Patel Literary Review Major Assignment 3

Prashant Patel Major Assignment#3 Gendered Rhetoric literature Review Dr. Sonia Arellano PhD November 20, 2019

I. Introduction

The scope and breadth of literary studies have facilitated the expansion of the application of gendered rhetoric to many different platforms and areas. One such area that has been given extensive attention within previous decades is the prison experience and its connection to rhetoric. Students of gendered rhetoric get a glimpse of this connection in the reading are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis. In her article, Davis paints a portrait of how prisons serve both as a metaphorical and physical barrier between both the white and black worlds (Davis 2)
Despite, Davis’s contribution to the study and analysis of the relationship between the prison experience and rhetoric. Students of literary studies have yet to analyze extensively the correlation between the prison experience and how that experience frames gender identity for prisoners. This includes transgender prisoners, homosexual prisoners, and bisexual prisoners. Extensive analysis has been completed by scholars of criminology, gender studies, and rhetorical rhetoric, within the last decades to establish such a connection. This literature will review will attempt to fill gaps in the scholarly research of this topic.

This literature review will analyze the published scholarly articles of individuals and professors that have looked into how the prison experience shapes the concept of (1). Rhetorical space. (2). Construction of identity among transgender, homosexual, and bisexual prisoners. (3). How prisoners translate their own experiences to analysis onto a rhetorical text as a means of creating a reader response dialogue with an author (4). This literature review will also include a section that discusses the lessons that were derived from this literature review. Moreover, this section will discuss the implications of the topics that were mentioned for gendered rhetoric and literary studies.
The purpose of this literature review is to demonstrate to the field of gendered rhetoric that the topic of the prison experience and rhetorical behavior warrants further examination. This is because the nature of the topic itself spans a spectrum of interesting topics that are related to the field. In addition, intends to analyze concepts and issues, but have not been previously researched before relating to this area.

II. Situating Sex in Prison Culture

Initial studies into sexuality and prisons in the United States began to emerge in the 20th Century. Regina G. Kunzel in her article: Situating Sex; Prison Culture In The Mid-20th Century-United States writes that beginning in the 1940s, sociological and criminological start began to emerge in the academic community, which considered sex acts in prison to be as “abnormal sexual conduct” (Kunzel 255). The author states that this consensus emerges among experts, because they viewed individuals who identify themselves as being homosexual, to only engage in such acts in “Situational Homosexuality” (Kunzel 253).
This concept placed importance on the precise geographical location in which the homosexual behavior took place (Kunzel 254). Over time “Situational Homosexuality” came to signify the willingness of heterosexual male white prisoners, to engage in homosexual acts as a means of self-preservation in prison culture.
However, at the beginning of the 20th century “Situational  Homosexuality” according to the author “should be recognized as a rhetorical strategy to make prison sex nearly inevitable and somehow less troubling, an expression of nature rather than prison culture (Kunzel 255). This belief that existed within the prison culture inevitably constructed rhetorical language that was meant to demean any homosexual prisoner.

Such words as “fairies, queers, and girly boys” (Kunzel 255), was articulated to distinguish “real men” that assumed masculine characteristics, from those who did not (Kunzel 255). However, as stated earlier the concept of “situational homosexuality” would be transformed into having a deeper connotation about prison culture. discussed in the next few paragraphs.
Kunzel goes on to write that the perspective of prisons being a recruiting ground for homosexuality. It rose dramatically in the 1950s and 60s as divergent sexual behavior was becoming a part of mainstream American life (Kunzel 258). According to Kunzel criminologist and sociologist try to alleviate this concern by offering assurances, however, they were unsuccessful in preventing the spread of the perception that homosexual practices in prison “grow or get so fixed in the individual that even on discharge from confinement he often finds himself unable to return to normal sex activities.”(Kunzel 259). 
As a result of this perception, prison culture concocted a paradigm of sexual identification in terms of the “homo/heterosexual binarism was growing more ridged” outside the prison walls, which influenced the inter of the prison culture (Kunzel 259). Therefore, it can be stated that sexual identity in prisons at the beginning of the 20th century was rooted in cultural morals at the time that viewed any deviant behavior from the standard heterosexual behavior as immoral. This led to a context within the prison environment that was hostile to anyone identified by a different gender construction. 

III. Defining A Rhetorical Space

In Rhetorical Space And Gender Roxanne Munford defines rhetorical space as “The effect of a physical space on a communicative event” (Munford 41 – 42). More specifically Munford goes on to write “ rhetorical space is the geography of a communicative event, and, like all landscapes, may include both the cultural and material arrangement, whether intended or fortuitous, of space”(Munford 42).
She goes on to provide examples throughout literal on how rhetorical spaces are formed. For example, in “Moby Dick” Munford goes on to explain and describe how old fashion church pulpits are elevated from the ground that reinforces a sense of rhetorical distances between the preacher and the congregation. As a consequence, of this distance, it amplifies the masculinity and the power that a preacher has over his female churchgoers(Munford 42). In the book “Adam Bede”(1859), Munford gives an example in which the lead character is an itinerate preacher that uses the rhetorical space under a maple tree to illustrate her notion of God’s love and forgiveness(Munford 43).
Roxanne Montford’s construction and application of “rhetorical spaces” underlies elements of power, gender, and rhetoric. In terms of power, take for example, in “Moby Dick” Montford is arguing that the location of the rhetorical space provides an individual with legitimacy and imbues their message with authority. In comparison, the rhetorical space that was created in the book “Adam Bede” portrayed a female slave and itinerant preacher as an equal member of a community. This was due to the arena in which the message was given(Munford 43-45).

The final aspect of Munford’s analysis is the rhetoric that was used to articulate the practical message within a certain rhetorical space. Take, for instance, the message in “Moby Dick” the preachers had a message that emphasizes God’s authority over people whereas, the itinerant slave preacher articulates a message of God’s love (Munford 44).
Therefore, what Munford is saying is that rhetorical space informs how a certain message is received by an audience. Since the preacher and Moby Dick was standing high and far from the congregation this gave a sense to the portioners’ that he was an agent of God and as an agent of God he has authority over the people(Munford 43). In comparison, the rhetorical space that facilitated the massage of the itinerant slave preacher was given in a rhetorical space of openness and equality. Therefore, the message was perceived as love(Munford 44).
Other scholars have expended the definition of Munford’s rhetorical spaces and have applied this notion to the context of the prison experience. In “The Rhetorical Space of Robben Island” Professor Richard Marback argues that the South African prison served as a rhetorical space for the political leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa to shape and frame the terms of the movement and its history. However, the country must consider how the prison will serve as a symbol of rhetorical significance in the future(Marback 27). 

IV. Construction Of Gender & Prison

Scholars of criminology, sociology and criminal justice, have written extensively on the theoretical relationship that exists on the issue of gender identification and the experiences of incarcerated individuals. Authors Lauren E. Gibson & Christopher Hensley offered the perspective that earlier studies on this topic were formed based on sexual identity as a  (Gibson & Hensley 356). Gibson & Hensley focus their analysis on the experiences of heterosexual white male prisoners.
In the article: The Social Construction Of Sexuality In Prison. Gibson & Hensley believe that social construction defines sexuality as “cultural entities” which have been constructed by social institutions and values” (Stein 5).
Gibson & Hensley contend that this heterosexual perspective formed and inculcated a paradigm in the scholarship of prison studies which is called the “Essentialist Approach” (Gibson & Hensley 356 – 357). The essentialist philosophy states that “sexual orientation forms independently from cultural influences” (Stein 4). what this statement implies is that sexual identity is static. Moreover, a person’s sexual preference is already formed before they come to prison due to social factors. Thus, an individual who comes to prison cannot be influenced by the cultural norms of a prison environment, which may cause a prisoner to question their sexual preferences.

The study conducted by Gibson & Hensley sought to “illustrated the shifting, fluid concept all sensuality in prison using a socially constructionist method. Specifically, Gibson & Hensley tested whether engaging in sexual behavior affects the way White male inmates identify a change in their sexual orientation” (Gibson & Hensley 355). The results of this study showed that on a general level, that “engaging in homosexual behavior had significantly affected a change in perception of one’s existing sexual identity” (Gibson & Hensley 366).
Gibson & Hensley note that prisoners construct a different sexual orientation I have they need to be accepted into the culture of the prison (Gibson & Hensley 366). To be accepted into the prison culture an inmate may become compelled to define how the prisoner constructs homosexuality. Take, for example, the concept of “Situational Homosexuality” (Gibson & Hensley 366). Situational homosexuality is when a prisoner does not “actively identify as a homosexual, but engaging in such actions, that are defined as being homosexual” (Gibson & Hensley 366).
In the final analysis, Gibson & Hensley’s writings provide a unique window in how White heterosexual males construct different gender identities. Heterosexual prisoners engage in homosexual acts as a means of being accepted into the prison culture. This type of gender construction highlights the point that within prisons heterosexual males view homosexual gender construction as a means of self-preservation (Gibbon & Hensley 369). The necessity of white heterosexual prisoners to engage in situational homosexual acts has forced scholars to reevaluate how the fluidity of sexual identification is affected by the prison experience.

V. Rhetorical Behavior And The Prison Experience

Scholars of reader-response theories from countries in Western Europe have commented significantly on how such modes of communication influence rhetorical behavior within prisons in her article titled: “Narratives Of Self-Identity In Women’s Prisons The Stigma And Struggle  For Self-Identification In Penal Regimes”. Author and scholar Abigail Rowe presents an argument that discusses how women perceive themselves through the prison experience (Rowe 572). Rowe argues that the predominant type of self-perception that permeates the female prison experience, is one that situates a woman’s self-worth within a particular context (Rowe 574).
Abigail Rowe argues that in prison there is a multitude of situations both psychological and physiological that can influence a person’s rhetorical environment. For example, the most severe type of self-identification is when a woman “who is institutionalized in a prison self-erodes” (Rowe 579) a woman prisoner may use certain words in a rhetorical response context that articulates the uneasiness that comes with getting acclimated to prison life (Rowe 579).
Many women use words that are common rhetorical discourse in individuals who resist their environment. However, eventually women come to accept the fact that they are in prison (Rowe 580) from this general description, I now transition to a discussion of how we do response exercises influence the prison experience.

Robert E. Probst in his article, “Reader-response theory and the problem of meaning” questions whether the theory itself is misguided since the student is taking on the responsibly of the professor and misinterpreting how rhetoric informs situational meaning and context(Probst 1). However, what Probst ignores is that rhetorical behavior and reader response can also be examined in a nontraditional environment and not just in the classroom. This is the case with emerging scholarship within criminology.
Experts in gender theory have aligned with criminalists to examine how prisoners analyze certain texts. Experts noted that female prisoners who are transgender are more likely to transfer their own experience in being transgender to a rhetorical text. Where the transgender person speaks of how the structural context of prison forces her to pass as a conventual woman to gain respect for her gender construction. This is the case when examining the reflections of the prisoners on the book “Agnes Goes to Prison”.
In the article Agnes Goes to Prison: Gender Authenticity, Transgender Inmates in Prisons for Men, and Pursuit of “The Real Deal” authors Jen ness and Fenster maker discuss how prisoners that are incarcerated respond to a rhetorical text, based upon their own prison experience. Prisoners were asked to read a fictional novel that centered around Agnes a transgender female who goes to prison.
Many prisoners reacted differently to the novel. For example, transgender prisoners who read the novel connected in a way that enabled them to articulate their difficulties in trying to “pass” as male prisoners in a predominately male prison culture (Jen ness & Fenster maker 14).

VI. Lessons Learned

These topics and issues discussed in this literature review range from defining what is a rhetorical space to the actual participation of women, in rhetorical exercises. One significant lesson that is derived from this literature review is that prison space influences gender construction. How gender is contrasted thus influences the words of how individual prisoners articulate their own experiences relative to others.

Moreover, when engaging in these rhetorical exercises such as analyzing the responses and the perception of readers following, internalizing the themes of a document. Readers have paradoxical interpretations of reading depends upon how they perceive their self-identity.
For example, according to Abigail Rowe, prisoner’s self-identification is both situated and fueled (Rowe 571). Thus, this can influence how the way an individual response rhetorically to given piece weather they are straight, gay or transgender. In terms of pedagogy, this topic needs to be investigated future to have application implications to the field of gender and rhetoric.

Works Cited

Jenness, Valerie. Fenstermaker, Sarah. “Agnes Goes to Prison: Gender Authenticity, Transgender Inmates in Prisons for Men, and Pursuit of “The Real Deal”  Sage Journal, Oct, 31,2013
Davis, Angela. “Are Prisons Obsolete” Steven Stories Press, An Open Media Book, 22-119, 2003

  1. Stein. “Forms Of Desire: Sexual Orientation And The Social Construction Controversy” New York NY: Routledge, 1992

Rowe, Abigail. “Narratives Of Self-Identity In Women’s Prisons The Stigma And Struggle  For Self-Identification In Penal Regime” Punishment & Society, Dec 2011
Mountford, Roxanne. “On Gender & Rhetoric Space” Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 1, Winter 2001. pp. 41-71
Probst, E Robert. “Reader-Response Theory And The Problem Of Meaning”  Springer Link,
Volume 8, Issue 1, March 1992, pp. 64-73

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