Seminar: Kenneth Burke
Week 1: Introduction to Course
- Thinking about Burke
- Thinking about reading Burke
- Thinking about you
Weeks 2-3: In the Beginning: Burke, his
friends, his times
Focus during these weeks is on the life in New York as Burke begins his career. What kinds of
influences shape him? What did he take from those around him? What kinds of exigencies was he
Week 4: Developing a
program toward art
- Blankenship, Jane, Edward Murphy, and Marie
Rosenwasser. "Pivotal Terms in the Early Works of Kenneth Burke." Philosophy
and Rhetoric 7 (1974): 1-24.
In this book Burke is explaining how he views art. In doing so, he is putting himself into dialogue
with the people you have been reading about and others of their day. Among the questions to
- Does Burke read a text a particular way?
- Who is he responding to? What is his program
- What is criticism to Burke? Or, What is a critic?
Or, Why is a critic?
- How are we to read this book?
Week 5-7: Language as Equipment for Living
- Permanence and Change.
- Attitudes Toward History, pp. 3-33;
- Burke, Kenneth. "Revolutionary Symbolism in
America." in American Writer's Congress. Ed. Harry Hart. New York:
International Publishers, 1935. 87-94.
- Burke, Kenneth. "War and Cultural Life." American
Journal of Sociology 48 (November 1942): 404-10.
Burke is moving during the period of these writings away from more purely literary problems to
being a social critic. This is the time of the Great Depression and the growing struggle over
whether the future of American democracy is with capitalism or communism.
- Is Burke the activist a rhetorical critic? A
social critic? Why do you say so? Why not? What does it mean for an activist
to be a rhetorical critic? A social critic? What are the commitments involved?
- Would you call Burke a critic or a theorist
from these writings? What does that mean?
- Develop a cogent statement of Burke's view of
the relationship between words and action during this time?
- Should an inquisitive mind read Burke differently
in this work than in his formative period? How?
Weeks 8-10: Systematizing Method
- Philosophy of Literary Form, pp. 1-257
- Grammar of Motives, pp. xv-124; 323-444
- Burke, Kenneth. "Questions and Answers About
the Pentad." College Composition and Communication 29 (December 1978):
During this period, Burke has decided that he wants to move beyond involvement in his time to
lay out a lasting legacy that transcends a particular time. This turns him to trying to think through
his method and toward developing something more theoretical.
- Is Burke moving beyond a social agenda here?
Sharpening a social agenda? Does his notion of rhetoric change?
- Would you call what Burke is doing here a method?
- Does Burke have anything to contribute to the
micro/macro problem (how to get from the examination of single text to grand
sweeps of history) in these readings? What? How does he get from the narrow
topics of PLF to the grand topics of ATH?
- What is the Burkean sense of proof demonstrated
in these readings
Week 11-13: Your interests
Reading: Your selections.