Discourse and Theosophy, by George McNamara

1. Structures and Properties of Discourse (strands, events, levels, etc.)

Discourse may have begun from the first simple human questions - "What can we eat ?" and "How can we get more food ?". These then developed into further questions such as "What is safe to eat ?" and "What is healthy to eat ?", and the answers to these questions have now developed to fill acres of newsprint.

Discourses can be studied and imagined in a number of ways, in particualr as strands. 'Thematically uniform discourse processes' are called for simplicity Discourse Strands.

The initial "How can we get more food ?" question has developed into scientific studies of soil fertility, plant breeding, farming techniques, and so on, which are separate discourse strands, and which have many sub-strands - the soil fertility strand has further sub-strands on organic techniques, fertilizers, irrigation, water retention, etc.

Some of these strands are Special Discourses, as they are part of the sciences, others are Inter-Discourses, which are non-scientific (the technical effects of fertilizers on soil chemistry is a special discourse, but the advertising of fertilizers is part of an inter-discourse)

We can see that there are many Discourse Fragments - a text on fertilizers may have fragments about soil chemistry and soil micro-organisms, but there might also be sub-discourses about how to use fertilizers, and even of how to open the package and store the contents. Texts can be considered as units of discourse fragments.

Entanglement of discourse strands is very common, and it can be expected to occur in almost all circumstances. Most texts refer to other strands, using techniques such as comparison, evidence, reinforcement, debate, reflection, and so on. The way entanglement occurs can also be described as tightly or loosely, with one or more knots, complex or simple, lightly or heavily, etc.

There are also Discourse Events, such as the BSE outbreak, which typifies a discursive event which had an impact on a very wide range of other discourses worldwide, and it also typifies a key reference point in a number of debates. Some authors use events like BSE as a shorthand in their discourses. Other events might be similar but not become discourse events because they do not acquire this symbolic status

Next Page - Discourse Position