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“The Solitude of Self” as a Humanistic Rhetoric

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  1. Introduction
  2. Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1982 speech
  3. Understanding the significance of the speech
  4. Stanton's largest obstacles
  5. The style of the speech in connection with its purpose
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

The discourse of human rights has been a pervasive topic of rhetorical analysis since the earliest days of America. As different groups of people have moved through social reform, the pursuit of natural rights is often the underlying desire. What makes a human being subject to the freedoms of natural rights? Is every human entitled to such rights, and on what grounds is this justification warranted? In an article entitled ?The Constitution of Aspiration and ?The Rights That Belong to Us All'?, Hendrick Hartog (1987) paints an answer to these questions by proposing the statement: If our Constitutional beliefs are synonymous with a guaranteed membership in ?We the people? , then it is seemingly inappropriate to define oneself by such an ?metaphorical image of rights? due to the fact that the Constitution itself excludes many types of individuals from many of these said rights.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton's 1982 speech entitled ?The Solitude of Self ? is a critical piece of American literature that finds itself in the middle of a body of historical rhetoric about natural rights. Stanton was a prominent figure associated with The Women's Right Movement of the ninetieth century. Before ?The Solitude of Self? was delivered in 1982, she had spoken about women's rights and suffrage many times before, including one of her most famous speeches at the Seneca Fall convention, ?The Declaration of Sentiments?. In the ?Solitude of Self? however, Stanton refutes a sole interest in strictly women's rights and draws her audience into an overarching discussion about human and individual rights in general.

[...] As discussed before as a major rhetorical obstacle, the interest in subject matter was a concern for Stanton and the style of this speech helped her overcome that obstacle. Without the use of the lyrical form, Stanton may not have been able to evoke this type of empathy in her audience which would have significantly weakened her argument and caused her audience to loose interest. Conclusion The unconventional stylistic and philosophical stance Elizabeth Cady Stanton chose to employ in The Solitude of Self make this piece a highly successful piece of legislative and personal discourse. [...]

[...] the People? is of course the quintessential opening line of the preamble of the Constitution, and in this instance represents a categorization of American citizens as a group unified under the principles and rights of the U.S. Constitution. It is also known that Elizabeth Cady Stanton used this famous phrase in other works of hers, namely The Declaration of Sentiments in 1848. A more conclusive definition of the term ?humanism? as it is used in the context of this paper is: " . [...]

[...] Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Speech Solitude of Self? is a departure from the typical style of rhetorical discourse and aims to give the audience an understanding of basic universal human needs through a unique, non-argumentative rhetorical structure and logic. In understanding the significance of this speech, it is important to analyze the speech in its intended context in 1892. History recounts that the speech was delivered three times by Stanton herself: First to the House Judiciary committee, then to the twenty-fourth national convention of the National Women's Suffrage movement, and finally to the Senate Committee on Women's suffrage. [...]

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