2011 Conference: Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric, and Social Change

Fast Facts

Conference Dates: May 26-29, 2011
Proposal Deadline: January 20, 2011
Registration Starts: February 11, 2011
Conference Website: http://kbjournal.org/2011conference
Full Conference Program
Schedule at a Glance
Keynote Speakers
Travel and Accommodations (book now!)
Conference Chair: David Blakesley (dblakes@clemson.edu)

The Eighth Triennial Conference of the Kenneth Burke Society welcomes proposals that focus on any Burkean subject. Especially welcome are proposals that address the conference theme, “Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric, and Social Change.” The conference will be hosted by Clemson University at its Madren Conference Center in Clemson, South Carolina, from May 26 to May 29, 2011. In addition to lively seminars, presentations, performances, and unending conversation in the parlor, KBS 2011 will also feature keynote speakers Jack Selzer and Scott McLemee.

KBS 2011 Logo

Click on the image to see the full-size Tagxedo, which uses the terms from Burke's passage about the "unending conversation of history" in The Philosophy of Literary Form for its inspiration (see p. 110-11).

The Conference Theme

Surveying the global scene in 1933, Burke wrote in his notes for what would become Permanence and Change, “We are trying to solve cultural problems with the most explosive words in our vocabulary, and we need not be surprised that there are continually occurring frightful accidents which rip out half a continent and maim the lives and bodies of millions.” The step away from these explosive words is, Burke claimed, “the step which [humankind] has never been able to take. Heroism; Jungle authority; acquisition; pugnacity; inspiration; ‘superiority’ . . . this is still at the bottom of our thinking, though [the] situation no longer ‘requires’ it. . . . This is the crux—can we make this change, from which all else would radiate?” In our own historical moment, which so eerily echoes the cultural, political, and technological upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century, Burke’s question remains urgent—and unanswered. Can we make this change?

This theme calls on conference participants to explore the relevance of Burke’s thought and practice for defining, analyzing, or producing the kinds of change that would enable us to transcend or disarm our “explosive words.”

  • What cultural problems need to be solved?
  • What rhetorical practices cause, cloud, or intensify those problems?
  • Where, when, and how does change occur?
  • What genres of persuasion and identification encourage or enable change?
  • What role do we as teachers, artists, scholars, critics, citizens play in creating change?

Featuring diverse opportunities for engagement with Burke’s enduring relevance, the Eighth Triennial Conference will continue the interdisciplinary tradition of past events, with participation by students and scholars from communication, rhetoric, composition, literary theory and criticism, cultural studies, sociology, technical communication, art, economics, political science, and other disciplines. Thus, in addition to proposals addressing the conference theme, we welcome those that address topics of continuing relevance in Burke studies:

  • Burke and his circles
  • Archival research in the Burkean corpus
  • The meaning and relevance of particular Burkean texts
  • Burke in the fields
  • The future of Burkean studies
  • New applications of Burke’s insights to contemporary issues

Over the course of the conference, a combination of keynote speakers, featured presenters, and seminar leaders will explore the possibilities of and conditions for meaningful change. Keynote speakers, seminars, and seminar leaders will be announced in January, 2011.

Proposal Submission

The proposal submission deadline has passed. Acceptances will be announced in early February 2011. After acceptance and to be eligible for awards and inclusion in a subsequent conference volume, proposers will be invited to submit full-length submissions by April 15, 2011.


Attendees may register for the conference by mail starting February 11, 2011. You can learn more and download the forms here. As for past conferences, affordable registration fees will include all meals and special events. Travel grants and subsidies for students may be available and will be announced as the conference nears. Further details will be published on the conference website, http://kbjournal.org/2011conference from now until the conference.

The Venue

Clemson University is located in Clemson, which is in upstate South Carolina. The Madren Conference Center (http://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/madren/conference/) is surrounded by beautiful Lake Hartwell and the Walker golf course, with easy access from Greenville/Spartanburg, Atlanta, Asheville, and Charlotte. The climate in May is ideal for outdoor gatherings, golf, and water sports.

The Hosts

The conference chair is David Blakesley (dblakes@clemson.edu). The conference is sponsored by the endowment for the Campbell Chair in Technical Communication at Clemson and the Kenneth Burke Society.


If you have questions about the conference, please contact David Blakesley (dblakes@clemson.edu). Watch the conference website (http://kbjournal.org/2011conference) for additional announcements.