Working with the Nazi-appointed Jewish Council in Amsterdam, Gertrude van Tijn helped many Jews escape. But she faced difficult moral choices. Some called her a heroine; others, a collaborator. Bernard Wasserstein's haunting narrative draws readers into this twilight world, to expose the terrible dilemmas confronting Jews under Nazi occupation.
Jonathan J. Sanford Catholic University of America Press, 2015 Library of Congress BJ1521.S26 2015 | Dewey Decimal 171.3
Jonathan Sanford finds that despite the common origins of contemporary virtue ethics in Anscombe, the literature varies widely not just in its scope but in its basic commitments. What exactly is contemporary virtue ethics? In Before Virtue, Sanford develops strategies for describing contemporary virtue ethics accurately. He then assesses contemporary virtue approaches by the Anscombean dual standard which inspired them: the degree to which they avoid the pitfalls of modern moral philosophy and the extent to which they exemplify a successful recovery of an Aristotelian approach to ethics.
The Meno, one of the most widely read of the Platonic dialogues, is seen afresh in this original interpretation that explores the dialogue as a theatrical presentation. Just as Socrates's listeners would have questioned and examined their own thinking in response to the presentation, so, Klein shows, should modern readers become involved in the drama of the dialogue. Klein offers a line-by-line commentary on the text of the Meno itself that animates the characters and conversation and carefully probes each significant turn of the argument.
"A major addition to the literature on the Meno and necessary reading for every student of the dialogue."—Alexander Seasonske, Philosophical Review
"There exists no other commentary on Meno which is so thorough, sound, and enlightening."—Choice
Jacob Klein (1899-1978) was a student of Martin Heidegger and a tutor at St. John's College from 1937 until his death. His other works include Plato's Trilogy: Theaetetus, the Sophist, and the Statesman, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
In recent years, international business disputes have increasingly been resolved through private arbitration. The first book of its kind, Dealing in Virtue details how an elite group of transnational lawyers constructed an autonomous legal field that has given them a central and powerful role in the global marketplace.
Building on Pierre Bourdieu's structural approach, the authors show how an informal, settlement-oriented system became formalized and litigious. Integral to this new legal field is the intense personal competition among arbitrators to gain a reputation for virtue, hoping to be selected for arbitration panels. Since arbitration fees have skyrocketed, this is a high-stakes game.
Using multiple examples, Dezalay and Garth explore how international developments can transform domestic methods for handling disputes and analyze the changing prospects for international business dispute resolution given the growing presence of such international market and regulatory institutions as the EEC, the WTO, and NAFTA.
"A fascinating book, which I strongly recommend to all those active in international commercial arbitration, as they will see the arbitral world from new and unthought of perspectives."—Jacques Werner, Journal of International Arbitration
The long-running debates between between conservatives and libertarians are vigorous and highly charged, dealing with ideas about the very nature of liberty and morality. Like no other single work, Freedom and Virtue explores what unites and divides the adherents of these two important American traditions—shedding much light on our current political landscape.
Amid the unrest, dislocation, and uncertainty of seventeenth-century Europe, readers seeking consolation and assurance turned to philosophical and scientific books that offered ways of conquering fears and training the mind—guidance for living a good life.
The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution presents a triptych showing how three key early modern scientists, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, and Gottfried Leibniz, envisioned their new work as useful for cultivating virtue and for pursuing a good life. Their scientific and philosophical innovations stemmed in part from their understanding of mathematics and science as cognitive and spiritual exercises that could create a truer mental and spiritual nobility. In portraying the rich contexts surrounding Descartes’ geometry, Pascal’s arithmetical triangle, and Leibniz’s calculus, Matthew L. Jones argues that this drive for moral therapeutics guided important developments of early modern philosophy and the Scientific Revolution.
Tuan, Yi-Fu University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 Library of Congress BJ1531.T83 2008 | Dewey Decimal 170.44
In his many best-selling books, Yi-Fu Tuan seizes big, metaphysical issues and considers them in uniquely accessible ways. Human Goodness is evidence of this talent and is both as simple, and as epic, as it sounds.
Genuinely good people and their actions, Tuan contends, are far from boring, naive, and trite; they are complex, varied, and enormously exciting. In a refreshing antidote to skeptical times, he writes of ordinary human courtesies, as simple as busing your dishes after eating, that make society functional and livable. And he writes of extraordinary courage and inventiveness under the weight of adversity and evil. He considers the impact of communal goodness over time, and his sketches of six very different individuals—Confucius, Socrates, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, John Keats, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Simone Weil—confirm that there are human lives that can encourage and lead us to our better selves.
Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association
This fascinating examination of the development of virtue ethics in the early stages of western civilization deals with a wide range of philosophers and schools of philosophy—from Socrates and the Stoics to Plato, Aristotle, and the Epicureans, among others. This introduction examines those human attributes that we have come to know as the "stuff" of virtue: desire, happiness, the "good," character, the role of pride, prudence, and wisdom, and links them to more current or modern conceptions and controversies.
The tension between viewing ethics and morality as fundamentally religious or as fundamentally rational still runs deep in our culture. A second tension centers on whether we view morality primarily in terms of our obligations or primarily in terms of our desires for what is good. The Greek term arete, which we generally translate as "virtue," can also be translated as "excellence." Arete embraced both intellectual and moral excellence as well as human creations and achievements. Useful, certainly, for classrooms, Virtue Ethics is also for anyone interested in the fundamental question Socrates posed, "What kind of life is worth living?"
A transcript of Leo Strauss’s key seminars on Plato’s Protagoras.
This book offers a transcript of Strauss’s seminar on Plato’s Protagoras taught at the University of Chicago in the spring quarter of 1965, edited and introduced by renowned scholar Robert C. Bartlett. These lectures have several important features. Unlike his published writings, they are less dense and more conversational. Additionally, while Strauss regarded himself as a Platonist and published some work on Plato, he published little on individual dialogues. In these lectures Strauss treats many of the great Platonic and Straussian themes: the difference between the Socratic political science or art and the Sophistic political science or art of Protagoras; the character and teachability of virtue, its relation to knowledge, and the relations among the virtues, courage, justice, moderation, and wisdom; the good and the pleasant; frankness and concealment; the role of myth; and the relation between freedom of thought and freedom of speech.
In these lectures, Strauss examines Protagoras and the sophists, providing a detailed discussion of Protagoras as it relates to Plato’s other dialogues and the work of modern thinkers. This book should be of special interest to students both of Plato and of Strauss.
The Lost Soul of American Politics is a provocative new interpretation of American political thought from the Founding Fathers to the Neo-Conservatives. Reassessing the motives and intentions of such great political thinkers as Madison, Thoreau, Lincoln, and Emerson, John P. Diggins shows how these men struggled to create an alliance between the politics of self-interest and a religious sense of moral responsibility—a tension that still troubles us today.
Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) is a cultural phenomenon. Her books have sold more than 25 million copies, and countless individuals speak of her writings as having significantly influenced their lives. In spite of the popular interest in her ideas, or perhaps because of it, Rand’s work has until recently received little serious attention from academics. Though best known among philosophers for her strong support of egoism in ethics and capitalism in politics, there is an increasingly widespread awareness of both the range and the systematic character of Rand’s philosophic thought. This new series, developed in conjunction with the Ayn Rand Society, an affiliated group of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, seeks a fuller scholarly understanding of this highly original and influential thinker.
The first volume starts not with the metaphysical and epistemological fundamentals of Rand’s thought, but with central aspects of her ethical theory. Though her endorsement of ethical egoism is well-known—one of her most familiar essay collections is The Virtue of Selfishness—the character of her egoism is not. The chapters in this volume address the basis of her egoism in a virtue-centered normative ethics; her account of how moral norms in general are themselves based on a fundamental choice by an agent to value his own life; and how her own approach to the foundations of ethics is to be compared and contrasted with familiar approaches in the analytic ethical tradition. Philosophers interested in the objectivity of value, in the way ethical theory is (and is not) virtue-based, and in acquiring a serious understanding of an egoistic moral theory worthy of attention will find much to consider in this volume, which includes critical responses to several of its main essays.
James F. Pontuso St. Augustine's Press, 2016 Library of Congress BJ1521.P66 2016 | Dewey Decimal 179.9
Virtue is not what it used to be. It has lost its good name. If virtue were a television show, it would garner low ratings and promptly be cancelled. If virtue were running for president, it would fare poorly in the Iowa caucuses and would drop out of the race after a weak showing in the New Hampshire primary. Virtue has a bad name, both because people no longer use the term and because it is associated with repression of desires. Today, it not considered healthy to keep inner urges at bay for very long. Virtue comes off looking like a relic of a quaint, narrow-minded, uptight age. Virtue does not support self-esteem since it is difficult to master the passions.
Yet virtue seems to be a part of everyday life. What accounts for the kindly relationships between people? Why are most people peaceful, law abiding, and decent? If, as some insist, there is no foundation for virtue, or people act only out of self-interest, how can we explain why so many people are good to each other?
Prestigious scholars, such as Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue, James Q. Wilson, The Moral Sense, Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness, have attempted to answer this question. While these authors make great strides in explaining the character of goodness, their works do not face the problem raised by “anti-foundationalist.” Anti-foundationalist such as Richard Rorty, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and the libertarian school of economics maintain that humans lack a capacity for comprehending what is good or bad. For anti-foundationalists there are no higher metaphysical principles that guide behavior. Prescriptive judgments are little more than long-held cultural prejudices fortified by habit so as to seem natural. Therefore, philosophic claims about virtue are little more than guesses about proper conduct.
Nature’s Virtue squarely faces the challenge of anti-foundationalists. The book points out the defects of these ideas. It does so by presenting a contemporary restatement of the case for grounding virtue in Platonic forms or ideas.
Walter T. Schmid offers the first original interpretation of the Laches since Hermann Bonitz in the nineteenth century in the only full-length commentary on the Laches available in English.
Schmid divides the book into five main discussions: the historical background of the dialogue; the relation of form and content in a Platonic dialogue and specific structural and aesthetic features of the Laches; the first half of the dialogue, which introduces the characters and considers the theme of the education of young men; the inquiry with Laches, which examines the traditional Greek conception of military courage; and the inquiry with Nicias in which two nontraditional conceptions of courage are mooted, one closely associated with the sophistic movement in Athens, the other with Socrates himself. Furnishing a detailed paragraph-by-paragraph reading that traces Socrates’ ongoing quest for virtue and wisdom— a wisdom founded in the action of a whole human life— Schmid conclusively shows how and why the Laches fills an important niche in Plato’ s moral theory.
Passions and Virtue
Servais Pinckaers Catholic University of America Press, 2015 Library of Congress BJ1278.E56P5613 2015 | Dewey Decimal 241.4
This book, the last that noted moral theologian Servais Pinckaers, OP, wrote before his death, was conceived as a follow-up to his previous work Plaidoyer pour la vertu (An Appeal for Virtue) (2007) Pinckaers' aim in Passions and Virtue was to show the positive and essential role that our emotions play in the life of virtue. His purpose is part of a larger project of renewing moral theology, a theology too often experienced as an ethics of obligation rather than as a practical guide to living virtuously. To this end, Pinckaers sketches a positive psychology of the passions as found in the biblical tradition, in the writings of the Fathers of the Church, in pagan authors and, especially, in the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Kelly opens new questions about dialogue, colonial power, and
changing conditions of political possibility by examining the
connection between politics and sexual morality in the British
colony of Fiji from 1929 to 1932.
Fiercely committed to the separation of church and state, thoroughly pluralistic, largely secular: Where does a society like ours find common terms for conducting a moral debate? In view of the crises surrounding the issue of abortion, it is tempting to answer: nowhere. In this timely and provocative book, Elizabeth Mensch and Alan Freeman urge that we challenge the extremes of both the "pro-life" and "pro-choice" views of the abortion issue and affirm the moral integrity of compromise. Attempting to restore a level of complexity to the discussion and to enrich public debate so that we may move beyond our current impasse, the authors argue that it is essential to understand how issues of legal "rights" and theological concerns interact in American public debate. Returning to the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, Mensch and Freeman detail the role of religion and its relationship to the emerging politics of abortion. Discussing primarily the natural law tradition associated with Catholicism and the Protestant ethical tradition, the authors focus most sharply on the 1960s in which the present terms of the abortion debate were set. In a skillful analysis, they identify a variety of factors that directed and shaped the debate--including, among others, the haunting legacy of Nazism, the moral challenge of the civil rights movement, the "God is dead" discourse, school prayer and Bible reading, Harvey Cox's The Secular City, the Berrigans and Vietnam, the animal rights movement, and the movement of the church-going population away from mainstream Protestant tradition toward evangelical fundamentalism. By criticizing the rhetoric employed by both the "pro-choice" and "pro-life" camps, Mensch and Freeman reveal the extent to which forces on either side of the issue have failed to respond to relevant concerns. Since Roe v. Wade, the authors charge, public debate has seemed to concede the moral high ground to the "pro-life" position, while the "pro-choice" rhetoric has appeared to defend an individual's legal right to do moral wrong. Originally published as a special issue of The Georgia Law Review (Spring 1991), this revised and expanded edition will be welcomed by all those frustrated by the impasse of debates so central to our nation's moral life.
For more than twenty years Practical Decision Making in Health Care Ethics has offered scholars and students a highly accessible and teachable alternative to the dominant principle-based theories in the field. Raymond J. Devettere's approach is not based on an ethics of abstract obligations and duties but, following Aristotle, on how to live a fulfilled and happy life—in short, an ethics of personal well-being grounded in prudence, the virtue of ethical decision making.
New sections added in this revised fourth edition include sequencing whole genomes, even those of newborns; the new developments in genetic testing now provided by online commercial companies such as 23andMe; the genetic testing of fetuses by capturing their DNA circulating in the pregnant woman's blood; the Stanford Prison experiment and its relevance to the abuses at the Abu Graib prison; recent breakthroughs in the diagnosis of consciousness disorders such as PVS; the ongoing controversy generated by the NIH study of premature babies at many NICUs throughout the county, a study known as SUPPORT that the OHRP (Office of Human Research Protections, an office within the department of HHS) deemed unethical.
Devettere updates most chapters. New cases include Marlise Munoz (dead pregnant woman's body kept on life support by a Texas hospital), Jahi McMath (teenager pronounced dead in California but treated as alive in New Jersey), Margot Bentley (nursing home feeding a woman dying of end stage Alzheimer’s despite her advance directive that said no nourishment or liquids if she was dying with dementia), Brittany Maynard (dying 29-year-old California woman who moved to Oregon to commit suicide with a physician's help), and Samantha Burton (woman with two children who suffered rupture of membranes at 25 weeks and whose physician obtained a court order to keep her at the hospital to make sure she stayed on bed rest). Thoughtfully updated and renewed for a new generation of readers, this classic textbook will be required reading for students and scholars of philosophy and medical ethics.
In Provocations of Virtue, John Duffy explores the indispensable role of writing teachers and scholars in counteracting the polarized, venomous “post-truth” character of contemporary public argument. Teachers of writing are uniquely positioned to address the crisis of public discourse because their work in the writing classroom is tied to the teaching of ethical language practices that are known to moral philosophers as “the virtues”—truthfulness, accountability, open-mindedness, generosity, and intellectual courage.
Drawing upon Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and the branch of philosophical inquiry known as “virtue ethics,” Provocations of Virtue calls for the reclamation of “rhetorical virtues” as a core function in the writing classroom. Duffy considers what these virtues actually are, how they might be taught, and whether they can prepare students to begin repairing the broken state of public argument. In the discourse of the virtues, teachers and scholars of writing are offered a common language and a shared narrative—a story that speaks to the inherent purpose of the writing class and to what is at stake in teaching writing in the twenty-first century.
This book is a timely and historically significant contribution to the field and will be of major interest to scholars and administrators in writing studies, rhetoric, composition, and linguistics as well as philosophers and those exploring ethics.
Augustine famously claimed that the virtues of pagan Rome were nothing more than splendid vices. This critique reinvented itself as a suspicion of acquired virtue as such, and true Christian virtue has, ever since, been set against a false, hypocritical virtue alleged merely to conceal pride. Putting On Virtue reveals how a distrust of learned and habituated virtue shaped both early modern Christian moral reflection and secular forms of ethical thought.
Jennifer Herdt develops her claims through an argument of broad historical sweep, which brings together the Aristotelian tradition as taken up by Thomas Aquinas with the early modern thinkers who shaped modern liberalism. In chapters on Luther, Bunyan, the Jansenists, Mandeville, Hume, Rousseau, and Kant, she argues that efforts to make a radical distinction between true Christian virtue and its tainted imitations actually created an autonomous natural ethics separate from Christianity. This secular value system valorized pride and authenticity, while rendering graced human agency less meaningful. Ultimately, Putting On Virtue traces a path from suspicion of virtue to its secular inversion, from confession of dependence to assertion of independence.
In Reign of Virtue, Miranda Pollard explores the effects of military defeat and Nazi occupation on French articulations of gender in wartime France.
Drawing on governmental archives, historical texts, and propaganda, Pollard explores what most historians have ignored: the many ways in which Vichy's politicians used gendered images of work, family, and sexuality to restore and maintain political and social order. She argues that Vichy wanted to return France to an illustrious and largely mythical past of harmony, where citizens all knew their places and fulfilled their responsibilities, where order prevailed. The National Revolution, according to Pollard, replaced the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity with work, family, and fatherland, making the acceptance of traditional masculine and feminine roles a key priority. Pollard shows how Vichy's policies promoted the family as the most important social unit of a new France and elevated married mothers to a new social status even as their educational, employment, and reproductive rights were strictly curtailed.
Rhetoric, Technology, and the Virtues offers a framework for theorizing ethics in digital and networked media. While the field of rhetoric and writing studies has traditionally given attention to Plato’s Gorgias and Phaedrus dialogues, this volume updates Aristotle’s basic framework of hexis for the digital age. According to Aristotle, “When men change their hexeis—their dispositions, habits, comportments, and so on, in relation to an activity—they change their thought.”
Rhetoric, Technology, and the Virtues argues that virtue ethics supports postmodern criticisms of rational autonomy and universalism while also enabling a discussion of the actual ethical behaviors that digital users form through their particular communicative ends and various rhetorical purposes. Authors Jared Colton and Steve Holmes extend Aristotle’s hexis framework through contemporary virtue ethicists and political theorists whose writing works from a tacit virtue ethics framework. They examine these key theorists through a range of case studies of digital habits of human users, including closed captioning, trolling, sampling, remixing, gamifying for environmental causes, and using social media, alongside a consideration of the ethical habits of nonhuman actors.
Tackling a needed topic with clarity and defined organization, Rhetoric, Technology, and the Virtues carefully synthesizes various strands of ethical thinking, convincingly argues that virtue ethics is a viable framework for digital rhetoric, and provides a practical way to assess the changing hexeis encountered across the network of ethical situations in the digital world.
What drives the cycle of backlashes against women’s ongoing struggle for equality, freedom, and inclusion in American politics? In her innovative and provocative book, Suspect Citizens, Jocelyn Boryczka presents a feminist conceptual history that shows how American politics have largely defined women in terms of their reproductive and socializing functions. This framework not only denies women full citizenship, but also devalues the active political engagement of all citizens who place each other and their government under suspicion.
Developing the gendered dynamics of virtue and vice, Boryczka exposes the paradox of how women are perceived as both virtuous moral guardians and vice-ridden suspect citizens capable of jeopardizing the entire nation’s exceptional future. She uses wide-ranging examples from the Puritans and contemporary debates over sex education to S&M lesbian feminists and the ethics of care to show how to move beyond virtue and vice to a democratic feminist ethics.
Suspect Citizens advances a politics of collective responsibility and belonging.
Virtue and Venom traces the history of a previously neglected genre, the catalog of women, from its origins in Greece and Rome to the late Middle Ages, revealing the catalogs' considerable importance as cultural documents of the evolution of the Western definition of womankind. These catalogs were simple listings of past heroines, sometimes described in extended biographies, sometimes merely enumerated by name. Catalog heroines often appeared in familiar guises—anonymous mothers of great men, fascinating seductresses, self-effacing spouses, abused victims of love, strong and brilliant achievers. Written by some of the finest authors of the ages, the catalogs fulfilled important functions. By defining women typologically, they instilled stereotypes in the popular mind, and by illustrating proper and improper feminine conduct they reinforced the late medieval link between literature and ethics. Despite the repetitive form of the genre, the catalogs were extremely flexible, able to illustrate different, even antithetical views of femininity—invoking the past as authority or reinterpreting the past in an attempt to associate femininity with changing cultural values. Thus, as well as being the vehicle for the transmission of knowledge, the form could also be manipulated to contest authority, in the guise of invoking it, and present new paradigms. Glenda McLeod examines a host of catalogs, including those of Homer, Hesiod, Vergil, Ovid, Juvenal, Plutarch, St. Jerome, and Jean de Meun, but gives special attention to Boccaccio's De claris mulieribus and Chaucer's Legend of Good Women. She then shows how the tradition ultimately produced the first major defense of womankind in Christine de Pizan's Cité des Dames. This book will be of interest to classicists, medievalists, Renaissance and feminist scholars, and anyone interested in the misogynist tradition in the West and the response it engendered.
This book offers a clear and systematic introduction to virtue ethics, a topic which has inspired one of the most interesting contemporary debates in ethical theory—the question of whether virtues can replace duties as the primary notion in ethical theory.
The volume comprises an introduction to virtue ethics by Daniel Statman and a collection of the most important essays published on the topic in the last decade. The essays encompass a wide range of aspects: the difference between virtue ethics and traditional duty ethics; arguments for and against virtue ethics; the practical implications of virtue ethics; and Aristotelian and Kantian attitudes towards virtue ethics.
This book argues that pre-modern societies were characterized by a common quest for human flourishing or excellence, i.e. virtue. The history of virtue is a particularly fruitful approach when studying pre-modern periods. Systems of moral philosophy and more day-to-day moral ideas and practices in which virtue was central were incredibly important in pre-modern societies within and among diverse scholarly, literary, religious and social communities. Virtue was a cornerstone of pre-modern societies, permeating society in many different ways, and on many different levels, and it was conveyed in erudite and pedagogical texts, ritual, performance and images. The construction of virtues such as wisdom, courage, and justice helped shape identities and communities, but also served to legitimize and reinforce differences pertaining to gender, social hierarchies, and nations. On a more fundamental level, studying the history of virtue helps us understand the guiding principles of historical action. Thus, we believe that the history of virtue is central to understanding these societies, and that the history of virtue, including criticisms of virtue and virtue ethics, tells us important things about how men and women thought and acted in ages past.
Less than two centuries ago finance - today viewed as the center of economic necessity and epitome of scientific respectability - stood condemned as disreputable fraud. How this change in status came about, and what it reveals about the nature of finance, is the story told in Virtue, Fortune, and Faith. A unique cultural history of modern financial markets from the early eighteenth century to the present day, the book offers a genealogical reading of the historical insecurities, debates, and controversies that had to be purged from nascent credit practices in order to produce the image of today's coherent and - largely - rational global financial sphere. Marieke de Goede discusses moral, religious, and political transformations that have slowly naturalized the domain of finance. Using a deft integration of feminist and poststructuralist approaches, her book demonstrates that finance - not just its rules of personal engagement, but also its statistics, formulas, instruments, and institutions - is a profoundly cultural and politically contingent practice. When closely examined, the history of finance is one of colonial conquest, sexual imagination, constructions of time, and discourses of legitimate (or illegitimate) profit making. Regardless, this history has had a far-reaching impact on the development of the modern international financial institutions that act as the stewards of the world's economic resources. De Goede explores the political contestations over ideas of time and money; the gendered discourse of credit and credibility; differences among gambling, finance, and speculation; debates over the proper definition of the free market; the meaning of financial crisis; and the morality of speculation. In an era when financial practices are pronounced too specialized for broad-based public, democratic debate, Virtue, Fortune, and Faith questions assumptions about international finance's unchallenged position and effectively exposes its ambiguous scientific authority.
James Hankins challenges the view that the Renaissance was the seedbed of modern republicanism, with Machiavelli as exemplary thinker. What most concerned Renaissance political theorists, Hankins contends, was not reforming laws but shaping citizens. To secure the social good, they fostered virtue through a new program of education: the humanities.
Women’s persuasion and performance in the Age of Enlightenment
Over a century before first-wave feminism, British women’s Enlightenment rhetoric prefigured nineteenth-century feminist arguments for gender equality, women’s civil rights, professional opportunities, and standardized education. Author Elizabeth Tasker Davis rereads accepted histories of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British rhetoric, claiming a greater variety and power of women’s rhetoric. This recovery of British women’s performative and written roles as speakers, spectators, authors, and readers in diverse venues counters the traditional masculine model of European Enlightenment rhetoric. Davis broadens women’s Enlightenment rhetorics to include highly public venues such as theaters, clubs, salons, and debating societies, as well as the mediated sites of the periodical essay, the treatise on rhetorical theory, and women’s written proposals, plans, defenses and arguments for education. Through these sites, women’s rhetorical postures diverged from patriarchal prescriptions rather to deliver protofeminist persuasive performances of wit, virtue, and emotion.
Davis examines context, the effects of memory and gendering, and the cultural sites and media of women’s rhetoric to reveal a fuller ecology of British Enlightenment rhetoric. Each chapter covers a cultural site of women’s rhetorical practice—the court, the stage, the salon, and the printed page. Applying feminist rhetorical theory, Davis documents how women grasped their rhetorical ability in this historical moment and staged a large-scale transformation of British women from subalterns to a vocal counterpublic in British society.