Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


English Language and Literatures

First Advisor

Gina L. Ercolini


Scholars have long discussed the possibilities of a deliberative democracy in which the people of the nation engage in public dialogue and discuss the pressing political, social, and economic issues of the day, in order to encourage political participation (Gripsrud et al. xix). This thesis suggests that in order to achieve something resembling a deliberative democracy, there must be an increase in rhetorical education throughout a student’s schooling in order to foster the skills that young people need to participate in public deliberation once they leave the classroom. In order to achieve these educational goals, this thesis also proposes that educators should be looking to the educative nature of conversational rhetoric inside and outside the classroom. Doing so could be important in cultivating what Paulo Freire calls a “critical consciousness” in which citizens engage with society, politics, and culture in an educated and interested manor. The thesis begins with an exploration of major deliberative democracy theories and classical practices of rhetorical education before turning specifically to the work of Madeline de Scudéry and Margaret Fuller, who both gave women voices through means of conversational rhetoric during times where there were not many other opportunities for women to participate politically. By examining these aspects of rhetorical history and practice, the thesis concludes that by implementing feminist means of rhetorical education in classrooms, educators can foster the skills students need to take outside of the classroom in order to participate in and cultivate a more deliberative democracy.