Skip to main content
Feminist Criticism of Classical Rhetoric Texts: A Case Study of Gorgias' Helen
Proceedings of the Rhetoric Society of America Conference
  • Susan L. Trollinger, University of Dayton
Document Type
Conference Paper
Publication Date
Despite the diversity of claims feminist scholars of antiquity advance, they share at least one preoccupation: the critique of patriarchy. That is, they challenge "the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women" (Lerner 239) enacted in primary and secondary texts. The particular methods by which they make their critiques of women's subjugation vary as much as their claims, but most can be classified into one of two categories according to their broad interests in woman as a reader or as a writer of classical texts. Using Elaine Showalter's classifications, for example, we can group most of this scholarship under one of two headings: "feminist criticism" or "gynocritics" (128). Essays that concern themselves "with woman as the consumer of male-produced literature, and with the way in which the hypothesis of a female reader changes our apprehension of a given text, awakening us to the significance of sexual codes" (128) could fall under "feminist criticism." On the other hand, studies that pertain to "woman as the producer of textual meaning, with the history, themes, genres, and structures of literature by women" (128) better fit in the category of "gynocriticism." Both types of scholarship help to dismantle patriarchy's hold on us, the former by showing how primary texts produced or perpetuated domination by men, the latter by recovering the significant contributions women made to ancient societies. Yet neither type of criticism suffices to critique patriarchy from within the Western rhetorical tradition.
Inclusive pages
Document Version
Published Version

This document is provided for download with the permission of the publisher. Permission documentation is on file.

Rhetoric Society of America
Place of Publication
Arlington, TX
Peer Reviewed
Citation Information
Susan L. Trollinger. "Feminist Criticism of Classical Rhetoric Texts: A Case Study of Gorgias' Helen" Proceedings of the Rhetoric Society of America Conference (1990)
Available at: