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RAMSEY, Shawn D.

Fall 2012, 42:5, pages 472-489

The Voices of Counsel:  Women and Civic Rhetoric in the Middle Ages

Abstract: Women’s rhetoric in the Middle Ages reflects their participation in the deliberative rhetorical genre inherited from classical antiquity. The deliberative tradition, which was often theorized by medieval rhetoricians as existing in consular practice, can thus serve as an example of women’s rhetoric which, as Christine Mason Sutherland has noted, could take place in sermo. Women’s letters were often hortatory, civic, and sometimes agonistic in tone. These rhetorical artifacts demonstrate that women operated in the rhetorical tradition as eloquent, powerful agents of persuasion in the civic arena, and they also show that, although unmoored from traditional spaces and practices associated with deliberation in antiquity, deliberative rhetoric was a more viable form of rhetoric in the Middle Ages than previously believed.

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