My first response to Kenneth Burke

Although on the class discussion, my peers talked about it is hard to summarize Burke’s motion and theory in 30 pages, the 30 pages are useful for me, a new visitor to the territory of contemporary rhetoric. Foss and Trapp gave me a great overview of Burke’s theory; however, since his theory varies from this early time to the last period; I don’t know which period his theory of Rhetoric, dramatism and logology belongs to. I also like the introduction of Burke’s life because his life helps me to understand well how he saw the world and his interaction with the society and other people. And his vision of world influenced his theory consequently.

Burke’s definition of human being shows his notion of philosophy which is reflected to his notions of rhetoric, dramatism and logology.

 Being bodies that learn language, thereby becoming wordlings

Human are the symbol-making, symbol-using, symbol-misusing animal. Inventor of the negative separated from our natural condition by instruments of our own making goaded by the spirit of hierarchy acquiring foreknowledge of death and rotten with perfection. (pp212, Foss)

 Burke defines human being as symbol using animal, which can be connected to the essence of language from the perspectives of structural linguists. Ferdinand de Saussure claims language is a symbolic system. He distinguished the sound image (signified) and the concept of object (significant) and concluded that the connection between sound image and the concept is arbitrary. People called a book “book” because it is conventional. I think it is in common with Burke’s identification. Individuals share substances and associate together, the process of which called consubstantiality. And I think language a kind of lower level consubstantiality. Sharing the same language is the precondition of rhetoric, and it’s also the fundamental sense of the same identity.

 Some notes I took from Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric:

1. The definition of rhetoric: “the use of words by human agents to form attitudes or to introduce actions in other human agents. (p191) The function of rhetoric is name a situation aiming at solving it.

 2. Pentad is a tool to discover the motivation in symbolic action. Five factors constitute the pentad: act, agent, agency, scene and purpose. Burke put the five terms to a drama stage of human, by using pentad to analyze the motivation of human act.

 3. Dramatism VS Logology

Dramatism can be taken as a subcollection of Logology because the Dramatism is corresponding to drama, whereas the Logology reflects words. Logoology, then, might be seen as a theory and methodology about words at a higher level of generalization than Dramatism. (p204) Actually I don’t understand this sentence. But I would like to remember it in my note; hopefully someday I will understand it.


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