Notes: Jessica Enoch, “Releasing Hold: Feminist Historiography Without the Tradition”

Enoch, Jessica. (2013). Releasing hold: Feminist historiography without the tradition. In Theorizing histories of rhetoric. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 58-73.

Summary:

Enoch questions the dominant work in feminist rhetorical historiography to reclaim women rhetorical figures or reread canonical texts and instead poses rhetorical approaches that call attention to the rhetorical work of gendering and creating public memories about and for women.

Keywords: feminist rhetorics, historiography, histories of rhetoric, archives, methodology

Quotations:

“Rather than use the archive to recover women, a feminist memory studies approach to the archive prompts scholars to see it as a site that creates and shapes public memory for and about women” (p. 66).

“[T]heir work is predicated on the idea that the process of gendering is deeply rhetorical in that it relies on discursive, material, and embodied articulations and performances that create and disturb gendered distinctions, social categories, and asymmetrical power relationships” (p. 68).

Reflection:

I’m deeply interested in Enoch’s work in articulating the rhetorical work of the archive and of archival scholarship. I can see connections readily available to some of my concerns in approaching an archival project that sits somewhere between queer theoretical work and LGBTQ histories. Particularly in how Enoch discusses how a feminist memory studies approach calls attention to the rhetorical work of remembering women—but also the rhetorical work of forgetting. She discusses the archive itself as something of scholarly inquiry and its sustained (in)attention (p. 66). These seem like promising premises. Enoch poses questions of how historiographic work is done, but also offers theoretical inroads into performing historiographic work (in part by doing a historiography of feminist rhetorical histories).

I’m reminded a bit of Jen Clary-Lemon’s “Museums as Material: Experiential Landscapes and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights“, which perhaps is an extension of some of this conversation, arguing that the museum is itself a textual site performing rhetorical for interrogation. She discusses rhetorical accretion as a means to examine

museum interiors and landscapes as both housing and being different “core texts” that can be seen through a lens of material rhetoric can encourage complex understandings of the layers that are formed from objects, spaces, architecture, and affect from a range of different subject positions, and disturb the bifurcation of inside/outside that emerges from considering museums as object repositories—instead opening these landscapes to see inside and outside as connected in a network of place (para. 6).

Clary-Lemon argues that the networks of accretion in museum spaces are a material part of the rhetorical work that sustains remembering and forgetting. It would pose an interesting question to bring in an approach such as hers to each archive, to ask how “material existence constructs networked meaning out of materials, durability, reproduction, and effects on text and peoples” (para. 30).

Though different approaches, I can see how each is asking for methods that call explicit attention to the rhetorical work of creating, shaping, and sustaining rhetorical memory and forgetting.

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