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Abstract

This essay encounters configurations of “woman” in the space of rhetoric and democracy. By “configuration” we mean how a woman is postured and positioned in this space. We deal in ancient Athens recognizing that an ancient conceptual space called rhetoric, an art or techne of civic discourse, is embedded in the contemporary lived space of American civic discourse always constructing the rhetorical figure of woman and continuously under construction. We explore this conceptual space rhetorically, that is, not to articulate the feelings or meanings the space would have had for the ancient Athenians, but rather to articulate how this conceptual space still figures “woman.” The articulation of conceptual and lived spaces is therefore our framework for seeing power relations and exploring communicative relations in terms of gender, sexuality, and citizenry. Drawing from such diverse fields as philosophy, rhetoric, architecture, classics, archeology, mythology, and women’s studies, we theorize space, experiencing it as active, energetic, and productive, rather than as a backdrop, or a scene, or a place in which things happen(ed). Our lived experience of rhetoric and democracy is shaped by the agora, the civic space of ancient Athens. We are struck by the Temple of Hephaestus, which sits above the bouleterion, the place of civic deliberation and persuasion for the ancient Greeks. We experience the domination of “woman,” both in terms of physical space and conceptual space. Our experience of this domination entails an act of seeing (ie. theorizing from the Greek theorien, to see) her capture, trade, domestication, commodification, and silencing in the space of rhetoric and democracy. Moreover, we see, hence we theorize, the ways in which this domination of “woman” is considered necessary to create civilization, hence how this domination came to be celebrated, lucrative, virtuous, ideal, and prized. Our act of seeing exposes how the space of rhetoric and democracy has traditionally dominated “woman,” and in our exposé, we become aware of the wares and ware of civic exchange. We experience this awareness as a limen, a space of intersection where woman can affirm woman.

Note on the Author

Mari Lee Mifsud is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric in the Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies, University of Richmond.

Jane Sutton is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University, York, PA.

Lindsey Fox in an Honors Graduate in Rhetoric and Communication Studies, University of Richmond.

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