Friday, October 26, 2007

Lady-like Rhetoric

Can I say I really liked Diana's method of class discussion? I had never heard of this silent discussion before, but is very nice (and very much like low-tech blogging).

Here's the passage from Christine de Pizan's The Treasure of the City of Ladies I picked out to write about during class: "She [the princess] will show the reasons [to the prince], which she will understand thoroughly, and she will show how it is necessary for a prince, if he wishes to reign long in peace and glory, to be loved by his subjects and by his people."

This passage interests me because on the one hand, Pizan is arguing for the importance of a lady's rhetoric, but on the other hand, casting the lady solely in a supporting role. The princess listens to the subjects with a woman's patience and compassion, then explains everything to her husband rationally. That's actually quite nice--Pizan's princess will not merely make emotional appeals but will lay out the reasons so that her husband can understand.

But, of course, the lady's rhetoric here is used in a carefully limited ways. She uses rhetoric because she can't actually do anything. She can only ask her husband to do things. Although the princess is presumably perfectly intelligent (and I'm thankful for that), she nonetheless is limited by her social roles. She must maintain a perfect harmony where she never comes into conflict with either her husband or his subjects. And while that makes for an interesting rhetoric, I'm glad it's not a rhetoric that I'm forced to use.

Work Cited

de Pizan, Christine. From The Treasure of the City of Ladies. Trans. Sarah Lawson. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. 546-551.

3 comments:

Genesis said...

I agree! The concept is very classy, but the lack of ability to actually act would be tough to live with.

Also, I've used the "low-tech blogging" method in classes before, but it definitely doesn't work as well with high school. Perhaps it's too much of a mix of those who don't care to be involved and those who care a little too much.

Amy said...

Leading discussion in graduate level classes is definitely easier than even undergrad. You don't even have to tell them what to discuss. Leave the room, and next thing you know the grad students are talking about the assigned reading.

Hannah said...

I noticed an interesting thing about the way Pizan sets up the interaction between the princess and her husband. We've noticed that the princess is encouraged to use traditional components of "feminine" rhetoric to persuade her husband: gentleness, respect, and submission. But also, isn't she kind of using her rhetorical skill to help him discover his (conventionally) feminine side in that she convinces him to want peace and to want "to be loved by his subjects"?