer Clary-Lemon’s 2022 reading of scrap crafts (or selvedges) as rhetorical artifacts, a focus on the material as both methodological move and object of analysis pervades recent feminist scholarship. Additionally, scholars have complicated gendered analysis by questioning the rhetorical logics of gendered binaries. With the 2020 special issue on transgender rhetorics, Peitho invited more intersectional and interactional commitments in feminist research and pedagogy. Trans scholarship, and in particular transfeminist scholarship, urges us to expose the colonial, racist, and cisheterosexist nature of gender itself––a key move in Lore/tta LeMaster’s  analysis of gender reveal party fails. Reading such fails as ideological ruptures, LeMaster calls attention to “compulsory gender performance” and designates failure as an “energetic force” of trans rage (para. 20). LeMaster’s material analysis of the gender reveal party is imbued by an interrogation of gendering as cultural process, marking gendering as both dangerous and violent. Such scholarship demonstrates that the trajectory of material/gendered analysis evades narratives of linear shifts; scholars constantly push, play, challenge, and reconsider the moves of feminist research and activism, and we would do well to remind ourselves of the imperative for steady revision of what constitutes feminist rhetorical scholarship. 

In addition to continuing our examination of material-discursive processes of gendering, we’d like to conclude by suggesting feminist scholars should be cautious about how we tell the story of our discipline. To this end, we turn to our third question: “What can an archival analysis show about what this narrative [of a turn from recovery to material analysis] reveals or obscures?” One thing the narrative of the material turn in feminist rhetorics—and perhaps most descriptions of fields as having “turned” away or towards some or another object of attention—obscures is that the various pursuits of feminist rhetoricians are not mutually exclusive. Some of our challenges in writing this piece stemmed from the fact that prior scholars have narrated the field’s dedication to recovery, retheorizing, and material/gendered analysis in a number of ways: some see recovery and retheorizing going hand-in-hand, while others see them in opposition; similarly, some position material analysis as an alternative to retheorizing, and others, as perhaps is our bent here, frame retheorizing as a forerunner to material/gendered analysis. In fact, none of what we found suggests that feminist rhetoricians have ever been pursuing any of these goals in isolation: much scholarship currently framed in terms of rhetorical gendering, for instance, continues to value the voices of historical individuals gendered as women in much the same way that recovery always has. Moving forward, we might be more cautious when applying categories such as “recovery” to existing and new research in the field.   

Perhaps a less anticipated finding of our research was that increasing attention to materiality stemmed as much or more from the natural extension of the field’s awareness of positionality in our research, teaching, and mentorship than from catching wind of exciting new developments in capital-t Theory, cultural studies, and other fields beyond rhetoric. While Biesecker’s article turns to continental philosophy to elaborate her call for attention to collective rhetorics of gender, such moves were, in hindsight, not necessary given that the enduring interests and commitments of feminist rhetoricians were sufficient to direct our gaze towards the material. In the future, then, we would do well to credit feminist rhetoricians for their insights into the material-rhetorical production of gender. Perhaps we find ourselves in a disciplinary moment where we need not gesture outwards to continental philosophy or new materialist theory to justify our interests and pursuits; perhaps it is sufficient to observe that our own lived experience demands attention to materiality as we attempt to understand and intervene in inequity and inequality.[5]

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns of “the danger of a single story,” and this warning is as apt for the stories we tell of our discipline, amongst ourselves, as for broader cultural narratives about individuals and groups. In thinking about the metaphor of the “turn,” it occurs to us that turning is something we do when we are otherwise proceeding in a straight line—not a particularly apt description of the status quo of academic research. The notion of a field having “turned” away from its own prior impulses is part and parcel of a larger agonistic framework for academic discourse, one that feminists (and feminist rhetoricians) have challenged, and we should be cautious of how our disciplinary narratives perhaps unconsciously reiterate counterfactual narratives of linear academic progress from less to more sophisticated analysis.  

Such narratives indulge not only in the parlance of “turns,” but also in evolutionary metaphors. To this impulse, we offer an example from Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael, a parable about anthropocentrism and human exceptionalism. In one scene, Quinn tells the story of creation as narrated by a jellyfish. Having recounted the appearance of the universe, solar system, planet, oceans, slime, and other microorganisms, the anecdote concludes: “‘But finally,’ the creature said, turning quite pink with pride as he came to the climax of his story, ‘but finally jellyfish appeared!’” (54-56). In narrating the “creation myths” of our own disciplines, we run the risk of being too like the jellyfish, positioning our moment (and our own scholarship) as the evolutionary climax of the discipline. Of course, such narrations are often rewarded with funding and publication and so bespeak more than simple hubris. Indeed, we might do more to consider and acknowledge how even our stories of the discipline are grounded in the material realities of not only gender, but also publication, promotion, seniority, and precarity. 

End Notes

[1]Carole Blair’s work on contemporary U.S. memorials is a particularly apt illustration of this aspect of the material turn, insisting that rhetoric has too often been defined by its symbolicity and we must acknowledge rhetoric’s materiality to grasp its effects and partisan nature (16-20). As Elizabeth Fleitz explains, feminist rhetoricians have explored rhetoric’s materiality by studying genres of composing that involve material practices: needlework, cookbooks, journals, and letter writing (34). Moreover, Fleitz observes, the “material conditions of women’s lives, from their bodies to their living situations, have historically had a major influence on their ability to be literate and produce rhetoric” (36).  

[2]For example, Thomas Rickert argues that rhetoric must diffuse outward to include the material environment, things, embodiment, and ecological relationality (3). As feminist rhetorician Sarah Hallenbeck explains, in this view, materials that might otherwise be relegated to the background of a study as ‘context’ are in fact vital elements in a network of material-semiotic relations within which gender is negotiated” (18). Conceiving of material entities as having suasive force means recognizing, as new materialist Jane Bennett maintains, that materiality can be forceful without being purposive (62).  

[3]Indeed, Jenny Edbauer’s early work on rhetorical ecologies called for rhetorical theory to address “this mutuality of material practice, embodied experience, and discursive representation” (21). Similarly, material feminist Karen Barad insists that materiality is discursive and discursive practices are material, highlighting the conjoined material-discursive nature of constraints, conditions, and practices (141). A similar stance is articulated by new materialists Coole and Frost, who maintain that while everything is material, nothing is reducible to that (9).  

[5]For others who reference this debate or the Biesecker article in this vein, see, for example, Hallenbeck’s “Toward a Posthuman Perspective” and Enoch’s “Releasing Hold.” For a more detailed exploration of how I (Michelle) narrate the “material turn” in feminist rhetorics, see my “‘Indoor Duties’ in Utopia” and the introduction to Utopian Genderscapes 

[6]We additionally join other scholars cautioning against a reliance on some strains of new materialist scholarship that circulate ecological themes and insights central to indigenous and feminist thought but without crediting those conversations. See Grant and Vealey and Layne.  

Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. (2013, November). The Danger of a Single Story [Video]. TED. https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story

Bacon, Jacqueline. “Review of Gender and Rhetorical Space in American Life, 1866-1910, by

Nan Johnson.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 7, no. 1, 2002, pp. 7-9.

Barad, Karen. “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter.” Material Feminisms, edited by Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman, Indiana UP, 2008, pp. 120-156.

Bennett, Jane. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press, 2010.

Biesecker, Barbara. “Coming to Terms with Recent Attempts to Write Women into the History of Rhetoric.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 25, 1992, pp. 140-161.

Blair, Carole. “Contemporary US Memorial Sites as Exemplars of Rhetoric’s Materiality.” Rhetorical Bodies, edited by Jack Selzer and Sharon Crowley, U of Wisconsin Press, 1999, pp. 16-57.

Buchanan, Lindal, and Kathleen J. Ryan, editors. Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies. Parlor Press, 2010.

Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs. “Biesecker Cannot Speak for Her Either.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol. 26, 1993, pp. 153-159.

Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs. Man Cannot Speak for Her. Greenwood Press, 1989. Clary-Lemon, Jennifer. “Selvedge Rhetorics and Material Memory.” Peitho, vol 24, no. 3, 2022.

Collins Burton, Vicki Tolar. “The Speaker Respoken: Material Rhetoric as Feminist Methodology.” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies edited by Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 144-167. Coole, Diana H., and Samantha Frost, editors. New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. Duke University Press, 2010.

Donawerth, Jane. “Conversation and the Boundaries of Public Discourse in Rhetorical Theory by Renaissance Women.” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies edited by Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 223-233.

Donawerth, Jane and Lisa Zimerelli. “Dialoguing with Rhetorica.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 8, no. 1, 2003, pp. 4-6.

Edbauer, Jenny. “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 4, 2005, pp. 5–24.

Eldred, Janet Carey and Peter Mortensen. “Revising Revisionist Histories of Rhetoric: American Women and Rhetoric in the Age of Common Sense.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 1, 1997, p. 4.

Enoch, Jessica. “Releasing Hold: Feminist Historiography Without the Tradition.” Theorizing Histories of Rhetoric, edited by Michelle Balliff, Southern Illinois UP, 2013, pp. 58-73.

Flietz, Elizabeth. “Key Concept Statement: Material.” Peitho, vol. 18, no.1, 2015, pp. 34-38.

Frost, Erin. “An Apparent Feminist Approach to Transnational Technical Rhetorics: The Ongoing Work of Nujood Ali.” Peitho, vol. 16, no. 2, 2014, pp. 183-189.

Gold, David. “‘Whose Hair Is It, Anyway?’ Bobbed Hair and the Rhetorical Fashioning of the Modern American Woman.” Peitho, vol. 17, no. 2, 2015, pp. 172-199.

Grant, David M. “Writing Wakan: The Lakota Pipe as Rhetorical Object.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 69, no. 1, 2017, pp. 61-86.

Halasek, Kay and Susan C. Jarratt. “From the Editors.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 1, 1997, p. 7-8.

Harde, Roxanne. “Charting Streams of Literacy and Rhetorical Bridges in Jacqueline Jones Royster’;s Traces of a Stream.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 5, no. 3, 2001, pp. 1-4.

Hallenbeck, Sarah. “Toward a Posthuman Perspective: Feminist Rhetorical Methodologies and Everyday Practices.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric, vol. 15, 2012, pp. 9-27.

Jarratt, Susan C. and Susan Romano. “From the editors: An invitation to archival researchers.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 7, no. 1, 2002, p. 10.

Kennedy, Kristen. “Hipparchia the Cynic: Feminist Rhetoric and the Ethics of Embodiment.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 1, 1997, pp. 5-7.

Kirsch, Gesa E. “Walking in the Footsteps of a Historical Subject.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 9, no. 1, 2004, pp. 1-6.

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Mastrangelo, Lisa and Lynée Lewis Gaillet. “Historical Methodology: Past and ‘Presentism’?” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 12, no. 1/2, 2010, pp. 21 23.

Mattingly, Carol. “Woman’s Temple, Women’s Fountains: The Erasure of Public Memory.” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies edited by Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 291-312.

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Mountford, Roxanne. The Gendered Pulpit: Preaching in American Protestant Spaces. Southern Illinois University Press, 2003.

Piano, Doreen. “Review of ‘We are Coming’: The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women by Shirley Wilson Logan.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 5, no. 3, 2001, pp. 5-7.

Pauliny, Tara. “For a Sixth Year, ‘We Are All Bound Up Together’: Women Writing (talking, laughing, thinking … ) as Writing Women Come Together at The Annual Coalition Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia 1999.” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 4, no. 1, 2000, pp. 1-4.

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Rickert, Thomas J. Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.

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Rhodes, Jacqueline. “A Vichian Vindication: Rescuing Wollstonecraft from the Discomfort of ‘Reason.’” Peitho Newsletter, vol. 3, no. 1, 1999, pp. 5-8.

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Wilson Logan, Shirley. “Black Women on the Speaker’s Platform (1832-1899)” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies edited by Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 254-273.

Zaeske, Susan. “The ‘Promiscuous Audience’ Controversy and the Emergence of the Early Women’s Rights Movement.” Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies edited by Lindal Buchanan and Kathleen J. Ryan, Parlor Press, 2010, pp. 234-253.

The Blanks at Our Beginnings: A Graduate Student’s Reflection on Peitho’s Contributions to New Scholars

Firgure 1: The front page of the first issue of what would become Peitho. The title says, “Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” There is a picture of the goddess Peitho on the left-hand side, and the volume begins with a letter from the editors.

Firgure 1: The front page of the first issue of what would become Peitho. The title says, “Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.” There is a picture of the goddess Peitho on the left-hand side, and the volume begins with a letter from the editors.

As a graduate student just beginning my career in academia, I often feel overwhelmed by “blanks.” There is so much scholarship I don’t know, theories I haven’t mastered, methods I haven’t tried yet, and a series of spaces on my CV where more service, teaching, and publications should be. And yet, I can see something wonderful about an open space, about having the chance to find something interesting or new or forgotten and letting it spill into a crack that previously felt hollow. This drive to fill ourselves and our field with more knowledge, more stories, and more justice is why many of us became scholars in the first place, and why Peitho began the way that it did.  

Though it is sometimes easy to get caught up in the pressure of filling our own “blanks,” Peitho serves as a reminder of the true goals that drive us as feminist scholars in the field of Rhetoric and Composition. In the spirit of reflecting on these goals and ten years of Peitho as an academic journal, I took the opportunity to read the entirety of the publication’s corpus, including the newsletters. I started with the first issue in 1996, then worked my way up each year to Winter 2022, which was the most recent issue at the time of my reading. The entire process took me about two months, and as I read, I kept detailed notes of my reading experience. These research memo-style notes took the form of reflections, affective experiences, important and memorable quotes, and questions spurred by the scholarship. By the time I finished, I had accumulated a little over 250 pages of single-spaced notes.  

The whole process was a bit like drinking out of a firehose; there was just so much. I had a moment of panic about halfway through when I realized that this was only one journal in the field. I was practically drowning in information and was still only scratching the surface. But despite the panic and the overwhelming amount of new knowledge, I went on an incredible journey witnessing the breadth of Peitho’s scholarship. I am humbled by the work others have done before me, and I hope my reflection below captures how grateful I am to every scholar who has contributed.   

In addition to helping me as a new scholar in the field, I also saw my reading as an opportunity to map the lineage of knowledge that has been produced through Peitho over the years. To accomplish this mapping, I tracked the keywords and tags used to organize each of the introductions, book reviews, articles, and essays by their main ideas and methods. For works that did not have tags, I used my notes and keywords in the titles to create my own so that every piece of writing would contribute to the overall total of words I collected1. Though this method was sparked by my interest in corpus linguistics, I was encouraged and guided by the work of Oriana Gatta who worked with similar methods in her article “Connecting Logics: Data Mining and Keyword Visualization as Archival Method/ology.”  

After compiling a list of every keyword, I entered it into a word cloud generator to visualize the most frequently used words and phrases. In doing this work, I recognize the subjectivity of both my collection of some of the tags and my interpretation of how they should be included in the visual. Because of this, the mapping should not be viewed as a perfect representation of the topics of the journal, but rather as a starting place to discuss themes from the perspective of a new reader.  

Figure 2 image description: hundreds of words fit together in a big circle of varying sizes and colors. Some of the largest words are feminism, rhetoric, recovery, mentoring, activism, race, technologies, intersectionality, pedagogy, gender, collaboration, suffrage, feminist historiography, digital, archival research, politics, suffrage, embodiment, agency, archives, queer, religion, and ethos. The cluster of words is circle-shaped, with the larger-font words in the middle and words in smaller font at the edges.

Figure 2: Hundreds of words fit together in a big circle of varying sizes and colors. Some of the largest words are feminism, rhetoric, recovery, mentoring, activism, race, technologies, intersectionality, pedagogy, gender, collaboration, suffrage, feminist historiography, digital, archival research, politics, suffrage, embodiment, agency, archives, queer, religion, and ethos. The cluster of words is circle-shaped, with the larger-font words in the middle and words in smaller font at the edges.

Figure 2 is the final visual I created from my word list, and includes the keywords that are used twice or more throughout all of the pieces published by Peitho. The overwhelming number of words in such a small space starts to capture the way I felt reading, and it also highlights some of the main topics of the journal in a quick snapshot. Using this word cloud as a starting point, my own narrative experiences can be combined with the data shown here to emphasize a few major takeaways.  

On Mentoring  

One of the largest words in the word cloud is “mentoring,” which is a theme that ran through both the original Peitho newsletter and the academic journal. The pieces that cover mentoring range from discussing feminist mentoring writ large, detailing the mentoring sessions at CWSHRC meetings, or delving into the specifics of certain types of mentors (Tucker) and certain types of mentoring (Nicolas, VanHaitsma & Ceraso, Ribero & Arellano). In one of my favorite pieces, Kirsten Benson and Casie Fedukovich write an ethno-poem about mentoring which showcases a back-and-forth exchange between mentor and mentee: 

“Casie: You tell me you remember the sting of feeling this way. You tell me, the work before the work IS more of the work than I realize. I’m skeptical, but I listen. I’m resistant, but I start to hear, through pen edits, through long talks. You tell me, entering this field feels shaky. You tell me to keep going, that I’m getting it now. A little bit of success, a lot of failure, but I move forward… 

Kirsten: …No one is expert to start off with. Move forward. 

Casie: … No one is expert to start off with, you say. I trust, and I move forward. Slowly, but forward” (9). 

The morning I began writing this section was the first day of my summer teaching. Before I could introduce myself or pull up my syllabus, a student in the front row raised their hand and asked me, “How did you get to be where you are?” I didn’t respond right away, struck silent by the depth of the question and my tired brain, which was going on hour three of teaching. When the student saw my hesitation, they continued: “Like what led to you being a teacher and being here today to teach us English?” I stumbled through some semi-incoherent response about loving reading and writing and enjoying helping students feel empowered in telling their own stories. Even after I thought more about the question later, though, I struggled with how I should answer, not because I didn’t have a reason to teach, but because I was getting stuck on the phrasing of the question. “How did you get where you are” makes it seem like I had made it somewhere, like my position in front of the classroom was some sort of “end result”. I usually feel the opposite: like I am stuck on a constant upward climb, forever chasing a “successful” end (and what would this successful end even look like? Passing comps? Getting published? Defending my dissertation? Getting a job? Tenure?) My student spoke to me as if I was on solid ground when I actually felt like I was one hundred stories up on a tightrope in a hurricane. Needless to say, I spiraled for a bit.  

When I looked back at the poem above, I caught myself. Deep breath in. Where I am now is a celebration point in and of itself. It’s okay to feel shaky. No one is an expert to start off with. I’ll try to trust and move forward. A little bit of success, a lot of failure. Slowly, but forward. Deep breath out. 

This moment encapsulates a lot of my experience reading Peitho. I learned about the practicalities of mentoring, its theoretical backgrounds, the various shapes it can take. But more importantly, I discovered the way mentoring moves beyond time and space, beyond physicality. When talking to a friend in my cohort the other day, I flippantly said, “Well I guess at this point a good dissertation is a done dissertation.” I knew I hadn’t made this phrase up, and in consulting my notes later I found it listed under Win Horner’s “Winnerisms” in her memorial issue (Myers et al. 126). I suppose mentoring even moves beyond life and death. It can always be found in the pages, the poems, the stories of the past, from scholars in the field who remember what it feels like to be on shaky ground, and care enough to share their guidance.  

Complexity (or Messiness? Take Your Pick) 

The sheer size of the word cloud above is enough to capture how complex and pluralistic the scholarship of Peitho attempts to be. Even more: before I created Figure 2, I had an even larger visual that I had to cut down by hundreds of words because it was unreadable:

Figure 3: In this image, there is an even bigger circular word cloud with so many small words on the outer edge that they are unreadable. The largest words are the same as in Figure 2.

Figure 3: In this image, there is an even bigger circular word cloud with so many small words on the outer edge that they are unreadable. The largest words are the same as in Figure 2.

After reading all of Peitho, though, I’ve learned not to shy away from messiness and complexity the way I might have done previously. I think of the way Jill Swienciki sets up her essay in an attempt not to examine the polarized sides of women’s rhetoric, but to look “into the messiness of the in-between” (3). Or the book review that quotes April Baker-Bell telling instructors who are committed to linguistic justice that they “have to be ready for the messiness that comes with the process” (Hull). Or Lisa Mastrangelo and Lynée Lewis Gaillet noting that one of the main goals in studying history is “to create more complex pictures” (22). Even a term like Gloria Anzaldúa’s nepantla can help to capture the chaos of being in-between many words, moments, and spaces (Oleksiak). In all of these examples and more, messiness, complexity, plurality, and chaos are a tool used by scholars and activists to defy white supremacist cis-heteronormative expectations.  

The complexity and messiness found in these pages also frequently urged me as a reader to reconsider what I thought I already knew about a topic. Sometimes this reconsideration came from short sentences that suddenly stopped me in my tracks. For example, when I was reading about the ways that even intentionally selecting documents can become harmful, the line “Assemblage establishes a canon.” stuck out to me (Sullivan & Graban 3). I had always thought that if I chose readings for classes, lists, and citations outside of solely the white cis-male Western “dominant canon”, then I could defy the oppressive tendencies of canonization. This article forced me to reconsider the power and privilege I hold in my ability, intentional or not, to establish my own canon. Now it is at the forefront of my mind as I think about what readings I choose to teach and study, and which scholars I choose to cite. 

Other times the reconsideration occurred slowly, usually after a topic appeared over the course of several issues. Silence as rhetoric was one such example. I previously would have only described silence to be sort of like a blank; a space where something or someone is being hidden, repressed, or forgotten. And while this understanding is often still the case, I was surprised to find silence framed in the readings in more active ways. A review of Cheryl Glenn’s Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence includes the line, “for too long silence has been read as a passive act when in reality it is significantly expressive” and that it is only undervalued “because of its association with weakness or lack” (5). I also appreciated the way Amy Gerald describes her quest to insert the Grimké sisters into Charleston’s public memory as “fueled” by the silences she found (100). Silence was even framed as a tactic of accountability, as Joshua Barsczewski explores in his work with trans writing research. He says that an intentional silence, “is neither an act of allyship nor is it co-conspiratorial, although it has shades of both…In some circumstances, our silence is harmful. But I would encourage all cis researchers to deeply consider whether they need to speak on trans experiences and to ask themselves why” (Barsczewski). Article after article urged me to reconsider silence, and I see it now with much more complexity, as a site of learning, reflection, change, accountability, and most of all agency. 

In a similar strand, many of the pieces on pedagogy made me completely rethink my role and practices as an instructor. I was challenged to see feminist pedagogy as occurring in unexpected places through unexpected methods, like the way sororities have used crafting to teach values and challenge hegemony (Kurtyka). In more traditional classroom spaces, articles like “Anticipating the Unknown: Postpedagogy and Accessibility” asked me to consider the ways that classrooms can perpetuate trauma for certain students and how I as an instructor must learn to anticipate and take seriously the needs of the diverse people that make up my classes (Phillips & Leahy). Even topics that I have already taken courses on in my studies, like community-engaged rhetoric, were bolstered as I further considered concepts like the role of emotions in service learning and how to help students work more ethically with communities (Rohan). As I read through all of the articles, I found myself compiling a list of new assignments and activities to try out that might be more engaging for students (Stuckey; Kates; VanHaitsma & Book). I even found quick adjustments that I can easily add to my classes, like using Rusty Bartels’ introductory questions on the first day, to make students feel more welcomed and safer in their identities. Through all of these takeaways, especially in the many pieces dedicated to bell hooks, I was reminded over and over again that a feminist pedagogy is one in which teaching is an act of love. 

I am especially grateful to Stacey Waite’s article “Cultivating the Scavenger: A Queerer Feminist Future for Composition and Rhetoric” which made me feel at home and changed the way I think about storytelling, composition, and queerness. I finished the article feeling a heady sense of empowerment as I frantically jotted down plans as to how I could engage a scavenger methodology – a methodology grounded in messiness and plurality – in my future classes.  

Most importantly, as I read, I found my understanding of key terminologies to be challenged. In the CWSHRC’s 25th Anniversary issue, Jessica Enoch and Jenn Fishman discuss the choice to begin the issue with a series of key concept statements that frame, reflect on, and briefly define a few popular terms in the field. As noted by the editors, these key concept statements offer the opportunity for all of us to consider how we are using the terms that pervade our scholarship – terms like coalition, history, inclusion, agency, feminism and language rights, materiality, embodiment, and service – in an attempt to consider what has been said about these concepts and what may still be missing (4). In defining and reflecting on the concepts listed above, I was asked as a reader not to think about any of these ideas as having a single definition, but rather as concepts of plurality and complexity. These reflections also helped me consider how varying definitions originated, how they’ve been applied to past research and theory, and how they can prompt new questions for future scholarship. For example, in the key concept statement on “Inclusion”, Stephanie Kerschbaum reminds readers that inclusion is not only about adding in new voices, but about totally reconceptualizing the methods and theories of a field in order to create a space that is sustainable for more diverse styles, questions, methods, and groups of people (20). In other words, inclusion is not simply the opening of a door; it is a complete remodeling of the inside and outside of the building to make the whole place more inhabitable for more people. This view of inclusion goes beyond how the term is often invoked, especially in university settings. And in reflecting on inclusion, as well as all of the key concepts, I was reminded that complacently using terms can often mask their complexity and prevent us from doing the most difficult, but necessary, work.   

Even beyond the key concept statements, though, many of Peithos articles challenged my understanding of terminology. My definition of “feminism,” for example, became messier as I read each article. As soon as I’d think I had a solid position pinned down, like for example recognizing the difference between an inclusive feminism and white feminism, something like Stephanie Jones and Gwendolyn Pough’s introduction to their special issue would urge me to reconsider. They write, “If you are a person of color and you want to call out limited agendas masquerading as ‘feminist’ that seem to only take white women’s issues into consideration, don’t call that ‘white feminism.’ Call it racism, because that is not how feminism works.” 

Similarly, I wouldn’t have thought twice about calling myself an “ally” until I read Aja Martinez urging readers who consider themselves allies to genuinely imagine what they would do if they came across someone being beaten and attacked in a hate crime. Could you “jump into this attack and protect this person with your own body?” she asks. And “If you have to think about your answer, then you should also think about what it means” to call yourself an ally. She then argues instead for being an accomplice because “whereas allies are viewed as those who identify as helpers to the oppressed, accomplices are those who will bear the risk of consequences” (231). 

These are, of course, only a few of the many ways this journal asks readers to embrace complexity and challenge their previous knowledge. Many of the questions asked in these articles sat with me for days and linger with me even now. Most of them do not have an easy or singular answer. Instead, these pages are littered with contradiction and tension and conflict, and the writers intentionally refuse to resolve it. As I look again at the vastness of the word cloud, I am reminded of how Peitho asks readers to see many things all at once, not in an attempt to overwhelm, but to better reflect the messy world around us and the bodies we reside in.  


One of the most used terms throughout the articles is embodiment, and reading Peitho is, above all else, a bodily experience.  

The first line of the key concept statement on Embodiment is “To think about rhetoric, we must think about bodies” (Johnson et al. 39). Our bodies are not something just affected by rhetoric; they do rhetoric. And this “doing” informs our ways of knowing and thus changes the way we read, research, write, teach, and love (39). In my reading, I learned about so many bodies: bodies that moved, danced, fought, changed, loved, transitioned. Bodies holding trauma and bodies filled with joy. Ancient bodies and future bodies. Bodies that crossed borders and time periods. As shown in the word clouds, a lot of the largest words reflect aspects of embodiment. “Race” and “gender” are two of the largest with “queer” and “transgender rhetorics” slightly smaller. Words like “motherhood,” “transnational,” “disability,” “health,” and “religion” appear towards the top, too, all of which have some sort of relation to an individual’s identities, and the way they and their bodies make sense of the world around them. With “intersectionality” being so large in the visual, it also seems to be a goal of many of these works to examine the complexity of the human body, the plurality of it, with all of its identities coalescing together. 

Of course, not every body has been represented in the journal to the same degree. As GPat Patterson notes in the introduction to the special issue on Transgender Rhetorics, the fact that the first special issue in the field of Rhetoric and Composition on this topic did not appear until the summer of 2020 is telling. These bodies and others, especially black bodies, are also disproportionately represented in regard to their traumas and do not occupy the same space as their privileged counterparts. And while the journal attempts to move outside of an able-bodied, white, Western, hetero-cis woman perspective, there is more to be done. Even the Coalition name change from “women” to “feminist” to reflect a more inclusive space, took much longer than I expected it to, not happening until May of 2016.  

In addition to reading bodies that appeared in the scholarship and considering which bodies were missing, I tried to let my own body be at the forefront of the experience. I found myself angry, happy, sad, joyous, irritated, scared, exhausted, comforted, and seen while reading. While some pieces evoked more emotion than others, the journal as a whole seems to lean into the embodiment it uses as a foundation for its existence.  

I cried more than I expected while reading (Every single “in memoriam” got me without fail). I also found myself laughing out loud, something I’ve never done while reading an academic article before. The book review of Wit’s End: Women’s Humor as a Rhetorical and Performative Strategy, ends by saying, “Funny women are much smarter and more powerful than we give them credit for” (120). Peitho gives them credit. I genuinely laughed out loud at Harriet Malinowitz’s stories of interacting with Adrienne Rich, Jessica McCaughey’s footnotes in her article on being a student and a mother during the pandemic, and especially the “World Blue Balls Day” infographic created by Ghanaian online activists (Plange). Also, the fact that the word “horndog” even appeared in an academic article really had me laughing for a long time (Howell). This laughter was evident even in the beginning of the Peitho newsletter, when essays detailing the CWSHRC meetings almost always mentioned the humor or jokes they shared in person. In a review of the 1998 meeting, Shannon Wilson writes to the mentors there, “Your leadership, energy, and humor provided, once again, much needed advice, and even more important, the feeling of inclusion…” (3). Similarly, Danielle Mitchell writes, “While I have attended only the past four Coalition sessions, they have, without exception, each provoked laughter, camaraderie, reflection, and perplexity…” (1). I echo these words so many years later. 

My bodily experience reading Peitho also went beyond the author’s tone or topic. Sometimes it was the sheer beauty of the words that got me. I remember thinking all day and night about this passage in an issue: “I’m in it for the haul- long or short. I too dread the slow dying, but I shall live out my life to the end. I love this life with all of its joys and sorrows and dying is an integral part of that life” (Horner 137). These words dig their way into my brain; they crawl under my skin. I too often separate in my head creative writing and academic writing, but I think we are at our best when we find ways to combine both. My notes are filled with stolen passages of beautiful words written by the scholars of Peitho: 

“I name the University as a shipyard, but maybe it is more of an echo, a reflection from other architects of power like the police and prison industrial system…But in the classroom we learn from theories that dismantle these complexes. The university has bridges of dissonance” (Williams 10). 

“I imagine that there are hundreds of us walking around with little pieces of Adrienne implanted in us. And if she doesn’t exist anymore, well, in my view, God doesn’t either, but so far, that hasn’t lessened his effect upon the world.” (Malinowitz 12). 

“How much of our reading and writing is haunted by death and the loss of loved ones? How much of our scholarly work is a collaboration over time, with the voices of our mentors shaping us, and the texts and memories they have given us carried with us?” (Faris). 

“Let queerness sing. Let queerness come through you like your spirit does. Take up the expanses of your sentences any way that serves your message. Throw away archaic rules about grammar and syntax. Throw away archaic rules about blazers and keeping your legs crossed. Your style is exquisite. Promise you won’t straighten it. If mainstream journals won’t publish your work, publish it yourself, Riot Grrrl style in zine form. Don’t beg unless you’ve negotiated it.” (Livingston). 

Timothy Oleksiak calls some of this “academic lyricism,” a term which when I first read it, I excitedly wrote it down and put a big circle around. Along with it, I wrote the following note in reacting to the quotes above: 

“Can you believe we have the privilege of reading these words? I’ve dedicated my life to words, think I know them back to front, and they still knock me out.” 

Additionally, the word “love” appears 130 times in my notes. Whether it be radical self-love (Osorio), love as pedagogy (Greco, McKinnie, Bock, Craig, Williams et. al), love as method (Restaino), queer love and listening (Pillof), and more, love fills the pages of this journal. And love is not always gentle; it critiques, it demands change, it calls out injustice boldly and angrily. If I have learned anything from Peitho it is not to shy away from the all-encompassing, all-embodied act of love.

Figure : Every cover or first page of Peitho, from 1996 to Winter 2022. Forty-six vertical rectangular screenshots of the Peitho covers in a grid

Figure 4: Every cover or first page of Peitho, from 1996 to Winter 2022. Forty-six vertical rectangular screenshots of the Peitho covers in a grid

My experience reading the entirety of the journal was not seamless. There were moments where I about chucked my computer through a window, moments of strife and frustration and disagreement, and moments when I wanted to drop out of academia altogether. Messiness doesn’t always feel like a good thing. At my most frustrated point, I wrote in my notes: 

“I guess I thought that hours and hours (and hours) of reading later, I’d feel like I get it. Because if there’s one thing that permeates a graduate school classroom, it’s a desire to get it, to finally feel knowledgeable, like someone worthy of a degree. These [readings] are already so much, but I know that this journal is only a sliver of the scholarship I should read, should know, should cite and work with. I know that for the authors I am reading, their work here is only a glimpse of their work total. How am I to remember it all?? I thought that I’d finally hit a point where I suddenly felt like an expert on a certain topic. Does that ever happen?…It seems like all of my professors and mentors and everyone writing these articles are so smart and accomplished. Do you all feel as though you get it? Do you feel like an expert? Will I ever get to that point? Or should I remain content with feeling like a novice forever and pretending?”

Little did I know that a few pages later I would get to Britt Starr’s piece on white perfectionism in the graduate classroom and I’d reconsider everything I was feeling once again. 

In the time I spent reading the journal, a lot of life happened. I finished my second year of graduate school and my fourth-semester teaching. I saw my brother graduate; we celebrated all night at a little piano bar deep in the Midwest. I watched friends get engaged, received two wedding invitations, booked a trip to New York City with friends. I went to two funerals. I helped a good friend pack up and move away from me. I watched the news cover the shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. I tried to start writing the morning after the latter, but couldn’t find words.  

Throughout everything, this scholarship followed along with my little life, the way good scholarship should. Sometimes the writing was so connected to what was happening in my own life that it was as if the article had been written directly for me. Sometimes I got to see how far we’ve come as a field, and sometimes I saw how far we still have to go. In my notes I wrote the following: 

“I used to think of academic articles as being annoyingly specific. I’d see the title and think: Who would care about reading something like this? And then I read it, and it feels less like someone is cutting away a sliver of the world to give me a small microscopic bite, and more like I’m seeing an image of human history at large, and this article merely zooms in for a second before zooming right back out again. Or maybe it’s better to think of it like a conversation with friends. Where we all descend into our random stories back-to-back to back until we hardly know what got us on a topic in the first place. But hours have passed, our stomachs hurt from laughing, our eyes are wet with happy and sad tears, and we are all better because of it.”  

Call it love or something else, so many of these articles captivated me. At first, I was only going to read articles whose titles jumped out to me as interesting. I’m so glad I decided not to; I would have missed out on so much. Whether I was reading about cookbooks, Parisian salons, Republican Motherhood, the story of Diane Nash, the conflicting narratives of Sojourner Truth’s speech, yarn bombing and craftivism, the first periodical published by and for African American women, the shattering story of Nujood Ali, 19th-century electric girls, failed gender party reveals, or the feisty feminism of Ahed Tamimi, I was hooked. Not every article resonated with me, but so many did. After reading Harriet Malinowitz’s essay, I wrote the following note:  

“I was sucked in the whole time reading. It made me smile, it made me sad, it made me want to feel the same way the author feels. I like how much I can see her feel. Reading the article felt like talking to a friend.” 

I thought that reading the whole journal would help fill in a lot of the blanks that I’ve carried with me since my first day of graduate school. And while it did answer a lot of questions, I think I leave this process with more blanks than I started with. The good news is that I’m beginning to accept that this is a good thing, that the open spaces are a necessity, a place of potential and growth. I’ve added over 50 books to my reading list through the process of finishing Peitho, so I guess my next journey is to start there. In the meantime, I’ll carry these lessons with me into the future: being a little bit messier, a bit more open to tension, conflict, and contradictions, leading with my body, and remembering that there is a lineage of scholarship to learn from that speaks to who I am and what I have the potential to become.  

Works Cited 

Barsczewski, Joshua. “Shutting Up: Cis Accountability in Trans Writing Studies Research.” Peitho, vol. 22, no. 4, 2020.  

Bartels, Rusty. “Navigating Disclosure in a Critical Trans Pedagogy.” Peitho, vol. 22, no. 4, 2020.  

Benson, Kirsten and Fedukovich, Casie. “Mentoring, an incantation.” Peitho, vol. 12, no 1-2, 2010, pp. 8-9. 

Bock, Chelsea. “Leading with Love, or a Pedagogy of Getting the Hell Over Myself.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 2, 2022.  

Craig, Sherri. “embracing the erotic.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 2, 2022.  

Enoch, Jessica and Fishman, Jenn. “Editors’ Introduction Looking Forward: The Next 25 Years of Feminist Scholarship in Rhetoric and Composition.” Peitho, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015, pp. 2-10. 

Faris, Michael. “For Lisa: A Patchwork Quilt.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 1, 2021.  

Gatta, Oriana. “Connecting Logics: Data Mining and Keyword Visualization as Archival Method/ology.” Peitho, vol. 17, no. 1, 2014, pp 89-103. 

Gerald, Amy.“Finding the Grimkés in Charleston: Using Feminist Historiographic and Archival Research Methods to Build Public Memory” Vol. 18, no. 2, 2016, pp. 99-123. 

Greco, Sophia. “Embracing a Pedagogy of Love and Grief.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 2, 2022.  

Grohowski, Mariana. “Review: Wit’s End: Women’s Humor as Rhetorical and Performative Strategy.” Peitho, vol. 15, no. 1, 2012, 114-120.  

Horner, Winifred. “My Turn.” Peitho, vol. 16, no. 2, 2014, 135-137. 

Howell, Tracee. “Manifesto of a Mid-Life White Feminist Or, An Apologia for Embodied Feminism.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 4, 2021.  

Hull, Brittany. “Book Review: Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy by April Baker-Bell.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 4, 2021. 

Johnson, Maureen; Levy, Daisy; Manthey, Katie; and Novotny, Maria. “Embodiment: Embodying Feminist Rhetorics.” Peitho, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015, pp. 39-44 

Kates, Susan. “Book Review: Fencing with Words: A History of Writing Instruction at Amherst College during the Era of Theodore Baird by Robin Varnum.” Peitho, vol. 1, no. 1, 1996, pp 3-4.  

Kerschbaum, Stephanie. “Key Concept Statements: Inclusion.” Peitho, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015, pp. 19-24. 

Kurtyka, Faith. “We’re Creating Ourselves Now: Crafting as Feminist Rhetoric in a Social Sorority,” Peitho, vol. 18, no. 2, 2016, pp. 25-44. 

Livingston, Violet.“Excerpts from ‘Terms of Play: Poetics on Consent as Method’.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 1, 2020.   

Malinowitz, Harriet. “The Icon Across the Street.” Peitho, vol. 15, no. 2, 2013, pp. 6-13.  

Martinez, Aja. “The Responsibility of Privilege: A Critical Race Counterstory Conversation” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 212-233. 

Mastrangelo, Lisa and Gaillet, Lynée Lewis. “Historical Methodology: Past and ‘Presentism’”? Peitho, vol. 12, no 1-2, 2010, pp. 21-23. 

McCaughey, Jessica. “‘This Seismic Life Change’: Graduate Students Parenting and Writing During a Pandemic.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 2, 2022.  

McKinnie, Merredith. “bell hooks Memorial.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 2, 2022. 

Mitchell, Danielle. “Graduate Student Education in Rhetoric and Composition: Who? What? Why?, or, Bow Howdy: We Have Some Work to Do!” Peitho, vol. 4, no. 2, 2000, pp. 1-4. 

Myers Madden, Whitney. “Book Review: Unspoken: A Rhetoric of Silence by Cheryl Glenn.” Peitho, vol. 10, no. 1, 2005, pp 5-7.  

Myers, Nancy; Hum, Sue; Fleckenstein, Kristie. “Win’s Angels,” Peitho, vol. 16, no. 2, 2014, pp. 125-126.  

Nicolas, Melissa. “Intentional Mentoring.” Peitho, vol. 12, no 1-2, 2010, pp. 6-7. 

Oleksiak, Timothy. “A Fullness of Feeling: Queer Rhetorical Listening and Emotional Receptivity.”, Peitho, vol. 23, no 1, 2020. 

Oleksiak, Timothy. “Queering Rhetorical Listening: An Introduction to a Cluster Conversation.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 1, 2020.  

Osorio, Ruth. “A Community of Beloved Femmes: The Cultivation of Radical Self-Love in Femme Shark Communique #1.” Peitho, vol. 17, no. 2, 2015, pp. 226-248. 

Patterson, GPat. “Because Trans People Are Speaking: Notes on Our Field’s First Special Issue on Transgender Rhetorics.” Peitho, vol 22, no. 4, 2020.  

Phillips, Stephanie & Leahy, Mark. “Anticipating the Unknown: Postpedagogy and Accessibility,” Peitho, vol 20, no. 1, 2017, pp. 122-143. 

Pilloff, Storm Christine. ““​​Métis and Rhetorically Listening to #BlackLivesMatter.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 1, 2020.  

Plange, Efe Franca. “The Pepper Manual: Towards Situated Non-Western Feminist Rhetorical Practices.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 4, 2021. 

Pough, Gwendolyn and Jones, Stephanie. “On Race, Feminism, and Rhetoric: An Introductory/Manifesto Flow…” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 4, 2021.  

Restaino, Jessica. “Surrender as Method: Research, Writing, Rhetoric, Love.” Peitho, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015, pp. 72-95. 

Ribero, Ana Milena & Arellano, Sonia C. “Advocating Comadrismo: A Feminist Mentoring Approach for Latinas in Rhetoric and Composition.” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 2, 2019, pp. 334-356.  

Rohan, Liz. “Service-Learning at the Northwestern University Settlement, 1930-31, and the Legacy of Jane Addams.” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 24-42. 

Starr, Britt. “Disturbing White Perfectionism in the Graduate Student Habitus.” Peitho, vol. 23, no. 3, 2021. 

Stuckey, Zosha. “Ghostwriting for Racial Justice: On Barbara Johns, Dramatizations, and Speechwriting as Historical Fiction.” Peitho, vol. 24, no. 1, 2021.  

 Sullivan, Patricia and Samra Graban, Tarez. “Digital and Dustfree: A Conversation on the Possibilities of Digital-Only Searching for a Third-Wave Historical Recovery.” Peitho, vol. 13, no. 2, 2010, pp. 2-11. 

Swiencicki, Jill. “Rhetoric and Women’s Political Speech in The Lecturess, Or Woman’s Sphere.Peitho, vol. 5, no 1, 2000, pp. 3-7.  

Tucker, Marcy. “Holding Hands and Shaking Hands: Learning to Profit from the Professional Mentor-Mentee Relationship.” Peitho, vol. 12, no 1-2, 2010, pp. 1-5. 

VanHaitsma, Pamela and Ceraso, Steph. “‘Making It’ in the Academy through Horizontal Mentoring.” Peitho, vol. 19, no 2, 2017, pp 210-233.  

VanHaitsma, Pamela and Book, Cassandra. “Digital Curation as Collaborative Archival Method in Feminist Rhetorics.” Peitho, vol. 21, no. 2, 2019, pp. 505-531. 

Waite, Stacey. “Cultivating the Scavenger: A Queerer Feminist Future for Composition and Rhetoric”, Peitho, vol. 18, no 1, 2015, pp. 51-71.  

Williams, Kimberly; Scott, La-Toya; Baldwin, Andrea; Gonzalez, Laura. “On Testimony, Bridges, and Rhetoric.” Peitho, vol 23, no. 4, 2021.  

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Tracing the Past to (Re)imagine the Future: A Black Queer Pedagogy of Becoming

My brother called me the other day to marvel and wonder about his two-year-old daughter. He told me about how he was putting her to bed. She was in a new place, fighting sleep, easily distracted. He laid on the couch next to her, quietly, observing, reassuring her with his presence. He recounted with marvel and wonder about how she took her little fingers and her little hand and felt his face. And then she took her little fingers and her little hand and felt her own face. She touched his ear and then she touched her own ear. She touched his beard and then she touched her chin. She stuck her fingers up his nose and then she stuck her fingers in her own nose. My little, sweet smoosh. She was exploring, she was learning, she was emerging into new knowledge, apprehending a new reality, coming to know herself in relation to her father. I cannot tell you what exactly she learned. But she learned something about differences I would have to guess. And she learned something about similarity. I would be willing to wager she did not apply her knowledge to gender or race or any other construction that has yet to internally contort her body and mind. And yet, even still, she came to a new understanding, a new explanation, a new theory perhaps, one beyond the limits of a world which seeks to confine her. 

And at two years old, she is emerging, she is ever-changing, she is coming to understand how she exists in this world. My little Aria, my little world-maker, she has her own language, her own way of being and existing in the world. She communicates with sounds and gestures and one-word sentences. And the people who constitute her reality come to understand her meaning. In my brother’s household, you open your mouth and say “ah” when you want a bite of food. One day over the break, my brother, my sister-in-law, and I were watching a movie. Aria was at daycare, and I was doing my sister-in-law’s nails. She asked my brother to feed her pretzels. She goes “ah, ah” and my brother quietly, without looking away from the TV puts a pretzel in her mouth. The moment didn’t register at first. A mundane interaction, commonplace in my brother and sister-in-law’s eccentric relationship. And then it hit me, how comical the scene was, how strange the scene would be in another context, say in public or in a different household, but it made perfect sense here, an intimate and different way of relating with one another. 

I share these stories for two reasons. First, we do not initially come to learning, to being, to knowing, as passive recipients, absorbing the gift of the expertise or “teachers” around us (Freire), but rather we come to knowledge, active, emergent, in relation, co-constructing our reality (LeMaster “Fostering,” Sprague “Expanding,” Toyosaki “Praxis-Oriented”), like my niece, my sister-in-law, and my brother, finding ways to communicate within our respective realities. Second, if my two-year-old niece can be an active and an emergent knowledge-producer, then I’d say these are our beginnings; our embodied, interactive ways of being in the world, our onto-epistemological becomings. And along our journey on this earth, institutions, schools, colleges, universities, day cares, churches, media, and idealized family structures (to name a few), engage language and the invention of man to effectively distance us from our childlike, emergent relation with reality.

The Discursive Struggle 

Our institutions function to maintain the invention of man, otherwise understood as the mythical norm constituted by dominant identity logics (Chávez, LeMaster, “Fostering”). This discursive reality is secured and manifests itself through language (Chatterjee). Burbules asserts, “We do not just use language; language uses us … the language we encounter already has a history … what we speak always means more than we mean to say; the language that we use carries with it implications, connotations, and consequences that we can only partly intend” (263).  Language, a social invention, is not neutral; it constitutes reality (Sprague, “Expanding”). This critical epis-ontological grounding disrupts dominant notions of cultural hegemony and thus language hegemony. This hegemony is codified through man-made knowledge projects which propel a fragmented, ahistorical, yet seemingly objective universal authority (Sprague, “Ontology,” Sprague, “Expanding,” Yep, “Pedagogy”). Dominant knowledge-projects seek to separate us from knower and known (Sprague, “Ontology”), seek to separate us from our critical consciousness, our capacity to transform (Freire, LeMaster “Fostering”), and thus seek to separate us from Black liberation (Wilderson). Critical consciousness, Black liberation, and transformation is predicated on our ability to engage difference on difference’s respective terms. Rather than ignore or reject difference, as dominant logics have conditioned us to do. The difference for Black people is, “the difference between Humans who suffer through an ‘economy of disposability’ and Blacks who suffer by way of ‘social death’” (Wilderson 16). Social death nuances the legacy of enslavement which (re)situates antiblackness as the social condition which structures racial inequality. Relegating blackness as nonhuman, enslavement effectively established the permanent subjugation of Africans and their descendants (Roskelly, Ray et al.). This (re)conceptualization of Black people’s non-humanity requires a (re)situating of the past, so that we may (re)conceptualize the present and (re)imagine the future. 

One of the purposes of this special issue of Peitho was to narrate the past as an opportunity to mobilize toward the future. What a seemingly simple, yet demanding and complex request. When tracing history, I often struggle with where to begin. In general, I often struggle with where to begin. I understand the past, present and future to be intimately connected and interwoven; my brain swirls, my body shakes, my breath (re)cycles. Beginnings, endings, linear paths, trying to draw a straight line through the cyclical, fluid, nebulous being that is me, and you, and this, and that, and writing, and story-telling – 

my heart races, my chest fills, I can feel the blood rush through my body, my skin crawls, resistant to twist and contort, resistant to translate my consciousness onto this blank page. 

As the academy demands definition, I tend to locate myself somewhere between Black feminist thought, Critical/Cultural studies, and queer pedagogy as they provide heuristics to navigate the paradox, the tension, the complicated and abundant entry points to any moment in space and time (Grossberg, Hall “Cultural Studies,” Ivie, Roskelly, Ono, Toyosaki “Praxis-Oriented”). Like Hendricks, I do not subscribe to static definition of feminist rhetoric or any other mode of critique for that matter. Instead, I begin with myself, my body, my breath, I begin with struggle.  

Conditioned by colonial notions of time, I am often called to begin with my birth. I understand that my onto-epistemology, my theoretical and philosophical grounding, my ways of knowing and being, my breath, began long before my birth and will continue long after my mortal body ceases to pump blood through my veins. Even still, this story needs a point of departure. 

I came out of the womb screaming, defiant, gasping for air. Or so I assume, as I have no memory of my birth, but it is the way most births are depicted and so it is how I imagine mine to be. Either way, I began free. Or so I would have liked to think. But the truth is the moment I was born I was marked by the human condition, or as Wynter identifies as the coloniality of being/power/truth/freedom: 

… the ongoing imperative of securing the well-being of our present ethnoclass (i.e., Western bourgeois) conception of the human, Man, which overrepresents [sic] itself as if it were the human itself, and that of securing the well-being, and therefore the full cognitive and behavioral autonomy of the human species itself/ourselves. (260) 

Screaming and covered in amniotic fluid, I had yet to become aware of this struggle, unbeholden to the weight of expectations, taking breath, theorizing, and demanding attention (hooks, “Theory”). This struggle, this tension, this coloniality of being, represents an ideological system of domination. An imperial system, discursively constructed, secured by markers of difference, such as race, class and gender, contrived distinctions between human and nonhuman. My first few hours in my material body were historicized. I was given a name, author’s name. I was given a sex, female. I was given a gender, girl. My birth was marked by certificate. A citizen of the United States of America, or so they say, was given a social security card, eight numbers, that represent the legality, the legitimacy, of my being. I was numbered and ordered, placed in the system of domination, a ward of the state, meant to be looked after by my parents, mother and father. 

Locating the Self 

I, like you, was thrust into an ideological circuit, predicated on settler assumptions, including but not limited to anti-blackness, anti-Indigeneity, and U.S. English hegemony (LeMaster et al. “Against”). And by you, I mean the reader, I mean the author, I mean anyone, I mean everyone. All the energy on this planet, as we know it to be. And so, dear reader, interact with this text as it makes sense for you. My experience with Settler institutions and more specifically the U.S. education system have all at once been the site of my epistemic oppression and epistemic resistance. I locate myself alongside those who labor toward emancipatory ends, a call for a paradigmatic shift, to (un)learn personal and disciplinary complicities in mine and other’s oppression.  

Struggling to Become 

Tracing the past, critical pedagogy began with urgency. In 1992, Sprague introduced a critique of instructional communication, the analysis and creation of how to teach, how to be in the classroom and how to learn. Constituted by the same social and political conditions which derived the sub-discipline, instructional communication lacks a critical analysis of power (Browdy, Sprague, “Expanding,” Sprague, “Ontology”). An uncritical approach perpetuates an objective, ahistorical, value-free approach to inquiry, knowledge, learning and thus consciousness. Uncritically, we are stuck in the same loop; the same ideological circuit, completing itself over and over again. It is here that I feel the urgency. It is in my childhood that I felt the urgency. A desperate need to disrupt, to interrupt, to stop the loop. It’s hard to say when I developed this sense of urgency, as there isn’t a singular, specific, temporal memory. And it’s not hard at all. It’s simple in so many ways. As my body told me. My body knew, a fluid, emergent unveiling. My body calls me back and propels me forward; made and unmade, straddling the in-between space, an interruption, a closure, and a juncture, refusing completion and endorsing completion, urgently struggling to become. 

As a child, I longed to understand the world around me. I asked questions, longing for explanations of all that I did not know. I was an avid reader. I persistently asked my grandpa, how and why and what. And my grandpa instilled in me a desire to learn, an urgency to observe, to be aware of my surroundings, a persistent awareness that I am not the only person in the world. I still to this day have a visceral reaction to leaving lights on in an empty room. I still to this day can feel and remember that I MUST close the basement door. My grandpa taught me to think beyond the present moment. He taught me that I had an impact on the world, on my surroundings, on the people and places around me. My childhood was a site of struggle, much like so many Black women before me (Browdy, Jones, hooks, “Theory”). I asked questions; I challenged the status quo, and I imagined (im)/possible futures. I existed in the contradiction. Taught to question, taught that there was more than myself, and in tandem taught to listen, taught to obey, taught to respect authority. Like hooks, I was often punished, admonished, and scolded for being “too aware” or in “grown folks business.” Confused and betrayed by the back and forth, by the contradiction, by the tension of “too grown” for childhood, but “not grown enough” for adulthood, I too found solace in my imagination. Seeking healing, seeking a home place, seeking a sense of belonging, desperate to make sense of a nonsensical world, I began my onto-epistemological journey of becoming. 

        Liberatory pedagogy, critical pedagogy, is a commitment to an onto-epistemological journey of becoming (Toyosaki “Praxis-Oriented”). Inquiry, knowledge, states of being, can never be truly known or captured, for to claim to know it would be to reduce it (Hall “Cultural Studies”). And yet, we are asked to claim it all the time. To name it, to know it, to recite it. Critical pedagogy emerged from this conditioned ask. Schools, teachers, students, and the education system function to maintain the status quo, function to propel the neoliberal agenda, function to establish the managerial class (Freire, Sprague, “Expanding”). And critical pedagogy strives to disrupt this prevailing, imperial loop. Marked at birth by a coloniality of being, distanced, disconnected, and disembodied by social death, critical pedagogy and its complementary counterparts offer a how, a means, a toolbox, a way towards an (im)possible liberatory future-present-past. 

        A corporeal and temporal turn towards our bodies offers a point of departure, a place to begin, a text to trace, our respective contextualized histories. Considering our bodies as a site of knowing, a text to be read, understood, analyzed, or situated in relation to, Brouwer et al. articulates what a corporeal or performative approach to bodies offers for critical pedagogy: 

Our turn towards bodies here returns us to the thematic of temporality when we recognize that any [sic] given socio-political moment, different bodies absorb and express different meanings, for they are plotted into dynamic, variegated, and unequal locations by discursive formations. Indeed, at any given time, our relations with our bodies, our phenomenological experiences of them, and their material consequentialities are variegated. More, bodies return us to temporality when we recognize that across time discursive scripts about the same bodies can change. (125)      

This embodied theoretical grounding offers a site to locate our differences, to (re)consider how we relate to others, to (re)consider how others relate to us, to (re)consider the temporal and corporeal differences which constitute the space between human and nonhuman. And this (re)consideration is an active, iterative process which brings us [back to our becoming], [to our becoming], and [toward our becoming] (Craig). 

I had my first kiss in middle school. I don’t quite remember how it happened. But I’m positive it was under the guise of curiosity or practice or whatever other lies girls tell themselves when they are 12 years old and want to kiss other girls. My first kiss was with a neighbor girl. I really liked kissing her. We took turns making out and, well, touching each other. We never talked about it after that night. It didn’t get brought up again. It didn’t happen again. But I found myself wanting it to. I found myself wanting it to, a lot. I didn’t tell anyone about that kiss, about the secret heavy petting, until about 10 years later. The story emerged after I “came out.” It worked its way through the shameful recesses of my being, surfacing anytime someone asked me “how long I knew.” I only ever looked to that moment as proof, proof that I had always been gay. Because the narrative of being gay is that you always knew. And so, that moment served as my entry point, securing my sexuality and in turn my body, as fixed, as static, as compulsively and rightfully gay. LeMaster asserts, “the critically conscious person understands themselves as a subject actively constituting, maintaining, and transforming culture. This empowerment through consciousness marks a process of healing” (“Fostering” 171). Each time I trace the moment of my first kiss, I learn something different, I become something different, I emerge something different. A historically buried moment, a denied corporeal reality, discursively and materially constructed by shame, my initial (re)tracings reveal a disembodied self, a soul murder, an internalized injury of normativity (LeMaster, “Fostering,” Yep “Violence”). 

I remember wanting to kiss her. I remember being confused as to why. I remember enjoying the feel of her lips against mine. her hand against my panties. her panties against my hand. And I remember the shame, the fear, the grief, before, during, and after. My whole body flush, my breath caught in my throat, I texted her not too long after that fateful night. My stomach dropped, my heart raced, ashamed, disappointed, angry, yet not surprised I left that wondering, that pleasure, that girl on the overpass near Thomas Park. 

  I look back with sad, loving eyes for that 12-year-old girl. If only I could take her in my arms, hold her tight and assure her that her feelings are valid, her intentions are pure, that she is allowed to feel good, that she deserves to feel good, and that denying what you want, denying yourself, is violent, is self-mutilation, is removing your very essence from yourself, from your body. And yet, I can look back. I do look back. I reassure my 12-year-old self, and I practice critical self-reflexivity, engaging (re)storying as a pedagogy of hope, toward an embodied future-past-present (Brouwer et al., Toyosaki, “Communication,” Warren). Subsequent (re)tracings reveal a disembodied self, rendered invisible by pervasive heteronormative hegemony which foreclosed the future and erased the past, fragmented, struggling to access a mode of being, a mode of transformation, which honored the in-between, queer, fluid potentiality of my identity (Muñoz, Ward, Yep “Violence”). 

Relating to Become 

My sophomore year of college, I am sitting in the basement of my residence hall on one of those wooden pallet chairs, you know the ones, with the scratchy fabric and pale coloring, the seat is wide, wide enough for me to sit cross legged: my body contorted, my legs crossed, my back hunched, my arms hugging my midsection. I am a resident advisor, sitting across from my supervisor for one of our weekly one on ones. I wiggle, my body holding the tension of excitement and nerves. My supervisor, Brittany, is a plump, young, White woman. She’s keen, caring, and fierce. At 19 years old, our weekly one-on-ones become one of my first experiences with consistent, adult connection. Specifically, one of my first experiences with having time and space and care to process, to question, to express, one of my first experiences building trust, as I came to know a different way of relating to others. I can distinctly remember sitting in that chair. I am wiggling beneath Brittany’s kind yet knowing gaze. She says to me, “Sarah, it’s okay to not be okay.” My eyes tear up, I avert her gaze, overwhelmed, and filled with panic, I remember fleeing, running up eight flights of stairs, my bedroom on the fourth floor. I didn’t know it at the time, but Brittany was teaching me about critical love (Calafell and Gutierrez-Perez). She introduced me to a pedagogy of vulnerability, challenging me to turn inward, challenging me to express my feelings, my hurt, my insecurities and meeting me with compassion, care, and intentionality. I believe in critical love. Every person I meet, every person I exchange energy with, every person I come in relation to, they are all teaching me how to love myself, and in turn, how to love them. I engage a critical pedagogical approach to love, inspired by hooks (All about Love), love as an intentional action that embraces care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility and respect, love as a means for self-recovery and critical consciousness. 

Born defiant, emergent, and full of hope, I come to know differently, and I come to relate differently as I come to the language and tools which describe the truth of my being (Chatterjee). Emboldened by critical love, I commit, I labor, and I practice an onto-epistemology of becoming (Calafell and Gutierrez-Perez). Relationally constituted, made and unmade, seen and unseen, influencing and influenced by a lifetime of relational bonds, committed to healing, to truth-telling, to affirming difference, I look toward a queer communication pedagogy: 

[a]s epistemic grounds, queer consciousness highlights an analytic means by which we understand cisheterosexism, cisheteronormativity, and homonormativity as intersectionally derived and co-constitutive structures that award and deny privilege and disadvantage to all people in different ways. As ontological grounds, queer consciousness is derived of lived experience navigating intersectionally derived privileges and disadvantages; in turn, queer consciousness is ontological in the sense that it informs our critical orientation to the world and a desire to intervene in the mundane reification of cisheterosxism, cisheteronormativity, and homonormativity (LeMaster, “Fostering” 186). 

Two weeks ago, I am driving home. Lewis Capaldi sings “don’t you know too much already?” my mouth traces the words with my lips. “I’ll only hurt you if you let me.” I am transported. My body in the car, driving to my apartment. My mind, my spirit, traversing distance and time, I am on my brother’s couch, over 1,300 miles away. My 2-year-old niece is running around, her hands, her little fingers, grasping anything within reach. A movie plays in the background. Laughter escapes my lips. Joy and sweetness fill the air. And time comes to a stop. And I wonder, how can anything else in the world matter? Why do I do anything else? I come back to. The infinity of the moment, fleeting, already passing me by. Fast forward, I return to my body. Still driving towards home, or the present, material iteration of what I designate as home. The song ends and I start it over. I turn the corner turning into my apartment complex parking lot. I am struck with melancholy, sad this time-traveling drive is coming to an end. Lewis Capaldi laments “I’ve learned to lose you, can’t afford to.” My voice cracks as I yell the words: “tore my shirt to stop you bleeding” a thousand heartbreaks, I feel them in my chest, in my arms, in my legs. I pull into a parking spot. Grief palpitates the air. I sigh. I consider sitting in the parking lot, finishing the song. But I’m not in the moment anymore. I no longer want to slow down enough. The temporality, the knowledge that it will soon come to an end shifts my hand to the keys, turning off the ignition, consciously, yet unconsciously choosing to move on.

Mobilizing towards a Future 

And yet I can never truly move on. At least not for long. As we are co-constituted beings (Brouwer, et al., Fasset and Ruddick, Pineau, Toyosaki “Communication,” Warren). I am made up of me and you and them and us. As we are interdependent. We are made up of the past, present and future. Our bodies, our memories carrying the memories, carrying the stories of all the people we interact with and all the people who interact with them, and back again. adrienne maree brown asserts, “how we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale. The patterns of the universe repeat at scale” (52). I tend to start at the small scale. I tend to start with myself. But/and, I believe the small is indicative of the large. Like paperson, my sense of self is always a we, an assemblage, interdependent, connected within, connected beyond an individual sense of self. An interdependent sense of self, a scyborg, “a queer turn of word” that serves to signify the “structural agency of persons” (paperson xiv). And one might resist, on might feel tension, one might be hailed by a colonial or liberal inclination to turn away from our interdependent reality. The inclination I refer to here is the impulse to hold onto independence, from a colonial ontology, as in separate, as in self-sustaining, as in codified (paperson, Sprague, “Ontology”). An inclination that whispers that you are the only one. The large scale, our institutions, they function to keep us here, keep us independent, holding onto this illusion of ownership, of pulling ourselves up from our bootstraps, of the wonderous, idealistic invention of man (Gaztambide and Angod, Hall, “Cultural Studies,” paperson, LeMaster and Mapes, Love, Nicolazzo, Prendergast and Jones, Wilderson, Wynter, Yep “Pedagogy”).  

Thus, together, interdependently, we can do something differently. We can do everything differently. And by we, I do mean we. I mean you and I, them and us. And anyone in between. We can consider our bodies, our stories, our communities, as sites of knowing, or as a text to be read or understood or analyzed or situated in relation to (Brouwer et al., LeMaster and Terminel Iberri). Let’s start small. Let’s start every day. Our present moments are indicative of our past moments. Our we is an assemblage, an interdependent sense of self, connected within and connected beyond the individual (paperson). From this vantage point, mundane interactions function as cultural performances or “reiterations of multiple, intersecting cultural ideologies” (LeMaster, “Embracing” 10). Subsequently, mundane performances create possibilities, both, all at once – opportunity to secure the status quo and opportunity to disrupt. The mundane is often characterized by mindlessness, an everyday utterance we don’t think twice about. Critical self-reflexivity functions to disrupt this mindlessness, through purposeful conscious reflection, we can examine our own complicity in hegemony and normativity, in our mundane performances. Writing offers a space for reflection, a pause in the present moment in time. On this page, we deploy our counter-stories as tools of epistemic resistance (Baszile, Smith, Lorde, “Age, Race, Class, and Sex”). We write to love ourselves (Anzaldúa). We write to talk back (hooks). We write to research back (Smith). We seek to wrestle with angels (Hall, “Cultural Studies”). Moving with reflexivity we seek to explore the temporal, corporeal, and spatial realities of our bodies, made and unmade by cultural sites of power, the classroom, the academy, and institutions writ large, we seek to survive, and we long to become. And we become through love. 

Recovering Love 

Love, self-love, communal love, critical radical love, is the fourth university (paperson); is an impulse; is a revolutionary praxis (Dalmiya, Robinson-Morris); is a pedagogy (Calafell and Gutierrez-Perez, Morley, Robinson), and is a source of healing (hooks, All about Love, Robinson-Morris, Ward). As we inherit legacies of hegemonic notions of love, the revolutionary praxis of love demands recovery. We must recover what we have lost, and what we have lost is an embodied understanding of what true love is and how true love does. hooks affirms this, 

When I was a child, it was clear to me that life was not worth living if we did not know love. I wish I could testify that I came to this awareness because of the love I felt in my life. But it was love’s absence that let me know how much love mattered. . . . I cannot remember when that feeling of being loved left me. I just know that one day I was no longer precious. Those who initially loved me well turned away. The absence of their recognition and regard pierced my heart and left me with a feeling of broken heartedness so profound I was spellbound. Grief and sadness overwhelmed me. I did not know what I had done wrong. And nothing I tried made it right. No other connection healed the hurt of that first abandonment, the first banishment from love’s paradise. For years I lived suspended, trapped by the past, unable to move into the future. . . . We can find the love our hearts long for, but not until we let go grief about the love we lost long ago… (All about Love ix-x) 

Here, hooks beautifully describes the legacy of grief and pain we inherit, as a result of abandonment, lovelessness, attachment wounds, or however else identified, has on our psyches. First, hooks argues, we must confront the lack of love in our lives. She adopts M. Scott Peck’s words to define love and explain that love is not a feeling, but rather “the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” (4). This (re)definition is grounded in six key concepts: care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility, and respect. This (re)definition functions to disrupt hegemonic notions in three ways: 

  1. (re)situate love as an intentional action, 
  2. (re)situate love as an interdependent, communal practice, 
  3. and (re)situate love as pathway for healing. 

This revolutionary love, an embodied, radical love, leaves no room for abuse, no room for neglect, no room for domination, oppression, or colonization. Put simply, “love and abuse cannot coexist” (6). This understanding is crucial. This recovery is crucial (Browdy). 

Unsettling the Romance of Love 

We are taught to believe in a neutral, unassuming, objective discursive reality (Burbules, Chen and Lawless, Sprague, “Expanding”). Accordingly, we are taught to believe that hurt and love can coexist. We are taught to accept, no more than that, we are taught to desire, romance, a romantic notion of love, a romantic notion of relating to one another and our institutions. Here I turn to Meyerhoff’s conceptualization of mode of study to explain this romantic notion of relating. Meyerhoff engages mode of study as an analytical tool to identify the means and relations of study, otherwise understood as education. Subsequently, education or other modes of study, can be broken down into the who (is studying), the what (is being studied), and the how (the tools, objects, and techniques with which they study) (13). Here, theory and metaphor come together, functioning as an interruption, as a discursive tool, to explain, and to understand current, hegemonic epistemologies (Hall, “Cultural Studies,” Meyerhoff). Through breaking down, interrupting, and demystifying dominant knowledge projects we can move toward relating beyond, “we can broaden our imaginative horizons” (Meyerhoff 11). Meyerhoff delineates two affective strategies which function to secure a fragmented and individuated relationship with love, in turn with self, and with community. The first affective strategy is “normalizing an emotional economy of happiness, safety, and fear” (11). The second affective strategy is characterized by appropriating an individual’s pain “through claims of shame, generosity, and reconciliation” (11). These two strategies render the individual as broken and produce the individual as a failure. Accordingly, a romantic relationship with love, with self, and thus with education (and other institutions) secures itself by focusing on the individual, by blaming the individual, and it accomplishes this by distancing and obscuring the structural conditions which were created by man, established through conquest, and maintained by a hegemonic system of violence (Chen and Lawless, Leonardo and Porter). As we participate in our own self-recovery, as we practice radically loving ourselves, we can transform our relationships, in turn our communities, and in turn our society. 

Toward a Transformative Future 

Learning to love is a nebulous, fluid process, with no real beginning, middle or end. To love is to heal. Like love, like life, like the seasons, healing is a never ending, recurrent process. When we honor our trauma, when we listen to our pain, when we acknowledge abuse, when we recognize systems of domination, the site of acknowledgement, our bodies, is where healing occurs. It is through love that we will have healing, that we will have deep relationality, that we coalesce, brown reassures, “when we are engaged in acts of love, we humans are at our best and most resilient. . . . [with love] we [will] understand that the strength of our movement is in the strength of our relationships” (9-10). And this I proclaim. I am manifesting. I commit to (re)vise this writing. I commit to (re)visit this process. I will choose to honor the pain, the grief, the celebration, the uncertainty, and the innocence of (re)birth. Birth is painful. This process is painful. Yet, I am so grateful to be born again and again. 

Audre Lorde lovingly reminds us, “the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor planted deep within each of us” (“Age, Race, Class, and Sex”123). This is how we dissipate the fog. This is how we lower the veil. This is how we return to ourselves. And this is how we love. This is how we cherish our Blackness. This is how we celebrate our embodied authenticity. This is how we pursue liberation. Alongside hooks, Afrikan, Afrikan descendants, Black AFAB folx, Black witches, Black women, Black activists, Black scholars, however we choose to arbitrarily close, have a long history of resisting colonial oppression with a spirit of love (Atta, Baszile, Beal, Collins, Griffin, Harris, Harris-Perry, Lorde, “The Uses of Anger,” Petermon and Spencer). In collaboration, in coalition, I lovingly resist with them. And this is my call to arms. This is my expression of loving rage. This is the world I want. This is the world I am. This is queer, radical love. I strive towards an onto-epistemological becoming. An interdependent mode of relating, a radical self-love that demands more, that demands that we honor the beautiful, complex, multitudes of all of us, of the Other of us, of our beautiful, rubbing bodies, towards and beyond an emancipatory future (LeMaster, et al., paperson, Ward). 

Honoring a Decade 

And so, here’s to ten years past, and here is to ten years to come. Manifesting or a manifesto, “a wild-eyed calls to arms”, an expression of rage, an ever-changing process (Fahs 34). And so here is to love, to inspiration, to peace and joy. Here is to vulnerability, to anger, to demanding more. Here is to connection, to deep committed relation, to coalition (Calafell and Gutierrez-Perez, LeMaster, et al., Pough and Jones). That is the world I want. That is the world I am. That is the communal healing I am driving towards, I strive towards. And so once again, I perform on the page. With my body on these pages, I honor the intrinsic energy of the earth, of my ancestors, and of my spirit. I choose to honor the pain, the grief, the celebration, the uncertainty. I choose to respond to the call; I am manifesting. What I want to proclaim is open-ended; I am perpetually becoming. Accordingly, I am open to this arbitrary closure, for it allows me to stake out a claim, to make a political commitment, to love and to lose and to learn again (Hall, “Cultural Studies”).  

Works Cited 

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The Evolution of Peitho

Our collaborations usually begin with Barb saying “How hard can this be?” or some variation thereof. Peitho’s journey from a newsletter to a journal began in just this way. And how hard could it be? we thought. The newsletter already existed, the Coalition was supportive, and the Coalition had been committed since its founding to feminist research throughout the history of composition and rhetoric. If our lives were narrated, the voiceover would have said “It would, in fact, be very hard.” Oh, our naivete. 

Peitho: The Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition launched its first issue in Fall 1996—three years after the creation of the Coalition—under the stewardship of Kay Halasek and Susan C. Jarratt. The impetus for both the group and the newsletter “was a felt sense of isolation” and a desire to “forge connections across generations and institutions” (Letter from the Editors). 

The first letter from the editors opened with  

Figure 1: Image from “Letter from the Editors,” Peitho. vol 1, no 1. It reads “Welcome to the first issue of _______. There is a blank at the beginning of our project, just as the histories we’re in the process of creating often begin with blanks where women should be. We begin this newsletter with two kinds of names: one very long and cumbersome and the other, not yet created (see the contest information on page 2), an antithesis that captures the challenge of creating new histories.”

Despite the competition to name the newsletter, Peitho remained Peitho. 

Halasek stepped down in 2002 and Susan Romano became co-editor. In 2006, the newsletter went into hiatus for three years. During that time, the Board, led by Lynée Lewis Gaillet, explored converting the newsletter into a print journal. Coalition members were committed, not only to feminist scholarship, but also to greater opportunities for diverse scholars in our field to publish, as well as the mentoring opportunities that such a conversion might provide. The Coalition was also responding to a historical moment. As Patricia Bizzell notes in the “Foreword” to Royster and Kirsch’s Feminist Rhetorical Practices, by 2007 “we all had a sense that feminist research in rhetoric had reached a life-cycle milestone, that its theories and methods were ready to be consolidated and applied more broadly” (ix). We had moved beyond our initial largely essentialist practices, where we attempted to add the history of women onto the histories that we already knew, and had moved towards systematic readings of rhetorical history through a feminist lens. This broader view of feminist rhetorical history required a wider publishing venue. 

It soon became evident, however, that a single print issue would require 90 percent of the Coalition’s meager bank account. Without a solid revenue stream (memberships were $5 for grad students and $10 for faculty), the Coalition soon realized that print was an impossible and unattainable dream[1]. An electronic newsletter was the best option at the time: it would be significantly less costly, requiring minimal fiscal outlay by the Coalition because the labor involved would be pro bono; allow the Coalition to reach more people; grant the Coalition time to plan for the peer-reviewed journal, and give the Coalition the capacity to publish a wider modality of texts. 

Barb, Coalition President at the time, relaunched Peitho as an electronic newsletter in 2009. Conversion into a peer-reviewed journal also addressed our ethical concerns of asking untenured scholars to publish in a non-peer-reviewed newsletter. In 1996, publication in the newsletter was seen as a positive, but by the time we took over, peer-review publications had become much more heavily weighted in tenure and promotion cases. This meant authors fell into one of two groups: 1) well-established and tenured professors, which perpetuated the perception of an insular community, and 2) grad students early in their careers, where publishing in a newsletter was seen as acceptable way to gain experience, even if it didn’t count for much on the curriculum vitae. When queried by non-tenured authors, Barb’s standard answer was “We’d love to have it, but we aren’t peer-reviewed, and an article with us won’t count as much in your job search or tenure packet.” Although some chose to publish with us, more rightfully did not. Some of those who chose to submit regardless, we redirected towards peer-reviewed publications which would better support their careers. This was often difficult because publication venues for feminist historical work were few at the time—we could, and did, count them on one hand—but we did not feel like we could ethically take away the possibility of a peer-reviewed publication from young scholars. One way we addressed this issue was to begin publishing the Wednesday night talks and notes from the mentoring tables. This allowed us to meet both objectives of the Coalition’s mission. 

By 2011, journal planning had begun in earnest. Liz Tasker-Davis, then Coalition President, organized a committee to support the transitions. Membership consisted of herself, Lindal Buchanan (who later became Editorial Board President in 2014), Roxanne Kirkwood (now Kirkwood-Aftanas), Kristi Cole, Patti Hanlon Baker, Whitney Myers, and, in an advisory capacity, Lynée Lewis Gaillet and Barb. The committee wrote The Peitho Development Project report, whose first version proposed that the development of such a journal “be handled internally by coalition members in a phased approach.” It recommended that the journal development move forward in two phases. Phase I includes a mere five steps, none of which dealt with practical items such as actually how to lay out a new journal. Phase II has only four steps, the last of which is “WHAT ELSE?????” (Clearly, we thought that this would be, if not easy, at least not that hard.) WHAT ELSE????? included answers to questions such as how do journals function, behind the scenes? What mechanisms/documents/rules do we need in place? What kind of help do we need, and where can we get it? How can we best keep track of manuscripts, peer reviewer requests, and decisions? Should we compensate editors[2]? What other roles need to be established and filled for Peitho to run smoothly? Should those be compensated as well? What types of scholarly genres should Peitho invite and publish? What will it look like? What format would it take? Where will it be hosted? What does a stable and consistently accessible space for hosting look like? What is the best calendar for Peitho production? Does the layout need to tie into the Coalition website? What kinds of accessibility guidelines will Peitho have[3]? (See Appendix A for the final version distributed to the advisory board in Fall 2011.) 

The Committee drew heavily on the Coalition advisory board for the answers to these questions over the years. For example, the first editorial board was the Coalition’s advisory board. Lindal Buchanan, the first President of the Peitho Editorial Board, was a key player in helping to get an ISSN number and developing bylaws. The bylaws were difficult, especially since other journals’ bylaws did not address the unique focus that Peitho had, particularly regarding mentoring, due to the Coalition’s mission. The mentoring program, where mentors were offered to work with authors who submitted manuscripts that were not yet ready for peer review, came from this focus and was possible because of the close relationship with the Coalition advisory board and its mission. 

Throughout the process, we met new colleagues as well, many of whom donated their labor and have become lifelong colleagues and friends. When we realized that we needed design help for the layout and technical production of the journal, Lindal sent Cheri Lemieux Spiegel our way. Cheri rescued us from ourselves and took over the InDesign work of the journal. The cover and layouts of the first three issues journal are entirely her design and work. Working with Cheri was a dream. We were completely useless during our first video conference meeting between trying to figure out the technical aspects and our discovery of visual effects in the conferencing platform. Hats! Mustaches! Glasses! Beards! Crowns! Puppy ears! They move with you! (It was 2011. Give us a break). To her credit, Cheri thought “I can work with these people” instead of “get me out of here.” She educated us about layout and multimedia possibilities, offered excellent feedback on editorial decisions, didn’t lose her patience when we kept asking her to “nudge that image just a hair”; created a template to streamline future layout; helped solve last minute technical issues that stymied the launch; and met impossible deadlines. As we wrote in our first Editor’s Note (which we realize now should have been Editors’ Note), “Colleagues such as Cheri remind us of the generosity, intelligence, and cleverness of academics and why we enjoy editing work so much.” It is not an exaggeration to say that Peitho could not have happened without Cheri Lemieux Spiegel. 

During our design process, we remained committed to keeping Peitho on the cover. Chosen by the original editors because she was the goddess of persuasion, Peitho was the daughter of Aphrodite, had erotic powers, and was known to represent the polis. The image on the newsletter had originally been derived from a vase at the J. Paul Getty Museum.  

Figure 2: Image of a corner of a vase with a black background, with an image of a woman, ochre in color, wearing a flowing Grecian dress and holding a ball of twine in her right hand that she is about to throw.

A small file size with a pixelated image, the image needed reworking for both clarity and technical specs. 

Figure 3: light grey stylized image of an outline of the woman from the vase, holding an unidentifiable object in her right hand.

In a meeting, one of us asked is she throwing a pile of poop? The cleanedup image, created by UA Little Rock graphic design professor Kevin Cates, met the technical specs and made it clear that Peitho was holding a ball of twine. We—and when we say we, we mean Cheri—worked hard to ensure that images of Peitho were included either as the cover background, or, as circumstances dictated other covers, in smaller form. 

Figure 4: black stylized image of an outline of the woman from the vase, this time clearly holding a ball of twine in her right hand that she is about to throw.

The first issue launched in December 2012. Our Editors Note [sic] read, in part,  

Figure 5: Image of Editor’s Note. It reads “The Coalition has always been committed ‘to feminist research throughout the history of rhetoric and composition’ (Coalition Mission, emphasis ours). The preposition throughout in this mission statement has always struck us as significant; we read it to say that the Coalition is interested in feminist research that occurred at any point in time, rather than limiting the Coalition’s interest to historical feminist research. Peitho’s commitment to feminist research is no different. The journal seeks to publish all types of feminist research—including, but not limited to historical work.Thus, our lead article asks us to think about where feminist work might occur in the future—in the digital archives. Alexis Ramsey-Tobienne explores how digital archives impact the work feminist and historians do and how we as researchers need to interrogate them. Our second article, ‘Ain’t I a Woman’ by Jacqueline Jones Royster combines both past and present as it explores how the theoretical lens of social circulation can help us re-examine a venerable, feminist text. We close our first volume with Paige Conley’s ‘This Speaking Leaf: Vera Connolly’s Good Housekeeping Crusade for the Indian Cause,’ a close examination of reporter Vera Connolly’s work to expose the conditions of Native Americans and provide this information to a broad American audience.” 

The first issue was more sweat, tears, and digital wrangling than we could have imagined (How hard can it be? Very hard.). But the journal was official! And we were ready for it to become someone else’s labor of love. Our original plan had always been to be transitional editors and, after the Spring/Summer 2013 issue, we wrote a handoff email, and the journal’s editorship officially transitioned to Patricia Sullivan and Jennifer Bay at Purdue University on June 27, 2013. It was an auspicious moment for us, and we knew that without the support of the Coalition and the generosity of volunteer labor, none of this would have happened. 

Since then, the journal has grown in leaps and bounds. It has changed directions in order to keep up with the changing directions of our field; it has changed platforms able to handle multimodal pieces; and it has changed editorships multiple times and expanded its readership. 

We are proud of the work that we did in those early years to see Peitho come into existence. We look forward to following Peitho and how it will change, and move, and grow over the next ten years. 

End Notes 

[1]Other concerns, Nancy Myers reminded thePeitho committee two years later in an email, included the organizational and institutional structures between the Coalition and the journal; a clearly defined statement of the vision/mission and direction of the journal; and a timetable.

[2]It is worth noting that, at the time, the compensation offered in the Fall 2012 Editor RFP was the highest compensation of any of the RW journals that we knew of: “The Coalition will pay for the editor to take a training workshop on InDesign (the publishing program), and the editor may also hire a student intern for 15-20 hours per issue at a total cost of $500 per year. The editor will also receive a stipend of $200 after the successful completion of each issue. Finally, the Coalition will pay the editor’s registration fee for the Feminisms and Rhetorics biennial conference” (Peitho Call for Editors).

[3]Jenn Fishman, who had been elected to the board as Secretary that year, was particularly helpful in answering the what else question. Many of the questions listed here are hers.

Appendix A 

Peitho Development Proposal, Version 3 (revised October 16, 2011) 

The ad-hoc committee advises that CWSHRC proceed with the development of Peitho into a biannual peer-reviewed journal and that the project be handled internally by coalition members in a phased approach. The first phase involves transforming Peitho from a newsletter to a peer-reviewed online journal. While the likely goal of the second phase would be to create a printed form of the journal, the committee believes that plans beyond Phase 1 should be deferred until the Phase 1 plan is enacted. 

This revised proposal addresses the feedback we received on our initial proposal, which was distributed in May of 2011. 


Peitho, the peer-reviewed journal of the Coalition of the Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, exists to support the Coalition’s mission as “a learned society composed of women scholars who are committed to research in the history of rhetoric and composition.” The journal, like the Coalition, will “promote and foster collaboration and communication” among women in these areas of specialization. Peitho seeks to encourage, advance, and publish research in the history of rhetoric and composition and thereby support scholars and students within our profession. 

Organizational Structures 

Three organizational structures participate in Peitho’s production: a publication committee, an editor and associate editor, and editorial board. 

Publication Committee: 

The journal will be overseen by a publication committee, which shall 

  1. be composed of the editor and associate editor of Peitho, who serve as ex officio (nonvoting) members; an Executive Board member; two Advisory Board members; and three general membership members. Voting members shall not exceed six.
  2. coordinate all publications that bear the name of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.
  3. coordinate the call for editors, review applications, and recommend editors to the Board, which will have the final vote.
  4. review performance of the journal’s editor during his/her four-year appointment.
  5. recommend a course of action to the Board in the case of gross negligence by the journal editor.

Editor and Associate Editor: 

Editorships will run on a four year, overlapping cycle. Each editor will spend the first two years in an associate editorship position, learning the position’s responsibilities and duties. The last two years will be spent as the editor, being responsible for mentoring and training the incoming editor. However, an editor may serve more than one term if conditions warrant. 

Staffing is at the editor’s discretion (with the exception of the associate editorship). 

The editor is a representative of the Coalition and is expected to function in such a manner. 

The editor has full purview over the editorial content and production process of the journal. She will also retain responsibility for publishing the journal—i.e., establishing an editorial board (which must be approved by the Board), issuing calls for papers, clarifying the journal’s submission process, etc.  

However, she is not responsible for hosting the journal or for redesigning it. 

The editor and associate editor positions are noncompensatory. However, as a courtesy, both are extended free registration at the Feminisms and Rhetorics conference during their terms. 

The ad-hoc committee believes that having experienced officers in the editor and associate editor positions is critical to ensuring Peitho’s smooth and timely transition from a newsletter to a peer-reviewed journal. It, therefore, nominates Barbara L’Eplattenier as journal editor and Lisa Mastrangelo as associate editor.   

Editorial Board: 

The ad-hoc committee recommends that the Coalition of Women Scholars’ current advisory board serve as its initial editorial board. An alternate board will put in place by Peitho’s editor and associate editor by fall 2013. 

Publication of Peitho shall be overseen by the Coalition’s Publication Committee; editorial responsibilities shall remain the purview of the current editorial team. 


The first issue of the  first issue of Peitho will appear online in fall 2012. 


Putting Peitho online will incur both initial start-up costs and ongoing expenses. 

Start-up costs: 

These consist of purchasing a publishing program, providing software training for the two initial co-editors, and setting up restricted access so that only members can view Peitho. 

Publishing Program: InDesign Creative Suite $449 (standard) or $599 (premium) 

(for educators, version 5.5 standard; premium adds Adobe Flash and DreamWeaver) 

Training for 2 co-editors $1400 (2-day class for two attendees; does not include travel) 

Membership software Cost to be determined (only essential if we want to restrict journal access to members) 

On-going costs: 

These include software training for new co-editors, co-editors’ registration fees for the Feminism and Rhetorics conference, and hourly wages for an intern. 

Intern (15-20 hours per issue) $500 per year 

Co-editors’ compensation (2 registration fees) $600 every two years 

New co-editors training on publishing software $700 every two years 


  1. At some point, if our organization grows, we recommend considering a stipend for the co-editors. 
  2. Peitho’s launching will not require additional resources beyond the CWSHRC’s current server space, email accounts, or subdomains. It is using minimal server space currently. Disk Space Usage256.83 MB / 5000, MBBandwidth (this month)18.52 MB / 100000, MBEmail Accounts1, Unlimited Subdomains1 / Unlimited 
  3. CWSHRC is now located on a commercial server. The Peitho ad-hoc committee recommends keeping Peitho on a commercial server to prevent changes in domain name and to ensure that the Coalition owns the journal copyrights. 

Journal Structure/Form 

The committee recommends that CWSHRC invite Peitho design and layout ideas/proposals from selected university programs/departments/instructors.  We are currently working on the development of this service-learning project.   

Works Cited 

Ad Hoc Committee. “The Peitho Development Report Draft,” 20 May 2011. 

Bizzell, Patricia. Foreword. Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies, by Jacqueline Jones Royster and Gesa E. Kirsch, Southern Illinois UP, 2012, pp ix–xii. 

Fishman, Jenn. “Re: Peitho Committee Proposal.” Received by Nancy Meyers, Lindal Buchanan, Barb L’Eplattnier, Patti Hanlon-Baker, Roxanne Kirkwood, Kirsti Cole, Elizabeth Tasker, Lynée Lewis Gaillet, and Lisa Mastrangelo, 12 July 2011. 

Halasek, Kay and Susan C. Jarrett. “Letter from the Editors.” Newsletter of the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, vol 1, no. 1 Autumn/Winter 1996. https://cfshrc.org/peitho-the-newsletter/#1996–200. 

L’Eplattenier, Barb.Peitho Call for Editors.” General electronic distribution, 21 August 2012. 

L’Eplattenier, Barbara E. and Lisa Mastrangelo. “Editor’s Notes.” Peitho, vol. 15, no. 1, Fall/Winter 2012, https://cfshrc.org/journal/peitho-volume-15-issue-1-fall-winter-2012/. 

Myers, Nancy “Peitho Committee Proposal.” Received by Jenn Fishmann, Lindal Buchanan, Barb L’Eplattenier, Patti Hanlon-Baker, Roxanne Kirkwood, Kirsti Cole, Elizabeth Tasker, Lynée Lewis Gaillet, and Lisa Mastrangelo, 26 July 2011.