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Women's Irony

Women's Irony

Rewriting Feminist Rhetorical Histories

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Tarez Samra Graban


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
8 illustrations

Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms


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About the Book

In Women’s Irony: Rewriting Feminist Rhetorical Histories, author Tarez Samra Graban synthesizes three decades of feminist scholarship in rhetoric, linguistics, and philosophy to present irony as a critical paradigm for feminist rhetorical historiography that is not linked to humor, lying, or intention. Using irony as a form of ideological disruption, this innovative approach allows scholars to challenge simplistic narratives of who harmed, and who was harmed, throughout rhetorical history.

Three case studies of women’s political discourse between 1600 and 1900—examining the work of Anne Askew, Anne Hutchinson, and Helen M. Gougar—demonstrate how reading historical texts ironically complicates the theoretical relationships between women and agency, language and history, and archival location and memory. Interwoven throughout are shorter case studies from twentieth-century performances, revealing irony’s consciousness-raising potential for the present and the future.

Ultimately, Women’s Irony suggests alternative ways to question women’s histories and consider how contemporary feminist discourse might be better historicized. Graban challenges critical methods in rhetoric, asking scholars in rhetoric and its related disciplines—composition, communication, and English studies—to rethink how they produce historical knowledge and use archives to recover women’s performances in political situations.


Tarez Samra Graban is an assistant professor of English at Florida State University and a coauthor of GenAdmin: Theorizing WPA Identities in the Twenty-First Century. Her essays on feminist rhetorical historiography and archival theory have been published in the journals Rhetorica, Gender and Language, College English and in the edited collections Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition, and Rhetoric and the Digital Humanities.


“Employing apt historical examples, Tarez Samra Graban fully engages her readers with various iterations of irony—revealing the means by which irony connects speakers and writers with historians of their work, transforms our understanding of the archive, and exposes the complexity and creativity of many types of public discourse. Graban’s is the first study to employ history and theory to focus on how irony might shape an influential text and how it might influence readers of different time periods.”—Katherine H. Adams, Loyola University New Orleans

"Graban’s book enriches feminist historiography in several significant ways. Her focus on irony as a critical paradigm opens up a new path for scholarly inquiry—one that encourages less recovery for recovery’s sake and more thoughtful, critical historicizing of women’s participation in rhetoric. She provides a firm grounding of where her work fits into the existing history of both women’s irony and feminist rhetorical histories. These are all vast areas of scholarship, yet Graban, for the most part, deftly maneuvers among complex concepts and strands of archival evidence." —Rhetoric Review, Kristen Ruccio