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Transcript of Rhetoric
noun| rhet·o·ric \ˈre-tə-rik\ :
Delivered November 13th, 1913 in Hartford, Connecticut
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Which Aristotelian Genre?
The assumed vs. knowledge
Like enthymemes that rely on shared public opinion and a common culture to make arguments, so do other devices of rhetoric.
Striving for Perfection with Speech
Young Roman Cicero wrote on the five canons - invention, arrangement, style/elocution, memory and delivery - to build a perfect speech. His older self criticized those handbook- techne type ways, and favored a slightly more dialectic rhetorical approach. Pankhurst however includes little room for discussion and disseminates the truth that women deserve political rights.
Modes of Persuasion
Excuse my Neo-Aristotlelian tendencies as I look into how Pankhurst most effectively utilizes narratives, appeals to goodwill and emotion evoking stories.
Introduction to Rhetoric Terms
"Definition of Rhetoric." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, 2015. Web. 4 Apr. 2015.
language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable
-do not analyze information
-follow exact definitions
-leave no room for interpretation
-never use irony or sarcasm
effective ways to employ aforementioned "rhetoric"
Emmeline Pankhurst, a leader of the British women's suffragette movement, delivers this speech to a predominately male crowd in Hartford, Connecticut. She is away from her own country and addresses this within the first paragraph;
"I do not come here as an advocate, because whatever position the suffrage movement may occupy in the United States of America, in England it has passed beyond the realm of advocacy and it has entered into the sphere of practical politics. It has become the subject of revolution and civil war, and so tonight I am not here to advocate woman suffrage. American suffragists can do that very well for themselves."
This is her way of first recognizing the ideological constraints that lie within an American national identity. She is smart to begin by distinguishing herself from the American fight.
(1) rhetorical discourse comes into existence as a response to a situation
Bitzer's "The Rhetorical Situation p.5
Emmeline Pankhurst is speaking in both to favor of women's rights and in response to its opposition. She herself is a British woman speaking to a predominantly male American crowd. Without the issue of women's suffrage, Pankhurst would have no argument to come "into existence".
The problem of Great Britain and the U.S. not allowing the female sex to be full, voting citizens in 1913 is this rhetorical situation's exigence or what brings this discourse into existence.
constraints) made up of persons, events, objects and relations which are parts of the situation because they have the power to constrain decision and action needed to modify the exigence.
Bitzer's "The Rhetorical Situation", p.8
The elements present at the time of this speech that shape how to "modify the exigence" or solve the problem are practical, historical, ideological, etc.
The Rhetorical Situation
Structural constraints could add or subtract from Pankhurst's effectiveness to call the individual audience member to action. On the one hand, a vertically challenged audience member seated behind a 7 foot tall man might be distracted from the message throughout the speech. On the other hand, an audience member seated upfront might make eye contact with Pankhurst during a passionate part of the speech and feel personally obligated to carry out this cause of women's suffrage.
Along with the structural constraints that inhibit or enhance the audience's experience, Bitzer fleshes out the idea of audience. He does this by recognizing the audience's function as being "mediators of change". In this case, the audience- both present on that November day and the second hand consumers- are being called to be the ones who push forward women's rights both in America and Great Britain.
Following an analysis of the rhetorical situation, I will distinguish elements of the speech that give praise or blame, question honor and expedience, and determine justice or truth. These categories by Aristotle aren't rigid but Pankhurst's speech favors the deliberative genre.
This speech appears epideictic as it is given in a very present tense. Pankhurst talks about current events, especially the experience of suffragettes, and casts blame on the British government.
Pankhurst references the past traditions of British citizens and justice many times to show how different procedure is with women's issues. If the speech was in a courtroom setting, it would seem that the British government was on trial for their negligence and mistreatment of their female citizens.
"At any rate in Great Britain it is a custom, a time-honoured one, to ask questions of candidates for parliament and ask questions of members of the government. No man was ever put out of a public meeting for asking a question until Votes for Women came onto the political horizon. The first people who were put out of a political meeting for asking questions, were women; they were brutally ill-used; they found themselves in jail before twenty-four hours had expired."
The given title of this speech " Freedom or Death" exemplifies the idea of a deliberative piece of rhetoric. While Pankhurst jabs at the "should we?" question of women's rights, her argument focuses on honor vs. expediency. Should women politely wait their turn or cause disruptions to get full rights? It was delivered to an assembly of citizens that needed a call to be immediately and fervently dedicated to the fight for women's right to vote. The best example is towards the end of the speech where she says to American men/government that you must kill them (American suffragette's) or "you must give those women the vote". This is such an immediate call that she defends throughout the speech with examples of women's ability to succeed.
The speech does little to appeal to happiness but rather questions the audience's virtues.
In a larger sense, the gravitas with which Pankhurst speaks is her biggest crowd motivator. She isn't bogged down by minutia or her multiple arrests. Instead, she speaks calmly that she will return home "to be arrested as soon as I set my foot on British soil".
This speech isn't too flowery with typically "female emotion" which is a decisive move to show power within the women's movement. She appeals to American pride towards the end of her speech by using "you won your freedom in America when you had the revolution...". The examples of hunger strikes, and the patient vs the impatient baby appeal to a sense of sorrow and concern- especially to the mothers in the crowd. Pankhurst herself effectively uses pathos by not appearing overly emotional herself, but by drawing out passions in her audience.
Pankhurst uses narratives and illustrations throughout her speech, mostly of British conflicts, to call the audience into action. The example of preventing communication between stock brokers in London and Glasgow illustrates the power of women and a confidence that you can put your hope in this movement. She also uses anger, like the Greeks, more than her contemporaries by fully framing the question to be women's rights or death to the dedicated.
Syllogism and Enthymeme
Syllogisms and Enthymemes are arguments set up to contribute to logos. The argument of persistent women either getting the right to vote or dying falls under conditional and disjunctive syllogism.
It plays into "either- or" logic to say that this issue is so pressing you cannot be lukewarm.
It lends the crowd to deny the consequence - to agree that women dying is bad. This softens the logic to say that if you don't want women to die, you want them to be able to vote. It is assumed common opinion that women dying is unacceptable, thus she is able to suggest the premise hat there actually could be a middle ground.
This can be considered as a search and refinement of perfect truth. While contemporaries are skeptical of perfectly justified truth, it could be said that Pankhurst is presenting the inalienable truth to be that women deserve rights like men.
Doxa is the common public opinion. Aristotle was opposed to this idea and considered doxa to be held by careless people with misinformation. Pankhurst would think the doxa here would be thinking women's suffrage does not merit immediate and powerful action. She identifies one type of doxa-holder in the speech excerpt below.
This is where doxa and episteme converge into more rigorous, informed public opinion. Pankhurst appeals to this primarily thorough citing grievances of the British government against women. It can be generally agreed upon that the British government has acted too harshly, especially within an American crowd.
Chronos and Kairos
The practical matters and divine/opportune matters of timing play out in Pankhurst's speech. A fellow British women's rights activist, Emily Davidson, tragically died in June earlier that year by throwing herself at King George V's Carriage to get his support. This wasn't a planned rhetorical strategy but surely it played in the back of the audience's mind when Emmeline spoke of dying for the cause.
The idea of "to prepon" or appropriate content for the time and audience is on the surface ignored stylistically with this speech. Pankhurst shows little decorum but instead stretches "to dynton" or the possible by making the argument of freedom or death.
Emmeline Pankhurst's Freedom or Death
A newspaper clipping about the British Suffragette Hunger Strikes
"I have seen men smile when they heard the words "hunger strike", and yet I think there are very few men today who would be prepared to adopt a "hunger strike" for any cause."
American literary theorist Kenneth Burke describes the ladders of obstruction that lie between the signifier and the signified. Burke famously studied Mein Kampf and published his works half a century after American women's victory for suffrage, but his descriptions of troops and symbols can still be applied to Pankhurst's speech.
"Suppose the men of Hartford had a grievance, and they laid that grievance before their legislature, and the legislature obstinately refused to listen to them, or to remove their grievance, what would be the proper and the constitutional and the practical way of getting their grievance removed?"
comparing two things to help explain one with another more familiar
Pankhurst first uses the extended metaphor of Hartford men being ignored by their government equating that to the struggle women continually face.
Well, in our civil war people have suffered,
but you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs
; you cannot have civil war without damage to something.
My favorite metaphor of the speech:
is considered the substitution of terms for something to be more easily understood. Pankhurst often refers to "the government" when referring to the British legislature - the House of Commons and the House of Lords - that have blocked women's suffrage.
won your freedom in America when you had the revolution, by bloodshed, by sacrificing human life."
By 1913, no one in the crowd personally fought (or certainly died) in the American Revolution. This "you" is intended to unify all Americans to be champions for women's suffrage.
little know what women are."
put us in prison..."
found that it did not quell the agitation..."
"They" is used like "the government" in this speech to encompass law enforcement, government institutions and all opposed to the cause.
Pankhurst stylistically uses pronouns, similarly to metonymy and syncedoche, to appeal to and unite the audience.
were called militant..."
entirely prevented stockbrokers in London from telegraphing to stockbrokers in Glasgow...".
learned of some of the appalling evils of our so-called civilisation that we could not have learned in any other way...".
have brought the government of England to this position...".
"That is the way in which
women of England are doing."
win it, this hardest of all fights...".
In this speech, "
" is a strategic unifier. First, Pankhurst uses we to name all of the British suffragettes that have been fighting for the cause with her. Then, without having to be explicit, the
grows. It isn't just her supporters, or British women, we becomes all of those who support winning the "hardest of all fights". This is a great strategy to show the unity of her own immediate people that will grow into an international community pushing forward together.
"If we win it, this hardest of all fights, then, to be sure, in the future it is going to be made easier for women all over the world to win their fight when their time comes."
Pankhurst concludes hopefully with gravitas to deliberately show that the fight will not merely be over once those present in the audience agree with her. She saw the day when both British and American women were granted full citizen rights but couldn't have known the ripple effect her words would create on that November day in Hartford. Pankhurst's "Freedom or Death" spread through circulations at the time and continues to reach an unintentional audience through press. While the speech was not recorded via video, the words can be memorialized alongside the early 20th century photographs to continue to reach women fighting for their rights. Suffrage was certainly not a cure-all for gendered problems. In 2012, Emmeline Pankhurst's own great-grand-daughter was urging British Members of Parliment to "feminism at the heart of politics" once more.