Dissertation Overview


In the last two decades, scholars in rhetoric and writing studies have been calling for a greater representation of male and female voices to represent rhetorical practices from other cultures. Claiming the Discursive Self: The Rhetoric of Mexican Women Journalists, 1876-1924 presents women rhetors who were participating in creating a national identity and constructing that identity to insure women’s participation in the politics of the time. It closely examines the rhetorical strategies they employed to claim a discursive identity and provides a rhetorical analysis, positing a strong historical, cultural, political and feminist impact of their writings at that time.

Chapter 1

Framed in a rhetorical historiographic methodology, each chapter foregrounds women’s writings through a feminist theoretical lens against those of the dominant discourse of the time. The first chapter examines Laureana Wright de Kleinhans (1846-1896), Hermila Galindo (1885-1954), and Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza (1875-1942). Through their writings, these Mexican women journalists wrote in order to contribute to a national identity situated in Indigenous, Mexican, and European sensibilities, which resisted any one dominate discourse; and second, they wrote to counter the century’s long repression of women’s voices. The two directions in the women’s discourse created a mestiza rhetoric.

A mestiza rhetoric is a discourse that emerges from a cultural background that recognizes its multiple subjectivities, adapts ideas and logics from various cultures, and “creates a symbolic space beyond the mere coming together of two halves” (Baca 5). Mestiza discourse can represent this symbolic space by calling on indigenous cultural symbols, but my perception of mestiza rhetoric does not necessarily depend upon the explicit discursive recognition of indigenous roots. It represents an intertextuality of cultures and ideas while resisting assimilation to a linear articulation of logic, thereby resulting in divergent, subversive texts. Mestiza rhetoric emerges from a place of suspension between cultural worlds, a mestiza consciousness, which does not necessarily mean that the writer considers herself to be from an indigenous background, but that she is able to conceptualize a different reality of herself and her behavior, making for an ontological shift.

Chapter 2

Continuing in each chapter with the theme and theoretical lens of mestiza rhetoric, chapter two, “La Hija del Anáhuac: The Rhetoric of Laureana Wright de Kleinhans,” examines this writer’s early attempts to expand female discursive spaces with an 1887-1888 publication of one of the first feminine journals, Violetas de Anáhuac. As a Mexican female writer, Wright de Kleinhans has been over looked by scholars both in Latin America and the United States. Her corpus of work is sufficient for a dissertation, but my chapter provides a first glimpse into her work and its significance in history, journalism, and literature during her time.

Chapter 3

“Recovering Lost Rhetorics: Las Mujeres de Zitácuaro as early Revolutionary Rhetors,” examines a single document, a rare feminist manifesto from 1900, which marks the separation between women writing for reform, such as Wright de Kleinhans, and those writing from a revolutionary perspective, such as Juana Belén Gutiérrez. In order to persuade their audience of the importance of keeping the powers of the Catholic Church aligned with the Reform Laws, this early group of women activists, las mujeres de Zitácuaro, used various rhetorical structures, such as the manifesto, the plan, el grito, or the battle cry, which were, and still are today, culturally embedded in the Mexican tradition. This chapter explores the significance of the group’s writings as breaking rhetorical barriers for women at the beginning of the precursor Revolutionary era.

Chapter 4

Now in the midst of the one hundred anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, this next figure, Juana Belén Gutierrez de Mendoza, becomes especially significant historically and rhetorically. Chapters four and five focus on Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza, the first Mexican woman to publish a protest newspaper, speak powerfully on gender and revolutionary politics, and whose writing career spanned nearly thirty years. Chapter four, “Hemos venido ha ocupar nuestro puesto: Juana Belén Gutiérrez de Mendoza’s Sophistic Rhetoric in the Mexican Revolutionary Precursor Movement” explores her early writings up to 1910. As with Wright de Kleinhans’s writings, Gutiérrez de Mendoza’s writings have also been over-looked by scholars. Her brash discursive, feminist, and indigenous activism may have claimed a discursive space and identity for Mexican women, but at the same time, it may have caused conservative historians to ignore her work.

Chapter 5

The fifth and final chapter, “Materiality of Discourse: The Embodiment of Juana Belén’s Revolutionary Rhetoric,” will investigate Gutiérrez de Mendoza’s writing, and how it intersected with her every day reality of being a woman journalist in Mexico prior to and after the Revolution. This chapter compares her to the Grecian Cynics, the outcasts of the Athenian society who were forced to take drastic measures in order to be heard, and ends with looking at her historic rhetorical confrontation of the great Mexican modernist and philosopher of the time, José Vasconselos. The scope and sequence of this dissertation will provide depth to the understanding of late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Mexican rhetoric, while demonstrating that women were not static individuals in rhetorical history, but strategically projected their voices in an intellectual conversation on identity creation within a changing world.

Pictures

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Durango, Mexico Archives
Durango, Mexico Archives

The Benson Latin American Collection - one of the largest holdings of Latin American materials
The Benson Latin American Collection - one of the largest holdings of Latin American materials

One wing of the Benson
One wing of the Benson

Doing the research
Doing the research

Presidente Madero
Presidente Madero

1913 - The middle of the Revolution
1913 - The middle of the Revolution

This mural in Durango reminds me of Juana Belén´s childhood when she followed her father to his work and where she was exposed to the difficulties of the indigenous people
This mural in Durango reminds me of Juana Belén´s childhood when she followed her father to his work and where she was exposed to the difficulties of the indigenous people