Seeing The Light: The Social Logic Of Personal Discovery

Paperback | November 26, 2014

byThomas Degloma

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The chorus of the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” reads, “I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind but now I see.” Composed by a minister who formerly worked as a slave trader, the song expresses his experience of divine intervention that ultimately caused him to see the error of his ways. This theme of personal awakening is a feature of countless stories throughout history, where the “lost” and the “blind” are saved from darkness and despair by suddenly seeing the light.
 
In Seeing the Light, Thomas DeGloma explores such accounts of personal awakening, in stories that range from the discovery of a religious truth to remembering a childhood trauma to embracing a new sexual orientation. He reveals a common social pattern: When people discover a life-changing truth, they typically ally with a new community. Individuals then use these autobiographical stories to shape their stances on highly controversial issues such as childhood abuse, war and patriotism, political ideology, human sexuality, and religion. Thus, while such stories are seemingly very personal, they also have a distinctly social nature. Tracing a wide variety of narratives through nearly three thousand years of history, Seeing the Light uncovers the common threads of such stories and reveals the crucial, little-recognized social logic of personal discovery.

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From the Publisher

The chorus of the Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” reads, “I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind but now I see.” Composed by a minister who formerly worked as a slave trader, the song expresses his experience of divine intervention that ultimately caused him to see the error of his ways. This theme of personal awakening is a fea...

Thomas DeGloma is assistant professor of sociology at Hunter College, City University of New York.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:November 26, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022617588X

ISBN - 13:9780226175881

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments

1 Discovering “Truth”
Awakenings
Three Dimensions of Autobiographical Work
The Awakening-Story Formula
The Semiotic Stricture of Awakening Stories
The Awakener as a Social Type of Storyteller
Autobiographical Communities and Autobiographical Fields
Methods and Data
Outline of the Book

2 Awakenings: A Cultural History
Zarathustra
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave
Foundational Religious Awakenings
Foundational Political Awakenings
Freud and the Psychoanalytic Case Study
Late Modern Awakenings
Conclusion

3 Mnemonic Revisions and Cultural Contentions
Formulaic Mnemonic Revisions
Autobiographical Memory and Cultural Contention
Shaping the Collective Mnemonic Record
Shaping the Cultural Milieu for Personal Memory
Conclusion

4 Vocabularies of Liminality
Sociomental Express Elevators
Sociomental Staircases
Combining Elevators and Staircases
Conclusion

5 The Temporally Divided Self
Portraying the Temporally Divided Self
Conclusion

6 Culture and Autobiographical Narrative
Notes References Index

Editorial Reviews

“Seeing the Light is well written and makes a compelling case for sociologists with a wide range of interests to pay attention to awakening narratives and autobiographical work more generally. For scholars already working in the areas of narrative identity and narrative analysis, the book contributes a careful analysis of awakening narratives and the awakening story formula as particular (and particularly important) types of narratives. More broadly, the particular types of awakening narratives and autobiographical communities discussed throughout the book provide relevant insights for the study of religion, trauma and mental health, sexuality, political ideology, social movements, and more.”