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Maggie OLoughlin
Professor Hall
English 3210- 102
December 14, 2015
Hit the Ground Cultured:
An Inside into the Running Life of the Marquette Cross Country Team

Culture can generically be thought of as the integral components of a group of individuals

that makes those individuals exactly who they are. These components vary from culture to
culture, but one detail remains stagnant: without these elements, the culture would not be a
culture; their existence is necessary for the culture to function, grow, and develop. Through this
functioning, growing, and developing, one can begin to see the relationship between culture and
ethnography-- it is ethnography that incorporates the integral components of a group of people
that make up their culture. It is ethnography that describes the culture of a specific group of
individuals in order to inform the rest of the world about the events that occur inside of their
Ethnography in todays world teaches one not just about others, but also about oneself.
With the help of Kenneth Burke and Lewis Thomas, this term-- culture-- can be broken down
into key elements that aid in expressing the relationship between culture itself, language, and
thought: culture would cease to exist without language and thought. Arguably, one of these
elements could not properly function without the other two, emphasizing the significance of the
relationship between the three and exemplifying that in a society, the way the language is
spoken-- and not spoken-- and the thought process of the society helps define the culture.

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Thomas Social Talk highlights the social aspect of society by comparing the culture of
certain animals to that of humans. Some species, for example, arent as social as others, and
though they may travel together in packs, any single member can survive detached from the rest,
if necessary. Human beings have the desire to socialize and be together, and because of this,
humans depend on each other. The most important point Thomas makes center around the idea of
humans and language; this language makes us biologically social like the animals, but at the
same time, it separates us from other animals. Human language is almost as alive as humans
themselves, growing and changing. Without it, human social existence would not be-- a
complicated existence that labels each person as an individual in order to guarantee the
separateness of each person, yet at the same time dismisses this idea of individuality because it
has no function. In other words, humans need language to survive. They are essentially
nameless, most of [the] time, (Thomas 88) are all somehow intellectually connected, and are all
working towards an immensely collective work. In order to represent this collective work to
which a group dedicates their time, Thomas focuses on the central metaphor of nest- building.
The nest- building of the Marquette University Cross Country team is the way the
members of the team work together to achieve group success, which can be seen as the spoken
and unspoken language of the team: their thought processes-- or goals-- aid in defining the
culture of the team and its members. Similar to how certain species travel in packs as well as
survive in solidarity, the members of the cross country team train at practice together, yet race
alone under certain circumstances. Furthermore, though the success of the group is important, an
individuals success is as well. Put simply, because of the freedom each individual has to live his
or her own life, he or she is not committed to one task (group success) forever. Fighting for
individual success by competing against ones teammates is not seen as selfishness, but it instead

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exemplifies the inter-team competition that is often present as a reminder of the extreme
competitive aspect that this sport creates. This competition can be seen as a culture within a
culture, promoting both group and individual success, and ultimately can help one to understand
the relationship between the language and thought the members of the team present.
Thomas additionally explains the importance of grouping humans together as a whole,
and the significance of this is prevalent on the cross country team: each individual cross country
runner is grouped onto the team, Marquette Golden Eagles, and this is what each person wears
across his or her chest at every race. Though the individuals are named on the roster, each
persons uniform singlet does not bear that persons name. As a member of the team, it is an
unwritten rule that Marquette is the most important name that he or she will wear. Finally, in a
similar way to humans being unable to survive without language, members of the cross country
team would be unable to survive without the spoken and unspoken support from teammates
during every practice, workout, and race. This support, like language, is alive-- it grows,
changes, and contagiously affects each person and his or her goals in a positive way, allowing the
person to succeed individually, improving the team as a whole. In other words, without the
language (the support) and the thought processes (the goals), the team and its culture could not
Like wasps, the members of the team are, in a sense, committed to one activity forever,
(Thomas 88) except unlike wasps, these individuals chose to be part of the larger goal. As long as
a person attends Marquette University and chooses to be on the cross country team, he or she is a
wasp and is committed to one activity forever-- bound to commitment, hard work, and success.
This success, and the various components that come together to achieve this success, are the nest
and hive- making activity of the cross country team. Every person on the team is roped together

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intellectually (89) with every other member in a literal sense, and this hard work and success
each person is bound to extends to academics. Just as the wasps need to build their nest and hive
in order to survive, the team needs the components of success-- and success itself-- to continue
running towards their goals.
Culture is once again defined in regards to language and thought through the explanation
of piety in Kenneth Burkes Range of Piety-- in simple terms, piety is loyalty to the sources of
our being (Burke 71). It is important to note that this loyalty falls under thought and unspoken
language by revealing unconscious thoughts and desires. This piety furthermore involves spoken
language by emotionally affecting each person. According to Burke, all poets are pious, and this
is perhaps the most important point he makes-- piety is in everything, involving interaction,
hypnotic entanglement, and times of weakness and doubt. A system builder, piety involves
putting different experiences together into a unified whole, or the sense of what properly goes
with what, (74) in order to successfully produce the idea of culture, both group and individual.
Marquette Universitys Cross Country team draws interesting parallels with The Range
of Piety, beginning with the definition of piety as loyalty to the sources of our being-- each
member of the team has a loyalty not only to obvious people like the team and the coach, but
also to his or herself and the sport. This definition of piety then leads into the next-- fitting
different experiences together into a unified whole-- because each individual brings his or her
own experiences of high school cross country to college, allowing the team to grow with each
new member and experience. The sense of what goes with what is easily seen in the success,
dedication, and love for the sport that stems from the loyalty that each member possesses.
Burkes most important point, that every person is a poet, is undoubtedly true for the
cross country team: the runners write their poems through the pounding of their feet on the

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pavement-- each step taken and sweat droplet fallen conveys something different for each
individual: whether it be an escape, a chance to prove something to themselves/ others, a passion,
or a combination of the three, the members of the cross country team write a poem with each
long run and workout they complete. Certain runners often become hypnotically entangled in
their poem because of the external relationships he or she has established, and when that persons
own convictions are not enough to sustain him or her in times of weakness, the members of the
team come into play.
Running-- especially competitive running-- is extremely difficult and painful. It involves
an immense amount of physical and mental exertion, and sometimes, the thought may cross a
cross country team members mind to want to give up and quit the team. However, it is the other
team members that keep that person going, despite the difficulty of the task ahead-- they will not
allow a person to commit a so- called act of impiety, because the culture of the team would not
be the same without that person; he or she is loyal to the team, and more importantly, the team is
loyal to him or her. The matter of interaction, then, obviously holds great importance for
members on the team-- they interact not only as people, but predominantly as teammates and
The relationship between culture, language, and thought is finalized in Four Master
Tropes, also by Kenneth Burke, through the introduction of perspective, reduction,
representation, and a development of all three. The addition of these concepts further strengthens
the previously explained points of Burke and Thomas, demonstrating the importance of these
tropes to culture: the first, perspective, allows one to establish a characters reality, just as
language allows one to establish cultures reality-- in proportion to a variety of perspectives,
characters possess degrees of being. The second, reduction, conveys something intangible in

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terms of something tangible; in this way, a thought can be expressed in a way that can more
easily be understood. Finally, representation is a part for a whole. More specifically, any act of
representation automatically conveys a synecdochic relationship. All three of these tropes are
voices, personalities, and positions, integrally affecting one another (Burke 432) and the
combination of them further helps to demonstrates the complex reality of culture.
Intriguingly enough, the Marquette University Cross Country team once again
demonstrates examples of the three tropes, beginning with perspective-- through each individual
team member, the reality of who the team is can be established, albeit in a very unique and
complex manner. In another way, when in doubt as to what the team is, all individuals who are
apart of it can be considered. These individuals can be considered in terms of the team, whether
that be the top runner, the middle runner, or the bottom runner; whatever the title, each team
member has great importance, and without every team member, it wouldnt be the Marquette
University Cross Country team.
The team, furthermore, has more being than just the individual, because though the
individual is strong, a group of individuals-- the team-- is stronger. Reduction is additionally
conveyed through the teams dedication and hard work through success, moments of victory, and
smiles-- and even in its failures and moments of weakness. To add to that, something tangible,
such as the idea that the members of the team have heart, can explain something intangible,
such as the love that the team has for the sport. Finally, representation is specifically expressed
when an individual team member wears the cross country shirt. Even though an individual is just
one person, he or she is still representing the team, and just as the individual represents the team,
the team represents Marquette University Athletics. These three are developed into the
explanation that they are all voices, personalities, or positions, integrally affecting one another.

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This idea that each persons voice, personality, and role on the team is different, yet each
affects the next person, perfectly describes the complex culture of the team: through spoken and
unspoken language, the runners work towards one goal by doing what they love with people who
make it more enjoyable. Burke and Lewis insightful explanations about the relationship between
culture, language, and thought aid in defining this complexity. With their help, the rest of the
world is easily informed about the smaller world of the Marquette University Cross Country

Burke, Kenneth. "Four Master Tropes." The Kenyon Review 3.4 (1941): 421-38.
JSTOR. Web. 8 Sept. 2015.