The Feminist Glance on Aspasia

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Due to a lack of primary source information in relation to the abundance of secondary source material regarding Aspasia and her influence within rhetorical history, tackling the question concerning the amount of influence she held is difficult and, therefore, tackling the question of whether or not her influence was gender-related is more challenging. When grappling with the latter, a significant amount of feminist scholars provide a pool of information, as they see it, to draw from. Scholars like Cheryl Glenn and Madeleine M. Henry share opinions that Aspasia’s individual identity within and influence on the masculine dominated traditions such as rhetoric and philosophy are important to pick out regardless of the fact that her ‘voice’ is completely accounted for by secondary source information. Of course, the problem centering on wading through the scholarly texts concerning Aspasia is the inability to stray away from bias when dealing with subjective scholars analyzing ancient secondary texts, whose authors were not objective, themselves. With this being said, both the writings of recent feminist scholars and of ancient rhetoricians and philosophers cannot omit the fact that Aspasia was a foreign woman, a quality that becomes important here (Jarratt 392); however, because of the absence of primary source information directly from Aspasia, “[her] voice is muted, for she only speaks through men” (Glenn 193). Here, I will explore the notion of foreign status and gender role through the portrayal of Plato’s Menexenus, Cicero’s De Inventione, and more recent scholarly work in order to reveal the effects of a male dominated intellectual society on a woman’s intellectual voice within the rhetorical tradition. Aspasia’s influence on th... ... middle of paper ... ...cia Bizzell & Bruce Herzberg. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. 64A-B. Print. Glenn, Cheryl. “Review of Prisoner of History: Aspasia of Miletus and Her Biographical Tradition by Madeleine M. Henry.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly. Vol. 27. Taylor & Francis, Ltd., 1997. 84-86. Jstor. Web. Glenn, Cheryl. “Sex, Lies, and Manuscript: Refiguring Aspasia in the History of Rhetoric.” College Composition and Communication. Vol. 45. 2nd ed. National Council of Teachers of English, 1994. 180-199. Jstor. Web. Jarratt, Susan C. “Rhetoric and Feminism: Together Again.” College English. Vol. 62. 3rd ed. National Council of Teachers of English, 2000. 390-393. Jstor. Web. Plato. Menexenus. The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present. 2nd ed. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. Ed. Patricia Bizzell & Bruce Herzberg. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2001. 60A-63B. Print.

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