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Ross Bradley

Theorist Profile
Composition Theory
Dr. Brian Ray
Krista Ratcliffe

Krista Ratcliffe is currently a professor and department chair in the Department

of English at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She received her Ph.D. from
Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, her M.A and Bachelor of Arts in English from
Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. She was previously the chair of English at
Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ratcliffe has also served as president of
the Rhetoric Society of America from 2012 to 2013, president of the Coalition of Women
Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition from 2000 to 2002, and has been a
member of several professional organizations such as the Modern Language
Association and the Conference on College Composition. She has worked primarily on
feminist theory, critical race studies, and the intersections of rhetoric ("Krista Ratcliffe //
Purdue College of Liberal Arts").
Krista Ratcliffes work has been primarily on gender and race and how they
intersect with rhetoric. In Whiteness Studies, Krista Ratcliffe, Tammie M. Kennedy,
and Joyce Irene Middleton invited individuals to contribute position papers to give a brief
overview of why whiteness studies should be included in rhetoric and composition
studies (Whiteness Studies 360). Whiteness studies focuses on the social construction
of whiteness. Gregory Jay of the University of Wisconsin in Introduction to Whiteness

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Studies states, whiteness studies is an attempt to think critically about how white skin
preference has operated systematically, structurally, and sometimes unconsciously as a
dominant force in American - and indeed in global - society and culture (Jay). Ratcliffe
often couples critical race studies with gender. In Anglo American Feminist Challenges
to the Rhetorical Traditions:

Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich, argues that even

though men and women have different relationships to language, traditional rhetoric
does not explore these gender differences (Anglo American Feminist Challenges to the
Rhetorical Traditions:

Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich). Whiteness studies

along with gender are unifying features of Ratcliffes work. And, through her work she
often advocates and argues that we should pay attention to gender and race not only in
rhetoric, but in how language is used.
Ratcliffes most prominent contribution to rhetoric and composition as a field has
been her work on rhetorical listening. Her book Rhetorical Listening: Identification,

Gender, Whiteness (Studies in Rhetorics and Feminisms) has won three national
awards. Rhetorical listening theory is mostly based in identity, but Ratcliffe also applies
it to persuasion and how the audience or other individuals identify and connect with the
selection of words and phrases of the rhetor. In "Rhetorical Listening: A Trope for
Interpretive Invention and a Code of Cross-Cultural Conduct" by Ratcliffe writes on
rhetorical listening:
I want to suggest that rhetorical listening may be imagined, generally, as
a trope for interpretive invention, one on equal footing with the tropes of
reading and writing and speaking. Although rhetorical listening may be

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employed to hear discursive intersections of any cultural categories (age

and class, nationality and history, religion and politics) and any cultural
positions (child and parent, patient and doctor, clergy and parishioner,
teacher and student) (see Pradl 67-72, my particular interest lies in how it
may help us to hear discursive intersection of gender and race/ethnicity
(including whiteness) so as to help us to facilitate cross-cultural dialogues
about any topics ("Rhetorical Listening: A Trope for Interpretive Invention
and a Code of Cross-Cultural Conduct" 196).
In more practical terms, rhetorical listening may help listeners negotiate troubled
identification with gender and whiteness in public debates, scholarly research, and
classroom pedagogy (Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness xii).
Rhetorical listening is built on Kenneth Burkes rhetorical theory. Ratcliffe draws
on Burke in A Rhetoric of Motives where he argues that all language use has a
persuasive function (1). She is specifically offering a critique of Burkes theory of
identification. Dennis G. Day in Persuasion and the Concept of Identification
summarizes Burkes theory and writes, the speaker, by using linguistic strategies
which give signs to his hearers that his properties are similar to or identical with their
properties, achieves identification or consubstantiality and therefore by achieves
persuasion (Day 272). It is out of identity that rhetorical listening becomes persuasive.
Rhetorical listening can be broken into two parts or threads as Ratcliffe calls
them. The first thread is erasing differences or non-identification (Rhetorical Listening:
Identification, Gender, Whiteness 72). Ratcliffe applies erasing differences to gender by

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showing that when do not acknowledge the intersection of race and gender by not
acknowledging race at all, but acknowledge gender as a way of unifying the individuals
within that gender for example women, we do not fully identify with the individual. We
must not only acknowledge the commonalities between individuals like all women share
the same gender, but we must also acknowledge that women from different races have
different backgrounds. We can apply rhetorical listening by acknowledging these racial,
cultural, age, and ethnic differences. And, therefore show that we understand the
identity of the individual, which shows the individual we are listening and the individual
will in return, listen to our language. If we erase these differences as rhetors, the
individual may not listen to us no matter how important or relevant our message is to the
individual (Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness 2).
The second thread is erasing commonalities. Erasing commonalities is the exact
opposite erasing differences. Erasing commonalities is when erase a cultural, racial,
ethnic, or gender similarity among individuals. For example, if I use the phrase all black
women in my message about the wage gap to a group of women with multiple racial
and ethnic identities, I may exclude women who are not black. Yes, I have said women,
but by emphasizing the racial identity over the shared commonality of women and the
issue of the gender wage gap. I have erased commonality between individuals in the
group. These are both simple examples of a complex intersection of race, culture,
gender, and age social categories. All of these social categories are extremely complex
and their intersections show they connect to one another in an even more complex way.
What Ratcliffe attempts to do with rhetorical listening is get the rhetor to understand how

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acknowledging and listening to these complex cultural intersections affect how the
message is interpreted and identified by the audience (Rhetorical Listening:
Identification, Gender, Whiteness 2). She sums up rhetorical listening as difficult even
when we are willing to listen and writes to recognize the partiality of our visions and
listen for that-which-cannot-be-seen, even if it cannot yet be heard (73).
Krista Ratcliffe has worked with Cheryl Glenn to expand rhetorical listening to
create incorporate concept of rhetorical silence, which is a theory by Glenn. Cheryl
Glenn had worked on rhetorical silence previously and in Silence: A Rhetorical Art for
Resisting Discipline(s) she writes, The question is not whether speech or silence is
more productive, more effective, more appropriate; rather, it is one of a rhetoricity of
purposeful silence when it is self-selected or when it is imposed (Glenn 263). Together
Ratcliffe and Glenn wrote Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts. They preface their
work with the positive features of silence and listening have been only briefly
mentioned or subtly implied-if not completely ignored (Glenn and Ratcliffe 1). In this
book, Ratcliffe and Glenn offer a historical overview of silence and listening beginning
with ancient Greece all the way up to the twentieth century America. Maureen Daly
Goggin of Arizona State University praises the book and writes, Together, the essays
in Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Acts offer a rich and robust examination of the
histories, theories, and practices of silence and listening across time and place (Daly
Goggin 426).
Krista Ratcliffes work on rhetorical listening has been praised by others. Steven
M. Pedersen of Oklahoma State University reviewed Ratcliffes book Rhetorical

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Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. He praised it for the way she extends
Kenneth Burkes theories of rhetoric and how it might foster and increase
cross-cultural communication in a number of different contexts (Pedersen). Specifically,
he states, in fostering conscious identifications, brought about through acts of
rhetorical listening that are cognizant of the interplay between disidentifications and
non-identifications, Ratcliffe brings to the forefront research that holds great theoretical
and pedagogical potential (Pedersen). Amy Gerald from Winthrop University also
praises Ratcliffes book Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. She
writes on Ratcliffe, not only does she perform the feminist act of recovering the
neglected fourth literacy of listening, but also she takes a hard look at race in a feminist
rhetoric and posits rhetorical listening as 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 (Garland 142). Garland continues by stating [by]
emphasizing the need for us to shift our attention to [and attend to] to the gaps in
understanding, the margins between things we know, the blurred edges, and the
uncomfortable places in cross-cultural discourse and teaching (143). Ratcliffes work
has been praised by many other scholars in the field. It has also been used to develop
the work of others.
Rhetorical listening has been used applied by other scholars in the field. Julie
Jung in Revisionary, Rhetoric, Feminist Pedagogy, and Multigenre Texts writes on the
relationship between Rogerian rhetoric and rhetorical listening (Glenn and Ratcliffe 8).
Jung addresses revision in the composition classroom and calls for delayed

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convergence, which she says allows rhetorical listening (Hobbs 90). In Refiguring
Rhetorical Education, Jessica Enoch argues rhetorical listening is regularly overlooked
and calls for it to be a vital component of rhetorical education (Glenn and Ratcliffe 7)
In the composition pedagogy, rhetorical listening and Ratcliffes work can be
used and applied in a variety of ways. Krista Ratcliffe, being a composition professor
herself, has often applied her work to composition pedagogy. In "The Current State of
Composition Scholar/Teachers: Is Rhetoric Gone or Just Hiding Out?", Ratcliffe argues
not only for rhetoric to still be taught in composition classrooms, but she also argues
that other often overlooked rhetorical theories should be taught as well. She states
when talking about reshaping rhetoric work, opening ourselves to other theories
(feminist theories, critical race theories, cultural theories, economic theories etc.)
engenders productive enterprises ("The Current State of Composition
Scholar/Teachers: Is Rhetoric Gone or Just Hiding Out?").
As far as practical applications of rhetorical listening and Ratcliffes work broadly,
the intersections of gender and race are often not taught or acknowledged in the
composition classroom. The Writing Program Administrator outcomes, which are
learning outcomes used by institutions to monitor composition learning outcomes in
institutions across the United States, dont even include or touch on gender or race in
any of the outcomes. Ratcliffe shows and advocates through her work, that we should
not only be studying race and gender, but teaching how to rhetorically use it as well.
Applying rhetorical listening would mean understanding how things like gender and race
intersect and makeup the identities of composition students. This can mean

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encouraging them write on topics of gender and race from their past experiences that
might make them uncomfortable. Ratcliffe mentions having mixed feelings when
working on rhetorical listening. Gender and race can be very uncomfortable topics. But,
we must listen to them. We can also encourage students to apply rhetorical listening in
their own interactions and work. And, by doing this, gender and racial barriers will be

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Work Cited
Daly Goggin, Maureen. "Silence And Listening As Rhetorical Arts, Cheryl Glenn And
Krista Ratcliffe, Eds." Rhetoric Review 30.4 (2011): 423-426. Academic Search
Complete. Web. 6 Oct. 2016.
Day, Dennis G. "Persuasion And The Concept Of Identification." Quarterly Journal Of
Speech 46.3 (1960): 270. Education Source. Web. 7 Oct. 2016.
Gerald, Amy S. "Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness." Composition
Studies 35.1 (2007): 142-145. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.
Glenn, Cheryl. "Silence: A Rhetorical Art for Resisting Discipline(s)." JAC 2002:
261.JSTOR Journals. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
Glenn, Cheryl, and Krista Ratcliffe. Silence and Listening as Rhetorical Arts.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2011. Print.
Hobbs, Catherine. "Revisionary Rhetoric, Feminist Pedagogy, And Multigenre Texts."
Rhetoric Review 26.1 (2007): 90-93. Education Research Complete. Web. 7 Oct.
Jay, Gregory. "Introduction to Whiteness Studies." Introduction to Whiteness Studies.
University of Wisconsin, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.
"Krista Ratcliffe // Purdue College of Liberal Arts." Purdue College of Liberal Arts.
Purdue College, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
Pederson, Steven. "KB Journal." Review: Rhetorical Listening by Krista Ratcliffe. K. B.
Journal: The Journal of the Kenneth Burke Society, 2012. Web. 5 Oct. 2016.

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Ratcliffe, Krista. Anglo-American Feminist Challenges to the Rhetorical Traditions:

Virginia Woolf, Mary Daly, Adrienne Rich. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP,
1996. Print.
Ratcliffe, Krista. "Rhetorical Listening: A Trope for Interpretive Invention and a Code of
Cross-Cultural Conduct" College Composition and Communication 51.2 (1999):
195. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.
Ratcliffe, Krista. Rhetorical Listening: Identification, Gender, Whiteness. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois UP, 2005. Print.
Ratcliffe, Krista. "The Current State of Composition Scholar/Teachers: Is Rhetoric Gone
or Just Hiding Out?" Enculturation 5.1. Web. 4 Oct. 2016
"Whiteness Studies." Rhetoric Review 24.4 (2005): 359-402. MLA International
Bibliography. Web. 8 Oct. 2016.