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Rethinking Ethos

Rethinking Ethos

A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric

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Edited by Kathleen J. Ryan, Nancy Myers, and Rebecca Jones


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
8 illustrations

Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms


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About the Book

Labels traditionally ascribed to women—mother, angel of the house, whore, or bitch—suggest character traits that do not encompass the complexities of women’s identities or empower women’s public speaking. Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric redefines the concept of ethos—classically thought of as character or credibility—as ecological and feminist, negotiated and renegotiated, and implicated in shifting power dynamics. Building on previous feminist and rhetorical scholarship, this essay collection presents a sustained discussion of the unique methods by which women’s ethos is constructed and transformed.

Editors Kathleen J. Ryan, Nancy Myers, and Rebecca Jones identify three rhetorical maneuvers that characterize ethos in the feminist ecological imaginary: ethe as interruption/interrupting, ethe as advocacy/advocating, and ethe as relation/relating. Each section of the book explores one of these rhetorical maneuvers. An afterword gathers contributors’ thoughts on the collection’s potential impact and influence, possibilities for future scholarship, and the future of feminist rhetorical studies.

With its rich mix of historical examples and contemporary case studies, Rethinking Ethos offers a range of new perspectives, including queer theory, transnational approaches, radical feminism, Chicana feminism, and indigenous points of view, from which to consider a feminist approach to ethos. 


Kathleen J. Ryan is an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition and the coordinator of the writing major at Montana State University. She is a coeditor of Walking and Talking Feminist Rhetorics: Landmark Essays and Controversies and a coauthor of GenAdmin: Theorizing WPA Identities in the Twenty-First Century.

Nancy Myers is an associate professor of English and the director of college writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a coeditor of The Writing Teacher’s Sourcebook, fourth edition.

Rebecca Jones is a UC Foundation associate professor in the English department at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her coauthored article, “Counter-Coulter: A Story of Craft and Ethos,” originally published in Writing on the Edge, is featured in Parlor Press’s The Best of the Independent Rhetoric and Composition Journals 2013.  

Contributors include Risa Applegarth, Sean Barnette, Paige A. Conley, Beth Daniell, Kristie S. Fleckenstein, Lynée Lewis Gaillet, Letizia Guglielmo, Wendy S. Hesford, Kendall Leon, Valerie Palmer-Mehta, Mary Beth Pennington, Stacey Pigg, Stacey Waite, and Christy I. Wenger.


"Ryan, Myers, and Jones put together a collection of essays that speaks to feminist theorists, writers, and educators and encourages them to think, collaborate, and teach in ways that acknowledge the ecological nature of ethos. The fluidity and self-reflectivity allowed in this approach to ethos grants space for responsible academic spaces. However, the power of this collection may be even greater than its academic implications. In a time marked by political division and ineffective communication, this group of essays provides a lens through which to imagine interruption and advocacy as methods that create relationships rather than divisions."—Brittany Knutson, Rhetoric & Public Affairs

“This important collection contributes to new theories of ethos as a fluid, negotiated, place-based concept, illustrating how ethos can and does shift according to the rhetors involved, the exigency, and the time, place, and occasion of speaking or writing. Contributors to the volume include a range of established and emerging scholars who together present important new theories and case studies of feminist ethos.”—Gesa Kirsch, coauthor of Feminist Rhetorical Practices: New Horizons for Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy Studies

 “Rethinking Ethos enacts its theoretical foundation brilliantly and seamlessly: this collection interrupts stale and static notions of what constitutes ethos, it advocates for a capacious yet rigorous definition of feminist ethe, and it relates not only to our scholarship but also to our teaching, professional, and personal lives.”—Kate J. Ronald, Miami University

"This edited collection brings together a variety of important lines of inquiry, reaffirming the centrality of ethos to rhetorical study and its importance especially for women and other marginalized groups. Readers interested in questions of gender and ethos will not be disappointed with the robust analysis, challenging questions posed for our teaching practices, and untapped potential of alternative research methodologies. This book’s insights suggest exciting future research into women, ethos, and ecology. This research will be important for not only feminist rhetorical studies but rhetorical studies generally, for Rethinking Ethos shows, as its subtitle suggests, how rhetoric “goes green.” —Timothy Ballingall, Rhetoric Review