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Rhetorical Listening

Rhetorical Listening

Identification, Gender, Whiteness

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Krista Ratcliffe


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
6 x 9

Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms


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About the Book

Winner, Rhetorical Society of America Book Award, 2007
Winner, CCCC Outstanding Book Award, 2007
Winner, Gary A. Olson Award for Rhetoric and Cultural Studies, 2006

Extending the feminist rhetorical project to define and model rhetorical listening

Long-ignored within rhetoric and composition studies, listening has returned to the disciplinary radar. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness argues that rhetorical listening facilitates conscious identifications needed for cross-cultural communication.

Krista Ratcliffe establishes eavesdropping, listening metonymically, and listening pedagogically as approaches to rhetorical listening. She defines and models rhetorical listening, addressing identifications with gender and whiteness within public debates, scholarship, and pedagogy. Offering an approach grounded in classical rhetorical theory, Heideggerian theory, feminist theory, and critical race theory, Ratcliffe presents rhetorical listening as an invention tactic that engages spoken and written texts and supplements reading, writing, speaking, and silence as a rhetorical art.

Theorizing intersections of gender and whiteness, Rhetorical Listening examines how whiteness functions as an "invisible" racial category and provides disciplinary and cultural reasons for the displacement of listening and for the use of rhetorical listening as a code of cross-cultural conduct. Ratcliffe presents rhetorical listening in terms of cultural logics, stances, and dominant interpretive tropes. She highlights the modern identification theory of Kenneth Burke and the postmodern identification and disidentification theory of Diana Fuss and presents nonidentification as a more productive site for rhetorical listening.


Krista Ratciffe is a professor and chair of English at Arizona State University. The author of Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions: Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, and Adrienne Rich and co-editor of Rhetorics of Whiteness and Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Artsshe has written numerous articles and chapters on feminism and rhetoric . Rhetorical Listening won three outstanding book awards from CCCC, RSA, and JAC.


Krista Ratcliffe’s Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness is a work of tremendous impact for composition, communication, and rhetorical studies, not only for the ways it calls attention to the importance of listening as an area of scholarship, but for the ways it extends Kenneth Burke’s theory of identification in order to help bridge the difficult space between cross-cultural communication.”—Steven M. PedersenKB Journal: The Journal of the Kenneth Burke Society
 “Hers is a lofty project but also one, as [Ratcliffe] correctly argues, that contributes to rhetorical literature, which has long overlooked listening in favor of theoretical approaches to the written and spoken word (19). Indeed, the book convincingly argues that rhetorical listening would affect the lives of citizens, scholars, and teachers if only we took it more seriously. As a theoretically strong and pedagogically useful work, this book is an asset for scholars and teachers concerned with the interplay of gender, whiteness, and agency.”—Kristen McCauliffRhetoric & Public Affairs
“Not only does [Ratcliffe] perform the feminist act of recovering the neglected fourth literacy of listening, but also she takes a hard look at race in feminist rhetoric and posits rhetorical listening as a possible way for black and white women to work their way through, around, or past the impasse that has stalled productive dialogue between the two groups for decades. This book gives white women readers a means of doing our own race work, rather than putting that burden on black women, as Ratcliffe carefully and respectfully avoids.”—Amy S. GeraldComposition Studies
“Ratcliffe’s book on rhetorical listening offers insights about the value and possibilities for listening through identifications, disidentifications and non-identification. Ratcliffe’s primary examples of listening in public debate, scholarly discourse, and pedagogy are of particular interest to argumentation scholars. Given the number of controversial issues related to race and gender in contemporary U.S. American culture, Rhetorical Listening is also important for discussing race- and gender-based topics.”—Stacey K. Sowards and David HoffmanArgumentation and Advocacy
 “Well-grounded in theory, Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness offers an easily accessible view of listening as a rhetorical concept and makes a provocative case for the need to bring critical attention to the area. I applaud Ratcliffe, not only for taking on this complex task, but doing so so thoughtfully.”—Jacqueline Jones Royster, author of Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change among African American Women
“In making her case for rhetorical listening, Ratcliffe proposes that listening and reading should be valued equally in writing scholarship because listening may serve as a means of interpretive invention. In other words, Ratcliffe operates from the premise that all language is a trope, meaning it serves as a metaphor or signifier of whatever its words represent; therefore, she posits that rhetorical listening functions as an approach for making meaning in communication.”—Andéa Davis, Journal of Business and Technical Communication