Grad School: Virtue According to Aristotle

I have grown increasingly interested in the portrayal of women in rhetoric and the gender specific definition of “virtue” by classical rhetorician Aristotle. After exploring Aristotle’s thoughts of a virtuous man, I will further connect two of de Pizan’s texts in order to document the shift in female rhetoric and its depiction of a “virtuous woman” and some scholarly articles.

It can be said that a “virtuous person,” within the 21st century, renders a genderless appeal relating to all equally. Virtue, according to the dictionary, comes from the Latin word “vir” meaning “man” and virtus meaning “valor, merit, and moral perfection” (dictionary.com). During the middle ages, the French word vertu evolved into what is known today as virtue linked to “good moral behavior.” For women, the dictionary defines the archaic word virtue to mean “virginity or chastity, especially of a woman” (dictionary.com). To be Virtuous means “having or showing high moral standards” (dictionary.com). On my quest to find “virtuous women” within the rhetoric discourse, I realized that “virtue” is never quite defined for a woman, but only for a man. In order to fully understand the negation of “virtuous women” in rhetoric, we must first define “virtue” in Aristotle’s text Rhetoric. Furthermore, Politics by Aristotle lays a foundational stance of a woman in a man’s domain.

In my pursuit to define “virtue” for women in rhetoric, I quickly recognized that there is a gap between Classical Rhetoric and Medieval Rhetoric. Many orators believed that speaking well coincided with a virtuous person, but never included women among this category. It is now well known that women were seen as obsolete and never allowed to speak publically. Aristotle in Rhetoric does, however, state that “virtue is, according to the usual view, a faculty of providing and preserving good things; or a faculty of conferring many great benefits, and benefits of all kinds on all occasions [1366b]” (Bizzel and Hertzberg, “Rhetoric” 197). According to Aristotle, virtue is “justice, courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, liberality, gentleness, prudence, wisdom” (Bizzell and Herzberg, “Rhetoric” 197). He also states virtue must somehow be noble therefore linking the two. Courageous men, or to have courage is the very thing that “disposes men to do noble deeds in situations of danger” all while still abiding with the law ( Bizzel and Herzberg, “Rhetoric” 197). “Virtue”, by this definition, is something only accomplished by men because it is believed women were weak and of ill power. Continue reading

Grad School: Rhetoric from Gorgias to Scudery

Hello and welcome to Mrs. Lady Renaissance. Last quarter I took a classical rhetoric course that worked its way from Gorgias through Scudery. My university works through the quarter system not the semester system, therefore giving students a very limited 3 months to learn everything necessary in a short condensed time. My professor decided to select certain rhetoricians she felt were crucial, although she did wish she could add a few others like Quintilian. I made it through the quarter, although difficult, with a lot of notes. I am uploading these very light weight, super compact lists of notes for each rhetorician. They may not only help you if you want a very superficial understanding of certain rhetoricians, but they help me as I will be gathering my information to prepare for the comp exam to, fingers crossed, graduate in the Spring.

Please note that these notes are not intended to replace your own studying nor are they a representation of understanding everything there is to know about these rhetoricians, but much rather a way to briefly introduce the rhetorician on a very superficial level.

Continue reading