Category Archives: Tropes

The ‘turns’ Just Keep Piling Up!

This is an OLD post that has been hanging around in the DRAFT folder for the last several years. And, in the interim, I have turned up several other ‘turns’ along the way but stopped trying to keep track of them. This might, though, be an opportunity staring me in the face: follow each turn, write about it, try to unwrap it a little, if only for myself.


So, here I sit absolutely confounded that I did not ‘see’ this particular ‘turn’ staring me in the face, given the number of times that I referenced it in conference papers.

  • Pictorial turn – the opening chapter of WJT Mitchell’s 1994 book, Picture Theory.

Mitchell opens the chapter citing Richard Rorty’s characterization of the trend in philosophy over time as comprised of “a series of ‘turns’ in which ‘a new set of problems emerges and the old ones begin to fade away'” (11). This is “the final stage in Rorty’s history of philosophy,” that is, the linguistic turn.

Turn, Turn, Turn Again . . .

For my inaugural post in this new blogging environment, I am migrating (with minor edits) a post I made some time ago to my old blog (mind-at-large). The original title of the post was, Turning and Spinning. It originated in a curiosity about the idea of a ‘turn’ in academic study and discourse. I started collecting all of the possible ‘turns’ I could find, along with the source of the term if it could be found or identified.  I want to keep it going. So, if any of you, my fellow academics and friends, come across any not on this growing list, please feel free to comment and add what you have discovered.

On another note, with all of these ‘turns’ affecting (and effecting) engagement within a variety of disciplines, I wonder if it is worth thinking about them in Burkean terms as ‘turn-inistic screens.’ Thoughts?

Early March, 2014:

One of the many things that have sucked me in lately is the notion of a turn. Not as in making a left or right turn, or a U-turn. Rather, I am thinking in terms of the notion of a turn as a trope become a terministic screen. The word trope comes from the Greek τρόπος, which can mean ‘turn’ and, which, in literature and rhetorical studies refers to ‘turns of a phrase,’ that is, figurative language, metaphor, and so on. For those familiar with the work of Kenneth Burke, the idea of a terministic screen will be a commonplace; for those not, think of a terministic screen as a conceptual lens; the one through which you look out on the world of your experience. It includes all of your personal assumptions and biases, your expectations, your notions of what constitutes reality and whether or not it can be known with any certainty, and most importantly the associated vocabulary you use to communicate through and about all of those assumptions, biases, expectations, and notions. To steal a word or two from Pierre Bourdieu, it can be thought of as your habitus, the doxa with which you are ortho- (or hetero-, if feeling contrary). Interestingly, one can have many different terministic screens, depending on what one is doing.

So, now to the business of turns and my engagement with them.

It is fashionable in theory (that is, in the world of THEORY, not ‘theoretically’) to talk about particular ways of thinking (and writing and talking) about the world as a turn, as in Richard Rorty’s 1967 book, The Linguistic Turn. Well, there have been a variety of turns that have cropped up over time and I finally decided someone (that is, me) needed to start a list, if only to have them all in one place. Ideally, though, I would like to expand the list to include origins and adherents and intents.

And here is what I have collected so far, in no particular order other than when they presented themselves to me:

    • Linguistic Turn [Rorty]
    • Descriptive Turn [an article title in a list of references for an article in PMLA]
    • Hermeneutic/Interpretive Turn
    • Pragmatic Turn [someone writing about Rorty]
    • Narrative Turn
    • Relational Turn [Gunzenhauser (2006) article in Qualitative Inquiry; see also Anne Edwards, HD30.29 .E39 2010]
    • Emotive Turn
    • Socio-Cultural Turn [Schneider article from ENGL 572, Theory and Pedagogy of Technical Communication]
    • Global Turn [RSQ 43.3 article]
    • Public Turn [book by F. Farmer, reviewed in RR 33.1]
    • Reflective Turn
    • Postmodern Turn [Hassan? also an edited volume by Seidman]
    • Scientific Turn [from a book title]
    • Native Turn
    • Performative Turn
    • Spatial Turn [Bourdieu-inspired?]
    • Cultural Turn [F. Jameson ‘reader’]
    • Speculative Turn [book title]
    • Aesthetic Turn [book title regarding Nietzsche]
    • Metaphoric/Metonymic Turn (“Turn! Turn! Turn!” or “Turn, turn, turn again . . .”?) [See the work of Thomas Claviez for the latter turn term]
    • Ethical Turn
    • Affective Turn
    • Subjective Turn [from my ENGL 601, Qualitative Methods, class; Clifford & Marcus?]
    • Conjunctive Turn [from an interview in OLR of my friend Henrik Skov Nielsen]

From the operative word (italicized) in each phrase, one can see quite clearly how these turns are each and all ways of engaging with, looking at, and/or responding to the world as we encounter it. Each is, in one way or more, a metaphor (turn, trope) through which we read the world. Each is a terministic screen, however thin, however temporary, that affects (and effects) our understanding.

Or, that is how I am seeing them today.

24 March 2014

Two more cropped up today, 24 March, while fishing in Google Scholar looking for articles about ‘rhetorical audience.’ They appeared in article titles: ‘Rhetorical turn’ and ‘Ideological turn.’ I am sure there are many more out there and welcome any additions to the list others can find.

25 March 2014

Today’s find: Theoretical turn, in a 2000 PMLA article by Wolfgang Iser. And . . . ANOTHER! A variation of the ‘Performative turn’ (initial list): Performance turn in an article by Peterson & Langelier, in Narrative Inquiry 16(1).

2 September 2014

THREE (3) new ones to add today . . . one, I came across in an article I am reading to critique for my RPC Proseminar; the other two come from a re-reading of an article first read a year ago.

  • Design turn (the ‘turn’ toward ‘design’ in document composition).
  • Dialogic turn (my term for it but, essentially, referring to dialogue having replaced writing as a defining metaphor in composition studies).
  • Epistemological turn (used by Lee-Ann M. Kastman Breuch to describe the philosophical project of the Enlightenment period).