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Title:Kenneth Burke's early works: A study of permanence within change
Author(s):Wolin, Ross
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Conley, Thomas M.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
Speech Communication
History, Modern
Abstract:Kenneth Burke's most influential books (The Philosophy of Literary Form, A Grammar of Motives, and A Rhetoric of Motives) are usually discussed without the benefit of a careful analysis of his earlier books, Counter-Statement, Permanence and Change, and Attitudes Toward History. Since the later books are intimately related to his early work, Burke often suffers disastrously partial readings that miss his keen social and political interests.
Deeply troubled by World War I, the disintegration of social institutions, the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression, and the growth of Fascism--Burke became increasingly convinced that our problems stemmed in large part from inappropriate social, political, and intellectual "emphases" and from widespread misunderstanding about the nature and function of symbolic capacities. In his early books, Burke sought to reshape social thought by explaining the central role of communication and rhetoric in our perceptions of the world, in our talk about our perceptions, and in the way we choose courses of action. This explanation, Burke believed, necessarily involved a "scrambling" of intellectual categories.
Burke challenged the deepest commitments of his contemporaries--and faced formidable rhetorical problems which he never quite overcame. Counter-Statement, Permanence, and Attitudes were Burke's largely unsuccessful attempts to convey basically the same message to New York Intellectuals by using the terms and concepts of different disciplines: first literary criticism, then social psychology, then history. Disciplinary boundaries and political commitments ultimately led Burke's audience to misunderstand the meaning and implications of his scrambling of categories.
Three factors encouraged Burke to rearticulate his message: first, he could not cover everything in one book; second, his contemporaries misunderstood and harshly criticized him; third, new social, political, and intellectual developments offered new rhetorical opportunities. In reiterating his message, Burke adapted to the changing social, political, and intellectual factors of his milieu.
Chapter One of this thesis discusses Burke's early career in New York as a promising litterateur. Chapters Two through Four in turn analyze how Counter-Statement, Permanence, and Attitudes are extensions, rearticulations, and adaptations of Burke's earlier ideas. Chapter Five explores how this analysis might apply to Burke's work after Attitudes.
Issue Date:1991
Rights Information:Copyright 1991 Wolin, Ross
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9136768
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9136768

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