By Stephen Bygrave
Kenneth Burke: Rhetoric and beliefs is a lucid and obtainable advent to a big twentieth-century philosopher these rules have inspired fields as various as literary thought, philosophy, linguistics, politics and anthropology. Stephen Bygrave explores the content material of Burke's immense output of labor, focusing specially on his preoccupation with the relation among language, ideology and motion. via contemplating Burke as a reader and author of narratives and platforms, Bygrave examines the inadequacies of past readings of Burke and unfolds his idea inside of present debates in Anglo-American cultural thought. this is often a good second look of Burke's inspiration and valuble creation to the awesome diversity of his rules.
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Extra resources for Kenneth Burke: Rhetoric and Ideology (Critics of the Twentieth Century)
Though he delightedly refers to the likelihood that such a procedure will scandalize ‘those persons who take the division of faculties in our universities to be an exact replica of the way in which God himself divided up the universe’ (PLF 303), two paradoxes arising from this claim are not referred to. First, the charge of idiosyncracy, of ‘intuitive leaps’, is addressed but not answered: what is ‘implicit’ to one interpreter may remain invisible to another. Second, the inclusiveness depends on a reduction—on reducing social and literary phenomena to a strategy (or essence) which is irreducible—and what is put together in this way may not subsequently be put apart in a way that does justice to its particular use.
It also tends towards a crude determinism, overvaluing ‘scene’ at the expense of other terms. As Burke puts this much 44 A GOD COMING DOWN TO EARTH later in the All-Area interview (given in 1980–1 and published in 1983): ‘what I call the historical heresy, or fallacy, is to see us purely as products of the particular historical period in which we happen to have lived. I have to see us as transforming a universal identity’ (C-G 22). This summarizes a consistent interpretative principle but itself omits the stages by which the principle was arrived at.
This is however a rather cheerful view of agency and of action. Burke’s Dramatism depends, as both Jameson and Lentricchia point out, on a conception of the subject as a freely willing and choosing agent. Acts are human acts—even, or especially, when they are scripted. Acts are performed in a realm of Kantian ‘freedom’. Burke does not begin, as Locke does or as Marx does, with a transformation of material as the founding act. There is however a shift from the exuberant system-building of A Grammar of Motives to the Rhetoric of Motives, published five years later, which more nearly aligns itself with the traditional study of rhetoric.