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Title:A Dialectical Study of the Formalist Character of Kenneth Burke's Critical Theory and Practice
Author(s):Descutner, David Nesbit
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Speech Communication
Abstract:This study challenged the conventional view that Kenneth Burke and the New Critics represent divergent approaches to the theory and practice of criticism. By using a telescoping dialectical method, this study unearthed considerable correspondence between Burke and the New Critics. Overall, this study found Burke to be more formalistic and the New Critics less formalistic than metacritical surveys typically suggest. Additionally, it found that viewing Burke as a formalist offered much insight into his theory and practice of criticism.
Burke and the New Critics first were shown to share several key historical influences. From these influences this study traced the origins of significant points of coincidence between Burke and the New Critics: the concept of tradition, the primacy of intrinsic criticism, the need for relational analyses of texts, the reliance on rhetorical categories, and the tolerance for multiple interpretations. Burke's inclusion of extrinsic factors and his appeal to the unconscious remained sources of tension between him and the New Critics.
Intensively reviewing the New Criticism's propositional content revealed further commonalities with Burke. Both parties claimed science was an inappropriate epistemological model for criticism, and both as well encountered difficulty in reconciling critical theory with critical practice. On the respective relations of experience and history to criticism, moreover, this study established that both parties agree on most central issues.
By addressing the more specific questions of form and intention, additional congruence between the two parties was discovered. Both parties concurred that examining internal form was an enterprise based on logic, and that structure was best assessed by not dividing form from content. Burke remained at variance with the New Critics by holding that form can also be illumined by attending to extrinsic factors. Concerning intention, both parties evidenced an unexpected degree of similarity. Bringing Burke in line with the New Critics on the question of intention were two discoveries: the impracticability of the New Critics' anti-intentionalist stance, and the surprisingly formalistic nature of Burke's treatment of intention.
Issue Date:1983
Type:Text
Language:English
Description:162 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/77269
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8324534
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-05-13
Date Deposited:1983


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