Submitted by Jim Aune on December 3, 2011 - 12:19pm
I'm looking forward to doing some writing soon (after a semester spent learning the ins and outs of administrivia). Whenever I start a project I think of it as a sculptor: you're given a block of stone (or other material) with its own texture, coloring, and hidden fault lines, and if the project is successful a figure begins to emerge out of the block. (Does anyone else think of the process this way? I'm curious.)
On to the general puzzle I'm working on: what Kenneth Burke once called the "vert" family--that "turning" that happens in words like "conversion." If the study of rhetoric is to have any interpretive, explanatory, or predictive power it needs to account for those moments when some radical VERT occurs: Paul at Damascus, Augustine in the garden, Luther in the Tower, David Horowitz becoming a right-winger. I'm trying to identify what I'm tentatively called a rhetorical toggle-switch: a moment at which something "clicks" and the system as a whole changes. Perhaps this is the sort of question best dealt with ethnographically (it goes to the heart of political "science," but I can't find anything in that vast and tedious literature on the topic). For example, the old joke that a Neocon is a liberal who got mugged. Or, in my own experience, the sense that Israel is treated unfairly by the far Left as a kind of toggle switch to consider other ideological positions. <---I have no desire to argue the particulars of this point; I'm after larger game. On the basis of demographics alone, as a white, Northern European ethnic male from Minnesota, I should probably tilt center-right (roughly the political view of my parents--and parental politics remain a good predictor of their children's political views, unless there is a "switch"). My politics, though, are probably closer to my grandparents than my parents: culturally conservative but economically Left. Am I onto something here, or am I still in the preliminary stages of discerning a figure in the marble?