Sacred and Profane: A Not-So-Southern Controversy
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This thesis is proposing an alternative way to view the notions of sacred and profane that better facilitates conversation in public discourse. Currently, public conversation tends to not acknowledge that there can be competing notions of what is sacred. Instead, one group’s notion of sacred tends to be privileged, while another’s is vilified and seen as profane. I will analyze media reports covering the Confederate flag debate and the Charleston shooting to expose the tendency within public discourse to acknowledge one notion of sacred at a time. Exposing this tendency will provide me with the framework for discussing a needed shift in our thought process when it comes to the sacred. I argue that we should bring the notion of sacred back into public discourse not as a religious category but as a rhetorical category of analysis. As a rhetorical device, sacred is best understood through Kenneth Burke’s notion of “god-term.” He defines “god-term” as the main motivator for a person’s actions and understandings. Because the sacred is like a “god-term” there can be multiple notions of the sacred at once since each person is not motivated by the same factor. The rhetorical understanding of sacred allows for clearer conversation within public discourse.
Morgan, Kelsey I (2017). Sacred and Profane: A Not-So-Southern Controversy. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from