Reading the Signs with Kenneth Burke
- УДК / UDK: 82(091)
- About the author:
Greig Henderson (PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of English, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)
- Abstract: Always attuned to the dialectical relationship between literary productions and their sociohistorical contexts, the writings of Kenneth Burke refuse to essentialize literary discourse by making it a unique kind of language. This article maintains that Burke’s theory of literature and language as symbolic action is capable of encompassing both these intrinsic and extrinsic aspects without being reducible to either of them. Dramatism is his name for the theory, and its strength derives from its recognition of the necessarily ambiguous transaction between the system of signs and the frame of reference. Nevertheless, there is an essentializing tendency in Burke’s thought. Logology, a perspective on language that achieves fruition in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), is symptomatic of this tendency. I argue that there is a perceptible discontinuity between the dramatistic idea that literature and language are to be considered as symbolic action and the logological idea that words about God bear a strong resemblance to words about words. Logology— words about words—discovers in theology—words about God—the perfectionism implicit in all discourse. I conclude, however, that despite his flirtation with linguistic essentialism, Burke never loses sight of the fact that words are first and foremost agents of power, that they are value-laden, ideologically motivated, and morally and emotionally weighted instruments of persuasion, performance, representation and purpose. As a form of symbolic action in the world, literature is inextricably linked to society and history—it is not a privileged form of language that exists in its own separate and autonomous sphere.
- Keywords: dramatism, situation/strategy design, dream/prayer/chart triad, dramatistic pentad, grammar/rhetoric/symbolic/, the paradox of substance, terministic screens, hierarchic psychosis, entelechial motive, logology.
[Burke ATH 1984] – Burke, Kenneth. Attitudes Toward History. 3rd ed. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1984.
[Burke CS 1968] – Burke, Kenneth. Counter-Statement. 2nd ed. 1953; rpt. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1968.
[Burke GM 1969] – Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1969.
[Burke LASA 1966] – Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1966.
[Burke PC 1984] – Burke, Kenneth. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose. 3rd ed. Berkeley, Los Angeles, CA; London: University of California Press, 1984.
[Burke PLF 1973] – Burke, Kenneth. The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. 3rd. rev. ed., 1967; rpt. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1973.
[Burke RM 1969] – Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1969.
[Burke RR 1970] – Burke, Kenneth. The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1970.
[Crusius 1986] – Crusius, Timothy. “A Case for Kenneth Burke’s Dialectic and Rhetoric.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 19:1 (1986): 23–37.
[Williams 1989] – Williams, David Cratis. “Under the Sign of (An)Nihilation.” The Legacy of Kenneth Burke, eds. Herbert W. Simons and Trevor Melia. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.