Island of Tranquility : Rhetoric and Identification at Brigham Young University During the Vietnam Era
Brigham Young University
The author argues that beyond religious beliefs and conservative politics, rhetorical identification played an important role in the relative calmness of the BYU campus during the turbulent Sixties. Using Bitzer's rhetorical situation theory and Burke's identification theory, the author shows that BYU's calm campus can be explained as a result of communal identification with a conservative ethos. He also shows that apparent epistemological shortcomings of Bitzer's model can be resolved by considering the power of identification to create salience and knowledge in rhetorical situations. During the Sixties, BYU administration developed policies on physical appearance that invited students to take on a conservative identity, and therefore a conservative behavior. Relationships of power and hierarchy at BYU can be understood not as quantitative and oppressive matrices, but as rhetorical choices of students to identify with the character of school president, Ernest Wilkinson, and the administration. Power, then, is as Foucault envisioned it--as a field wherein identity and discourse are negotiated. This thesis argues for a more broad understanding of identification, ethos, and power for explaining rhetorical behavior in communal situations.