Standpoint Theory in Rhetorical Studies

17 Nov

In an article Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon published in Rhetoric Society Quarterly entitled “Telling the Story Her Own Way”: The Role of Feminist Standpoint Theory in Rhetorical Studies, McClish and Bacon examine how Harding and Wood’s standpoint theory could be utilized in Rhetorical Studies.

“Scholars of rhetoric are necessarily wary of facile claims that certain forms of discourse are inherently more objective or valid than others, but we should take seriously the belief that marginalized voices have revelatory qualities that can effect significant social change. In this sense, feminist stand-point theory helps us to appreciate the corrective force of the discourse of the oppressed and overlooked. In the past, as many have noted, rhetorical studies have unduly emphasized the standpoint of culturally dominant voices. It stands to reason, therefore, that in contemporary scholarship, presumption may favor not the status quo, but those it has traditionally excluded.”

In this portion of the article we can see the authors making a connection of how their field has often and someone mistakenly “emphasized the standpoint of culturally dominant voices.” In doing this, McClish and Bacon explain that due to research being done in this fashion the results favor those in power because that is the lens for which the research has been done. This is a problem seeing as how those that hold power are not of the “status quo” nor do they make up the majority of a population.

In the remaining portion of McClish and Bacon’s article they analyze how standpoint theory must be modified to best fit to frame rhetorical studies. They put their modified theory to work on two pieces of literature, Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Harriet  Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. McClish and Bacon conclude their findings below:

“Furthermore, an expanded view of standpoint theory has allowed us to feature the power of situated knowledge without sacrificing the richness and complexity of the texts themselves. By augmenting the basic theory with an attention to rhetoricity, we can recast the category of experience in terms that allow for the deft persuasive shifts of Austen’s Mrs. Smith and for the verbal manipulation of Harriet Jacobs.”

By using standpoint theory as the basic framework to view their subject through and tweaking it in a way that is useful to their needs, scholars are able to delve further into their research and to find different perspectives of how social class, gender, race, and wealth create the realities around us.



“Telling the Story Her Own Way”: The Role of Feminist Standpoint Theory in Rhetorical Studies. Glen McClish and Jacqueline Bacon. Rhetoric Society Quarterly , Vol. 32, No. 2 (Spring, 2002), pp. 27-55. Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

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