Women's Rhetorical Agency in the American West: The New Penelope
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This essay theorizes women's rhetorical agency in the nineteenth-century American West. Contrast between fluid gender norms in frontier life and the Cult of True Womanhood highlights how agency is confined by materiality. Agency is the capacity to recognize and act in moments when material structures are vulnerable to resignification. I offer an analysis of Frances Fuller Victor's novella The New Penelope to demonstrate how pioneer women writers reinvented womanhood in light of socioeconomic changes.
This paper was nominated for the ORWAC Feminist Scholarship Award.
Casey R. Kelly. "Women's Rhetorical Agency in the American West: The New Penelope" Women's Studies in Communication 32.2 (2009): 203-231.