Feminist and queer scholars of rhetoric have embraced the power of archives. Certainly we may learn a good deal about the history of rhetoric, gender, and sexuality through archival research. Yet archives do not function simply as neutral repositories of information. Archives themselves are rhetorical constructions, orienting users to view the past in ways that reinforce and/or challenge sexism, heteronormativity, transphobia, and their intersections with other systems of power. Archives are also activated through historiographic and creative interventions, which may transgress those same systems of power. 

To explore this power of archives, we will read about and practice archival methods, including with guidance from the archivists in Penn State’s Special Collections Library. We will engage with archival scholarship from across rhetorical studies as well as archival studies and interdisciplinary women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. These scholarly conversations attend to brick-and-mortar archives and digital formations. They enact imaginative, creative, and pedagogical engagements with archives. They take up, theorize, and demonstrate a range of feminist and queer methodologies for uncovering and intervening in the power of archives.

Informed by and contributing to these scholarly conversations, each seminar participant will propose and carry out an original archival project related to his/her/hir/their area of specialization within rhetoric, gender, and/or sexuality studies. Our attention to both theory and methods will thus prepare you to conduct archival research while reflecting critically and creatively on the archive’s power to inform gender and sexuality.