Brueggemann: Lend Me Your Ear: “On (Almost) Passing” Interlude 1

October 30, 2007


“On paper she didn’t sound deaf . . .” (98). 

Brenda Jo Brueggemann’s “On (Almost) Passing” is a revealing account of one woman’s journey of growth and reflection, as she embraces the many truths of her life that are illustrated through the use of mirror images of herself.  It is amazing to see how she negotiates her existence between the d/Deaf and h/Hearing worlds while navigating through varying degrees of silence.  Still it is important to note that when we think of mirrors, they throw back the “seen” physical representation.  But Brueggemann’s mirrors are in her ears and are influenced by her judgments, moods, intelligence, and realities.  This multi-level “self-evaluation” causes her to see the impossible demands of “passing,” or in her case, “almost passing.”


As a “hard-of-hearing- individual, she does not completely fit into the d/Deaf world and is isolated in the h/Hearing world, forced to rely on her husband and other hearing supporters.  By “passing” as a hearing individual, she was able to maintain a “likeness” of a hearing person, while not recognizing your own needs.  This attempt to belong was not so successful when trying to “pass” as a d/Deaf person.  Full membership into the d/Deaf community, and many others, require “successful” individuals to fully accept themselves and embrace their realities that are a reflection of individual passages.


I was most impressed that she likened her “almost passing” journey to “coming out,” “literate passing.” “. . . this place as the art and act of rhetoric,” “books are easier to control,” and “doing literacy.”  Brueggemann’s self-evaluations included not only the physical, but encompassed her negotiations with language and its usage.  Through her writing, and to a lesser degree talking, she was able to shape her roles in the h/Hear and d/Deaf communities.  As a way of passing, she found safety in talking because she did not have to listen, thereby holding off external judgments.  Writing allowed her created a closed environment of her choosing, where she had total control, absent of negative external factors.  She found safety in two arenas in which h/Hearing individuals may view as opposite spectrums:  safety in talking and silence.  Still, as a hard-of-hearing individual, for Brueggemann, both talking and silence provided the same reinforcement.  The h/Hear community would most likely argue that both cannot exist in the same space and product the same outcome.  Is this not an excellent example of the usage of rhetorical strategies and how one navigates personal encounters?


Brueggemann said that her talents of being a storyteller, writer, and talker allowed her to “pass” as being a member of the h/Hearing community and a member of the “The Deaf Way.” She notes that the creation of narratives, within the two cultures, has different approaches.  The “Deaf Way” narrative formation is shaped through the experience and user’s language abilities to recreate that experience.  On the other hand, the experience drives the narrative for the h/Hearing world, which is less dependent on the individual’s communication skills or the listeners.  Such passage navigations lead one to understand the “Gallaudet Meanness” and the lack of understanding from those who are not d/Deaf, as related by the desperate mother’s explanation of her daughter’s behavior in the chapter.  Brueggemann said, “When I get to feeling this way—trapped, nailed, stuck in between overwhelming options—I tend to get frantic, nervously energized, even mean. And my will to pass, to get through and beyond at all cost, kicks in ferociously” (93).   She finds strength in her circumstances and uses her strengths of writing to navigate her way.


“Writing is my passageway; writing is my pass; through writing, I pass” (99).


What are the rhetorical implications of the “Gallaudet Meanness?”


Can one say that from a hearing individual’s questioning Brueggemann’s “accent” or “nationality” was a way of normalizing the “otherness” of difference that may be displayed through d/Deafness?



Public Memory: Harriet Tubman House

October 23, 2007


The Harriet Tubman House is a lasting testimony of a woman who selflessly made 19 trips into the South, to escort slaves to freedom.  Harriet Tubman’s home is located at 180 South Street, Auburn, New York.  The historical site is maintained by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Connection, which purchased the property and are striving to fulfill Harriet Tubman’s dream.


The Tubman House is a visual representation of a time in United States history when the bravery and efforts of a few made a difference in the lives of African American slaves and freed blacks, in spite of legal and personal harms.  From a time capsule perspective, visitors are able to drive onto the grounds of the historical site and marvel at the restored house that was once the home and property of one of the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. The entire twenty-six acres stretches further than the eyes can see.  However, even from the lush grounds and overgrown apple tree that surround the home and other original structure, it is amazing to consider and realize Harriet Tubman’s determination to purchase the property.  However, from historical accounts of Tubman’s financial difficulties, it seems unlikely that the picturesque version of the 2007 grounds and property was correct reality of the late nineteenth century.


Understanding the need to preserve social history sites, Christine Carter, the Tubman House Tour Coordinator, welcomes visitors into the Tubman Recreation Building, where two documentaries are offered to give guests an overview of Tubman’s accomplishments, service, and hardships.  A small gallery of oil painting, reprints, and newspaper clippings line the walls.  Not only do the images illustrate of Harriet Tubman’s life, but they include reprints of historic New York newspaper articles, illustrations of slave ships, “Bull Whip Days,” “Old Bay Tom, a former slave, well-known and much beloved citizens of Binghamton.  The multiple visual aids enable the guests to understand the urgency of Harriet Tubman’s life work, caring for those who were unable to care for themselves.


Upon entering the home, tour groups are transported back into history as they walk inside.  From the first floor, guests take in the period-piece furniture of the living room, which stages the room; are able to look into the downstairs bedroom, which contains furnishing that belong to Tubman; and are ushered through the kitchen and dining room, while given a historical lesson of household items used by Tubman and were popular during that period.  The second floor is closed to all visitors.  Due to lack of financial capital, all additional restorations are on hold until a suitable donation may be gained to complete the work.  The historical value of the Tubman House is not officially recognized by federal funding.  The Tubman House is sustained by dutiful individuals who see the importance of this recovered social history, which, at present, survives as an example of public memory.


Lindal Buchanan’s Regendering Delivery: The Fifth Canon and Antebellum Women Rhetors. Conclusion.

October 18, 2007


 Lindal Buchanan’s Regendering Delivery points out the assumptions that were made regarding the fifth canon:

  1. All rhetors are male
  2. Discourse evaluation only considered the speaker’s vocal performances and physical presentation
  3. Proper body position:  Males stood and faced their audience
  4. Social context was “overlooked.”

The identified “blindspots,” were a reflection of the larger social dynamics of the period, Buchanan called for a “Regendering” of the Fifth Canon.  Buchanan argued for the “total” rhetorical experience, which accounted for inclusive representations of women and other marginalized speakers; recognition of social, historical, cultural, and political constraints that influenced public address at a given time; and evaluation of the individual motivations of the speaker.  Traditional stage performances were not delivered in a vacuum, and antebellum women were a part of the rhetorical tradition.  Still, she points out that the rhetorical performances mirrored the internal and external biases that were in place beyond the stage.


Buchanan suggested a comprehensive social approach would open the rhetorical framework and give a complete picture of the rhetorical form.  “Delivery thus becomes a site for investigating the intersection of variables like gender, sexuality, race religion, nationality, ethnicity, age, class, or disability with power and discourse in particular settings, for what transpires on the public platform is simply a microcosm of larger social and ideological forces” (160).


Buchanan narrowed her scope to identify six “topos” that related to the antebellum female and the social context:

  1. Education:  Elocutionary instruction of women as defined by the social norms.  Regendering the Fifth Canon considered the education of antebellum women and the “reciprocal relationship” of public delivery
  2. Access to the Public platform:  Women were denied participation.  Regendering the Fifth Canon looked at when, where, and for what reason antebellum women were allowed to speak.
  3. Evaluation of space:  Evaluated Ownership of the public platform.
  4. Discursive Genre:  Considered strict delivery codes that restricted women.
  5. The Female Body:  Evaluation of the proper appearance of the female body in public.
  6. Social intersection of “gender,” “delivery,” and “power” that antebellum women encountered.

By presenting this view of the antebellum women, Buchanan hoped to encourage scholarly evaluations of the oratory practices of female rhetoricians.  She voiced the importance of considering gender, power, and social context for a comprehension understanding the antebellum women rhetors.  Buchanan said, “I throw open the doors and invite all interested scholars to enter the theoretical home afforded by the regendered fifth canon, confident that our examinations of delivery from multiple perspectives and through multiple lenses will ultimately make the classical canons, the rhetorical tradition, and the discipline itself more inclusive, pluralistic, and compelling” (163).

CCR 751: Richardson and Jackson: African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Forward, Preface, and Introduction.

October 7, 2007



Jacqueline Jones Royster masterfully laid out the importance of reading African American Rhetoric(s).  Royster asserts that Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson, II approached the text by framing their views as “the study of culturally and discursively developed knowledge-forms, communicative practices and persuasive strategies rooted in freedom struggles by people of African ancestry in America” (ix).  In addition to the collection’s attention to “discursive forms” of African Americans, its calls for attention to “recovery of achievement and legacies,” “pedagogical problems of inclusive knowledge of students,” “critical inquiries of practices,” “interpretive frames with interdisciplinary disciplines,” etc., relating to 1) views of a culture, 2) critical exploration of strategies and practices, and 3) closer attentions to the specific material conditions as it relates to a people’s “rhetorical performances.”  All of these areas are important while examining the rhetorical approaches needed for entering a new century; for these reasons and others, Royster believes that the book is “a vanguard of publications that can cast our gaze on both continuities and change in rhetorical scholarship and keep our scholarly dialogues well invigorated and meaningfully engaged” (xi).


Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson, II offer readers a collection of essays with hopes of opening the possibility for reviewing the discipline’s concepts and practices in new ways.  By embracing historical, pedagogical, and example of research in the field, the editors presented African American rhetorical strategies and accomplishments, questions of cultural injustice, cultural representation, achievements, and “current persuasive and negotiation strategies,” which are areas of concern that should be valued and evaluated for further scholarship of the field.  While focusing on Black rhetoric(s) through the individual contributions of the authors, the text “treats literary, cultural, discursive, and linguistic aspects of African American rhetorics such as womanist, Reconstructionist, Ancient Egyptian, and Afrocentric rhetorics as indivorceable components of a larger study of the universe of Black discourse” (xiii).


Richard and Jackson divided African American Rhetoric(s) into the three areas of interest and gives a synopsis of each author’s essay in each unit to illustrate its rhetorical values; however, it is important to understand that there are multiple aspects of consideration within African American rhetoric(s), and no one voice can represent the cultural, historical, or rhetorical importance of a people.  However, questions of representation of a people are considered within the text.  This point is most clear from the editors’ explanation of the synonymous usage of the terms Black, African American, Afro-American, and people of African descent.  It is through these important differences that the text’s interdisciplinary perspectives reveal foundations and links that sustain African American rhetoric(s), which are not yet fully recognized but are brought closer to understanding a people.


For the introduction to African American Rhetric(s), Keith Gilyard offers an essay to not only illustrate the historical and cultural importance of the African American experience, but he also reveals important avenues of rhetorical discourse that give African American rhetorics its flavor, by further addressing additional readings and conversations that have and are taking place for the further understanding and representation of a people.  In his essay, “Aspects of African American Rhetoric as a Field,” Gilyard acknowledges that it would be impossible given the boundaries and scope of this project to give the reader a complete background of African American rhetorics.  Yet, he is able to narrow his discussion to strategy and method.  He considers, “The focus is on what scholars working taxonomically and employing rhetorical perspectives ranging from Aristotelian principles to Afrocentric conceptions have made of oratory by those of African descent in the United States” (1-2).  Still, he recommends other resources for those who want to take this discussion further such as Language, Communication, and Rhetoric in Black America (A. Smith, 1972); Rappin’ and Stylin’ Out (Thomas Kochman, 1972); and African American Communication (Michael Hecht, 1993).


Gilyard reaches back to the nineteenth century African American rhetorical tradition and offers examples from the 1850’s and 1860’s by way of Frederick Douglass and Charles Langston, with recognition of 1890 anthologies by E. M. Brawley.  Greater still is his mention of Carter G. Woodson’s Negro Orators and Their Orations, which is “the first standard reference work on African American rhetoric” (1925); this shows a continuity that led to the publishing of the current project, African American Rhetoric(s).  With historical analysis of “occasional speeches” and “pulpit orations” of Blacks, Gilyard identifies C. G. Woodson’s focus of the major contributors such as Peter Williams, James Forten, John Willis Menard, James Mercer Langston, Ida B Wells-Barnett, William Monroe Trotter, James Weldon Johnson, Mordecai Johnson, Archibald Grimke’, Absalom Jones, William Wells Brown, and others of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.    But it is noted, “Woodson was a historian by training; thus, he attempts little in the way of technical or structural analysis of the speeches themselves” (3).


In addition, Woodson also acknowledged the religious oratory was very important to the African American rhetorical tradition.  Drawing faith and communal understanding, “millions of Blacks came to comprehend and speculate about the social world of which they were part. . . . Therefore, the study of Black pulpit oratory as well as scholarly treatment of the Black church in general are necessary components of research in African American public discourse” (4).  Works such as William Pipe’s Say Amen, Brother! Old-Time Negro Preaching: A Study in American Frustration (1951/1992) illustrate this fact.  Although religious oratory was important to the Black community, Pipe’s views reflected the stereotypical perceptions of the rhetorical form and black preachers.  Gilyard insists Pipes’s views reflected “acceptance of stereotypes about “primitive” Africans who, restricted to the “jungles of Africa,” lacked opportunities to develop sophistication. Given his perspective, Pipes sees early Black religion as primarily an escapist adaptation to servitude” (5).  Gilyard believed that Pipes did not value the “rebellious” and “multilayered meanings” of the rhetorical form.


Gilyard asserts it was not until the groundbreaking work of Lowell Moseberry, An Historical Study of Negro Oratory in the United States to 1915 (1955), that African American rhetorics is able to move beyond the “cataloging” to the “rhetorical methods” of Black persuasion.  Moseberry argued “that while Black orators used the same degree of induction, deduction, and casual reasoning employed by White rhetors of similar training and educational levels, they made a distinct departure from Anglo-Saxon patterns of oratory in terms of pathetic proof and style (p. 147). Black orators relied on keen invective, humor, and distinct—what Moseberry was willing to call African—brands of rhythmic phrasing” (5-6).


Gilyard identifies groundbreaking moments in African American rhetoric:  “[Marcus] Boulware’s study,  The Oratory of Negro Leaders: 1900-1968 (1969),  is the first major historical treatment of African American rhetoric devoted exclusively to text of the twentieth century. . . . For Boulware, the mission of the Black orator invariably revolved around six goals: (1) to protest grievances, (2) to state complaints, (3) to demand rights, (4) to advocate racial cooperation, (5) to mold racial consciousness, and (6) to stimulate racial pride” (7).  Boulware juxtapose his “mission” against “the century’s six great American presidents—Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kenney, and Lyndon B. Johnson.”  The Boulware study appeared during the time of increased “African American political and cultural expressions” such as “civil rights protests,” “violent civil unrest,” “the Black Power movement,” and increased T.V. representation of blacks all of which was foreign to the dominant community.


Gilyard offers readers a survey of twentieth century African American rhetoricians and prominent texts and studies.  Haig and Hamida Bosmajian’s textbook, The Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement (1969), which was published as a student textbook to allow students to analysis rhetorical strategies.  Robert Scott and Wayne Brockriede’s The Rhetoric of Black Power (1969) “presents civil rights and Black power discourse as integrally connected” (10).  Also present as an examples are Arthur Smith’s Rhetoric of Black Revolution (1969), The Voice of Black Rhetoric (1971), edited with Stephen Robb, Language, Communication, and Rhetoric in Black America (1972), and The Afrocentric Idea (1998).  Smith (a.k.a. Molefi Asante) and Robb’s The Voice of Black Rhetoric “describes the general characteristics of African American rhetoric considered historically” (12).


Noted is Geneva Smitherman’s Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black American (1977/1986).  “Although primarily considered a linguist, Smitherman is perhaps most responsible for popularizing the “Black Modes of Discourse,” vernacular conceptions that are invaluable with respect to rhetorical analysis” (14).  The modes are (1) call-response, a series of spontaneous interactions between speaker and listener; (2) signification, the art of humorous put downs; (3) tonal semantics, the conveying of meanings in Black discourse through specifically ethnic kinds of voice rhythms and vocal inflections; and (4) narrative sequencing, the habitual use of stories to explain and/or persuade.  “Smitherman (1995) alternately conceptualizes an African American Verbal Tradition (AAVT) the encompasses (1) signification, (2) personalization, (3) tonal semantics, and (4) sermonic tone” (15).  For example, Smitherman suggests that AAVT was at play during the Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill incident, and it made Thomas a “more sympathetic figure.”


Gilyard concludes his Aspects of African American Rhetoric as a Field by listing the “significant post-1970s treatments of African American rhetoric include David Howard-Pitney’s The Afro-American Jeremiad: Appeals for Justice in America (1990); Keith Miller’s Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources (1992); Shirley Wilson Logan’s Pen and Voice: A Critical Anthology of Nineteenth-Century African-American Women (1995) and “We Are Coming”: The Persuasive Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Black Women (1999); Bradford Stull’s Amid the Fall, Dreaming of Eden: Du Bois, King, Malcolm X, and Emancipatory Composition (1999); and Jacqueline Jones Royster’s Traces of a Stream: Literary and Social Change among African American Women (2000)” (15).


Keith Gilyard presented an array of African American rhetorical accomplishments, strategies, methods, publications, and cultural style that shows the richness of the rhetoric field.  “. . . Stylin’ is the notion that a speaker has combined rhythm, excitement, and enthusiasm which propel a message and the audience. . . . Improvisation is a stylistic device which is a verbal interplay, and strategic catharsis often resulting from the hostility and frustration of a white-dominated society.  It is spontaneity. . . . Storytelling . . . is often used by a rhetor to arouse epic memory. . . . Lyrical Code is the preservation of the word through a highly codified system of lexicality.  It is the very dynamic lyrical quality which provides youth to the community usage of standard and Black English” (17).   Elaine B. Richardson and Ronald L. Jackson, II’s African American Rhetoric(s) continues the tradition and conversation.


Bacon, Jacqueline. “What If I Am a Woman?: The Rhetoric of African American Female Abolitionists.” The Humblest May Stand Forth. Chapter 5.

October 3, 2007


Jacqueline Bacon outlined the struggles that African American Female Abolitionists experienced when championing the abolishment of slavery in the United States.  Not only does Bacon recognize the dual forces of racism and sexism which are at play against the African American female abolitionist, but she identifies the internal and external, public and private factors that mark the differences of the African American and white female abolitionists’ rhetorical interests as well as the distinctions between the African American male and female abolitionists’ rhetorical approaches for change.  It is through these many balancing acts that the African American female abolitionist embraces and, at times, demands her roles as crusader, mother, sister, and American.


Bacon illustrates the African American female’s antislavery rhetorical approaches by presenting the public and private practices of black women such as Sarah Remond, Barbara Ann Steward, Maria Stewart, Sarah Douglass, Frances Ellen Watkins, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Jacobs, who found avenues of activism through their writing and public addresses.  In addition to challenging the traditional antebellum gendered roles, African American females realized that they were not equal to their “fairer” sisters in the struggle.  While both white and black female abolitionists argued for their right to speak out against slavery in American, their aims and motives were different.


African American females spoke out against slavery with the understanding that black people must help their own though “self-help” practices.  Slavery was not only harmful to the one in bondage but threatened the safety of all free blacks, by hovering like a shadow waiting to take back liberties already fought for and won.  Black female abolitionists demanded the salvation of a people because slaves were no more than disposable cattle.


Even with this realization, Bacon suggested that white females opposed slavery not for its shameful practices against lesser humans and rights but, first, for its harmful representation of southern white women.  The Southern white female’s acceptance of slavery reflected negatively on the white female standard of True Womanhood, a racial and social measurement which African American women never measured up to, causing society to question the African American female’s right to speak and to be heard.  By applying the “muted group theory,” “the Burkeian model,” and the “outsider-within” perspective, Bacon claimed that African American female abolitionists were able to “reshape” the notion of the True Womanhood and their public identities as voices for a people.


Privately, African American female abolitionists received very little support from African American males.  Black male rhetoricians took offense to black females speaking in public, infringing upon the black male’s public identities as the speakers of the race and his social standing and environments.  Furthermore, white men publicly rebuked and questioned the African American abolitionists’ gender, suggesting they were less than women and had more speaking qualities and physical features of men.  Still, the African American female abolitionist gained strength through biblical interpretation and practices, allowing others to evaluate their own actions through higher moral purposes.


From this rhetorical evolutions and standpoints, the African American female abolitionists’ finally applied the notion of the “True Born Americans,” compelling others to question the God-given rights of the individual, as stated by Founding Fathers, and the country’s position on slavery.  No longer was the aim of African Americans to seek acceptance of the larger white populace and to acquire huge financial gains.  African American female abolitionists preached for “colored” community building.  Blacks were no longer asking for equal treatment, but they were demanding equal treatment granted to all American citizens by birthright.  Through rhetorical strategies, Bacon illustrated the maze of language usage and understanding that had to be navigated by the African American female abolitionists, while demanding the immediate end to slavery in the United States.



From Maria Stewart’s farewell address (Boston 1833) as she presents biblical examples of females of action.  She was addressing the “relevance” of biblical practices and “its validation of her public speaking”:


“What if I am a woman; is not the God of ancient times the God of these modern days?  Did he not raise up Deborah, to be a mother, and a judge in Israel [Judg. 4:4]?  Did not queen Esther save the lives of the Jews?  And Mary Magdalene first declare the resurrection of Christ from the dead?  Come, said the woman of Samaria, and see a man that hath told me all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ?” (MWS, 68).