Liberal Studies professor authors book on women rhetors

Dec 16, 2004

Kettering Assistant Professor Lindal Buchanan of the Liberal Studies Dept. recently authored a scholarly book on the delivery and rhetorical strategies of pioneering American women.

Liberal Studies professor authors book on women rhetors Kettering Assistant Professor Lindal Buchanan of the Liberal Studies Dept. recently authored a scholarly book on the delivery and rhetorical strategies of pioneering American women.

The book, titled "Regendering Delivery: The Fifth Canon and Antebellum Women Rhetors," theorizes how gender impacts the delivery of messages by examining the elocutionary education and oratorical practices of American women during what is called the antebellum period (roughly 1820-1860). Her work examines the impact of gender issues on the fifth canon, which addressed a speaker's use of voice, gesture and expression on public platforms.

According to Buchanan, "Antebellum women faced very different issues than men when speaking publicly. They had to convince the audience of their femininity each time they left home and entered what were then considered to be "masculine" public spaces to debate, lecture, or preach. To do so, they developed innovative (and gendered) strategies of presentation."

Buchanan said that some pioneering women educators and philanthropists, for example, routinely lobbied politicians to obtain funding for their schools and projects. However, since they couldn't directly access state capitols or discuss political issues, antebellum women developed a style of delivery that cloaked the fact that they were attempting to influence legislators and public affairs. They often invited politicians to meet with them in private "feminine" spaces (like homes) rather than public "masculine" ones and used conversation rather than oratory to express themselves, acceptable settings and forms of communication for women. When a woman absolutely had to address an audience in public, she might ask a man to deliver her speech for her, and then sit silently and demurely on stage beside him. The male speaker thus acted as a medium for the silent woman's message or, to use an analogy from ventriloquism, as the dummy to her master puppeteer. Through the assistance of a man, the woman would be able to express her views publicly while also presenting herself as a "womanly" woman. Issues of gender and delivery are at the center of Buchanan's book, which will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in the fall of 2005.

Perhaps to the general reader this is difficult information to comprehend, but in practical terms her research on this book establishes a direct tie to her teaching of Communication 101: Written and Oral Communication I and Communication 301: Written and Oral Communication II at Kettering. These classes cover basic and advance theories, approaches and practical case study examinations to the writing and presenting of information in business and technical corporate environments into which students will graduate. She hopes to integrate her research more fully into her classes as the Department of Liberal Studies begins offering students additional junior-level courses on persuasion and public speaking.

Since coming to Kettering, she feels she has learned a great deal about the institution. But, she added, "I'm still gaining a feel for students and learning the Kettering system, which is unlike any other school I've experienced. We have a great student body-very intelligent, motivated students-and the departmental support for faculty research is very generous. These things, along with the down-to-earth people who work here, made my decision to come to Kettering much easier."

Buchanan grew up overseas, but formerly resided in Louisiana. She came to Kettering in July 2003 and has previously taught at two universities in Louisiana, Nicholls State University and the University of Louisiana. She holds a Ph.D. in English with a concentration in Rhetoric from the University of Louisiana. Earlier this year, she co-authored "The Liberal Studies Writing Guide" with her Kettering colleague, Dr. Denise Stodola, an assistant professor of Communications in the Liberal Studies Dept. This writing guide covers the elements students must learn to be successful at writing academically and communicating in the professions as both cooperative education students and as future professionals.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
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