Volume 13, Issue 1 Fall 2017

Contents of KB Journal Volume 13, Issue 1 Fall 2017

Kenneth Burke's FBI Files

David Blakesley and Todd Deam FBI Seal

Todd Deam requested Burke's FBI Files in February, 1999. The Justice Department responded within several weeks to say that the files would be made available in "due time." Due time turned out to be only 45 days, in part because the files had been requested previously and thus didn't need to be censored again.

The packet contains twenty pages in all, some of which are inserts of an FBI form indicating that one or more pages is not being released because of exemptions specified in the Freedom of Information Privacy Act. Because of their location in the entire file, the missing pages appear to be from the mid-1950s, but that conclusion is only speculation. You can download the entire FBI file without annotations here. Otherwise, you can review each page and a transcription below.—DB

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Perhaps the first thing that strikes the attention is the degree to which the documents have been censored. In many cases, items no longer readable will likely contain names of people involved in preparing the report or who may still be living and thus subject to having their privacy protected.

This first document is one of nine to treat the four League of American Writers' (LAW) Congresses. Burke is known to have participated in the first three (1935, 1937, and 1939).

At the first LAW Congress in 1935, he presented the much-discussed speech, "Revolutionary Symbolism in America." (See Simons and Melia, The Legacy of Kenneth Burke, Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1989, for a copy of the speech and reactions.)

This first page of the report provides an overview of the LAW and identifies the content of the report, which appears to be a typical "brief" on the organization's activities. Seven lines from the bottom, the magazine Direction is mentioned.

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Burke published "Literature as Equipment for Living" in Direction in 1938, as well as a series of essays in 1941-42 on the emergent war: "Americanism." Direction 4 (February 1941): 2, 3; "Where Are We Now?" Direction 4 (December 1941): 3-5. "When 'Now' Becomes 'Then."' Direction 5 (February-March 1942): 5. "Government in the Making." Direction 5 (December 1942): 3-4.

This next document notes that much of the history of the LAW used to construct this brief comes from Eugene Lyons's The Red Decade: The Classic Work on Communism in America During the Thirties. New Rochelle, N.Y., Arlington House, 1991. See also Frank A. Warren's Liberals and Communism: The 'Red Decade' Revisited, 1966, rpt. 1993, NY: Columbia UP.

Burke's name appears right above Erskine Caldwell's.

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This page concludes the discussion of the first LAW Congress, then begins the narrative of the second one, held in NYC from June 4-6, 1937. Burke presented the speech, "The Relation between Literature and Science," which is republished in The Writer in a Changing World, ed. Henry Hart, NY: Equinox Cooperative Press, 1937, 158-171.

The LAW aimed in particular to fight the growing presence of fascist thinking in America and continued to ally itself with the Soviet Union, whose policies of repression under the Stalinist regime were rumored but as yet unsubstantiated in the U.S.

It should also be noted that the aims of the LAW as published in the brochure preceding the Second Congress were not as specifically supportive of the Soviet Union as were those accompanying the First Congress. The aims in 1937 focus more on role of the writer as a cultural watchdog, a healthy culture being perceived as the best defense against fascism.

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By this Second Congress, the aims of the LAW had become more focused on advancing the role of the writer as cultural watchdog. The reasoning was that, as stated in the bulletin announcing the meeting, a healthy culture was both the product of freedom of thought and expression, as well as the means of defending "the political and social institutions that make for peace," and by implication, of forestalling fascism's spread to the United States.

There's is no mention here of the Soviet Union or Stalinism, as there was in the announcement for the First Congress. The LAW had begun to back off its support of Stalin amid widespread rumors of his repressive tactics. In hindsight, of course, we now know that these rumors turned out to be true.

Burke is identified on this page as one of the individuals serving on an organizing committee "functioning to make the congress a success."

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The presence of fascistic thinking in America was of great concern to Burke, as was evidenced in his famous "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle,'" which was delivered at the Third Congress in June, 1939. The speech was a scaled back version of the essay Burke had already had accepted by The Southern Review and that would appear a month later in July, 1939. This essay also appears in The Philosophy of Literary Form, 1941, rpt. Berkeley: U of California P, 1973.

In "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle,'" Burke describes his purpose as follows: "let us try also to discover what kind of 'medicine' this medicine-man [Hitler] has concocted, that we may know, with greater accuracy, exactly what to guard against, if we are to forestall the concocting of similar medicine in America" (PLF 191).

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This page includes more names of people associated with the LAW. Burke is listed again, as are some of the following notable figures: Van Wyck Brooks (whose The Flowering of New England, 1815-1865 won the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1937); Erskine Caldwell (novelist; Tobacco Road, 1932); Lillian Hellman (dramatist; The Children's Hour, 1934); Muriel Rukeyser (poet; a key figure in the development of feminst poetry in the thirties), Upton Sinclair (The Jungle, 1906; Dragon's Teeth,1942); William Carlos Williams (poet, and Burke's longtime friend); and 29-year-old Richard Wright (Native Son, 1940; Black Boy, 1945).

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The tone expressed in this description of the 1939 Congress is one of optimism that various writers were withdrawing because the "Communists dominated the L.A.W." It is unlikely that Burke, whose name is still included at the bottom of the page as a "contributor to the material published and discussed in the 1939 congress" would have been one of those who abandoned the "cause" at this stage, having said in later interviews that he was not entirely persuaded to the truth about Stalin until well after World War II.

Thomas Mann, one of the key figures at this Congress, was greatly admired by Burke, who was the first person to translate Mann's Death in Venice into English. Mann had won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929.

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The next several pages of Burke's file include the "National Membership" of the League of American Writers for "the information of the other Field Divisions." The FBI apparently desired to continute to track the activities of those listed. It's difficult to discern the reasons why so many names have been blacked out, while others remain untouched. Little information on John D. Barry could be found, though there was a San Francisco architect and author who died in 1942 and who may be the same person listed here.

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Burke's name appears on this page, along with his friend's, William Carlos Williams. Williams and Burke corresponded for over forty years. Their mutual influence has been discussed in such works as Brian Bremen's William Carlos Williams and the Diagnostics of Culture (1993), James East's, One Along Side the Other: The Collected Letters of William Carlos Williams and Kenneth Burke (Ph.D. Diss. U North Carolina, Greensboro, 1994), and in David Blakesley's "William Carlos Williams's Influence on Kenneth Burke," which is published on this website.

Some of you may not know that Williams performed surgery on Burke 1945 to remove a "protuberance" from his mouth. About the incident, Burke writes, "But I was disgusted when you started talking down your next book, while I had such a face full of blood and gauze that I could not defend you against yourself. What bad advertising!" (Dec. 15, 1945; Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University). Williams, of course, was quite pleased to be able to have all the final words on that day.

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The subject of the next three documents in the files is Walter Lowenfels, whose shipment of 156 "pieces of mail" was seized by the Egg Harbor, NJ, Postmaster because of her determination that "the printed matter contained within the envelopes she had inspected was of a subversive nature." Burke, was one of the addressees.

Walter Lowenfels (1897-1976) was an activist poet and prominent editor throughout his career. According to the dustjacket on his collection of poetry, Reality Prime (1998), he was "among the principal figures in 'the revolution of the word,' the movement to modernize American writing in the early years of this century. He broke major ground as a surrealist and as a politcal poet. Closely identified with Henry Miller and Anais Nin, he was a key figure in the Paris avant-garde during the 1920s and 1930s. After Lowenfels' return to the United States, he was jailed as a Communist. He was a familiar, radical presence in non-academic poetry."

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The opening quotation on this page describes Lowenfels's arrest by agents of the FBI. It is uncertain whether it is an account of the event that has been quoted from the material within the mailing (and perhaps written by Lowenfels himself).

Lowenfels was editor of the Pennsylvania edition of The Daily Worker, which is likely the newsletter deemed subversive and seized. The oldest of "The Philadelphia Nine," Lowenfels was arrested and prosecuted under the Smith Act in 1953. The Smith Act, otherwise known as The Sedition Act, was used by the Federal government to prosecute Communists during the late forties and early fifties for "inciting the overthrow of the government."

Katherine Anne Porter is the famous short story writer, feminist, and socialist who later in life argued for separating art and politics.

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Burke would have loved this page from the files. His is the only name not blacked out.

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This information sheet indicates that four pages have been withheld from this location in the file. The deletions were made for reasons 552-b.2, b.7.C, and b.7.C). The numbers refer to items in the Freedom of Information Act law, which states the following:

b.7.C: "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

b.7.D: "could reasonably be expected to disclose the identity of a confidential source, including a State, local, or foreign agency or authority or any private institution which furnished information on a confidential basis, and, in the case of a record or information compiled by a criminal law enforcement authority in the course of a criminal investigation or by an agency conducting a lawful national security intelligence investigation, information furnished by a confidential source."

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Once again, the FBI has withheld two pages from the file, on the basis that it

b.7.C: "could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."

Interestingly, such decisions may be appealed. Burke would appreciate the simplicity of the rhetoric required (in italics):

"There is no specific form or particular language needed to file an administrative appeal. You should identify the component that denied your request and include the initial request number that the component assigned to your request and the date of the component's action. If no request number has been assigned, then you should enclose a copy of the component's determination letter. There is no need to attach copies of released documents unless they pertain to some specific point you are raising in your administrative appeal. You should explain what specific action by the component that you are appealing, but you need not explain the reason for your disagreement with the component's action unless your explanation will assist the appeal decision-maker in reaching a decision. " (From the The Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act Reference Guide )

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Yet again, three more pages have been withheld from this location in the file because it has been deemed that releasing the information would violate someone's right to privacy.

In sum, nine pages of material have been withheld, which is roughly one-third of the entire file, all from the period between the previous entry (1954) and the next, which is from 1956.

That period was, of course, during the height of the McCarthy frenzy in the United States, a time when hundreds of thousands of civilians were being recruited by the U.S. Air Force as plane spotters amid fear of an invasion by the "Red Menace."

Burke was during this period producing work for The Rhetoric of Religion and for his Symbolic of Motives, which he still planned to complete and that only appeared in fragments in other works, such as Language as Symbolic Action (1966), until the posthumous publication of Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950–1955 in 2007.

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The next two documents concern Lily Batterham, who was Burke's first wife and the sister of his second wife, Libbie. According to the record, Burke and Lily were officially divorced in 1933.

The FBI believes that Lily was a member of the Communist Party. Burke himself claimed that he was never a card-carrying member, and nothing in the FBI file seems to contradict that.

JSSS stands for "Jefferson School of Social Science."

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The Jefferson School for Social Science was designated by the Attorney General as having "affiliation with the Communist movement." The evidence for that has been blacked out, and the document ends here.

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From the late forties on, Linus Pauling, as a member of Einstein's Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, actively sought to educate people about the dangers of nuclear war. Pauling won the Presidential Medal of Merit in 1948 and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954. According to his Nobel biography, in the early fifties and again in the early sixties, he encountered accusations of being pro-Soviet or Communist, allegations which he categorically denied. For a few years prior to 1954, he had restrictions placed by the Department of State on his eligibility to obtain a passport.

This Peace Rally took place in 1961. In 1962, Pauling won his second Nobel Prize (the only person ever to win two) for his peace efforts. Interestingly and because of a technicality, Pauling didn't officially receive his high school diploma until 1962.

The list of sponsors of this event appears on the next page.

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"Prof. Kenneth Burke, Andover, N.J." is the seventh name down in the lefthand column.

Burke, of course, was deeply concerned with the dangerous machinery of war, the ultimate disease of cooperation. In a letter to William Carlos Williams on Oct. 12, 1945, just two months after atomic bombs had struck Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Burke wrote:

Meanwhile, weather permitting, I sally forth with my scythe each afternoon, to clear the weeds from the fields about the house. I have driven the wilderness back quite a bit, since the last time you were here (at least in some places, though it is patient, and ever ready to catch me napping, and move in here as soon as I go there). So, while scything, in a suffering mood, I worry about our corrupt newspapers, about nucleonics (for where there is power there is intrigue, so this new fantastic power may be expected to call forth intrigue equally fantastic), about things still to be done for the family, about a sentence that should never have been allowed to get by in such a shape. (Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University).


Todd Deam was the project coordinator who acquired Burke's FBI Files and transcribed them for publication in PDF format. David Blakesley prepared the images for web publication and wrote the running commentary. Kathy Elrick also prepared some HTML files and images.

Conflict and Communities: The Dialectic at the Heart of the Burkean Habit of Mind [Keynote Address]

James F. Klumpp, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland

Webster's defines "keynote" as "a prevailing tone or central theme, typically one set or introduced at the start of a conference." But as you are well aware, we have already had two and a half wonderful days of our conference. "How," I was forced to ask myself, "will my voice key the notes emanating from the conference?" Perhaps, I thought, I should listen to your projects over these first two days and then hide myself away Friday night to prepare the definitive synopsis of your ideas—leading you where you wanted to go, as it were.

Now, I assume that at least one of the reasons why Nathan and Annie Laurie issued their request to me to address you is that I am one of those—shall we say "elderly sages" or "old buffaloes"?—who were fortunate enough to have spent time with the stimulus to our study, Kenneth Burke. And my thought of spending Friday evening preparing my remarks reminded me of a Burkean moment. I was fortunate enough to host KB at a conference that Jim Ford and I put together in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1984. It was a marvelous conference on the subject of Critical Pluralism bringing together many of the great thinkers of the twentieth century including Richard McKeon, Wayne Booth, Robert L. Scott, Bruce Ehrlich, Ihad Hassan, Ellen Rooney, Stanley Fish, and of course, Kenneth Burke. The soon to be eighty-seven-year-old Burke was scheduled to present on the third morning of the conference. With no little amount of concern, I arrived early at the hotel to retrieve my charge for breakfast. I rang his room . . . , and rang, and rang. No answer. Finally, a weak voice answered. "What time is it?" "It's 8:30 KB. You are on in an hour and a half." "Oh, my gosh, I was up all night nailing that Howdy Wit," he said. I knew immediately he meant Hayden White who had spoken the day before. And, then I realized that Burke had rewritten his presentation that would take place within hours as a response to White's presentation that had riled his feathers. "I think I will skip breakfast and sleep a bit more." "You can't do that KB," I pleaded. "You need to have something to eat." Finally, he agreed to meet me for a bowl of cereal and some juice before we walked to the conference.

As the hour for his presentation arrived, he was certainly himself. The day before had ended with a presentation by Richard McKeon, who had ridden the ferry back and forth with Burke when they were studying together at Columbia University a century ago . . . in 1917 (Seltzer, 41). It was my distinct honor to host the last dinner that these two greatest humanists of the 20th century shared; McKeon would die within the year. For posterity it was at the Glass Onion in Lincoln, Nebraska. Anyway, I digress. That morning in March 1984, as Burke rose to speak, I realized that the appearance of these two displayed perfectly the contrasting habits of mind that made them so wise and so valuable to all of us working in their wake. McKeon, the day before, was as McKeon always was. He was immaculately coiffed, nattily and carefully attired in a three piece suit with a sparkling watch chain perfectly arced across his five button vest, visible through the perfect hang of his open suit coat. His wing tips were polished to a spit shine. He spoke in full sentences with each word seemingly measured. His presentation was easily outlined by those so inclined and each of his claims was presented clearly, explained precisely, and supported thoroughly.

Now this morning, the group was to hear from his counterpart in the humanistic Valhalla, Kenneth Burke. Burke's hair was in disarray. He wore a shirt that hadn't seen an iron in some time, and a green sweater lay askew around his shoulders, unbuttoned, with it quite obvious that none of those buttons were about to meet their corresponding button hole. Pants sagged just a bit. His loafers showed the mud generated from the rain the day before. As he approached the podium a sheath of yellow legal size sheets in his hand bore the unmistakable scribbles of his night's work. And sure enough, we were to hear him glide quickly from topic to topic, sometimes uttering a sentence, sometimes a fragment, sometimes a mere word, fumbling with the order of his pages, arms flailing, every once in a while breaking into that impish smile and saying "You know what I mean?" And we did. Maybe not fully grasping every thought, but certainly we understood the insightful direction he was leading us.

White sat somewhat uncomfortably, recognizing that he had been upstaged. I cannot remember the full impact of their dispute after 33 years, but I do remember the exchange that followed Burke's presentation. As I opened the floor to questions White's hand rose gingerly into the air. "It is my view that we think too little these days," White offered, "about death." Looking every year of his age, the nearly eighty-seven-year-old Burke did not pause. "Well, you may not think about it much, but I pretty much think about it all the time," he responded. The room broke into laughter and we were off to a rewarding intellectual parlor conversation.

Well, Burke would be Burke, but I decided I should not follow his example and spend a sleep-deprived Friday night preparing my remarks. For one thing, I am not as quick and witty as KB at his best, especially when sleep-deprived. But more than that, I do in fact have a message to deliver after my many years of interacting personally, and through his writings and mine, with the person who keynotes our conference far beyond my humble abilities to add or detract.

I want to make clear that I view my task today as something other than to tell you: "This is what the master actually meant." I will leave the exegesis to others. Nor am I here to declare precisely how we must now go beyond what Burke taught because the world has changed. Indeed, my pursuit is subject to neither a specific time nor a specific place. When I read Burke and similar scholarly models, I try to understand how they think through problems. "Habits of mind" is the term I used to refer to McKeon and Burke earlier: the characteristic way they array our understanding as they explain the world they experience. When we master such a habit of mind we advance our own capacity to richly encounter the experience that is life. We have not mastered an understanding, but acquired a way of seeing.

My last metaphor here has been visual which recalls one of my favorite Burkean figures: the two launches in the photograph hanging in the Museum of Modern Art. In the introduction to A Grammar of Motives, Burke described an incredibly complicated photograph: an intricate tracery of lines. But if the viewer briefly closed her eyes, opened them and looked again at the photo, she saw simplicity rather than complexity: two boats proceed side by side generating the interlocking patterns of their wakes (xvi). So, what I want to do today is to talk about what I take as a habit of mind that continually plays out in Burke's thought and journey, the simplicity of which is obscured by our seeing only the complication of his writing. Now, I will also warn you that I do not propose something made simple from cultural familiarity. No, indeed. This habit of mind has been largely lost to our culture because of our intellectual traditions and the politics of the twentieth century. Part of the reason we must seek it anew is that against our cultural and intellectual normality the habit of mind marks Burke as an aberration, not as a simple essence.

A Habit of Mind

Time to locate that habit of mind. I believe the best approach will be by triangulating the pattern, first from the perspective of our conference theme: conflict. The conference website traces the term back to its Latin roots: "to strike together." Over the years—specifically since the 1600s if we believe the OED—the term has acquired its more social meanings of combat, quarrel, or competition. I want to take my cue from the program and return to that Latin root. Two things are required for that meaning, (1) difference and (2) a vector that hurls the aspects of that difference into each other: to strike together. I think there is a word that will serve us better to communicate the imperative: "tension." I believe that Burke saw the world as composed—transitive and intransitive—through tension. Moments are given shape by the striking together. Understanding follows grasping the tensions that animate moments.

To continue the triangulation, consider a second approach: a little thought experiment. When we humans meet a moment and begin to engage it as an experience, what do we do? Many of us typically categorize: What just happened? What word best describes it? What other moment is this one like? We invoke these basic analytic tools: abstracting, naming, analogy. But I think Burke's habit of mind went at it with a slight difference. I think he experienced by seeking the tension that drew the moment into focus. What "striking together" compels us into the moment? Does it confront our expectations? Does its release of energy invite or threaten us? Are we called to become involved in resolution? What inherent conflict—what inherent energy—drew us into the moment?

Burke envisions this moment most explicitly in the beginning paragraphs of Attitudes Toward History. His living human critic—remember all living things are critics (P & C, 5)—embraces the tension of her moment. She senses the tension—the friendly and unfriendly—and having now constructed experience, begins to work into it, through the offices of human symbolic acts (ATH, 3-4).

The third perspective of our triangulation may finally put a recognizable name on this habit of mind for you: a focus on Burkean dialectic. Dialectical terms are everywhere in Burke's thinking and writing: permanence and change, identity and identification, actus and stasis, merger and division, the list goes on. These pairs emphasize how words do not define through their platonic ideal, but through their relationship with other terms. These dialectics mark tensions and they make the case for the centrality of tension. In terms of the meaning of words they reject referential theory—meaning is correspondence with a located reality—and point instead to meaning in use in context—a contextualist theory of meaning. And Burke was a major figure in the rise of contextualism in the twentieth century, perhaps its most thorough philosopher. When he considered the three orders of terms in A Rhetoric of Motives—positive, dialectical, and ultimate—it is in the dialectical order where humans live. Burke characterized this as "competing voices in a jangling relation with one another" (187). (As an aside we should note that even with the positive order of terms Burke invoked Kant to see them as "a manifold of sensations unified by a concept" (183). Thus, even a positive term is not in its essence a pointing, but a merger—a striking together.) Humans live in a web of connections where things strike together. Like the mental trick of blinking the eyes and seeing the intricate tracery turn into simplicity, encountering through abstracting, naming, and analogy disappears into a different habit of mind: dialectical tension.

This latter way into dialectic, however, emphasizes the role of words—of language, of symbolic action. After all, Burke's most concise definition of dialectic, that in A Grammar of Motives, proclaims, "By DIALECTICS in the most general sense we mean the employment of the possibilities of linguistic transformation" (402). Elsewhere, I have argued that Burke's dialectic differs from Hegel's philosophical dialectic and Marx's historical dialectic because it is a linguistic dialectic ("Rapprochement," 157). The symbol-using and mis-using animal differs because of the symbolic capacity. With language we project ourselves into the action of the world in conjunction with others. Our epistemological, sociological, and behavioral encounters develop within the capacity for language.

Well, dialectic can be complicated, particularly in Burke's hands. So, let me finally cut to a simplistic explanation: the simplest shorthand for understanding the habit of mind is the substitution of the "both/and" dialectic for the "either/or" binary. Either/or is the binary of mechanistic, referential habits of mind. The binary performs categorization and leads toward essences, platonic ideals, and what I call "hardening of the categories." Both/and turns the other way, emphasizing that division in the merger/division dialectic always draws back toward merger. Tension lies in their field of contestation—their striking together. So insistent am I that this is a key to Burke's thought that when my students parody me, they do so most often by simply mouthing in unison "both/and." But what their simplification leaves out is the complexity that opens up once our habit of mind turns to dialectical tension. For now, the contours of the striking together compel attention. What are the claims of the "and" in "both/and"? What narrative is set into action by the merger? And where does division defy the merger?

I see this as Burke's native habit of mind. Experience tension. Find the energy generated by the striking together. Accommodate both/and. Tease difference into the drive toward merger that inheres in every distinction. When encountering the either/or, transform it into its comparable both/and. Humanity—the human genius—lies in negotiating tension through the power of symbolic action.

Conflict and Communities

Of course, human action is at the center of this habit of mind. So, I suspect you are thinking about the both/and of our conference theme: conflict and communities. Going to that more socially focused pairing may provide an even fuller appreciation of Burke's habit of mind. Burke certainly formulated a sociology, developed by his disciples including most notably Hugh Dalziel Duncan and Joseph Gusfield, built on the constructs of other important contextualists in sociology, notably George Herbert Mead. There is no doubt of the presence of social concepts in Burke's work. He exploited the figure of the Tower of Babel linking language and diversity, and lodging the charge to humans to overcome that diversity through language. He exploited the figure of the wrangle of the barnyard. He portrayed war as the epitome of both cooperation and division, illustrating the extremity of dialectical tension and the both/and. He gave a central role in A Rhetoric of Motives to the dialectic of identity and identification that stresses how life is lived within the tension between the biologically autonomous individual and the loquacious inventor of community. The flow of life framed in those first two pages of Attitudes Toward History was a portrayal of communities managing the tensions of history through rhetorical interaction.

The key to understanding Burkean sociology is to grasp two things about his view. First, sociology is derived from the linguistic. Humans are the symbol using and misusing animal. Throughout daily life they transform the resources, the potentialities, of language to construct relations with their fellows, friendly and unfriendly. We are reminded that those two comm- words—community and communication—are intricately related to each other. One inheres in the other. The division in that conjunction "and" must be countermanded by the merger of "both/and." Conflict arises within the shared dialectical transformation of the linguistic into both rhetoric and social order. Perhaps this is a perfect moment to repeat the meaning of both/and, emphasizing the dialectic necessity of always forcing division into merger and vice versa.

The second key to Burke's sociology is this: Life is lived in the experiencing, creating, and cathartic relieving of dialectical tension. The concept of narrative, for example, arises from the interlocking of language and social action. No understanding of human interaction works well without understanding the linguistic transformation performed therein. I have argued elsewhere that this is the error of many treatments of Burke and hierarchy: separating the social hierarchy from the linguistic—seeing them as sequential causality—when instead they should be considered as dialectical performance. What is inevitable in hierarchy is simply how language inherently invokes and orders distinctions, and that inherent capacity is a linguistic resource, there to be exploited or transformed into the merger that is social order ("Burkean Social Hierarchy," 210-18).

Conflict and community are inextricably linked within the linguistic dialectic. Community naturally produces and is a product of conflict performed with the resources of human language. As conflict seems to divide, it requires and produces the cooperation from which the identity of communities emerges. This structural necessity illustrates again the power of both/and: conflict which seems to mark the divisions within a community is transformed as it performs the constructive process that reinforces the dance of community relations.

What Difference It Makes

I fear that I am guilty of multiplying a Burkean patois beyond easy assimilation, so let me move toward implications to illuminate what difference this Burkean habit of mind makes. Let me begin where my great teacher Bernie Brock always went: to contemporary politics. Obviously, those of us in the United States are now caught in a toxic political culture. Division is the order of the day, reason seems to have fled, and the line between words and violence seems quite thin. Conflict, indeed. Lamentation is heard daily, deploring the demise of civility, within a surrogate self-flagellation performed by our political intellectuals.

But if the habit of mind projects tension as natural, particularly in the human barnyard of politics, then the contemporary moment is reimagined. The best way to grasp this is to recall Burke negotiating the 1930s. As my co-keynoter Ann George and Jack Selzer have well documented, Burke was deeply involved in the intense political conflict of the 1930s. The politics of that decade were shaped by the tension between stability and anomie, the dialectic of permanence and change. Within that dialectic, democratic politics manifests permanence in consensus and change in ideological turmoil. At that time, as today, turmoil was clearly ascendant, but the yearning for the re-emergence of consensus was palpable. These were times appropriate to seeing politics as a striking together.

To complete the habit of mind, however, we must remember that Burke's dialectic invokes linguistic transformation. It is wise to ponder for a moment the perspective that gave rise to his two greatest political tracts: "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle'" and "Revolutionary Symbolism in America." They represent the both/and of another tension Burke lived, which I have characterized as "linguistic realism and social activism" ("Burkean Social Hierarchy," 218). The critic of "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle'" saw how political cultures constructed their motives from powerful symbolic resources with dramatic social consequences. He sought to divulge "what kind of 'medicine' this medicine-man has concocted" (PLF, 191). He worried out loud about the use of this medicine in America. In his deconstruction of the link between language and malignant political power lay the possibility of linguistic transformation of political motive.

In contrast, the social activist of "Revolutionary Symbolism" later described the intensity with which he approached his speech to the First American Writer's Congress: "I really wanted to get in with those guys." His message that day aimed at persuasion: the American party needed to adopt a vocabulary that would motivate Americans to their banner.

These two essays with their different approaches enact the merger of more tensions: the dialectic between identification with a political community and assertion of an individual political identity, paired with a tension between language's power to coordinate action through motive and the rhetor's power of persuasion to move others. Burke lived in a world which sought to bring these various tensions together in the service of linguistic transformation.

Would Burke deplore the state of our democracy? Sure, . . . in his comic way. For ironically, in the chest-pounding lament for our lost democracy today there is a surprising void of linguistic transformation. Today's public intellectuals seem to not only lack a Rexford Tugwell and William F. Buckley, they also lack an H. L. Mencken or Will Rogers. Where are the voices celebrating and invoking transcendent values to foster identification? Where are the narratives to envision a democratic resolution? The habit of mind that saw first the natural tension that defines democratic politics would seek to tease resolution, even within energetic critique.

Babel, however, was not just about politics. Genesis tells us that the Lord said, "Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth" (King James Version, Genesis 11:7-8). Thus, the Judeo-Christian Bible linked language, understanding, and the diversity of communities. In the dialectic of his confounding, the Lord fashioned the challenge for humans to overcome their diversity. Today, in the conjunction of globalization and racism, that challenge is foremost. How would a habit of mind that began by seeing a striking together encounter the challenge?

In our world, the tensions of globalization versus tribalism (and its variant nationalism) manifest in the social conflicts that are terrorism and racism. Within their intense rancor, it is so hard to see the need for linguistic transformation.

But perhaps nowhere is the need for linguistic transformation more vivid. Underlying the current talk about these divisions is an understanding that language plays a role. The war on terror invokes the Manichean judgment of "evil" and prescribes "war," "killing the infidel," and "annihilation." Pejoratives such as "radicalized" and "hate speech" describe the language of the other in this Babel. Less prominently condemned is the dominant culture's voice: the symbolic aggression of cultural hegemony. Yet, to this point, the strategies that would transform the issues of cultural clash and once again invoke that powerful symbol of Christmas 1968—the image of the big blue marble rising above the moon—are wanting. Seeing the problem in these terms challenges this habit of mind to pull humans back toward identification and community.

It seems to this point I have sought the significance of this habit of mind exclusively on the conflict side of our conference theme. Hopefully the both/and that drives the two words of our theme together has not been lost as I have emphasized political and social conflict. So, let me ponder where we go if we emphasize the comm- side of the theme. And let me focus on that comm- interest in which most of us are occupied in some way or another: communication.

In our age, that focus teases out concern about the new technologies of communication. Late in life Burke saw and wrote about the dangers of technology, but I think he could not have foreseen the internet and the other new technologies of communication. If we begin with his habit of mind, however, and look through the eyes of dialectic, certain observations follow. At a rudimentary level, a habit of mind that begins in an inquiry of how tension draws moments into context compels students of language to engage the emerging concern with the economy of attention (Lanham). The difference is profound when tension is not the product but is the initiate of communication. A Burkean view on the economy of attention is ripe for work.

But at a more focused level, understanding the impact of the new communication technologies may be opened by their power to illustrate the dialectic of merger and division. The promise of the universality of the internet is to electronically remove divisive barriers that limit communication, to permit identification across geography and, with electronic translation, even across languages. Now, it seems, the people of earth have a new tool to overcome the Lord's decree at Babel. But alas, just as dialectic would promise, in the trajectory of the new technologies of communication the prospect of merger has confronted the reality of division. It turned out that easy access opened the power of the receiver over the author—Who shall I choose to hear?—and the openness multiplied rather than merged divisive voices. The dialectic tension created by the multiplied voices has been matched by a tension in the strategy of voice: the tension between identification—"We are one!"—and identity—"Because we are better than them!" So the new technologies have accelerated social conflict rather than resolved it. We can observe in the chatter within the new technologies, just as Burke observed about war, identification and identity enhancing both merger and division.

I do not foresee the linguistic transformation that will hasten the full potential of the new technology. We do remember that humans are "separated from their natural condition by instruments of their own making" (LSA, 16). But perhaps there are lessons in the two previous technological crises through which Burke navigated. In one—nuclear energy—we seem to have achieved a passing grade on our linguistic transformation of its potential to destroy us. At least until the potential is reignited by another linguistic transformation. The other technological crisis—the environment and global warming—is unfinished. Even Stephen Hawking is now joining the Helhaven essay's projection for the human race, albeit giving humans a bit longer to escape to another world (Holley). But linguistic transformations critique the struggle in motives that may yet save the planet. We shall see.

I finally want to consider the comm- side of our theme in concerns perhaps more familiar to many in this room: in the human capacity for creative strategic communication. How can those of us who study language and communication exploit the habit of mind that experiences human action within a striking together? Where is the potential in such habit of mind? Without fully documenting, let me charge that our tendency throughout the twentieth century was too often to view discourse and meaning referentially, and to generalize about its effects and the author's goals and achievements. We were failed stewards of dialectic. For many years of that century I taught and supervised others teaching argumentation. One of the hardest lessons for students in that classroom to learn was the concept of stasis—the point at issue in an argument; what the arguer was striking together. The notion that messages were expressions of an author's inner thoughts as a starting place for understanding was simply too strongly ingrained in the twentieth century mind.

So, if we do begin to see a message as capturing a tension—discourse contextualizing a moment into a striking together—several important things follow. We will see a text as both individual text and as context. We will see each of the terms of this dialectic pulling on the other: context arising from text and forcing limits on text. We will overcome the isolation of authorship as expression of identity and put the author's voice into relationship with engagement, toward identification. In the process, we must look always, through the strategies of messaging, into the motivational quality of language in a symbolic driven world. The result is to see more clearly the dynamic nature of the world and the role that the human capacity for symbolicity plays in that dynamism. We will become—with all living things—critics.

The Contextualist Way

I warned at the beginning that I would refuse two burdens in my keynote. First, I would refuse to "interpret the master's words." I renounced exegesis. By pursuing the habit of mind instead—moving beyond the words with the metaphor of two launches as guide—my challenge to you today is to approach your work from a more fundamentally altered orientation. Second, I promised to avoid the argument that in this new world Burke needed to be reinterpreted. Indeed, there is nothing time-bound in my message. The habit of mind I have emphasized is an alternative that opens up paths of response in any moment, past, present or future. My challenge is to try it on as Burke did. Use this habit of mind and see how it opens up the world differently. There are reasons why dialectical thinking has been so difficult in the twentieth century. But I do not have time to fully explore the historical barriers today. I would hasten to add, however, that I believe the case to pursue this habit of mind emerges strongly from its silencing in the past. And my thesis is that in seeing Burke's contribution to this well-established intellectual habit of mind we will advance our own understanding.

In characterizing his take on dialectic, I referred to Burke as perhaps the greatest philosopher of contextualism in the twentieth century. Let me end by returning there. As many disciplines developed through the twentieth century, contextualism as a mode of inquiry challenged the mechanistic view of the world. The terms here are Stephen Pepper's. Others have used different terms: humanism challenging science, interpretation challenging measurement, the subjective challenging the objective, and others. What contextualism championed was the role that the symbolic played in humans experiencing and participating in their world. The human assertion of text reached into the environment to construct context into meaning and ultimately into action. Burke's habit of mind developed through the century as he interacted with others to refine this way of thinking about humanity and its relationship to the material world. He elaborated the implications of the contextualist viewpoint: text gathered context and in its strategic core—what Burke referred to as the "great central moltenness" (GM, xix)—transformed meaning and coordinated action, by resolving the tensions emerging in interpretation. Words do not reflect change. Words do work; words perform change. Words—symbols—achieve linguistic transformation.

There is much potential in this spirit as we go forward. Those of us working to understand and guide humanity have not exhausted the potentialities of this habit of mind, of the Burkean dialectic. Much is promised by encountering the world with the different questions generated by this habit of mind: What tension drew us into the moment? What "striking together" compels us into this moment? Does the tension confront our expectations? Does its release of energy invite or threaten us? Are we called to become involved in its resolution? What inherent conflict—what inherent energy—drew us into the moment? And what resources that we can call upon as a symbol user and mis-user will guide us toward transforming our moment to join with our fellow symbolic using and misusing animals in inventing our tomorrows?

The text of this essay was first presented as a keynote address at the 2017 Conference of the Kenneth Burke Society on June 10, 2017.

Works Cited

Burke, Kenneth. Attitudes Toward History. 1937; Berkeley: U of California Press, 1984. Print.

—. A Grammar of Motives. 1945; Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. Print.

—. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays in Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley: U of California P, 1966. Print.

—. Permanence and Change, 3rd ed. 1935; Berkeley: U of California P, 1983. Print.

—. Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1941. Print.

—. "Revolutionary Symbolism in America" (speech, American Writer's Congress, New York, 26 April 1935). The Legacy of Kenneth Burke. Ed. Herbert W. Simons and Trevor Melia. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1989, pp. 267-73. Print.

—. A Rhetoric of Motives. 1950; Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. Print.

—. "Towards Helhaven: Three Stages of a Vision" Sewanee Review 79.1 (Winter 1971): 11-25. Print.

George, Ann, and Jack Seltzer. Kenneth Burke in the 1930s. Columbia: U of South Carolina Press, 2007. Print.

Holley, Peter. "Stephen Hawking Just Moved up Humanity's Deadline for Escaping Earth," Washington Post, 5 May 2017. Blog. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1895497983.

Klumpp, James F. "A Rapprochement Between Dramatism and Argumentation," Argumentation and Advocacy 29.4 (Spring 1993): 148-63. Print.

—. "Burkean Social Hierarchy and the Ironic Investment of Martin Luther King." Kenneth Burke and the 21st Century. Ed. Bernard L. Brock. Albany: SUNY P, 1999, pp. 207-42. Print.

Lanham, Richard. The Economics of Attention: Style and Substance in the Age of Information. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2006. Print.

Pepper, Stephen. World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence. Berkeley: U of California P, 1942. Print.

Selzer, Jack. Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village: Conversing with the Moderns, 1915-1931. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996. Print.

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A Scapegoat for the Scapegoats: Investigating AIDS Patient Zero

Erin Doss, Indiana University Kokomo

Twenty-nine years after headlines proclaimed Gaetan Dugas as "Patient Zero" and "The Man Who Brought Us AIDS," Dugas's name appeared in headlines again, this time declaring Dugas was not singularly responsible for bringing HIV to the United States (Howard). A team of researchers in 2016 revisited samples collected from early AIDS patients and found that AIDS in the United States can be traced to multiple sources, including a pre-existing Caribbean outbreak. Although the study did not pinpoint the exact origin point of AIDS in the United States, it did establish that Dugas was not AIDS "Patient Zero," or even the first to demonstrate AIDS symptoms (Woroby et al.). Although Dugas's name has been cleared (32 years after his death), he will always have a significant role in stories of the AIDS epidemic. First identified as Patient Zero by Randy Shilts in his 1987 book And the Band Played On, Dugas was characterized as a beautiful, charismatic playboy who loved attention and casual sex with partners around the world. He was the center of every party he attended and had a wealth of friends and lovers. When he was diagnosed with Kaposi's sarcoma (a form of skin cancer often found in early AIDS patients), and later with AIDS, according to Shilts Dugas continued to pursue his promiscuous lifestyle, infecting hundreds of partners. Dugas's story is interspersed throughout Shilts's chronologically-organized book, a few paragraphs at a time, as relayed to Shilts by Dugas's friends and lovers. Shilts did not argue that Dugas was directly responsible for the AIDS epidemic, but, as reviewer Sandra Panem of Science suggested, this was not made clear to readers until page 439 of Shilts's 629-page book. Panem argued that "anyone knowledgeable knows that to pin a global epidemic on the actions of a single individual is absurd" (qtd. in "National" G2), yet that is exactly what happened in the fall of 1987.

Naming Dugas "Patient Zero" was not Shilts's immediate objective when writing And the Band Played On. Instead, he hoped to illuminate the role the media, the medical community, and the government played in allowing the AIDS epidemic to spread. Shilts was an openly gay reporter and, in the early 1980s, the only journalist in the United States covering AIDS with any regularity. Through his reporting, he became recognized as one of the only homosexual voices advocating for gay AIDS patients in the media. Shilts was the "only reporter in America who made AIDS his beat. … Shilts alone was able to tell when individuals and organizations were telling the truth. He knew the whole story" (Jones 6D). Shilts was at times ostracized by the homosexual community for his decision to write about gay sexual practices, sometimes in graphic detail, and to condemn gay leaders for their lack of effective action in curbing the epidemic (Sterel 13). However, he was known by those outside the community as a "gay activist" (Chase) and was credited with saving countless lives through his AIDS writing (Kinsella qtd. in Shaw, "A Critical" 7D).

When Shilts's book was published, however, the majority of related news coverage centered on Patient Zero. The idea of having a single target to blame for the AIDS epidemic grabbed media attention the way a reasoned, researched condemnation of government policy did not. The (often false) claims made about Dugas and attributed to Shilts created a myth of Patient Zero that I argue served to assuage the fear and guilt felt by both the homosexual community and the larger heterosexual society, and both further divided and in some ways created what Kenneth Burke referred to as "curative unification" (Philosophy 219) between the gay community and heterosexuals. However, I argue that by presenting the media with a scapegoat, Shilts built a narrative based on homophobia and provided society with a reason to ignore his carefully researched argument that the federal government and scientific community were responsible for the spread of AIDS. I build on current scapegoating literature by analyzing the case of a reporter who worked to resist the scapegoating of his community by providing two alternative scapegoats—one consciously and one seemingly unconsciously. I argue that ultimately Shilts failed to remove the gay community from its role as scapegoat and at the same time provided gays and heterosexuals with a common scapegoat, Patient Zero.

I first provide an explication of Burke's scapegoating process as it relates to my analysis and then further explain the situation of Patient Zero and the circumstances and rhetoric through which he became the ultimate AIDS scapegoat.

Burke and the Scapegoat

The concept of a scapegoat long outdates Burke, as the term originated in the biblical Old Testament when the Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a goat to atone for their individual and collective sin. Burke recognized the origin of the term and argued that a scapegoat could be denoted and slain symbolically through discourse. In Burke's usage, creating a scapegoat rhetorically involves three relationships between the scapegoat and society. Each of these relationships is imperative to the scapegoating process—guilt, purification, and redemption. If one aspect is missing, the scapegoating mechanism fails to function (Kuypers and Gellert). The first of these relationships is "an original state of merger," in which the scapegoat and the rest of society share the same "iniquities" in religious language, meaning the same feelings of guilt, fear, and/or uncertainty (Grammar 406). Often this guilt arises from the unavoidable hierarchies in society—as Burke noted, order is "impossible without hierarchy" (Attitudes 374). Such hierarchies are often understood in terms of good versus evil and participants must prove themselves worthy of their place in the hierarchy (Carter 9). As the moral order further builds up the hierarchy, it produces a sense of inferiority, which leads to feelings of imperfection and the need for purification. This need is intensified when those within the hierarchy are faced with the very real possibility of their impending death. The fear of death, then, in Carter's interpretation of Burke, is the "real director of the drama" (17). As a hierarchy must come to terms with its own imminent demise, those within the hierarchy begin to abuse power to compensate for their fear and uncertainty, thus creating a greater load of guilt. This guilt, then, needs to be dealt with in one of two ways according to Burke: mortification, the acceptance of guilt by society in an attempt to wash it away, or scapegoating, the process of placing the blame on someone else—the perfect vessel who both shares society's iniquities and embodies those iniquities in some way, whether tangible or through a rhetorical construction. The scapegoat is chosen because they are "worthy" of sacrifice, whether because they are seen as "an offender against legal or moral justice" who deserves punishment or are considered a candidate for "poetic justice," a vessel "'too good for this world'" (Philosophy 40).

Once chosen, Burke's vessel experiences a rhetorical "principle of division," in which the "elements shared in common are being ritualistically alienated" (1969a, p. 406). Through discourse, rhetors in some way shift society's fear, guilt, and/or uncertainty to the scapegoat, who becomes the embodied representative of society's iniquities. The scapegoat is then separated from society—rhetorically and in some cases physically. The scapegoat begins to represent "those infectious evils from which the group wants to be released" (Carter 18). As this happens, the scapegoat is forced out of society's discourse, taking with them the iniquities of society. As the scapegoat takes on the societal guilt, those remaining experience what Burke terms a "new principle of merger," in which society comes together under a new, "pure identity" created in "dialectical opposition" to the sacrifice (Grammar 406). Through this process society is saved by the alienation of the scapegoat, as "antithesis helps reinforce unification by scapegoat" (Language 19).

Although those viewing the situation from the outside may question the creation of a scapegoat, Burke posits that individuals within the situation feel a sense of catharsis as the blame is shifted and society is saved and brought together through the process of victimage. Burke clarifies that he is not saying scapegoating should bring feelings of catharsis and seem normal or natural, but that within literature, history, and rhetoric, this seems to be the result experienced by those within the situation (Permanence 16).

At the center of the scapegoating process is language. Burke argued that language is not neutral, but is "loaded with judgements," making speech an "intensely moral" act that gives hearers social cues about how to act toward objects and individuals (i.e., treating them as desirable or undesirable). Language, then, is a "system of attitudes, of implicit exhortations" (Permanence 177). For Burke, the way a person is referred to in conversation outlines a course of action toward that person. By considering the implications of discourse beyond the conversation or written text, Burke argued that language shapes reality and facilitates action—how a person is spoken about results in actions taken toward that person ("Dramatism" 92). As noted by Carter, seemingly neutral identifiers are "ethically charged," implying "All ought to be this, and none that" (7). Such language is "intensely moral," suggesting that words can be judged according to the actions they suggest, whether morally right or wrong (Permanence 177). In the case of Patient Zero, languages choices made by Shilts and other journalists ultimately impacted not just one man's legacy, but an entire community.

Scapegoating Patient Zero

To assess the usage of the term "Patient Zero" in reference to Gaetan Dugas, I chose to analyze both Randy Shilts's book And the Band Played On, published in 1987, and related media coverage. I collected 87 articles published between 1985 and 1990 which included the key words, "Patient Zero," "Gaetan Dugas," "Randy Shilts," or "AIDS." The majority of these articles appeared in 1987 (37) and 1988 (23), with all but one of the remaining articles published in 1989 or 1990. Much of the 1987-1988 coverage was directly related to the publication of Shilts's book and the controversy surrounding Patient Zero. Later articles focus on film and television treatments of AIDS stories, including the movie adaptation of Shilts's book.

I adopted a critical rhetoric approach, gathering these fragments of discourse together in a way that provides an understanding of how terms such as "Patient Zero" circulated during this period and ways these texts operate to both create and reinforce power structures (see McGee; McKerrow). In using critical rhetoric as a methodological orientation, I move from a study of public address to a study of the "discourse which addresses publics," taking on the role of an "inventor" who observes the social scene and analyzes communication fragments as "mediated" by popular culture and society (McKerrow 101). To provide a broader understanding of the discourse surrounding Patient Zero my analysis addresses the content of both the book and related media coverage. I first analyze Shilts's attempt to resist the media's scapegoating of homosexuals even as he seemingly unintentionally created the ultimate scapegoat. I then discuss the treatment of Shilts's scapegoat in the media and the ultimate impact of Gaetan Dugas's transformation into "the man who brought us AIDS" (Howard).

Shilts: Creating a Scapegoat

And the Band Played On details the spread of AIDS from its first known contact with the West in 1976 through 1985 and the announcement that Rock Hudson was dying from AIDS. Throughout his book Shilts sought to resist the labeling of AIDS as a gay problem. His introduction argued, "The story of these first five years of AIDS in America is a drama of national failure, played out against a backdrop of needless death" (xxii). Shilts continually placed the blame for AIDS on the Reagan administration's refusal to fund AIDS research, the scientific community's focus on competition and career advancement, public health and local government officials for failing to act, and gay leaders for playing politics instead of working to preserve lives. From a dramatistic perspective, Shilts attempted to change the public narrative of gay men as responsible for AIDS, instead describing a situation in which victims were given incomplete or false information and were allowed to act in unsafe sexual practices that led to contracting AIDS. He described the bathhouses, locations where gay men could have sexual encounters with multiple partners each night, in graphic detail and chronicled the minimal efforts made to shut them down. His description of the scenes allowed to exist in New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere demonstrated that gay men found themselves in a situation custom made for the spread of disease with no government, health, or community leaders willing to intervene.

As Shilts made the case that the government and societal hierarchy was to blame for the rise of AIDS, he also made it clear that AIDS was being overlooked and underfunded because it only affected homosexuals. Part of this blame lay with the lack of media coverage related to AIDS. For example, the New York Times did not run a story about AIDS on the front page until 1983 when the United States had already seen 1,450 cases of AIDS and 558 AIDS deaths, and the Los Angeles Times ran its first lead AIDS story in 1982 with the headline, "Epidemic affecting gays now found in heterosexuals" (Clare, 1988). As Shilts put it, the lack of media coverage about AIDS and the slow response of the medical community and the Reagan administration was "about sex, and it was about homosexuals. Taken together, it had simply embarrassed people—the politicians, the reporters, the scientists. AIDS had embarrassed everyone… and tens of thousands of Americans would die because of that" (And the Band 582). Shilts understood that homosexuals were becoming the scapegoats for AIDS. The language used in media stories related to AIDS demonstrate Shilts's concern about the scapegoating of AIDS victims and their position within the social hierarchy. As more AIDS victims died and threatened to bring the gay community into the forefront of conversation, the media continually refused to write about gay AIDS victims. As Carswell noted, newspapers "sought stories about 'real' people—that is, not homosexuals, bisexuals, drug users and others who were the early unwilling victims of the HIV virus" (4). Shaw also supported this assessment of the media's attitude toward AIDS, writing that "the American media didn't cover AIDS in any meaningful way until it seemed to threaten 'normal' (i.e. heterosexual) men and women and their children" ("A Critical" 7D).

While phrases in media coverage such as "real people," "normal," and "gay plague" clearly separated homosexuals from the heterosexual population, Shilts presented gay leaders as "real" people in their own right. The majority of his book deals with the men and women trying to fight the spread of AIDS. Shilts chronicled the few successes and many setbacks in AIDS research and the attempts to raise awareness of AIDS through the eyes of these men and women. He presented each of them as a person attempting to make a difference against a seemingly unbeatable foe. Instead of framing homosexuals as the scapegoats responsible for AIDS, Shilts described them as victims caught in a horrible situation and looking for help. By switching the focus from gay men as the agents to gay men as the victims of the scene, Shilts resisted the scapegoating of homosexuals and provided an alternate scapegoat—the federal government and scientific community, both of which he argued had failed to deal with AIDS in any real way. As noted by Foy, scapegoats rarely have the opportunity to resist the scapegoating process, as their voices are usually silenced (105). Shilts, however, refused to be silenced and used his position as a journalist to argue that homosexuals were the victims of AIDS rather than its perpetrators.

While Shilts's motive in writing the book seems clear—resisting the public's view of AIDS as a gay problem and focusing instead on the need for research and funding—he also included the perplexing story of Patient Zero, Gaetan Dugas. In a book about victims and heroes struggling to fight death, Dugas enters in the shadows of the story, making his first appearance on page 11 and quickly becoming the villain of Shilts's contradictory narrative. Even as Shilts described in detail the failings of the government and scientific community, his treatment of Dugas played on the homophobia of the broader society and provided a single, tangible evil to blame for AIDS. Dugas is first referred to as "Patient Zero" on page 23 when Shilts wrote about Dugas's "unique role" in the epidemic, one which included intentionally spreading AIDS (198). In a reversal from his strategy of focusing on scene over agent, Shilts painted Dugas as an evil agent with the knowledge of what he was doing and the desire to spread suffering. Although Dugas's story only takes up 46 pages of Shilts's book, Patient Zero became the focus of media coverage, overshadowing Shilts's careful resistance narrative.

Newspaper headlines read "Patient Zero: The airline steward who carried a disease and a grudge" (Shilts "Patient Zero") and numerous articles referred to Dugas as "Patient Zero" (see Associated Press; Carswell; Dunlop; Lehmann-Haupt; "MDs Doubt Claim,"; O'Neill). While a few articles described Shilts's reporting of Dugas's behavior accurately, most chose to focus on the idea conveyed by the term "Patient Zero." Headlines in October 1987 read "Canadian blamed for bringing AIDS to US" (Bremner), "Book singles out steward as AIDS culprit" ("Book"), and "Seductive steward blamed for spread of AIDS to US" (Hill). The New York Post even ran the headline, "The man who gave us AIDS" (Howard), a conclusion that was not supported by Shilts's discussion of Dugas or by any study conducted at the time. Shilts discussed the attention given Patient Zero and the irony of media focused on the dramatic story rather than policy (Engel; Sipchen): "Here I've done 630 pages of serious AIDS policy reporting with the premise that this disaster was allowed to happen because the media only focus on the glitzy and sensational aspects of the epidemic. My book breaks, not because of the serious public policy stories, but because of the rather minor story of Patient Zero" (qtd. in Engel). As Shilts recognized, media coverage of AIDS was shaped by the social, political, and economic climate in the United States (see Hardt). Deeply entrenched homophobia had created an environment where reporters weren't interested in writing about an embarrassing disease that impacted less than 10 percent of the population ("an aberrant 10% at that"), where political and scientific careers were threatened if they gave AIDS too much attention, and where the government and other funding agencies were loath to spend money or resources to study a "gay disease" (Shaw, "Anti-gay Bias"). In this climate neither the media nor the public was ready to accept Shilts's argument that the government and scientific community allowed the unchecked spread of AIDS. Instead, the narrative that resonated with the media—and presumably the broader public—was that of Shilts's alternative scapegoat: Patient Zero.

Dugas: The Scapegoat Rotten with Perfection

The concept of identifying a "patient zero" was not original to AIDS. The goal of discerning a single person as the starting point of an epidemic can be seen in other cases, such as the treatment of "Typhoid Mary" Mallon, who was identified as a typhoid carrier and quarantined for nearly three decades (Leavitt). The actual term, however, originated in 1984 during a cluster study completed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers interviewed the first 19 AIDS patients in southern California and found that four of them had sexual contact with a non-California AIDS patient, who was also a sexual partner of four New York AIDS patients. The study, which linked 40 patients in 10 cities by sexual contact, demonstrated that AIDS was an infectious disease spread through sexual contact. The study identified Dugas as "Patient 0" and included a cluster graph charting the spread of AIDS between sexual partners (Auerbach, Darrow, Jaffe, & Curran 488). The study did not identify Dugas as having brought AIDS to the United States. Instead, it demonstrated the connection between Dugas's sexual activity and AIDS diagnoses. Dugas was first referred to as Patient "O," meaning his residency was outside California. However, as the results were clustered, the abbreviation was misinterpreted and Dugas became known as Patient "0," a clear error when Dugas's file named him "Patient 057," the 57th patient whose records were sent to the CDC (Worobey et al. 4). Labeling Dugas "Patient 0," however, provided a much different implication—an instance of Burke's "impersonal terminology" (A Rhetoric 32). The danger of using impersonal terminology is that it strips away the moral implications of humanity and contributes to the "satanic order of motives"—the process in which scientific investigation, and potential bias, can lead to treating individuals as less worthy of attention and aid, and, in extreme cases, as an evil to be eradicated (A Rhetoric 32; see also Mackey-Kallis and Hahn 13)

By the time Dugas's name became synonymous with the spread of AIDS, he had already died from AIDS-related complications. In fact, Dugas died the same month he was (anonymously) identified as "Patient 0" (March 1984), and three years before Shilts narrated his activities. Any information known about Dugas came from CDC interviews, which focused on his sexual encounters (he boasted of sleeping with nearly 2,500 partners), and from Shilts's book. In his narratives about Dugas, Shilts described him as "what every man wanted from gay life" (439), the man who thought himself "the prettiest one" and wanted to "have the boys fall for him" wherever he went (21). Shilts's description of Dugas fit perfectly with the gay stereotype already associated with AIDS, making Dugas's promiscuity and lack of concern about spreading his disease seem indicative of the entire homosexual community. According to Shilts, after Dugas was diagnosed, first with Kaposi's sarcoma, and later with AIDS, he continued to visit the bathhouses and told friends he was going to keep having sex because no one had proven that AIDS was sexually transmitted. Later, in 1982, there were reports of a man who would have sex in the bathhouses, then turn up the lights to reveal his Kaposi's sarcoma lesions, saying, "I've got gay cancer. I'm going to die and so are you" (And the Band 165). In these examples and others Dugas is portrayed as vain, angry, and unwilling to take responsibility for his actions. He is described as being angry he got AIDS and feeling justified in spreading it to others. "'Somebody gave this thing to me,' he said. 'I'm not going to give up sex.'" (And the Band 138). When Shilts wrote about Dugas's death he highlighted the irony of Dugas's life, that what had made him the epitome of the perceived gay ideal was quickly destroyed by AIDS. As Shilts wrote, "At one time, Gaetan had been what every man wanted from gay life; by the time he died, he had become what every man feared" (439). Shilts's suggestion that Dugas's promiscuity and irresponsibility were the ideal of gay culture characterized both Dugas and the gay community as the immoral evil many Americans already assumed them to be. Just as Burke noted that "enslavement, confinement, or restriction" must be present as the dialectic that allows us to locate freedom (Philosophy 109), so Shilts provided the narrative of a villainous gay man for society to oppose.

The Media's Scapegoat

The scapegoating of Dugas as Patient Zero began with Rock Hudson's death in 1985. At that point it became apparent that heterosexuals might not be safe from AIDS. As stated in a USA Today editorial, "With Hudson's death, many of us are realizing that AIDS is not a 'gay plague' but everybody's problem" (qtd. in Shaw, "A Critical"). Shilts and others suggested that the threat to those outside the gay community may have been exaggerated at points to "get the government and reporters moving," resulting in increased AIDS funding by 1989 as the broader society began to worry about contracting the virus (qtd. in Neuharth). These anxieties and worries about the potential of AIDS to affect the general population created the feeling of disorder Burke described when something changes in the hierarchic order (A Rhetoric). When the disease began to receive greater coverage and invade news broadcasts and front pages of "normal" people it broke the hierarchy of safety and the heterosexual community began to see themselves as susceptible to AIDS. This feeling of susceptibility to the disease and the fear of death brought heterosexuals into the realm of identification with the gay community—something most of society was not willing to accept—the "original state of merger" in Burke's scapegoating process, where both gays and heterosexuals lived in fear of contracting AIDS. Although the homosexual and heterosexual communities did not often identify, the shared fear of death brought by AIDS served as a "special case of identification"—an identification that quickly led to division (Hartzog 527).

When Shilts narrated the story of Gaetan Dugas he seemed to be setting up the perfect scapegoat for AIDS: a stereotypical gay man whose promiscuity threatened the pieties of heterosexual society. As Burke explained, pieties are "loyalty to the sources of our being," and are formed throughout an individual's experiences, both in childhood and through more formal education (Permanence 71). When these pieties are violated or challenged by others they become more pronounced (Daas 83). For the heterosexual society of the early 1980s, religious pieties and conservative ideas of what constituted proper and improper sexual practices were dominant, what Cloud termed <family values> (283).

Because Dugas's behavior was so antithetical to these pieties and societal values, it was easy—even rational—to blame him for AIDS. At the same time, however, whether or not those in the heterosexual community recognized it, the act of continuously attempting to ignore AIDS and its effect on the gay community both reinforced the moral hierarchy and created apprehension about the disease spreading beyond homosexuals. Society was steeped in Burke's iniquities—fear, guilt and uncertainty—related to AIDS. Perhaps they felt at least partly responsible for gay men's suffering, and certainly they feared for their own lives and experienced a nagging guilt about what might happen if the disease continued unchecked. This guilt and fear, born of hierarchy and domination, then, required purification. Because humans nearly always prefer to blame someone else then to take responsibility for their guilt (Mackey-Kallis 3; Walch 63), society needed a scapegoat and Dugas became the obvious choice.

Once Shilts's book was published, news coverage shifted from highlighting the risk of AIDS for heterosexuals to focusing on the larger evil, the villain responsible for single-handedly bringing the scourge of AIDS to the United States. Dugas was "rotten with perfection" (Burke, Language 16) as the vengeful demon who brought terror and disease to the gay community, the epitome of a "powerful" sacrificial goat (Brummett 67). Media articles depicted Dugas as using "his good looks and French-Canadian accent to lure handsome American men, even after he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1980" (Associated Press). The term "lure" framed Dugas as malevolent and suggested he took away the free will of his "victims" and then forced his disease on them. Likewise, by pointing out that Dugas slept with "handsome American men," the article highlighted Dugas's otherness as both a homosexual and a Canadian—someone who traveled the world to bring fresh horrors to the United States. Highlighting the "otherness" of a scapegoat by pointing out all the ways he is different from the rest of society allows for the principle of division to function—the more different the scapegoat becomes, the larger his or her division from society grows (Butterworth 156). Dugas's "otherness" included his homosexuality, his national origin, his promiscuity, and his desire to spread AIDS to others—the last of which became a focus of several news articles. Dugas was described in one article as "a Canadian airline steward who spread AIDS from coast to coast in the early 1980s." (Wade A34).

A brief article published in 1987 under the headline, "AIDS: The man they blame" frames Dugas as a mass murderer:

Sex-crazed air steward Gaetan Dugas . . . brought AIDS to the western world after taking an incredible 250 male lovers… The randy Air Canada steward sentenced thousands to death . . . the callous homosexual continued to seduce young men even after he had been diagnosed as the first American AIDS sufferer. . . . It is believed that Dugas, a French Canadian, originally caught the disease in Europe after having sex with Africans. In March 1984, aged 31, Dugas died of AIDS-related kidney failure—four years after he started spreading the gay plague. (emphasis added)

Though this description of Dugas is based on facts from Shilts's book, the language used conveys far more blame, describing Dugas as "sex-crazed," "randy," and a "calloused homosexual," all of which focus on the salacious aspects of the story. The writer even remarked on Dugas's number of sexual partners, "an incredible 250 male lovers" (though, in fact, Dugas claimed 250 lovers per year for a total of 2,500). This phrasing denoted Dugas as immoral and aberrant, failing the test of piety both in the sheer quantity of his sexual appetite and in the multiple references to his homosexuality. Such description stressed that Dugas was not like the majority of readers, regardless of sexual orientation. The article moved beyond these moral concerns to describe Dugas as the man who "brought AIDS to the western world," who "continued to seduce young men even after he had been diagnosed," who spread the "gay plague," and who, ultimately, "sentenced thousands to death." Although numerous aspects of this brief article are incorrect (i.e., the clearly racist reference to Dugas "having sex with Africans," further labeling him an outsider who brought a foreign disease to the United States) the article clearly conveys the claims made against Dugas: he alone was responsible for spreading AIDS. Although not stated implicitly, the article implied that Dugas's death was what he deserved for "spreading the gay plague." In short, the coverage of Dugas gave Americans "an object of hate, an individual whom we can comfortably 'blame' for AIDS" (Carswell 4).

Dugas was the perfect scapegoat—the absolute villain with no redeeming qualities. Even as members of society could identify their fear of AIDS with him long enough to come to an original state of merger, as Burke described it, Dugas's behavior and lack of remorse set him apart as the perfect vessel to blame, to set aside, and to alienate as the root of fear and suffering. For heterosexuals beginning to feel the impact of AIDS—the number of deaths, the possibility that their inaction had allowed AIDS to spread, the guilt of those not directly affected by the disease—Dugas provided a perfect opportunity to assuage their guilt. Reading these descriptions of Dugas's behavior, heterosexuals could believe he deserved his fate in a way they never would.

Dugas as the Face of Homosexuality

One result of the media's focus on Dugas's homosexuality and promiscuity was fresh attention to the homosexual lifestyle. The Patient Zero story created an opportunity to blame not only Dugas, but the entire homosexual community, a further attempt to return to the previously ordered moral hierarchy. Dugas became a symbol of homosexuality—a synonym for promiscuity and immorality. The connections between Dugas's behavior and feelings toward homosexuality in general can be found in multiple news items, such as this letter to the editor: "Homosexuality does seem to be synonymous with promiscuity… it is also an inescapable fact that these same homosexuals brought on the crisis in the first place and for the most part refuse to curtail the activity that is spreading it exponentially" (Christy 3D). With sentiments such as these, the scapegoating of Patient Zero became the scapegoating of the homosexual population in general, separating gays from the rest of society and completing the division of the scapegoat from society. As explained by gay activist Eric Sawyer, "It stigmatized gay men…like vectors of infection that would be responsible for spreading HIV and other horrible diseases, and that they should be avoided at all costs. It created a hysteria, which resulted in gay men being fired from their jobs, evicted from apartments, denied public accommodations and denied health insurance" (qtd. in Neese). Rather than resisting the scapegoating of homosexuals, Shilts's book ultimately ensured that the gay community would forever be connected to the spread of AIDS.

In Burke's third step of the scapegoating process, the sacrificial offering is completed and a new principle of merger exists in which a new, purified identity is revealed (A Grammar 406). For Americans in 1987, blaming Dugas for AIDS provided a way to separate themselves from the panic and worry of the epidemic. Focusing on the homosexual community and Dugas in particular as being responsible for the disease made it easier to move AIDS back into the "gay plague" status of the early 1980s, moderate feelings of societal guilt related to AIDS, and stop worrying about its impact on the heterosexual population. Although, of course, nothing changed in the spread of the epidemic, the rhetorical act of alienating the scapegoat provided a kind of catharsis for the heterosexual population. One reporter described this feeling of relief, writing that "one only wonders whether Mr. Shilts hasn't inadvertently provided fuel for those unsympathetic to the fight against AIDS, by reassuring them of their exemption from the epidemic," (Lehmann-Haupt C20). For those who comfortably moved AIDS back into the realm of a homosexual problem, the detailed descriptions of AIDS victims in Shilts's book only served to further alienate the horror of AIDS from the consciousness of heterosexuals. For example, Shilts directly blamed Dugas for the death of Wall Street businessman Paul Popham, saying, "I realized I was looking at somebody who was effectively dying of the virus, and that was courtesy of Gaetan… That was when the entire scope of the AIDS tragedy hit me like a bullet between the eyes. Gaetan had slept with somebody on Oct. 31 of 1980 and now I was looking at somebody in 1986 who was dying'" (qtd. in Sipchen 5). Regardless of the terrifying story being told and the feelings of sadness or helplessness it created, all three individuals involved in the story—Shilts, Dugas, and Popham—were gay men dealing with a virus that was brought to the United States by a gay man, affected mostly gay men, and killed mostly gay men. In the wake of recent reporting that highlighted the threat to heterosexuals, this focus allowed consumers of various media to relocate the threat of AIDS back toward the gay community and feel a sense of relief at no longer needing to worry about the "gay disease."

If, as I argue, Shilts's motive in writing And the Band Played On was to resist the scapegoating of the homosexual community, media coverage related to the book produced the opposite result. His choice to include the story of Gaetan Dugas—a choice that seems contrary to his overall argument—dominated public perception of AIDS and gave society a Patient Zero to blame. Dugas became the face of homosexuality—the gay man to be feared and hated. The media attention on Dugas effectively allowed the Reagan administration and the scientific community to escape any consequences for their lack of action.

Even as Shilts's portrayal of Dugas as Patient Zero alienated the gay community, it also gave homosexuals someone to blame for AIDS. Shilts himself recognized Dugas as a scapegoat in his statement about Popham's death being "courtesy of Gaetan" (qtd. in Sipchen 5), and in the way he told Dugas's story. In one narrative Shilts detailed Dugas's visit to a former lover in the hospital dying from AIDS, writing that "For the first time, his friend thought, he's seeing how serious this really is" (And the Band 79), then in the next mention of Dugas, Shilts described him bragging about his sexual exploits and casually mentioning that "one of his old tricks was in a New York hospital with something strange now" (83). Regardless of his stated goals in writing the book, Shilts consistently portrayed Dugas as the villain of the story, the one man who filled the role of agent in his narrative of AIDS. The other men and women in Shilts's book were trapped in a scene dominated largely by forces they could not control. Dugas, however, chose to take agency and to intentionally cause harm. Shilts's depiction of Dugas created the ultimate evil that homosexuals and heterosexuals alike could hate and blame. Even 30 years later, activist Larry Kramer relayed his frustration with Dugas: "You know, the fact Gaetan was labeled 'Patient Zero' does not deny the fact that he was, I think, an irresponsible gay man" (qtd. in Neese). For Kramer and other gay men, then, Dugas became a symbol of what they were not—the man who spread death instead of trying to stop it; the man who was responsible, if not for all AIDS victims, for many, many deaths from AIDS. The story of Patient Zero, narrated by Shilts and perpetuated by the media, served both to further stigmatize the homosexual community and to provide a purification function for gay men—a scapegoat for the scapegoats.


When Randy Shilts published And the Band Played On, he wrote in the prologue that his story was "a tale that bears telling, so that it will never happen again, to any people, anywhere" (xxiii). This stated motive, then, explains his careful research and retelling of the trials faced by AIDS patients and researchers alike. He believed that if the federal government, the scientific community, the media, local leaders, etc., could be held accountable for their actions in the AIDS epidemic, future generations would learn from their failures and work to address health crises in a timelier manner. When applied to the story of Patient Zero, however, Shilts's stated motive falls short. Although Shilts admitted that whether or not Dugas actually brought AIDS to the United States "remains a question of debate," he attributed the first AIDS cases in New York and Los Angeles to Dugas and referred to his ubiquitous travel as an airline steward, facts that "give weight to that theory" (439). In his attempt to portray Dugas as the one man who could take away the AIDS guilt homosexuals faced, Shilts brought more societal stigma toward the gay community. The drama and sensationalism of the Patient Zero story attracted the media and gave reporters and book reviewers a juicy, succinct narrative to recount for their readers.

In Burke's terms, Shilts's Patient Zero narrative served a clarification function (Philosophy 219). Gaetan Dugas was Patient Zero and he was the ideal of gay life, which meant that both Dugas and those like him (homosexuals) were guilty and deserved to be punished. Moreover, if AIDS was their fault, perhaps it only affected homosexuals and the heterosexual community could escape their fear of AIDS. By creating a scapegoat in Dugas and the homosexual community, media coverage of Shilts's book allowed heterosexuals to feel safe in their separation from the threat, potentially opening up this community to increased risk of unsafe sexual practices and other risky behaviors because they believed themselves to be unreachable by AIDS. The rhetorical result of Shilts's book and the surrounding media coverage was a seeming sense of relief and catharsis by the heterosexual community, a stronger stigma related to homosexuality, and a single man that both the homosexual and heterosexual communities could blame for AIDS. In a rhetorical sense, these two communities experienced a "curative unification" (Philosophy 218) as they shared a common enemy (see Grey). Each group placed a different load of guilt on Dugas's metaphorical shoulders—heterosexuals their determination to ignore the AIDS virus; homosexuals the guilt placed on them for the lifestyle choices and connection to AIDS—and each experienced a different brand of catharsis. For heterosexuals the scapegoating of Dugas signaled a return to the original hierarchy, while for homosexuals Dugas took on responsibility for the stigma they faced and gave them a person to blame for their suffering. As Burke noted, it is difficult to "get people together except when they have a goat in common" (Cowley 499).

For both groups, the creation of Dugas as a rhetorical scapegoat changed nothing about the reality of the AIDS epidemic. People continued to contract AIDS and die from the disease. However, as Shilts and other journalists continued to write about AIDS, the medical community and the federal government took notice and slowly increased AIDS funding and research (Neuharth 13A). The story of Patient Zero, however, resulted in the further alienation of the gay community and has continued to impact homosexuals in the United States. One of many lasting effects is the standing ban on homosexuals and bisexuals donating blood. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created the ban in 1985 in an effort to stop HIV-infected blood from contaminating the national blood supply. Blood banks have been conducting HIV tests on donated blood for years and screening has continued to improve since 1985, but the ban remains. In 2015 it was modified to allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood as long as it had been 12 months since their last male sexual encounter. However, in the wake of the Orlando shooting in the summer of 2016, thousands of gay and bisexual men wishing to donate blood were turned away. In the age of the Internet, these men took to Twitter, tweeting their frustration about the ban and asking others to donate in their stead (McKenzie, 2016). Even as Americans celebrated the Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage and other advances forward for the gay community, constraints such as the blood donation ban exist as a legacy of AIDs, Patient Zero, and the longstanding effects of the heterosexual society's desire for moral superiority.

* An earlier version of this essay was presented at the 102nd National Communication Association Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November 2016. The author wishes to thank Clarke Rountree and Chris Darr for their helpful feedback, and Kambren Stanley for assistance in an early draft of this essay.

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Deacon, Burke, and Evolution of the "Symbolic Species": Six Points of Connection from Biological Anthropology

Edward C. Appel, Lock Haven University


Terrence W. Deacon, University of California, Berkeley, has become an international star in biological anthropology and evolutionary neuroscience. His empirical research appears to provide intriguing analogues to, and confirmations of, Kenneth Burke's Dramatism/Logology. This essay explores six intersections between Deacon's semiotics and Burke's dramatism that mark that correspondence. The study concludes that, by Burke's own standard, the label "coy," reluctant theologian may characterize both these seemingly secular theorists.

Terrence W. Deacon is Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is both a biological anthropologist and laboratory neuroscientist (Tallerman and Gibson xvii). Deacon's account of primate and pre-primate evolution, before the appearance of what he has called the "symbolic species," and his description of human symbolic attributes and behavior thereafter, appear to significantly articulate with Kenneth Burke's dramatism/logology. As both biologist and neuroscientist of national and international stature, Deacon's pre-symbolic and post-symbolic claims about communication have bearing on, and add perspective to, Burke's philosophy.1

Deacon's theory serves to support Burke in the main, while calling Burke into question on one key point. Deacon's challenge to Burke's sweeping binary between "(Nonsymbolic) Motion" and "(Symbolic) Action" is apparent (Deacon, Incomplete; Burke, Human Nature 139). Burke's facile inclusion of nonsymbolic animals and inanimate natural phenomena in the same "motion" bin may stand in need of nuance. From the vantage point of Deacon and his mentor Gregory Bateson, presymbolic animal activity and interaction are of such "intentional[ity]" and "sentience" that they form a more distinct and structured bridge to the drama of the "symbolic species" than Burke gives credence (Deacon, Incomplete 10, 485-507; "Re: Fw: Re: Deacon's Neo-Aristotelian Complication": "Bateson . . . was a powerful personal influence on me").2

The central piling undergirding that presymbolic bridge to Burke's symbolizing animal is Deacon's (and Bateson's) notion of the "absential," or intuition of some kind of negative, that motivates the "behavior," or "self-movement," of nonsymbolic animal life on all levels, microbial to the great apes (Incomplete 3; Burke, Permanence 5-6; Grammar 157). This sense of "what is not" denotes recognition of a "difference which makes a difference," as Bateson phrased it (381). The "difference" in "expectation" nonsymbolic animals respond to, Deacon asserts, is not merely a difference of any particular kind. It is a difference that is grounded in a "teleonomic," end-directed, consequence-oriented matter of survival or reproduction (Incomplete 281-83, 377, 392-420).

"Teleonomy" is a central concept for Deacon. Analogous to Aristotle's notion of "entelechy," it is "a middle ground between mere mechanism and purpose," as Deacon defines it. "Teleonomy" refers to behavior "predictably oriented toward a particular target state," even with "no explicit representation of that state or intention to achieve it" (Incomplete 553).

From the protonegative intuition that authors the teleonomic activity of nonsymbolic animals, there devolve multiple adumbrations of the fully realized "drama" of the symbolic species. As Deacon describes it, such predramatic animal behavior evinces a kind of protopentad in operation (Burke's agent, act, purpose, means, and scene). These "basic forms of thought," as Burke calls them, as reflected, Deacon makes explicit, in Aristotle's pentad-related "Four Causes" (material, efficient, formal, and final), explain the "function[ing]" of that protonegative in the behavior of all animal life. Something like Burke's "terms for order" ("order," "constraint," "work," then the denouement of "survival") bring to fruition such animal activity. The "noncomponential" negative the impetus for it all, such "activity" is not reducible to "spontaneous" motion, irreducibility a highlight of Burke's notion of the symbolic negative (Incomplete 34-35, 50, 161, 185-86, 190-205, 207, 210-14, 326-70, 508; Deacon, "In Response"; Burke, "Dramatism" 10; Burke, Religion 16). These are conceptions that prefigure Burke's reading of human language, life, and rhetorical orientation (Burke, Grammar, Religion, "Dramatism").

A case for a critique of Burke on the so-called "motion" of presymbolic animal life is thus implicit in Deacon's evolutionary theory. That critique will remain implicit for now. Deacon's support for Burke on the explicitly moral "action" of the "symbolic species," as evolving and fully evolved, is herewith offered. Negative intuition as prime motivator characterizes both Deacon (Incomplete) and Burke (e.g., Religion, Language). Their shared emphasis on the motive power of negation will not be elaborated here. Suffice it to say, the attributes of the presymbolic negative remain "enigmatic" in Deacon (Incomplete 1). Deacon concedes the idea is something of a "nontechnical . . . heuristic," a kind of exploratory assumption ("In Response"). Clearly nonmoralizing, the protonegative remains elusive conceptually. Yet, both Deacon and Burke argue for the same trajectory of implications, rooted in the "what is not": order, constraint or restriction structuring that order, negation energizing that constraint, leading to purpose (Deacon, Incomplete 23, 190-95, 273; Burke, Grammar 294-97, Religion 4-5, 20-21, 184). These notions go hand in glove in the thought of the scientist and the rhetorician. For Deacon, these interlocking motives suffuse the world of animate being in general. For Burke, they underpin his "Definition of Man [sic]" alone (Language 3-24).3

That shared negative affirmation will be taken as given. The concept suffuses Incomplete Nature and the thought of late Burke. Six additional Burkean themes, all of them features of the evolving and evolved symbolic species, are recapped in Deacon in empirically ponderable ways. Deacon's analysis of the "symbol user" highlights: content-empty abstraction; a "bi-layered" human symbolic existence "revers[ing]" reference and entitlement; origin of language in "absential[ly]"-induced, which is to say negatively-induced, purpose; hexadic attitude as inherent in proto, and fully-emergent, language; symbolism as the human essence; culminating in theological dispositions as the symbolizer's normative wont (Symbolic Species; "Beyond").

We begin with the similarities between Deacon and Burke on their anti-representationalist view of human symbolic abstraction.

"Icons," "Indexes," and the Subversion of Signifier-Signified

The particulars of the nonsymbolic communication of so-called "lower" animals held little theoretical interest for Burke, overall, even though Burke occasionally paid those creatures significant attention (Hawhee). It is the necessary starting point for Deacon's semiotics. Following American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, Deacon founds his semiotic theory of emergence on the "iconic" and "indexical" communication of presymbolic animals (Symbolic Species 70-71, "Symbol Concept" 396-98). Such animals keep in touch by way of "sinsigns": "icons," or significant forms, and "indexes," vocal or physical gestures that "point" to those significant forms, "one-by-one" (Symbolic Species 70-71, 89). Here is where a naïve "signifier-signified" has relevance. "Dolphin signature whistles," for instance, "are indexical sinsigns," Deacon says ("Re: 'The Symbol Concept'"; Symbolic Species 59, 69). They point or indicate in particular. The signifier, the whistle, points directly to the signified, the dolphin in question. The symbolic stick figure on a restroom wall, in contrast, is an iconic "legisign," as per Peirce. It portrays in general. Its reference is to another symbol, not an identifiable person (Deacon, "Symbol Concept" 396-98, 401).     

In respect to the symbolic species, then, Deacon alters the verbal realism of "signifier-signified," word-thing (Symbolic Species 69-70). For Deacon, the relationship is signifier-signifier, not signifier-signified. Symbolic reference is internal to itself. Symbols refer, abstractly and generally, "irrespective of any natural affinities" ("Symbol Concept" 393, 401). In other words, as per Burke, symbols synthesize, synthetically, disparate beings, entities, or events for seemingly pragmatic, culturally-conditioned purposes that transcend mere appearance of similarity (Permanence). Symbolic reference cannot be "map[ped]" in terms of any material aspect, according to Deacon (Symbolic Species 69). To the extent that a common word or symbol "maps" anything, it "maps" a position in a given lexicon in relation to other terminologies in that symbol system. Consult a dictionary or thesaurus to ascertain symbolic reference and relationships.

One point of clarification is required. Vervet monkey calls look, on the surface, something like symbolic abstraction. "Distinct [Vervet] calls referred to distinct classes of predators," eagles, leopards, or snakes (Deacon, Symbolic Species 54, 56, emphasis added; Seyfarth and Cheney 61). "Generalized . . . iconic overlap," or "stimulus generalization" of a "conditioned," "rote," one-to-one variety, is not, however, symbolization. "The grouping of these referents is not by symbolic criteria (though from outside we might apply our own symbolic criteria)" (Deacon, Symbolic Species 70, 81, 84).

A new kind of "generalization" is made possible by an "insight" a proto-symbolizer can summon: a shift from "stimulus generalization or learning set generalization" to "logical or categorical generalization." It is a shift from sheer token-object reference to "sense" or "semantic" reference, made possible by a dawning and interlocking network of abstracting gestures and sounds (Deacon, Symbolic Species 70, 83, 88, 93). Expanding "prefrontal computations" in the brain facilitate higher-order connectivities and thinking across all cortices, necessary for symbolization (Deacon, Symbolic Species 265-66). The larger prefrontal area in hominids supports the "sequential, hierarchic, and subordinate association analyses" required by human language and thought.

The prefrontal is not, though, the locus of language per se. "Widely distributed neural systems must contribute in a coordinated fashion to create and interpret symbolic relationships," Deacon maintains (Symbolic Species 265-66). Latent non-symbolic indexicality is superseded, but not obliterated, by the powers of cognition a mighty forebrain enhances. Echoes of the one-to-one indexicality of presymbolic mammals still reverberate, but are now subordinate to "higher-level associative ["hierarchical"] relationships" (Symbolic Species 73).

Symbolic reference, therefore, for Deacon, functions like this: "A written word [for example] is first recognized as an iconic synsign (an instance of a familiar form), then an indexical legisign (a type of sign vehicle contiguous with other related types), and then as a symbolic legisign (a conventional type of sign [making] . . . a conventional type of reference)" ("Symbol Concept" 397-98). Thus, in the symbolic communication of modern hominids, an emergent hierarchy of mental actions takes place that builds on their long mammalian past.

What is happening neurologically to effectuate this emergent hierarchal synergy is "counter-current information processing" that generally proceeds from lower to higher structures of the brain, and from back to front: from limbic, peri-limbic, and peripheral (e.g., thalamus and amygdala) to "specialized" cortical regions, and from "posterior (attention-sensory) cortical systems," to "anterior (intention-action) cortical systems"—and back again. This electro-chemical "counter-current" serves to monitor, check and balance, generate iconic, indexical, symbolic "equilibrium" (Deacon, "Emergent Process" 14-20; Deacon and Cashman 9). Transition, reference, syntax in general, are learned processes in Deacon-world. They become second nature, so to speak, via the mammalian "procedural" memory system, given detailed context below in the explanation of symbolism and religion (Deacon, Symbolic Species).

The empirically "empty" abstractiveness of Deacon's semiotics puts him at odds with positivist, representationalist, and scientist points of view. Crusius (69, 88-89, 228-32) and Appel ("Implications" 52-54) have argued the same for Burke. As Burke has said, in his pentad of terms, for instance, each element stands for "nothing" whatsoever, "no object at all . . .  not this scene, or that agent, etc. but scene, agent, etc. in general" (Grammar 188-89). Burke's notion of "Argument by Analogy" further explains the symbol-object disconnect: In the service of a common interest, intention, expectancy, purpose, or value, that functions as a unifying metaphorical, teleological perspective, or by way of analogy between disparate beings, entities, or events, analogy not synonymy, symbols generate the perception of similar strains in dissimilar events, leading to the classification of those events together in a common, idealized, essentialized abstraction (Permanence 102-07).

The Underlying "Hidden" Symbolic World of a "Bi-layered" Species

Following on that similarity between Deacon and Burke on the airy abstractiveness of symbolic reference, there devolve two radical, but congruent, conceptions: Deacon and Cashman's assertion that symbolizers live essentially in a "bi-layered" world, the interpretive layer symbolic, the interpreted layer practical, material, quotidian; and Burke's claim that "'things'" ought preferably be seen as "'the signs of words,'" not vice versa. Or, as Deacon put it, note "how icons can indicate symbols," "how . . . dissonant iconic relations point to symbols" (Deacon and Cashman 16; Burke, Language 361; Deacon, "Origin and Consequences of Life in a Bi-Layered World").

The symbolic species gives evidence of a two-world metaphysics, Deacon claims ("Beyond," "Symbol Concept"). Symbolizers, like nonsymbolic animals, confront a natural environment of "real," "material," "tactile and visible objects and living beings," a world of "concrete . . . events." Unlike those avian and mammalian precursors, however, symbolizers inhabit a "second world," as well. This underlying realm is one of "symbols that are linked together by meaningful associations," a "virtual," indeed "spiritual" world, one accessed directly and most basically by taking in hand a dictionary or thesaurus ("Beyond" 37, "Symbol Concept" 401; Deacon and Cashman 13-18). The title of Viktor Frankl's book comes readily to mind as summative legend for this hidden domain: Man's Search for Meaning.

Humans are "symbolic savants," as Deacon puts it. "We almost certainly have evolved," he says, "a predisposition to see things as symbols, whether they are or not." "The make-believe of children," "finding meaning in coincidental events," seeing "faces in the clouds," "run[ning] our lives with respect to dictates presumed to originate from an invisible spiritual world" are conspicuous expressions of this singular susceptibility. "Our special adaptation," Deacon goes on, "is the lens through which we see the world." With it comes an irrepressible urge "to seek for a cryptic meaning hiding beneath the surface of appearances" ("Beyond" 37, Symbolic Species 433-38; Deacon and Cashman 15-18).

Analogously, Burke's philosophy evolved from a concern with "being" to a focus on "knowing," from ontology to epistemology, from dramatism to logology, from what humans essentially are to how they come to understand the universe they live in (Grammar 63-64, "Dramatism and Logology"). Burke turned to the epistemic from his essays on the negative, 1952-53, to the mid-1960s and beyond ("Dramatistic View" in Language 419-79). Burke's version of that "lens through which we see the world" is much like Deacon's in its quest for higher meaning. Encapsulized in his definition of "logology," Burke describes that epistemic template as, "the systematic study of theological terms . . . for the light they might throw on the forms of language," theological terms being the most thoroughgoing, far reaching, ultimate terms one can imagine (Language 47; Religion v-vi, 1-42). Burke's book The Rhetoric of Religion and his essays "Terministic Screens" and "What Are the Signs of What? A Theory of 'Entitlement'" epitomize Burke's rendering of drama, especially theological drama, as perfected filter or frame (Language 44-62, 359-79).

Hence the partly, but not altogether, new and central concerns of late Burke: that theological "motive of perfection" as an all-too-often impetus toward "tragic" drama; the sin/guilt/redemption cycle of dramatic stages endemic to human thought, action, and social cohesion, yet lamentably taken so recurrently to tragic excess; the drama-cum-theology lens as humankind's window on the world; "reality" as approached through variants of such a terministic screen; "reality" a kind of virtual world of transcendental meanings, with its "fantastic pageantry, a parade of masques and costumes and guildlike mysteries," nature "gleam[ing] secretly with a most fantastic shimmer of words and social relationships," as Burke describes it (Permanence 274-94; Language 44-62, 379; Human Nature 54-95; Religion; Attitudes 37-39, 188-90n).

Burke's "theory of entitlement" served first as direct answer to Heidegger's "metaphysical" attention to the nature of "reality." Burke's focal point: the principle of the verbal, particularly as energized by infinite negation, as sole access to that "reality," as "deflect[ing]" as well as "reflect[ing]" prism (Language 45; Mailloux 7-8).

Two Million Years of Brain-Language Co-Evolution

Deacon says language came slowly to hominids. Homo Habilians got their start about 1.8 million years ago, at the beginning of the Quaternary. If it stretched across the Pleistocene until about B.C.E. 200,000, the Habilian-to-Sapient progression took a long time evolving toward its unique adaptation. Those adjustments between brain, on the one hand, and symbolic gestures and "talk," on the other, were reciprocal, Deacon maintains. Neurostructures and linguistic skill ramified together (Deacon and Cashman 14; Deacon, "Beyond" 33-34, Symbolic Species 328-29).

Deacon's conception of the origins of language sounds much like Burke's. Burke emphasizes, as generative force, a "'pre-negative' . . . tonal gesture" (Deacon's "absential"?) "calling attention to" "danger" with "sound[s] . . . hav[ing] a deterent or pejorative meaning" (Language 423-24). Not surprisingly, the negative as implicit impetus underpins Deacon's account as well. Deacon speaks of "an undifferentiated starting condition." "We must ask: What's the form of a thought "—or "the idea that a sentence conveys"—"before it is put into words," the "'mental images' not quite formed or desires and intentions to achieve some imagined goal only vaguely formulated?" These "embryos of a speech act" would be "focused on aiming for and achieving expressive [which is to say, emotionally-charged] goals," which is also to say, making a choice among not-yet-realized "options" ("Emergent Process" 5-6).

Iconic "significant forms" would prompt those nascent attempts at "speech" communication. Such arresting icons would likely be those that pose a danger or alert to an opportunity. Gestural symbolic reference to them would warn kin or other group members of a need to act cooperatively. The "absential feature," the protonegative, already functions in Deacon as the basic engine of intentionality Burke deems the negative to be. Goal-seeking, or "end-directedness," and the absential go hand in glove in all living beings, Deacon affirms. The negative "Don't do," and the seemingly positive, "Don't fail to do," serve well emerging human "teleology," in Deacon's scheme. The absential did the same, and continues to do the same, with respect to the pre-linguistic "teleonomic" (Burke, Language 419-79; Deacon, Incomplete 10, 24-31, 553).

Where Deacon may differ from Burke on the origins of language: The "vocal gesture" as "symbol" may have come fitfully to the process. Varied forms of vocality were difficult, Deacon states, for early primates ("Beyond" 31). In addition, like Stephan Jay Gould, Deacon sees no directionality or inherently upward thrust toward ever-greater complexity in the evolutionary process itself. Like Gould, his watchwords are "diversification" and "distribution," not complexification. The symbolic species may exist in lonely isolation on this small planet, a chance once-and-done phenomenon in an incredibly vast cosmos (Symbolic Species 29-30; Gould). That bleak conclusion was basically beyond the purview of Burke, though Burke hints at such possible symbolic uniqueness at the end of The Rhetoric of Religion (315-16).

"Mood" as "Focused Readiness and Expectation"

The above brings us to Burke's hexad as integral to the symbolic mix. Language, for Burke, primarily expresses an "attitude," Burke's sixth grammatical term, the adverbial "in what manner" of high school English. Language as essential bearer of "attitude" creates an orientation toward certain pathways of action, gives cues to action and a command to follow those cues. "Attitude," connotation, symbolic communication as more inherently "active" than impartially informative—such are the fundamentals of Burke's dramatism (Grammar 235-47).

For Deacon, that attitudinal "expressive" dimension is denominated a "mood." In respect to symbolic origins, "Within this frame of social communicative arousal, what might be described as the 'mood' of the speech or interpreted act is differentiated," Deacon says. "This 'mood,'" he goes on, "needs to be maintained." It is a "focused readiness and expectation with respect to social interaction" ("Emergent Process" 6-8).

Cognition and emotion go hand in hand in communication, Deacon affirms. A tendentious arousal state, however slight, attends all symbolic operations (Deacon and Cashman 20: "Emotion cannot be dissociated from cognition").

For Good or Ill, the "Symbolic Species"

Burke famously defines humans as the "symbol-using," "symbol-making," and, do not fail to take note, the "symbol-misusing animal." These symbolizing creatures are "moralized" by a sense of negation that not only opens up vistas of infinity and eternity, but also serves as goad to strive for whatever "perfections," transcendent or immanent, their heart chooses to reach for. That top-of-the-ladder denouement could be eternal life with God in streets paved with gold (speaking metaphorically or not), or richest, most distinguished, man or woman on their block or in their town, industry, state, or nation. In the face of their weakness and vulnerability as very imperfect animals, this vision of the flawless existence they "ought" to fulfill so often leads, sadly, to destructive excess. "Rotten with perfection" is the concluding codicil in Burke's assessment of the human (Language 3-25).4

Thus, "rational animal" or "political animal" is off the mark as anthropological entitlement. Symbolizing animals possess a marvelously gifted intellect. Burke so acknowledges. Intellect, though, is not what fundamentally drives these beings, according to Burke. Symbolizers are best thought of as "methodical," not rational (Human Nature 72-75, Permanence 234). "Perfection," malign as well as benign; "entelechy," Burke style; excess, are then humankind's constant temptation and lure, much less the "humbler satisfactions" Burke would enjoin to temper the "linguistic factor," with its "absurd ambitions" (Language 16-20, Grammar 317-20, Dramatism 57-58).

Deacon's "symbolic species" functions as virtual synonym for the first article in Burke's "Definition of Man [sic]" (Language 3-9). "In my work," Deacon says:

I use the phrase symbolic species, quite literally, to argue that symbols have literally changed the kind of biological organism we are. Indeed, there is ample evidence to suggest that language is both well integrated into almost every aspect of our cognitive and social life, that it utilizes a significant fraction of the forebrain, and is acquired robustly under even quite difficult social circumstances and neurological impairment. It is far from fragile.

So rather than merely intelligent or wise (sapient) creatures, we are creatures whose social and mental capacities have been quite literally shaped by the special demands of communicating with symbols. And this doesn't just mean we are adapted for language use, but also for all the many ancillary mental biases that support reliable access and use of this social resource. ("Beyond" 32-33)

So says Deacon. What these myriad traits all add up to serves as transition, for the biological anthropologist, into a climactic attribute he shares with Burke as final reckoning.

Theological "Savants"

Kenneth Burke self-identified as a nontheist (Booth, "Burke's Religious Rhetoric" 25). Nevertheless, the theme of Burke as a theologian-in-spite-of-himself is a well-traveled interpretive path. Wayne Booth has claimed so in multiple venues (Booth, "Many Voices," "Burke's Religious Rhetoric," Plenary Lecture). Booth cites eight other scholars who have noted much the same ("Burke's Religious Rhetoric" 44; see, for example, Appel, "Coy Theologian"). Supports for such a reading are many. Suffice it to say, in this brief treatment, the implicit route from the hexadic grammar of language to the sin/guilt/redemption cycle, as energized by a necessarily hortatory negative, leads to Burke's "motive of perfection" as culminating and most fully realized in some religious system (Burke, Religion 297-304, Permanence 292-93; Appel, Burkean Primer 1-85). If "perfection" were as thoroughly attained in mundane endeavors, Burke could just as readily have labeled this existential urge the hierarchal motive of perfection, and let it go at that. "Call them [those linguistic arrows that point in a theological direction] the 'basic errors' of the dialectic if you want," Burke allows. "We are here talking about ultimate dialectical tendencies, having 'god,' or a 'god-term,' as the completion of the linguistic process" (Rhetoric 276).

In a coauthored article, "The Role of Symbolic Capacity in the Origins of Religion," Deacon puts a neuroscientific exclamation point on Burke's religious obsessions. Most typically, evolutionary biologists call religion a nonadaptive mistake, a "misapplication" of a perhaps once-useful adaptation of a kind. Deacon says these Dawkins/Gould/Lewontin types offer only a superficial explication. Sources of the religious impulse are more complex, and their outcomes similarly complex, if virtually inevitable (Deacon and Cashman 2-3; e.g., Gould and Lewontin).

Three "synerg[ies]," or emergent combinations, of mammalian neurostructures and abilities, account for the religious intuition, Deacon and Cashman claim. As emergent phenomena, these compositions give rise to outcomes greater than the sum of their separate effects. Symbolic facility, it is averred, puts together all three (12, 26).

First, "procedural" and "episodic" memory-functions, extant but operating separately in all previous mammals, were integrated by language. The result is "narrative," with the particulars of episodic ("synchronic") recall dropping into "slots" generated by the rote procedural (or "diachronic"), second-nature memory function that follows the learned pathways of syntax and indexing. This facility for narrative came with the "absential" end-directedness that seeks for a meaningful "telos" beyond the stark and unfinished details of many, if not all, human lives. A religious denouement of a kind most satisfactorily provides that narrative consummation (Deacon and Cashman 7-13).

Second, the "two-world" synergy previously described accompanied symbolic power, as well. The mundane world accessed and reconnoitered iconically and indexically by dolphins, lions, and chimps, via one-to-one signs and gestures "mapped" by way of signifier and signified, was now grounded upon a hidden world of internal symbolic relationships. From thence a leap is so readily made, from those relentlessly inferred symbolic connections, via the "infinite flexibility," "final causality," and "special exaggerated compulsion that complements our unique gift," toward a "virtual" world of transcendental meanings (Deacon and Cashman 13-18; Deacon, Symbolic Species 434-35; see Burke on the analogous motive of "perfection" and the dialectical "Upward Way," e.g., Permanence 292-95; Religion v-vi, 1-5, 300-305; Grammar 295).

Finally, unprecedented emotional experiences of the kind often associated with religious experience emerged. Evolving symbolic equipment fused primary mammalian arousal states into the likes of awe, reverence, sacredness, elation, transcendence, and spiritual renewal, perceptions of unity with the cosmos, a sense of the holy and the sacred. Other feelings, tied especially to the highest of human ethics, experienced within and outside the bonds of conventional religion, surfaced as well: charity, humility, lovingkindness, selfless action for others. Humor, irony, and the "eureka" moments of discovery, scientific and otherwise, derived from the same kind of often-contradictory syntheses (Deacon and Cashman 18-25).

Thus, Deacon, like Burke, makes explicit a theotropic trajectory in human symbolic evolution. Like Burke, also, Deacon drops hints that the theological motive may serve as humankind's downside, if not a siren call to illusion and impracticality. In his "Religion" piece, Deacon compares these "symbolic savants" to often remarked "idiot savants," generally handicapped individuals remarkably adept at one operation, like math or music. In addition, Deacon alludes to the first two of the above synergies as falling well enough within the purview of the nonadaptive theme of conventional evolutionary theory. The third synergy, the symbolic confluence that produces those noblest of human emotions and ideals, many of which can accompany any belief or ideology, not just those of a transcendental cast, escapes invidious comparisons (Deacon and Cashman 15-16, 18-25; see Symbolic Species 436-38 for a less subtle treatment of what Deacon calls the "most noble and most pathological of human behaviors").

As for Burke, rhetoricians are generally aware of his deep dubiety toward "perfection," expressly theological or otherwise, and its melancholy manifestation in tragic drama. Yet, as Burke has said, the "magic spell" of language cannot be broken. The most we can hope for is to "coach" a "better spell." That "better spell" is George Meredith's "comic spirit," as anatomized in Burke's conception of comic drama. Perhaps that is why, when asked for his favorite theologian at SCA in Boston, 1987, Burke answered without a pause, "Niebuhr," Reinhold, the very embodiment of comedy's sense of "limitation" (the Christian realism of Moral Man and Immoral Society), coupled with the charitableness of mid-twentieth-century liberal Mainline Protestantism. In that "comic" orientation, the severities of eternal judgment had long since disappeared (Grammar 101, 406-408; Permanence 195-97, 286-94; Attitudes 37-44, 166-75, 188-90n; Philosophy 119; Meredith, Comedy; Queens College Reception). Burke's bête noir was always an earth-bound "cult of empire," a "perverted religiosity" he called it, not transcendental religion. "Empire" in Burke-speak stands for an immanentized perfectionism. The insatiable quest for "more," and yet "more" still, here in this life—it is this unquenchable striving that prompted the Helhaven Papers, Burke's final assessment of Homo Loquax and their telos. That vision of a decimated planet, the perpetrators of the carnage having escaped to an ultimate gated community in the sky, a "Moon" for the truly "Misbegotten," fleshes out Burke's prediction in the Grammar: the symbol-motivated as bent on carrying their technological project, come what may, to "the end of the line" (Grammar 317-20, 441-43; Human Nature 54-95; O'Neill).

Deacon appears no less pessimistic in his "Epilogue" to Incomplete Nature. There he "sens[es] the tragedy of being part of a civilization unable to turn away from a lifestyle destroying its own future . . ." (539).

Both Deacon and Burke seem to go well enough with the darker predictions about a planet in crisis.


Comparisons between the semiotic theory of anthropologist and scientist Terrence W. Deacon and the dramatism/logology of Kenneth Burke strengthen, it would seem, the validity of Burke's system as a philosophy of language, that is, of distinctly human communication. Six dimensions of support for Burke's dramatism were cited and explored, all of which devolve from, or reflect in some way, negative, noncomponential transcendence of the material world (Incomplete 484). Symbolic abstraction that articulates directly with other symbols in thesaurus-like relationship, not "objects" in the "real world"; a "bi-layered" conception of the human species that mirrors Burke's preference for "things" as necessarily the "signs of words," not vice versa; evolutionary linguistic development founded on an inextricable connection between "purpose" and negation, a hallmark of both Deacon's theory and Burke's philosophy; attitude, or "mood," as essential and motivating accompaniment of any symbolic action; and the nature of the human as, for good or ill (depending on one's ability to moderate via a "comic" linguistic "discount"), essentially symbolic and theological—all these features of Burke's "symbol-using animal" derive reinforcement from Deacon's research (Burke on "discounting," Attitudes 244-46).

One point of conceivable contention is Deacon's potent demonstration, or postulation, of that very "negative" ubiquity. For Deacon, some capacity for negative intuition apparently suffused and suffuses the "behavior" of all nonsymbolic, as well as symbolic, forms of animal life (Incomplete 480). To use Aristotle's term, an "entelechial" purposivness of a kind extrudes in animate beings in general, not just in the "symbol-using animal," one of Deacon's fundamental claims (Burke, Dramatism 57-58; Language 3-9). Four "precursors," as Deacon calls them, of symbolic action anticipated in some "enigmatic" way the full-blown drama of human striving: the negative "absential," the "act"-to-"purpose" trajectory, terms of a kind for "order" that seem to make sense when applied even to the minimally sentient, and an incommensurable, nonreductive aspect to it all, as to purely physical causation. Burke's usually unqualified contrast between symbolic "action" and nonsymbolic "motion" may therefore necessitate some revision. Too often, Burke's dichotomy places lower animals, plants, and the processes of inanimate physical nature all in the same "motion" bin (e.g., Human Nature 139-71).

Where the preliminary purposefulness, or "teleonomic" tendencies, of Deacon's theory may have originated, in the case of nonsymbolic living beings, still poses a dilemma. Deacon argues for an intermediate "morphodynamic," or "form-generating," step. Snow crystals and the hexagonal convection cells in a heated liquid, for two examples, become "spontaneously more organized and orderly over time," via "perturbation" between two morphodynamic systems, "spontaneously" self-organizing "without . . . extrinsic . . . influences" (Incomplete 235-63, 305, 462, 550; "Emergent Process" 3). The crystals and convection cells adumbrate pre-teleonomic dispositions as precursors to life. How convincingly Deacon closes this divide between inanimate and animate is for scientific peers to assess.

"Incidently," Burke says (actually not so "incidently"), "Logology would treat Metaphysics as a coy species of theology" (Religion 24n, 300). Speculation along those metaphysical lines leads to the possibility that "coy" theologian may apply to Terrence Deacon, as well as to Burke. According to Arthur N. Prior, some establishment philosophers call even the linguistic negative "metaphysically embarrassing," let alone one as ostensibly unexplainable and ontologically confounding as Deacon's (Prior 459). Many such thinkers evidence that embarrassment in strained attempts to turn negatives into positives, or by defending a pristinely scientist semiotics in which negation barely fits (Alston, Hacking, Heath, Mundle, Owen, Rosen, Wiggins). A pre- to proto-"drama" of a sort, devolving from a pre-symbolic tropism toward negation and end-directedness of an admittedly "enigmatic" kind, suggests realms of transcendence Neo-Darwinians understandably ignore (Incomplete 31-34). Surely, "bi-layered" beings that see "faces in the clouds" and "run their lives" by "dictates" from an "invisible spiritual world" will follow such transcendental cues to their "compulsi[ve]" "end of the line" (Deacon and Cashman 15; Mish 780, "metaphysical," def. 2a; Burke, Philosophy 70, 84, 86, 88; Dramatism 57-58, on the "metaphysics" of Aristotle's "entelechy").


The author wishes to thank Professor Terrence W. Deacon for his gracious help in facilitating research for this essay, as well as the KB Journal editor and reviewers for their careful reading and useful comments.


1. Deacon's first book, The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, is widely considered a seminal work in the subject of evolutionary cognition (Schilhab, Stjernfelt, and Deacon 9-38; Deacon, "More Praise," Symbolic Species, frontispiece). Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter has been called, along with other encomiums, "Kuhn[ian] . . . revolutionary science," promising "a revolution of Copernican proportions" and "a profound shift in thinking . . . [to] be compared with . . . [those of] Darwin and Einstein" (qtd. in Deacon, Incomplete i-iii). Deacon has been accorded distinguished lectureships at universities and graduate schools in, among other venues, Holland, Norway, Denmark, and Atlanta, Georgia (Deacon, "Re: Update on Incomplete Nature"; e.g., "Naturalizing Teleology," "On Human (Symbolic) Nature").

2. Crusius calls the categorical distinction between "nonsymbolic motion" and "symbolic action" the "basic polarity" in Burke's philosophy. It subsumes or supersedes "mind-body, spirit-matter, superstructure-substructure . . . thought and extension" (164).

3. On the possibly cryptic meaning of "Incomplete" in the title Incomplete Nature, the order-constraint-"absential"/negative-purpose set of linkages can shed some light. With the term "incomplete," Deacon is referring to the telos, or end-directedness, "absential" or negative motivation confers on all nonsymbolic animal life, as well as the "symbolic species." Deacon posits such a trajectory, attenuated, "understood in a minimal and generic sense," for all living creatures (Incomplete 23, 190-95, 273). "Lower" animals are thus, like humans, creatures perpetually in transition, incessantly "not-quite-there-yet," oriented toward change, fulfillment of a kind, "completion," analogous, at least, in a sense, to the way humans are driven (Burke, Religion 42).

However, according to Deacon, such a negation-prompted "teleology" is, in reality, an "intrinsic teleology," bounded within earth's systems, or should be so conceived. Teleology names a "functional relationship" between "something physically present [that] depends on something specifically absent." Consequently, "Transcendent top-down [beyond-what-is-physically-present] teleology is redundant." The "eternal" does not, or should not, factor in. The quest for the likes of self-enhancement in the broadest sense, in the here and now, is as far as Deacon would take a useful notion of telos.

The symbolizers'problem, according to Deacon: Prompted by language, they, in the mass, do not see things that way (Deacon, "Naturalizing Teleology").

4. That hierarchal "motive of perfection" would not necessarily prompt a need to be "number one" oneself. It could be satisfied by attainment of a position within a respected, if not perfected, hierarchy, from the whole of which one can assess his or her personal standing as a worthy member. Thereby one becomes "a participant in the perfection of the total sequence," perhaps a "vessel of the major attribute identified with the 'superior' class" (Burke, Rhetoric 191, 287).

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The Holism ± Reductionism Dialectic and Transhumanism’s Terministic Screens

Joshua Frye, Humboldt State University


This essay interrogates transhumanistic rhetoric’s technotopian teleological assumption and the profound political implications for its entelechy of human transformation. Burke’s interest in rhetorical form and his insistence on a complex interplay of rhetoric and dialectic are good reasons to examine transhumanism through Burke, and Burke through transhumanism. Additionally, combining Burke’s definition of man, his action/motion distinction, and the body as the place where action and motion meet yields insights on both transhumanist rhetoric and Burke.


The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself —not just sporadically, an individual here in one way, an individual there in another way, but in its entirety, as humanity. We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve.

—Julian Huxley

The human preoccupation with transcending our species’ physical limitations dates back to ancient history. Transhumanism is one of the most recent and successful discourses dedicated to the melding of technological experimentation and the extension of life for the human species. Transhumanism offers us a rhetorically imagined post natural history future. A robust technophilia and decentering of homo sapiens as a biological organism fuels the “trans-humanist fantasy of escape from the finite materiality of the enfleshed self” (Braidotti 91).

Most accounts of the origins of transhumanism date to the early twentieth century with J. B. S. Haldane’s 1923 publication of the essay Daedalus: Science and the Future. However, what began as an obscure, fringe technotopian science-fiction discourse now boasts of contemporary advocates such as Peter Thiel who have been described in all seriousness as the “shadow president” of the United States (Kosoff 2017). Although transhumanist rhetoric evolved throughout the twentieth century with ideological inflections from several noteworthy thinkers, it has gained quite a lot of considerable ground since then. In 2015, Sam Frank wrote an extended report on transhumanism for Harper’s. Frank discovered the belief in transhumanism alive and well among a cadre he called the “apocalyptic libertarians of Silicon Valley” who are “mostly in their twenties: mathematicians, software engineers, quants, a scientist studying soot, employees of Google and Facebook, an eighteen-year-old Thiel Fellow who’d been paid $100,000 to leave Boston College and start a company, professional atheists, a Mormon turned atheist, an atheist turned Catholic, an Objectivist who was photographed at the premiere of Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike. There were about three men for every woman.” (4). Since the turn of the twenty-first century, this cadre has been busy founding well-funded scientific and political organizations such as the Center For Applied Rationality (CFAR), the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), and conferences such as the Singularity Summit. They are well-educated, well-resourced, and true believers (Hart 1).

Transhumanists take a machine metaphor and extend it to the digital age as a philosophically and scientifically tenable proposition: the body is hardware; the mind is software. Transhumanists eschew the essentialism of biological determinism and ecological holism, and instead choose to feature relationality as the starting point of an inherent and ontologically polysemous nature-culture continuum. This philosophical assumption could have positive political implications for typically devalued “others” in classical humanism such as nonhuman animals. However, one of transhumanism’s core beliefs is a technotopian telos for determining the best set of relationships and structures for humans and nature through technological intervention. The probable implications of this approach for non-human biological life forms, ecosystems within the biosphere, and the entire human species—are intentionally transformative. As an intellectual movement and social-political program, transhumanism has ethical consequences, implications for bodies and materiality, and transformations yielding altered agencies and responsibilities. Transhumanism imagines expanding the conventional boundaries of homo- sapiens through technological convergence. If this rhetoric were to become reality it would fundamentally alter ontology, epistemology, and axiology in the world as we know it. But what types of transformations are transhumanists trying to advance? And what are some of the implications to transhumanist assumptions and definitions of nature, technology, and man?

This essay interrogates transhumanist rhetoric’s technotopian teleological assumption and the profound political implications for its entelechy of human transformation. Kenneth Burke’s interest in rhetorical form and his insistence on a complex interplay of rhetoric and dialectic (Zappen5) are good reasons to examine transhumanism through Burke, and Burke through transhumanism. Additionally, Burke’s definition of man, his action/motion distinction, and focus on the body as the place where action and motion meet (Burke, Permanence 309), provide a splendid array of grammars that when combined yield insights on both transhumanist rhetoric and Burke. In order to do so, this essay is organized along the following lines.

First, the essay explains and synthesizes the above-mentioned Burkean rhetorical principles. Second, the essay examines transhumanist rhetoric by critically examining the ideological influences of two of its key historical texts— The World, The Flesh, and The Devil (Bernal, 1929) and Transhumanism (Huxley 1953). Third, two cornerstones of contemporary transhumanist rhetoric—the Transhumanist logo and the Transhumanist Declaration—are introduced and critically analyzed. Fourth, the essay concludes what Burke can tell us about transhumanism’s rhetoric on nature, technology, and man and what transhumanism can tell us about Burke’s attitudes toward humans. Throughout the essay, to enrich the dialectic with a perspective by incongruity (Burke, Permanence 89), I contrast transhumanism with its alternative—ecological holism. When juxtaposed with ecological holism, transhumanism appears to be a rhetorically sophisticated instantiation of a reductionist materialist ideology: Instead of a living whole, it offers a mechanically enhanced biological part. Aligning itself with a Cartesian conception of the body, it forsakes the very organicism with which it seeks to unite.

Theoretical Framework

According to Burke, terministic screens are language uses that filter human perception (LSA 45). All symbol systems employ terministic screens in the building of an ideology. As language is the primary resource used in constructing an ideology, terministic screens are an unavoidable part of any ontology, epistemology, or axiology. Therefore, coming to terms with the language uses that occur and recur in the construction, maintenance, contestation, subversion, and transformation of a symbol system that takes itself seriously is a serious undertaking.

In The New Rhetoric, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca present several philosophical pairs with important rhetorical uses. These are: (1) appearance/reality; (2) one/many; and (3) being/nonbeing (423). Examining any major philosophical pair as it manifests in a particular discourse through Burkean rhetorical criticism enables an understanding of the predisposed symbolic action suspended in that particular discourse. As Voigt attests, in the life sciences the holism-reductionism dialectic figures prominently. As an ideology transhumanism normalizes and advocates for a fundamentally altered natural order. As such, what it signifies can be better understood by exploring its latitude of acceptance or rejection of holism and reductionism. As the “universal invariant,” dialectic is both a structural framework and potentially transformative linguistic agent. This is true for the philosophical pair of being and non-being, as well as what Burke calls the fundamental rhetorical situation—segregation and congregation. How humans self identify themselves in this world has profound implications for the rest of this world. The non-humans in this world, including plants, non-human animals, and elements of earth, air, fire, and water are all affected by the ways humans segregate and congregate. How humans use rhetoric to create segregations and congregations of meaning will have consequences for being and non-being, also. Justifications for what gets to exist, in what way, where, how, and why, will be generated from the rhetorical resources of differing congregations and segregations of meaning. This rhetorical situation gives humankind incredible power to manipulate justifications for evaluations over being and non-being. Indeed, as Burke knew, we are both the symbol using and misusing animal.

The relationship between the whole and the parts of any system is a good indicator of a particular rhetorical discourse’s social consequences. Prevalent ecological attitudes toward invasive species are a good example of this. Ecosystems are communities of different species cohabitating. A holistic view of healthy ecosystem management requires from time to time the deliberate eradication of an individual member of a group that “does not belong”—an invasive species. Such a tactic prioritizes the whole over the part in order to maintain a semblance of equilibrium for the other pre-existing individual members of the ecosystem. A reductionist view, however, may question the legitimacy of privileging the whole over the parts, or even a particular part of a larger whole.

The holism-reductionism dialectic is a useful analytical framework for a Burkean interrogation of transhumanism’s terministic screens precisely because as rhetorical discourse, transhumanism thought will necessarily create congregations and segregations of meaning. Moreover, because transhumanism brings into question the very essence of human self-identity, its rhetorical situation uniquely affects not only humans, but the rest of the non-human world as well. In the spirit of Burke’s critical, rhetorical approach to dialectic, I coin the use of the ± symbol with the holism ± reductionism philosophical pair to apprehend transhumanism’s attitude toward holism and reductionism. It allows for an elegant Burkean articulation of how terministic screens goad audiences to develop an attitude of acceptance (+) of one pole of a dialectic while developing an attitude of rejection (-) toward the other. As Frank and Balduc indicated, these rhetorically-charged attitudes can create value hierarchies and through the negotiation of these attitudinal tensions, new social realities are constructed and legitimized (60).

Transhumanists envision virtually endless new social realities: portable holographic message devices transmitted and activated through biochemical control triggers; simulated simulations; boundaryless biomechanical technological advancements; nonmammalian machine men, abstracted information centers with diagrammed tele-nodes to connect with for a reasonable user-fee, memory downloading and identity uploading, etc. Rhetoric has always concerned itself with the probable contingent human social realities caused through intermediated symbolic agency. While “the possible” is a fertile space for imagination and rhetorical inventio, freewheeling symbolic action will always be interfered with at some point by a rhetor with some…or other bias or vested interest. In other words, while some aspects of tranhumanists’ vision for what is possible and desirable may be uncontroversial or beneficial, other elements of this “far-out rhetoric” (Frank 7) will likely meet resistance and become targets for rhetorical disputation on ethical, political, cultural, religious, economic, and medical grounds.

Now that the theoretical framework has been explained and synthesized, the essay uses this framework to examine two landmark transhumanism texts: J. D. Bernal’s essay “The World, The Flesh, and The Devil” (1929) and Julian Huxley’s “Transhumanism” (1953). These particular texts have been selected to analyze transhumanist rhetoric due to their central role in the ideological figuration of the contemporary transhumanist movement. Bernal was the first reputed respondent to J. B. S. Haldane’s groundbreaking 1923 essay Daedalus: Science and the Future and is one of the contemporary transhumanist movement’s progenitors. Huxley is purported to have been the first rhetor to have used the word “transhumanism” in his public discourse (Bostrom 2005).

Transhumanism’s Terministic Screens

Historical Texts and Ideological Influence

Transhumanist discourse enjoins a scientistic use of language. Early transhumanist discourse was influenced by twentieth-century scientists to “translate the problems of action into terms of motion” (Burke, Grammar 239). Perhaps this is not so surprising. This reduction of action to motion was one of Burke’s chief complaints with General Semantics—the field which influenced cybernetics, which has in turn been one of the most influential predecessors of the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), a version of action-motion convergence that transhumanism has embraced.

To apprehend this scientistic feature of transhumanist rhetoric one only need attend closely to its seminal writings through a Burkean lens. In the essay “Transhumanism” penned in 1953, Julian Huxley displays a curious scientistic application of an approach to the action-motion nexus while defining man. Huxley professes adherence to scientific knowledge, evolution, technological progress, and control over nature, while simultaneously offering a profound need for man to have faith in this knowledge:

It is as if man had been suddenly appointed managing director of the biggest business of all, the business of evolution —appointed without being asked if he wanted it, and without proper warning and preparation. What is more, he can’t refuse the job. Whether he wants to or not, whether he is conscious of what he is doing or not, he is in point of fact determining the future direction of evolution on this earth. That is his inescapable destiny, and the sooner he realizes it and starts believing in it, the better for all concerned. (13)

In other words, as Burke so ingeniously observed about how language functions as a terministic screen, “crede, ut intelligas,” or “Believe, that you may understand.” Burke provides us with the analytical ability to read into this passage the sine qua non of language as attitudinal and hortatory. In this passage, one of transhumanism’s early proponents prepares the way for future audiences to believe in certain implications of man’s advanced evolutionary status. There is also a strain of pre-determination in this passage. Whether he wants or realizes it, man has an “inescapable destiny." In this early transhumanist rhetoric, the predictive agency of science combines with a definition of man that itself uses symbolic action to advance an idealization of motion.

To elaborate on these features of transhumanism language use, and to provide further insight into transhumanism’s terministic screens, transhumanist rhetorics of materiality and body will now be addressed. Key words in transhumanism texts such as “mechanical,” imitate,” “construction,” and “possibility” bind together in the discourse and provide a better understanding of the metaphysics of the transhumanism ideology.

For transhumanism, the cosmos is essentially physical material to be conquered and repurposed for transhumans. Human existence has endless possibility in this manipulable material scene. In his landmark transhumanism essay, “The World, The Flesh, and the Devil,” written in 1929, J. D. Bernal expounds upon this “reality,” which is of course only one particular view filtered through the terministic screens which the author himself has invoked. This is what Burke meant when he wrote that

Not only does the nature of our terms affect the nature of our observations, in the sense that the terms direct the attention to one field rather than to another. Also, many of the “observations” are but implications of the particular terminology in terms of which the observations are made. In brief, much that we take as observations about “reality” may be but the spinning out of possibilities implicit in our particular choice of terms (Language as Symbolic Action 46).

Bernal’s notion of the cosmos, the “physical world” in his sub-essay “The World” is a stage where transhumans can rearrange the set at will and where the “macro-mechanical” (Bernal’s term for outer space) and the “micro-mechanical” (Bernal’s term for the subatomic molecular biological world) should be manipulated by imitating nature’s script—its “mechanism of evolution” in order to construct a new existence where our species can improve upon nature and defeat our “opponent”—space-time curvature and entropy.

Bernal’s rhetorical move of abstracting information from the physical forms of biological organisms and planetary or cosmic systems is one of many disconcerting features of transhumanism discourse (Brooke, 788). It is also interesting to note that in his exposition on “reality,” Bernal feminizes nature and adopts an antagonistic attitude toward biological, spatial, and temporal constraints on the human condition of mortality. Thus, it is interesting to note that in 2015—as Frank observed—there are three times as many men as women—at transhumanism gatherings. This rhetoric seems to exude a paternalistic and even misogynistic attitude toward nature, which is feminine. Furthermore, in Bernal’s rhetoric, due to the plastic nature of our mechanistic, materialistic physical reality (motion) and the antagonistic attitudes toward nature inherent in the essay, the terministic screen of “construction” yields the possibility of a newly built hierarchy complete with mechanical angels, transhumanism space colonies, and human zoos; It is almost as if this early transhumanism ideologue is rewriting Dante’s vision of the universe, with a set of decidedly different language filters. Out of this scientistic, antagonistic, and paternalistic materialism, derives the transhumanism corollary of the human body, which is devalued. An interesting perspective by incongruity can be offered here by the rhetoric of ecological holism.

Because ecology is a subfield of biology, ontologically speaking, corporeality is construed as living matter. Furthermore, in ecological holism, parts of a system are biological parts that are functionally integrated into mutually necessary relationships. It is precisely because ecological holism does not abstract information from biological bodies that the distinction between nature and culture is unwarranted. In ecological holism, information is embodied and distributed in functional networks constrained by ecological principles such as predation, population balance, and succession. In ecological holism, corporeal bodies are “bio” logical, embedded in, and constitutive of food chains. For this very reason organicism is vital to ecological holism. Bodies are for consuming and being consumed, not plastic material containers for a directing and extractable intelligence. Thus, one of the key terms of ecology—decomposition—provides a striking antilogy when compared with key terms constituting transhumanism’s terministic screens. Because the terministic screen of ecological holism begins with biological premises, bodies of living things decompose. This process means the bodies of individual life form parts of the living system and eventually become food for other members of the system.

As Hawhee has extensively argued, bodies are rhetorical. In Burke’s definition of man, the body is where action and motion meet. The body in transhumanism discourse, is degraded. This implication, as many deep ecologists and eco-feminists have noted, is already present in Descartes’ cogito ergo sum (Plant 1989). In transhumanist rhetoric, because of its essentialist materialist assumptions, the body becomes the site for a problematic tension between teleological mechanism and human identity. Because the body is the nexus between symbolic action and non-symbolic motion (Burke, “(Nonsumbolic Motion)”814) transhumanism’s terministic screen spins out its rhetorical resources in a reconceptualization of the body, including the brain. In his sub-essay, “The Flesh,” Bernal posits: “man himself must actively interfere in his own making and interfere in a highly unnatural manner”. It is here, with regard to the human body, that Bernal advances and perhaps “perfects” the reductive nature of transhumanism’s teleological materialism. In contrast, Burke understood the entelechial motivation of man as contributing to man’s rottenness. Man, for Burke, is “rotten with perfection.” It is the very symbol use and misuse that goads man on to perfect his vision of the world without recognizing that he is endeavoring to actualize the implications inherent in his own terminology. This is exactly the insight that brings Burke to declare that man is, “rotten with perfection.” It is when Bernal’s and Burke’s definition and conceptualization of man’s relationship to his body are juxtaposed that we see dramatic differences between transhumanist rhetoric and Burke.

According to Bernal, the invasive procedure of surgery has taken humans further along the evolutionary journey. The improvement of “primitive nature” in adapting stones, clothes, spectacles, and artificial languages are indicative signs of this technological progress. However, it is with surgery that humans need to “copy” and “short-circuit” evolution by altering the germ plasm to break off from organic evolution, manufacture life, transform human beings, and build a “mentally-directed mechanism”. The primacy of mind over matter is revealed in what Bernal believes is a mere difference of degree of the “mechanism of evolution” rather than a difference of type. Never mind that the body has now become a kind of mechanical canister containing a compound mind. According to Bernal, this “mechanical man” will “conserve none of the substance and all of the spirit” of our species’ previous selfhood. It is at this very place in the discourse where Burke would warn of the problematic overlay of the terminology of motion onto the symbolic world of action. The body has been reduced to a sheer canister (i.e., “substance”) exactly because transhumanism’s terministic screen has abstracted mind (i.e., “spirit”) to such a stellar degree that the converse pole of the dialectic—body—has been devalued so that corporeal reality could mean anything, even a plastic sheath. Early transhumanist rhetoric is not just authorizing plastic surgery but rather a complete manipulation of the human body to an unrecognizable form. Another way to think about this is that because of transhumanism’s prioritization of the abstracted mind the material body gets left behind or undeveloped. This is a lopsided dialectic where the mind is equated with action and the body with motion. This suggests that transhumanism is a complex version of a reductionistic materialism.

The implications for the material body as seen through transhumanism’s terministic screens are perplexing. Moving closer to machinery and further away from biology has many nuances. The intangibility of mind/spirit and the corporeality of the body has had humans wavering between animals and machines in classical and contemporary literature and philosophy. In classical Greek theater, God was introduced to a scene with humans brought onto stage suspended in air with the help of a mechanical crane-like device (Deus ex machine). Descartes introduced his famous mind/body dualism in the 1600s. More recent 20th twentieth-century accounts are found in examples such as Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s “Ghost in the Machine” and John Durham Peters contemporary account of the history of communication. These investigations span thousands of years of this most human preoccupation. In the transhumanism view, spirit and substance are posited as inherent binaries. Thus, fundamentally altering the body—including the brain—is acceptable because the “spirit” of humanity will continue in a vastly transformed if unrecognizable package.

The continuity in this material transformation of the human would result from immensely more complex physical configurations enabling redistribution of energy and information, but perhaps not memory. Mind controls and directs the information, thus body becomes a plastic vehicle necessary to house the infinitely greater potentiality of mind, which has been compounded with information added from other abstracted individual minds. The human body seen through this terministic screen is essentially a vessel for compounding and re-distributing information. By many current social norms organ transplants could give way to organ harvesting; substitution of living parts (e.g., organs) to extend the life of the whole (e.g., organism) is a comparatively accepted practice. However, mind uploading, eugenics, bio-ports, and nanotechnological implants—by and large commended by transhumanists—is another matter.  It is in this way that transhumanist rhetoric differs significantly from contemporary dominant biomedical ethics and functions as a mechanically-oriented mythology of the future. Transhumanism privileges a scientistic and technologically-rendered redefinition of what humans are meant to be: “Believe, that you may understand.” Transhumanists imagine that these further technological developments are consistent with “actively interfering with our own making” which we have been doing since we started making stone tools and using fire. In other words, they see even these fundamental alterations to the human being as differences in degree rather than differences in kind. The real difference however, can be seen in terms of the transformed identity and experience of transhumanist reality. These issues can be examined through transhumanism’s role for human beings—their agency and responsibility. For it is here in the mode of roles, Burke contends, where symbolic action shapes the Self.

It should be clear at this point in the analysis that transhumanism has strong tendencies for a kind of teleological mechanism and a species-centric frame. What needs to be understood and emphasized, however, is just how strong these ideological tendencies are in terms of the role and moral imperative of homo sapiens in transhumanism discourse. Key words such as “man,” “colony,” and “control” indicate a metanarrative of axiological claims with troubling sociopolitical and socioeconomic implications.

In transhumanism discourse, man’s agency comes not from his mutuality with other beings and his environment, as it does in shamanism (Abram The Spell 1996), but rather from his evolutionary uniqueness. It is with regard to the conception of man’s agency and his responsibilities that we see the rhetorical implications of transhumanism’s terministic screens spun out into full-fledged progress myth with man at the helm of the entire universe. Bernal writes of a “humanly controlled universe” where “as time goes on, the acceptance, the appreciation, even the understanding of nature, will be less and less needed” (The World, The Flesh, and The Devil). Huxley ordains man’s role as the “managing director of evolution” (Transhumanism). Isolated in his inevitable directorship, man will subdue, transform, and control everything, including his own ontological rearrangement. Here we see fully developed the agency of the transhumanist. His responsibilities include mastery of time and space, extending “human” life indefinitely, and establishing a superordinate hierarchy of power where a potential dimorphism between “humanizers” and “mechanizers” could result in transhumanist space colonies lording over a terrestrial human zoo where observation and experimentation are the purview of the more advanced “machine men.”

The reductionism inherent in transhumanism discourse is such a strongly developed version that this extinction scenario complete with a technologically-based evolutionary divergence within homo sapiens is the fatalistic outcome of a teleological mechanism. In this transhumanist rhetorical drama “intelligence” as a “product” of evolutionary process reacts to a “material” universe. In terms of this perfected machine-man’s agentic responsibilities for “humanizing” non-human features of the natural order, in 2015 a contemporary transhumanist explained to a Harper’s journalist,

If you think it through, actually, when a zebra is being eaten alive by a lion, that’s one of the worst experiences that you could possibly have. And if we are compassionate toward our pets and our kids, and we see a squirrel suffering in our backyard and we try to help it, why wouldn’t we actually want to help the zebra?” We could genetically engineer lions into herbivores, he suggested, or drone-drop in-vitro meat whenever artificial intelligence detects a carnivore’s hunger, or reengineer “ecosystems from the ground up, so that all the evolutionarily stable equilibriums that happen within an ecosystem are actually things that we consider ethical.” (Frank 6).

Finally, there is a conflation of intentionality and causality in this part of transhumanist discourse that can only be understood as a category mistake. It is the entelechial motivation of the transhumanism terminsitic screen that would bring about this scenario, not the necessary organic evolution of the species. It is instructive that Burke interprets Aristotle as locating the principle of evil in the realm of the potentiality of matter: “The scientific concept of potential energy lacks the degree of ambiguity one encounters in the potential as applied to the realm of living beings in general and human beings in particular” (Grammar of Motives 243). It is this tension between potentiality and actuality of matter where Burke’s paradox of substance and Aristotle’s concept of entelechy informs us that which is capable of being is also capable of not being. transhumanism ontology would bring about the end of not-being and usher in eternal life for its machine men. Just as potential however would be its consequence of bringing about not-being for human beings as we know them to be. But it is transhumanism axiology that is working to make this potential actual, not the inevitable evolutionary role and responsibility of human beings. For Burke, form was the fulfillment of entelechy. The transformation of the human that early ideological influences in transhumanist rhetoric propose is a perfect illustration of what Burke meant when he said that man was rotten with perfection:

The principle of perfection (the ‘entelechial’ principle) figures in other notable ways as regards the genius of symbolism. A given terminology contains various implications, and there is a corresponding ‘perfectionist’ tendency for men to attempt carrying out those implications (Burke 1966, p. 19).

Contemporary Transhumanist Rhetoric

The essay now examines two key elements to the contemporary rhetoric of transhumanism: The transhumanist logo and “The Transhumanist Declaration”. These rhetorics are essential to constructing the dominant symbolic identity of the contemporary transhumanist ethos. Logos have become an immensely potent force in contemporary culture, and are no longer the exclusive purview of corporate brands. They are equally central to social marketing campaigns and social movements of all types. According to Naomi Klein (1999), a logo is now “the central force of everything it touches” (29). In addition to the power of logos, declarations have long been used as political and legal statements of identity and value. In combination, the transhumanist logo and Transhumanist Declaration provide a synthesized “identity platform” including both visual and textual elements to analyze.

The transhumanist logo (see Figure 1) is the codified identity of the transhumanist movement and is featured by prominent organizations belonging to the movement such as Humanity+, Inc. and the Transhumanist Party. The transhumanist logo betrays an attitude of acceptance toward reductionism, or what this analysis calls a “Reductionist+” leaning.

Figure 1.

The primary contention regarding the transhumanist logo pertains to the misconceived or misrepresented nature of the dialectic of substance, or identity. The transhumanist logo is incomplete or partial, in a way. As we have seen, transhumanist rhetoric claims that its ideology values relationality rather than strict and narrow identity for human beings. The transhumanist logo, however, freezes a symbolic representation of identity that is rhetorically biased. The “h” stands for human or humanity. In addition to this, the logo adds a plus sign to suggest that transhumans are “more than” human. In fact, this positive integer is only a fraction, and a misleading one at that. The inherent significance of transhuman is that humans’ existence is obtained as a condition of permanent incompleteness and constant re-location or re-lationship. Harold (2000) identifies this quality of the posthuman condition when she states that bodies “are continually mutating through its relationship” (884) with outside forces such as food and technologies. The fact that the transhumanist logo symbolizes incompleteness is not inherently problematic. The problem is that with transhumanist’s logois that this intermediacy or indeterminacy is given an overt “+” sign and a correlating implicit attitude of acceptance. There is a subtle conflation of symbolism such that the plus sign (“+”) in the transhumanist logo means both “more than” and “positive”. Why is there not a minus sign in the logo also representative of what humans would be losing, subtracting, or giving up in their acceptance of being more than human?

From a Burkean perspective, this is a perfect revelation of the fundamental rhetorical situation. Transhumanism advocates have assembled as a group of human rhetors to rearticulate the meaning of the human condition. In the unfolding dialectic of their rhetoric, they have convinced themselves that the rhetorical vision they have articulated together is not only fundamentally accurate metaphysically or scientifically but fundamentally positive in terms of axiology. If transhumanism were a neutral or objective scientific rhetoric of the dialectic of substance, the logo would require the missing minus sign. Over time, the ambiguity of this meaning system would fade and future audiences would then be left with a polished meaning system belying the bias and vested interest of the meaning-makers themselves. In other words, while advocates of the posthuman condition may reasonably propose that humans are and always have been indeterminate, it is clear from the transhumanist logo that what is very determined is the positive bias toward whatever post-human entity is arrived at through whichever technological mutation is desired or sanctioned by transhumanist ideology.

What is more, the Transhumanist Party, founded in 2014, has encoded the transhumanist logo into a flag (see Figure 2) that is an alteration of the official flag of the United States of America. Flags, of course, are an important rhetorical staple in the legitimization of an imagined community (Billig 45-46). Decoding the Transhumanist Party flag is not difficult. In place of the stars that symbolize the 50 states that make up the United States of America, the transhumanist movement has substituted their logo. Apparently, instead of the political imaginary of 50 “states” united, under a Transhumanist Party ideology we would have a country united by various species of transhumanist beings. In addition to recently forming the Transhumanist Party as a non-profit organization, in 2015 the Party presented a Tranhumanist Bill of Rights to Washington and announced a 2016 US presidential candidate. In 2017, Peter Thiel—a prominent transhumanism advocate is a powerful presidential advisor for Donald Trump.

TH Flag
Figure 2.

The World Transhumanist Association and Humanity+, Inc. are two contemporary transhumanist organizations. They both offer substantially similar versions of the Transhumainst Declaration. Humanity+, Inc. acknowledges that the Transhumanist Declaration was originally crafted by an international group of authors in 1998 and has undergone several modifications. The current Declaration was jointly created between the World Transhumanist Association, Humanity+, Inc. and the Extropy Institute. The Declaration was adopted by the Humanity+, Inc. Board of Directors in 2009. The original World Transhumanist Association declaration offered seven transhumanist assertions while Humanity+, Inc. offered eight. As mentioned above, the assertions of these two versions of the Transhumanist Declaration are substantially similar. Taken from Humanity+, Inc., the Declaration offers the following formulations:

  1. Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.
  2. We believe that humanity’s potential is still mostly unrealized. There are possible scenarios that lead to wonderful and exceedingly worthwhile enhanced human conditions.
  3. We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. There are possible realistic scenarios that lead to the loss of most, or even all, of what we hold valuable. Some of these scenarios are drastic, others are subtle. Although all progress is change, not all change is progress.
  4. Research effort needs to be invested into understanding these prospects. We need to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications. We also need forums where people can constructively discuss what should be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented.
  5. Reduction of existential risks, and development of means for the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of grave suffering, and the improvement of human foresight and wisdom should be pursued as urgent priorities, and heavily funded.
  6. Policy making ought to be guided by responsible and inclusive moral vision, taking seriously both opportunities and risks, respecting autonomy and individual rights, and showing solidarity with and concern for the interests and dignity of all people around the globe. We must also consider our moral responsibilities towards generations that will exist in the future.
  7. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise. We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.

Both sets of declarations disdain biological determinism, adopt the master rhetorical frame of rights1 (Benford 1), advise rational discussion and debate on the integration of humans and technology, proclaim the well-being of all sentience, and are hopeful for “enhanced” human conditions but adversarial about technological bans/prohibitions.

A few significant differences between the two declarations deserve to be mentioned. The Humanity+ declaration calls for heavy investment in this research agenda and uses an appeal to urgency. The master rhetorical frame of rights is also used differently by the two different transhumanist organizations. Humanity+ uses the more accepted language of “individual rights”. The World Transhumanist Association uses a much more aggressive stance with the language of “moral right”. The World Transhumanist Association claims that transhumanism encompasses many principles of modern humanism and also that transhumanism does not support any particular political party, politician, or platform.

There are many noteworthy rhetorical maneuvers in these declarations, including the use of the rights master frame, appeals to urgency, association with generally agreed upon values, euphemisms, appeals to rationality, negative and positive rhetorical visions of the future, opposition and advocacy of different versions of determinism, and objectivist rhetoric. While fuller elaboration of these rhetorical moves is outside the scope of this chapter, they are significant rhetorical aspects to the Transhumanist Declaration.

The most important feature of these declarations for the thesis advanced in this essay is the recurrence of the focus on individuals. This lends further support for the claim that the transhumanist is a rhetorically sophisticated instantiation of a reductionist ideology: instead of a living whole, it offers a mechanically enhanced biological part. What is remarkable is the fact that this reductionism happens on two levels: the individual human being in relation to his/her environment as part of an ecosystem and the human organism in relation to his/her own biological organs and biochemical electrical systems. Whether the language invoked is “individual rights,” “personal growth,” “personal choice,” “human potential,” “modified human,” or “enhanced human conditions,” there is a thoroughgoing reductionism which privileges the (trans)human over another human or all (trans)humans over everything else. This reductionism leads to a problematic hierarchy. Burke (1950) reminds us that hierarchy, “with its original meaning of ‘priest-rule’” (306) can also be found in “the Darwinian doctrine of natural evolution” (137). But when the principle of hierarchy is reduced to purely material gradations of “higher” and “lower,” we “are then in the state of the ‘fall,’ the communicative disorder that goes with the building of the technological Tower of Babel” (139).

Ecological holism and even evolutionary biology on the other hand, recognize mutuality between human beings, other life forms, and the nested energy between individual organisms and their ecosystems. At a very basic level, the fact that the human body is teeming with millions of bacteria and outnumbers human cells at a ratio of 10:1, reflects this mutuality (Mara & Hawk, 2010, 2). Furthermore, ecological holism does not attempt to understand life forms in isolation. Not only do transhumanism’s terministic screens isolate human beings, they associate the human species more closely with machines and actively disassociates them from nonhuman animals and terrestrial flora. The omission of terrestrial flora and inanimate elements should be noted also; Man-made machines are given priority over naturally occurring non-animal biological or elemental forms of life. Some scholarly accounts go as far as claiming that transhumanism has no concern for other living beings (Welsch 3).

Prioritizing wholes rather than parts, rejecting reductionism, and eschewing oversimplification, ecological holism employs terms such as community, association, emergence, organicism, integration, niche, diversity, symbiosis, and web. Because ecological holism’s attitude that the whole is a community of organisms that create a “superorganism” (Voigt), individual species (and members of species), agency is constrained by the living system’s needs and responsibility manifests as playing one’s part in the community, analogous to an organ’s functioning for an organism. The terministic screens of ecological holism are socialized in a manner that transhumanism cannot be. While individual interactions constitute the whole, a living system (i.e., association, community, ecosystem) cannot be fully understood by reducing it to the sum total of its interspecific relationships.

Concluding Thoughts

This analysis of transhumanism’s terministic screens has fleshed out many of the filters this discourse has employed through the rhetorical resources of its key texts and contemporary symbols. In particular, this analysis brought into focus its positive bias toward “humanity+”; The Transhumanist Declaration’s reductive focus on the part rather than the whole at numerous levels; problematic hierarchy; a materialistic view of the physical universe; a degrading attitude toward the human body and a paternalistic attitude toward nature; teleological mechanism; a utopian myth of technological progress; and a category mistake between causality and intentionality.

If rhetoric emerges from dialectic, then the hope is that this critical analysis has provided some illumination of the assumptions, implications, and probable consequences of transhumanism’s terministic screens. The terminological screens through which transhumanists spin out the resources of their rhetoric include mechanism, imitation, possibility, colony, man, sentience, control, and construction. These screens filter some meanings and values in and other meanings and values out. Included in the in-filtering are ideologies of micro and macro mechanism, reductionism, technotopia, transcolonialism, neoanthropocentrism, material hierarchy, and a scientistic predetermination of man’s agency to transcend itself. The out-filtering contains many other versions of posthumanism, postcolonialism, classical humanism, evolutionary biology, ecological holism, egalitarianism, and normative biomedical ethics.

The word “transhumanism” has been selected to function as the title of this brave new movement. As any terminology “must implicitly or explicitly embody choices between the principle of continuity and the principle of discontinuity” (Language, 50) which do transhumanists choose? Does the “trans” or the “human” control the direction for the transhumanist’s rhetorically imagined future? If the “trans” wins, the principle of discontinuity for the species prevails; If the “human” wins, the principle of continuity for the species succeeds. Most terminologies do not conjoin the dialectical ambiguities of language into a unified whole. The new relationality transhumanists posit between man and nature with technology as the boundless mediator reflects this entitlement. This is both the genius of transhumanism as well as its associated risk. In this analysis, the conclusion is that transhumanism privileges discontinuity for the species’ public memory and inherited identity of what it means to remember and to be human.

In a way, the discontinuity between humans and the rest of nature stressed by other scientific (Darwinian evolution), metaphysical (Dante), and theological (Judeo-Christianity) hierarchies aligns transhumanists with a transcendent attitude of man’s “true nature.” On the other hand, transhumanists do declare an alliance with and respect for all sentient life. Most importantly, unlike ecological holists, transhumanists’ sense of continuity comes at the cost of a significant reductionism. This unique brand of reductionism would replace a biological whole for a mechanical part, not deducing a difference in kind that would result and consequently devalue other “non-mutated” biological forms in the elaborate web of life of which the human participates.

The fact that transhumanist adherents have continued to evolve this rhetoric over the past century to the current moment where The Transhumanist Declaration exhorts followers to advocate for a well-funded scientific research agenda aligned with these principles is perhaps where the rubber hits the road. If transhumanists are effective in their axiological claims (i.e., their worldly advocacy), scientific research would be redirected, biomedical ethics norms would be undermined, nanotechnology would incorporate an active program of biomechanics and genetic manipulation, and perhaps even eugenics would gain newfound legitimacy with machine men advancing over the “humanizers.”

One of the key insights of juxtaposing transhumanist rhetoric with Burke’s rhetorical theory is Burke’s humbling of humans. Rather than elevating man above the rest of the natural world, Burke recognizes both continuities and discontinuities between the human species and other life forms. Burke realized that not only are we caught up in webs of signification that we ourselves have spun, but that the urge and compulsion of humans to perfect their terminologies and thereby themselves does not lead to transcendence. We are animals, but so too are we separated from “our natural condition by tools of our own making” (Burke, 1966,  Language 13). In attempting to perfect its own terminology—and our species in the process—transhumanism’s terministic screens lead instead to a privileging of mere motion and machinery, and would substitute the authentic human spirit for mastery of an eternity of motion. It is the perfecting of transhumanism’s terministic screens through symbolic action that allow this possibility. Transhumanist rhetoric advocates for a type of transcendence for our species that some of us may be goaded by. But while we are goaded by this spirit of hierarchy, rather than collective elevation or sustainability through ecological holism, Transhumanist rhetoric spins out a strong materialist reductionism, substituting a mechanical part for an organic whole. Burke realized that “substitution sets the condition for ‘transcendence’” (LSA 8). But for him, this should not be seen by our species as an invitation to self-flattery, but rather admonition.


1. The concept of a “master frame” has been used by social scientists to explain the success of certain political discourse occurring within social movements.  Basically, a master frame such as “rights” is appropriated by a movement and applied to its own domain of discourse.  For example, “civil rights,” “animal rights,” “women’s rights,” “indigenous rights,” etc.  The fact that the Transhumanist Party has developed a Bill of Rights in the last year indicates this is a rhetorical strategy of the movement.  For a more lengthy explanation of the concept of master frame, see Robert D. Benford’s 2013 entry in the Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Social & Political Movements.

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George Meredith and the Comic Spirit in Kenneth Burke's Early Poetry

William Schraufnagel, Northern Illinois University


This article reads several unpublished poems written by Kenneth Burke as influenced by George Meredith's 1877 Essay on Comedy. It argues that critics have expected too much of Burke's comic criticism, as Meredith restricted comedy to a narrow social realm. Contrary to an understanding of Burke's poetry as "arhetorical," the poems reflect social awareness informed by Meredith. However, Burke's internalization of Meredith sometimes inclined Burke to the bitterness of satire.

Introduction: Limitations of Burke's Comic Criticism

One of Kenneth Burke's best-known critical orientations is the "comic frame" of motives, first articulated in his 1937 work Attitudes Toward History. The comic frame applies lessons learned from the dramatic art of comedy to the interpretation of history. Arnie J. Madsen describes it as an attitude midway between "euphemism" and "debunking," neither totally condemning, nor totally praising (170). Both self-corrective and charitable toward the errors of others, "[t]he comic attitude thus allows for transcendence and the transformation of losses into assets" (171). Scholars have applied Burke's comic frame to discourses as various as Gandhi, nineteenth century feminism, the cult of empire, nuclear weapons, cyberpunk fiction, and film.1

Although it may have originated as a stage art in ancient Greece, "comedy" in Burke is a specific mode of criticism. William H. Rueckert traces Burke's "comic criticism" from its late-1930s articulation in Attitudes Toward History through the last appendix to that book written in 1983. Pitted against the global tragedy of an impersonal, relentless drive toward high technology and the cult of empire, Burke, the word-man, offers "comic criticism." According to Rueckert, in comic criticism "symbolic verbal structures function as purgative-redemptive rituals of rebirth for those who enact them" (114). The critic accepts some, rejects others, and thereby adopts a properly socialized attitude, reborn in the light of social correction.

Rueckert admits, however, the difficulty of the term "comic." The evils of technology and empire never go away. Comedy responds to the "tragic" situation as a corrective. What can comedy do in the face of such an intractable opponent? Is there an inevitable or fixed "comic stance" for the critic to adopt? Rueckert breaks down the answer into two components: comedy allows us, first, to adapt to external circumstances and, second, to "contemplate [our need for order] with neo-stoic resignation" (129). The "order" which oppresses us from the outside also drives us "internally." Recognition of this fact allows us, in a way, to forgive ourselves and others for the inevitable victimization inherent in order. It may even provoke laughter.

Herbert W. Simons, for one, objects to the finality of the comic stance. Calling for "warrantable outrage," Simons insists, "Surely there must be thought and expression that proceeds beyond humble irony," a watchword for Burke's comic frame. Simons continues, assuming his audience must agree with him, "Yet there surely must be in some cases—not all—a stage beyond the sneer of primal outrage and the smile of comedy" (n.p.). This use of "must" raises the question. Why must there be something beyond comedy? Undoubtedly, Simons perceives the warrant for his own outrage, but in the process he obfuscates, rather than clarifies, the function of comedy. Simons regards some geopolitical tragedies as "beyond comedy": for instance, Adolf Hitler. But as we shall see, comedy was never intended to stretch its capacities to all of human existence. Another way of phrasing "beyond comedy" would be to acknowledge the limitations which make comedy possible.

Building on the work of Simons, Gregory Desilet and Edward A. Appel do a better job of showing how what they call the "filter of comic framing" (351) can provide a "warrant" for outrage. One can justifiably oppose those actions which de-humanize others only after recognizing the universal tendency to de-humanize others: "Burke still sees Hitler as within natural (human) boundaries rather than absolutely 'other,' as horribly and censurably mistaken rather than essentially vicious and evil" (352). Comedy reduces all of us to fools, Hitler included, but it does not thereby imply moral equivalence or passivity in the face of injustice.

The comic frame remains integral to Burke's stance as a critic and cannot be reduced to a simple formula such as "humble irony." The deep concern the comic frame draws from scholars suggests that it warrants further exploration.

One fact, not heretofore stressed by scholars, is that Burke did not invent the comic frame but learned it in high school from the British poet-novelist George Meredith. In a damaged letter from the "Burke-3" archive at Penn State, written possibly on September 14, 1917, Burke wrote to his friend Malcolm Cowley, "as Meredith pointed out in that essay of his on comedy which was once my Bible for a week or two, a cultured nation must invariably find its expression in comedy." Burke refers to Meredith's An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit, originally an address delivered at the London Institution on February 1, 1877, and published in the New Quarterly magazine in April 1877. Burke evidently read and absorbed this essay in high school (from which he graduated in 1915). Unpublished poems, also in the archive, from late 1915 demonstrate Meredith's influence on Burke and present an early expression of Burke's comic stance over two decades prior to its formulation as a critical mode.

By first examining Meredith's Essay on Comedy, followed by a close reading of Burke's 1915 poems, this study aims to reveal two aspects of a comic approach to criticism that have not yet been emphasized in the scholarship. First, comedy operates within a restricted domain under definite social conditions, the primary condition (in Meredith) being equality of the sexes; second, comedy originates in a social perspective. Burke's adoption of the comic stance internalized what Meredith calls the "comic spirit," and so Burke's version stresses self-criticism, but the solitary, romantic individual belongs to tragedy. These insights can help direct scholars' attention to better uses of the comic spirit in criticism.

George Meredith's Essay on Comedy

Meredith's essay shows explicit concern with the social conditions necessary for comedy, marked by anxiety over whether these have been achieved in England. Although Shakespeare shows characters "saturated with the comic spirit … creatures of the woods and wilds," Meredith's idea of the comic, as a social phenomenon, flourishes more precisely "in walled towns … grouped and toned to pursue a comic exhibition of the narrower world of society" (16–17). Here, Meredith's archetype of the comic poet is Molière at the royal court of Louis XIV in France.

The essence of the comic spirit as exemplified by Molière is to bring a "calm curious eye" (21) to the study of manners within a closed civilization. Such a society and such a poet are rarely to be found in any time or place. The archetypal comic activity seems to be a witty exchange between men and women as equals, as they approach each other: "[W]hen [men and women] draw together in social life their minds grow liker" (24). Meredith acknowledges the comic precursors Menander and Aristophanes in Greece, but implies that while they may have inspired hearty laughter with shrewd intellectual perception, their comic potential was limited by the inequality between sexes in their societies.

The possibility of comedy links directly to social conditions. Comedy illumines the social, but also takes its origins from an "assemblage of minds" (Meredith 76). Meredith expresses the interpersonal phenomenon of the comic spirit: "You may estimate your capacity for Comic perception by being able to detect the ridicule of them you love, without loving them less: and more by being able to see yourself somewhat ridiculous in dear eyes, and accepting the correction their image of you proposes" (72). To shy away from comic perception, according to Meredith, adopts an "anti-social position," of which Meredith significantly accuses the poet Lord Byron (76). A choice to enter society amounts to a choice to accept the world in comic tones.

Philosophically, Meredithian comedy represents "an interpretation of the general mind." Socially, "[t]he Comic poet is in the narrow field, or enclosed square, of the society he depicts; and he addresses the still narrower enclosure of men's intellects, with reference to the operation of the social world upon their characters" (79–80). This abstract, general mind, operating within a closed civilization, can be translated into a subjective feeling which Meredith equates with an explicit "class" ambition. To feel oneself the object of the comic gaze may sting, as one recognizes one's own Folly, but if one can transcend this momentary blow to one's ego, one will be rewarded with an apotheosis of health, good common sense, and elevated status:

[T]o feel [the comic spirit's] presence and to see it is your assurance that many sane and solid minds are with you … A perception of the comic spirit gives high fellowship. You become a citizen of the selecter [sic] world, the highest we know of … Look there for your unchallengeable upper class! You feel that you are one of this our civilized community, that you cannot escape from it, and would not if you could. Good hope sustains you; weariness does not overwhelm you; in isolation you see no charms for vanity; personal pride is greatly moderated. (84–85)

This promise of social advancement through laughter, through participation in the common mind, appealed greatly to the young Kenneth Burke, and quickly became for him an aesthetic ideal. Critics who wish to imitate Burke's model of self-chastisement should begin with Meredith as a starting point.

A curious dialectic between the individual and society pervades Meredith's essay on comedy. At first, individuals are lost in the wilderness, until they can manage to get themselves into the walled towns. Once they have gotten themselves into something called "society," comedy becomes possible: "A society of cultivated men and women is required, wherein ideas are current and the perceptions quick, that [the comic poet] may be provided with matter and an audience" (2). Clearly, the France of Louis XIV was Meredith's model, a mixture not only of the two sexes, but of occupations and classes: "A simply bourgeois circle will not furnish it, for the middle class must have the brilliant, flippant, independent upper for a spur and a pattern" (18). The comic spirit allows us all to live in Versailles as a mirror of society (not humanity), but it still requires the individual comic genius of Molière for its illumination.

The individual poet enters the social mise en scène at just the right moment to bring that "calm curious eye" to the study of manners. Following Meredith's digression through ancient Greek comedy, Molière's eye, or the eye of the comic poet writ large (a rare production indeed), vaporizes into an expression of the "general mind." A new individual, the auditor of Meredith's lecture, or its reader (including the young Kenneth Burke) appears at the end of the story as a beneficiary of comic chastisement, chosen to join the elect class of a spiritual Versailles.

Individuals escape into the confines of "society." A comic poet observes and immortalizes their foibles. The synthesis of society-plus-poet (actual dramatic comedy) provides the image of an abstracted comic "society," giving birth to the "spiritual" aspect of comedy. Now free to move on the winds across time and place, the comic spirit showers an ennobling "silvery laughter" (84) upon any willing disciple. Individuals come to society, and, transformed by an individual poet, an abstract sociality now comes to bless the wild individual once again with the spirit of society. The teenaged Kenneth Burke was one such wild, individual disciple. As an ambitious young poet, Burke internalized Meredith's dialectic of the individual and society, and attempted to capture the voices of both egoist and chastising social irony into individual poems.

By observing the transition from Meredith's theory of comedy into Burke's early poetry, we can see how Burke established an early foundation for his later, more explicit "comic criticism." Burke internalized the dialectic between individual and society at a very young age so that he was able to encompass, in a way, an internal check on his own egoism. The social origins of the comic theory, however, have been obscured. This has led critics to misinterpret the capabilities of comic criticism. If Burke tries to play both the comic poet (ala Molière) and the comic critic (ala Meredith), we must realize the social limitations that have made comedy possible in the first place. A great part of comic wisdom lies in this limitation. The comic poet or critic cannot, and should not, attempt to domesticate the entire tragic wilderness. Rather, the appropriate comic mode invites individuals into the "spiritualized" walled town of society, an invitation to a "higher civilization" as a relief from the general tragedy.

Established Criticism of Burke's Early Poetry

Critics have long recognized the element of "comedy" in Burke's poetry. Gerard Previn Meyer, John Ciardi, and Marianne Moore used the terms "satire" and "wit" to describe Burke's first poetry collection, Book of Moments (1955), and W. C. Blum called it "high comedy" (366). By 1981, Timothy W. Crusius elaborated this association into a theory of Burke's "comic" poetry, using Burke's well known "comic" criticism. In Crusius's view, comedy in the poems bemoans the victimizing forces of social order and represents human weakness in the image of Burke's poetic persona. Melissa Girard summarizes the poems' rhetorical effect as "subvert[ing] ideology through a process of communication" (144). The communication ironically "disrupts" conventional stability of meanings, especially through the pun.

A recent review of Burke's late poems by Gary Lenhart laments that "you don't discover much about [Burke's] thought through them" (23). A detailed look at Burke's earliest unpublished poems, written in 1915, challenges Lenhart's view. Read in the context of Burke's letters written to Malcolm Cowley at the time, and the influence of George Meredith, the poems very much illustrate Burke's process of thinking.

When the poems of Burke's final period were published posthumously in 2005, David Blakesley argued that "much of [Burke's writing] which remains to be published … may change the character of the narratives we tell about his emergence and the evolution of his thought" (xxi). Since then, a cache of documents known as "Burke-3" at the Pennsylvania State University library has become available on microfilm. This archive includes roughly one hundred poems written through 1920, when Burke's literary criticism began to appear in publication. Examination of the earliest poems in this archive shows a definite influence by George Meredith, and demonstrates how Burke internalized the "comic attitude" by applying Meredith's socially oriented chastisement to Burke's more individualistic impulses.

Not only does the archive help clarify the later development of comic criticism, but it changes the narrative regarding Burke's early poetic development. One major feature of this widely accepted narrative is that Burke as an "adolescent" was obsessed with aesthetic, romantic individualism, and only later (in the 1930s) adopted a "turn" towards rhetoric and social criticism. The poets generally thought to have been most influential on the young Burke are the French Symbolists.

The most detailed treatment of Kenneth Burke's earliest years is Jack Selzer's chapter "Burke among Others: The Early Poetry," in Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village (1996). Selzer follows a tradition, set by Malcolm Cowley, of associating Burke's "adolescence" with the French poet Jules Laforgue, but this too, as the archive shows, is misleading. Selzer reads Burke's poetry primarily in terms of French Symbolism with Baudelaire as its godfather and Mallarmé its prime expositor. Quoting from Arthur Symons's The Symbolist Movement of 1899 (expanded in 1908), Ludwig Lewisohn's The Poets of Modern France (1918), and Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle (1931), Selzer constructs the image of an inward-focused, hyper-subjective, private, "arhetorical" poet, "personal and individual at the expense of the civic and political" (77). Selzer adopts the tone and stance of Wilson, hostile toward the Symbolists:

Aloof and radically alienated from contemporary life … the followers of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Rimbaud after 1885 attempted to withdraw into an elitist realm of art … —like Swinburne, Pater, and Wilde in England—tended toward a radical aestheticism that expressed itself in an obsession with form and the determined pursuit of art above all. … that art could be an event in itself rather than a rhetorical statement about a worldly event … that ideal of arhetorical art. (71–72)

Selzer labels Burke's early poems as "personal and apolitical—far more aesthetic and Symbolist than the usual poetry of the Masses group" (77). Whereas artists associated with The Masses believed "art could be a lever for social change" (24), in Selzer's view—strongly indebted to Lewisohn (see Selzer 72)—the Symbolists seek only "to recreate … the speaker's inner condition … the inner consciousness of isolates" (74, 78). Removing a caricature of the isolated, adolescent Laforgue from his fixed position in scholarly opinion as the major influence on Burke's poetry restores the influence of George Meredith, and shows that Burke was always "socially-minded," from the earliest documents we possess.

Of the shreds of evidence concerning Kenneth Burke's high school years, we have, first of all, reading lists. Austin Warren, writing in 1932 (according to Selzer 206 n. 1, approved by Burke), listed "Meredith's Diana … Ibsen, Strindberg, Pinero, Shaw, Schnitzler, Sudermann, Hauptmann. Then came the Russians," Chekhov and Dostoevsky (227).  Malcolm Cowley, from personal reminiscence, added Kipling, Stevenson, Hardy, Gissing, Conrad, Wilde, Mencken and Nathan, Congreve, "Huneker, Somerset Maugham, Laforgue (after we learned French)," and Flaubert (Exile's 20–22). Cowley came to identify Burke, as an adolescent, with Laforgue.

Writing in 1934, Cowley retroactively pictures Burke's "moonlit walks along Boulevard East … the crown of his days and moment when his adolescence flowered" (25), citing a letter from Burke written September 11, 1916, almost twenty years prior. At the end of these walks, around midnight, Cowley imagines, Burke would "question his face for new pimples, repeat a phrase from Laforgue and go to bed" (27). Thus began the legend linking Burke's poetic origins to Laforgue, an adolescent "phase" to be surmounted.

Armin Paul Frank, drawing on Cowley, claims that in Burke's earliest poems "the young poet puts on the 'Armour of Jules Laforgue': romantic irony, sometimes anticlimactically tagged on to the end of a poem in the traditional way of Heinrich Heine, but also, more Laforguean, incorporated into the immediate context of the high sentiment" (121). According to Cowley, Burke himself termed this effect a "tangent ending" (And I Worked 79). Cowley illustrates its operation at the conclusion of T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and compares it to "a door that opened on a new landscape" (80) after the complete tour of a house.

Selzer combines this "tangent ending" with the "double mood" theorized by Yvor Winters (Selzer 78–79). Winters quotes Laforgue's poem "Complainte du Printemps" as an example of "two distinct and more or less opposed types of feeling" which cancel each other (Winters 65–67). Also called "moods," these "types of feeling" alternate between "romantic nostalgia … with no discernible object," and "immature irony" (67). Winters attributes the origin of this trend to Byron, but takes Laforgue as the prototypical instance.

Three decades before Frank, Winters clarifies the particular "double mood" he names "romantic irony": "the poet ridicules himself for a kind or degree of feeling which he can neither approve nor control … the act of confessing a state of moral insecurity" (70). Writing in the mid-1930s, Winters also links Joyce's Ulysses and Kenneth Burke's novel Towards a Better Life to this romantic irony. Ulysses is "adolescent as Laforgue is adolescent; it is ironic about feelings which are not worth the irony." Burke's novel, to Winters, offers "not even progression; we have merely a repetitious series of Laforguian [sic] antitheses" (72). The word "adolescent" dismisses the feeling (of unmotivated nostalgia) and the petty irony concerned with so worthless a matter.

Burke himself perpetuated this trope in his first critical essay of 1921, "The Armour of Jules Laforgue." Burke implies that Laforgue, as a human being or personality ("life"), was a kind of belated innocent. As a writer, however (Burke speculates), Laforgue felt some responsibility to "apologize" for his platitudinous emotions (9). What Winters calls a "cynical" rejection of an emotion "not worth having" (74), Burke portrays as a "metaphysical interest," common among "the sexually immature" (9). Burke represents Laforgue's sexual immaturity as a failure of aggressive instincts "paralyzed by the passive attitude of receiving outward impressions" (9). Burke asserts his own aggression by naming a fear of sexual passivity and casts this fear, in the poetic persona of Jules Laforgue, into the oblivion of not only an historical past but a kind of biological past. To banish this fear as a surmounted "adolescence" would enable Burke's passage into maturity.

Cowley, Frank, and Selzer have suggested Burke's early lyrics resemble Laforgue's, but Burke's criticism of the French poet could possibly, covertly, address a tendency in Burke's own earlier poetry projected onto Laforgue. Burke summarized in Laforgue's poetry a "tendency to incorporate various voices into a poem. Sometimes these voices are frankly labeled, like Echo, or Choir. At other times they simply exist as a tangent, a change in metre [sic] or stanza" (10). Laforgue's alternation of voices puts him "always one remove from his emotion" (9), but such "remove" does not cancel the emotion, nor is the emotion itself fruitless.

Let us translate the "tangent ending" into terms of Meredithian comedy. For Meredith, individual pride is subject to the social gaze of the comic spirit. The comic gaze does not bludgeon romantic individualism, but gently, lovingly chastises it in the invitation to a "higher fellowship" of society. The apology or "tangent" arises from a socially conscious bashfulness for a feeling which, however satisfying to the individual, remains socially out of place. These feelings, as Burke's poems in the next section illustrate, include such "romantic" or "tragic" tropes as soaring exaltation, wearied cynicism, sighing, tears, pains, music, the divine, love, moons, roses, and other forms of "high sentiment."

What Burke describes as Laforgue's "dilettantism" ("Armour" 9), concedes the poet's vulnerability to social irony. Moons and roses are played out. The poet, while "expressing" these romantic feelings, adopts a final irony or apology as a defense, by including it at the end of the poem. If Burke was and remains a belated romantic, he did and does contain his own critique of such romanticism, in a way consistent with his later "rhetorical" career. The "tangent ending" is an explicit social gesture or "pose," a smile at one's own expense like Meredith's ability "to see yourself somewhat ridiculous in dear eyes, and accept [. . .] the correction their image of you proposes" (72).

Compared to Rimbaud, Arthur Symons calls Laforgue "eternally grown up, mature to the point of self-negation" (Symbolist 111). A sensitive reader detects immense suffering beneath the cool, ironic façade, but Laforgue "will not permit himself, at any moment, the luxury of dropping the mask: not at any moment" (109-10). Tropes of self-ridicule, therefore, designate a complex social awareness, quite the opposite of the romantic solipsism they display to the unironic. Winters suggests that Byron initiated this pose, and that "Laforgue is not in every case [of this modern attitude] an influence" (65). It expresses insecurity, perhaps, but expresses it in a self-conscious rhetorical gesture. Winters's critique of this feature in Marianne Moore's poetry even accuses her of "a tendency to a rhetoric more complex than her matter" (71) as a symptom. Claims linking Burke or his poetry to Laforgue should not be used to support the notion that either Burke or Laforgue, in person or poetry, was ever "arhetorical" or univocal.

Furthermore—we have reason, from Cowley's own hand, to doubt his account in Exile's Return, published in 1934, that he and Burke had known Laforgue in high school:

At the end of a letter written the day after Thanksgiving, 1966, I asked [S.] Foster [Damon] a question. "Did you introduce me to Laforgue," I said, "or was I already Laforguing when I used to come out to Newton and drink tea in your room, in the spring of 1918? I remember your copy of Tender Buttons, but there is so much I forget." Foster waited a month, then answered frugally on a New Year's card. "Mal—" he said, using a nickname that everyone else has forgotten. "Yes, I remember showing you the poems of Jules Laforgue. We went over them together. Happy New Year to you both!" (And I Worked 35-36)

Cowley and Burke graduated high school in 1915. Cowley entered Harvard in the fall of 1915, but only gradually befriended Damon (And I Worked 37-43). Burke records having met Damon in a letter to Cowley of May 11, 1918. I am not sure how much French Burke knew at all in high school and throughout 1915, when a large number of now extant poems were written. I do know he was soaking in many authors—English, German/Austrian, Russian, Irish, and American—and this leads me to conclude that an over-emphasis on French Symbolists, primarily Baudelaire and Laforgue, has allowed scholars to obstruct a greater possible richness in Burke's poetry.2

Whether he encountered Laforgue directly in high school or absorbed a similar influence along other channels, Burke's poems from the earliest period do evince a "double mood" as described by Winters. Burke can have implicitly criticized, in 1921, his own earlier poetry through the substitute of Laforgue without ever having read Laforgue during the earlier period. Burke may have been only able to diagnose Laforgue's "adolescence" because he had already worked through it in his own poetry. Much can be added to Selzer's account by examining Burke's English influences as well as the French.

George Meredith's Influence on Burke's Early Poetry

Timothy Crusius establishes bathos as the primary rhetorical figure of Burke's poetry, and praises Burke's "comic genius for inclusiveness and mediation between opposing viewpoints." Crusius finds Burke's poetry a "comic meeting-place of equal, opposing ways of looking at the world, each 'tragically' perfected in its partial knowledge of the truth, but undergoing the comic process of gaining self-awareness … and hence tolerance" (18-9). On October 9, 1915, Burke wrote to Cowley, wondering whether some epigrams he planned to submit to the magazine Smart Set reflected more "the influence of Meredith or Mr. Hall's vaudeville shows." The abstractions of Burke's early poetry often turn on the comic perspective espoused by Meredith. Consider the following sonnet, sent to Cowley on October 5, 1915:

If I could view myself without a laugh,
If I could flee the roaringly pathetic
Self-introspectiveness my evil half
Imposes on me, showing how bathetic
It is for me to soar,— were not the staff
Of self-acquaintanceship so energetic.—
Did I not feel at times a strutting calf,
Or a forty-year old virgin's tired cosmetic:

Then stupidly I'd purr to my caress,—
At my own stupid blandishments I'd bow,—
I'd take the poor dear world beneath my wing,—
And be the wearied cynic of success.
What proud Byronic sniveling songs I'd sing!
But I would be less proud than I am now.

Burke's "evil half" imposes bathetic, ironical images of himself as a "strutting calf, / Or a forty-year old virgin's tired cosmetic." Mocking both the youth trying to appear old, and the aged trying to appear young, Burke admits his pride. Without the "self-acquaintanceship" which is really a self-chastisement, he would obey his own appeals, purr to his own caresses: in other words, retreat cynically like his image of Byron.

Meredith had written, "[Byron] had no strong comic sense, or he would not have taken an anti-social position, which is directly opposed to the comic" (76). The "laugh" here is Burke's irony aimed at himself. Laughing is pride, self-acquaintanceship, and Burke's complex rebellion against what he considers "Byronic," self-satisfying and anti-social poetry.3 The comic spirit in Meredith tends to subdue pride, but the young Burke obviously takes enormous pride in his comic irony.

Another poem, sent to Cowley on October 9, 1915, makes the Meredithian dialectic of the individual and society more blatant. But where Meredith's comedy can be described as a "calm, curious eye," and "an oblique light . . . followed by volleys of silvery laughter" (84), Burke's comedy has a more malicious edge in the quest to thwart not only Folly, but all tragedy. Burke in the letter calls this a "novelistic poem":

To A Sense of Humor

Aroint thee, wicked plague to sighing swains.
A pox on thee, thou blotter to our tears.
Thou idle anti-climax to our pains,
Leave us, and take with thee thy heartless jeers.

Thou tellest us the music of our lute,
Which we were pouring forth so soaringly,
Is but the wheezy pibroch, and to boot,
Thou addest that we played it roaringly.

We settle, to enthuse in the divine,
And hear a voice ring out from high Parnassus.
Thou tellest us, "Your ether is cheap wine.
The voice you hear's the chanting of some asses.

Thou snickerer, if we got rid of thee,
Then every one could have a tragedy.4

The use of "roaringly," as in the "Sonnet on Myself" quoted above, again shows Burke's contempt for loud profusions. His antagonism toward Byron in the previous poem expands to other "romantic" tropes: sighing, tears, pains, the divine Parnassus, and above all, the dignity of tragedy. Burke plays the cynic well before achieving success, as if defensively anticipating and warding off the possibility of failure. The idle, heartless snickerer of Burke's comedy (implied by antithesis to "tragedy") defensively misreads Meredith's "calm, curious eye."

One explanation of the difference between Meredith's comedy and Burke's early poetry may be that Burke began with the final product (the comic Muse) of Meredith's dialectic which had passed through several stages: from the wilderness, to society, to comic poetry, to general chastisement by the comic spirit. By internalizing Meredith's abstract sociality without himself patiently observing the manners of a closed, narrow society (as had Molière), Burke remains, in a way, an individual in quest of society. Meredithian comedy can hardly be considered a "heartless" jeer, which implies the young Burke has not yet been properly softened by social irony.

On the following page of the same letter, October 9, 1915, Burke includes a poem aimed at the idea of "love," with the comic spirit lying in wait:

Lamentations of a Latent Genius

I want to love.
I want to build me a goddess once.
I want to dress my love up in pretty similes,
            Be enraptured like drunken Bacchantes swirling
            on hillsides- and all that.
I want to weep poetic rivers, too.
I want to be sick unto death with love,
            So sick that I must moan in agonized sonnets.
Just let me love,
And I'll see to the moons and the roses.
Ah, Fatal Sisters, grant me one really ethereal love.
I want to have a Beatrice.
I want to have a noble, ecstatic love.
            Perhaps I could sell it to some magazine.

One of the most revealing lines of this poem, to name Burke's implicit antagonist, is "I want to weep poetic rivers, too." That "too" points a finger at all the anti-social poets, who purr at their own caresses, bow to their own blandishments, violently cloyed to the sighs and tears of divine Parnassus, a noble, tragic, ecstatic love entirely built of images from within, and sold to the nearest magazine.

The impulse to sell sets the young Burke apart; a mark of his self-acquaintanceship, not self-praise, but a kind of jealous anti-self which attempts to negate the British romantic tradition. Burke uses Meredith's concept of "comedy" as a lever to fight this battle (against, say, "Byronism"), but Burke may fall into what Meredith calls "Satire": "If you detect the ridicule, and your kindliness is chilled by it, you are slipping into the grasp of Satire" (Meredith 73). One may have to seek encouragement in the precursor, Meredith, to better detect the kindliness of the comic spirit.

That October, the British novelist Louis Wilkinson agreed to show two of the eighteen-year-old Kenneth Burke's poems to a recently formed poetry magazine called The Others. Wilkinson called the following poem "the one about music" (qtd. in Letter to Cowley 10/12/15), sent to Cowley by Burke in a hand-written letter of September 30, 1915:

Some would call music a prestidigitator,
Insinuating into them a change of mood,
And twisting their souls about a keyboard
As the labyrinth of a guilloche.
They are prestidigitators to themselves.
I am not tickled by a trill,
I do not choke at a dance of death,
Nor do I fling myself to syncopations.
Music, be it loud or soft,
Be it dainty wisps,
Or awful crashes,
Or motion,
Lends me no sentiment.
It bids me seek my own.

It is dark.
I am alone in my room,
Casting for a thought.
From somewhere cords are rising.
They come like recollection.
Raggy things, they become tender.

I am weeping at a fox trot.

As in the "Sonnet on Myself," Burke accuses those who allow themselves susceptibility to music as self-deceivers. Refusing to passively accept the sentimental "trick" of music, Burke undermines his own "Russian pride" at the end of the poem. Music takes its revenge on Burke in a grotesque return. The verbs "tickled," "choke," and "fling," in the first stanza, manifest bodily the musical forms of the trill, dance of death, and syncopation—or so the music would intend. "My own" initiates what Harold Bloom calls the Crossing of Solipsism involving emptiness and fullness, height and depth, and the Freudian tropes of isolation and repression (Wallace Stevens 403). The pathetic weeping at the end is a surcharge of the sublime, the return of the repressed.

The bathetic concluding line, "I am weeping at a fox trot," is fully aware of the earlier mood or attitude in the poetic persona's rejection of susceptibility to music. The bathetic weeper becomes a proto-Laforguean clown (even if Burke had not yet read Laforgue), Burke's "satirical presentation of himself, as he creates his most natural mask, his role of comic hero" (Crusius 23). The confrontation of moods or perspectives within the poem is the comic effect; Burke is the comic hero.

The other of the two poems Louis Wilkinson showed to The Others editor Alfred Kreymbourg (Selzer 63), was certainly written before October 5, 1915. Burke announces in that letter to Cowley that Wilkinson found the following poem "pretty good":

The Metropolitan Light as Seen from the Jersey Shore

I might liken you unto a jewel in the coronet of a sumptuous
                        Ethiop virgin,
In the coronet of a black-haired virgin as she lies upon a
                        bespangled couch;
Or unto the shapened soul of man, high, yet supported from
                        the earth;
Or unto a motionless balloon of sickly diamonds, with one
                        hidden, striving ruby;
Or unto the Star of Bethlehem, alluring the Seven Sages on
                        to Anti-Christ;
Or an emblem of purity- even an emblem of purity weeping over
                        an evil city;
Or unto the spirit of evil which glitters over an evil
Or an anxious lantern my love has hung upon the sky to warn
                        me constantly against inconstancy.
So might I tempt my fancy.
But I will not deceive myself so happily.
To me you are nothing but a light- measured, calculated,
You are there to proclaim not man's genius, but man's

The cluster which includes Comedy includes business. Byronic suffering, moons and roses, as well as religious yearning, the divine, and Parnassus, fall on the antithetical other side of Tragedy. So, in a painfully complex way, does music. The fox trot may be the only trope in the poems quoted above which approaches anything near to synthesizing or reconciling comedy and tragedy. Burke regards the fox trot as somehow banal, or bathetic, and yet it makes him weep. There may be a kind of weeping that is not tragic. A desire for this reconciliation comes through in these early poems, perhaps in spite of Burke's snickerer.

Burke longs for the tranquility that Meredith promises from the comic spirit: "[T]he laughter directed by the Comic spirit is a harmless wine, conducing to sobriety in the degree that it enlivens. It enters you like fresh air into a study; as when one of the sudden contrasts of the comic idea floods the brain like reassuring daylight" (Meredith 88). The sense of unresolved tension, or even hostility, in the irony of Burke's early poetry indicates that he has not yet earned the increment of his influence by Meredith. It may be that he achieved it by the late 1930s, but that question is outside the scope of this analysis.

Conclusion: The Cost of Internalizing the Comic Spirit

Contemporary frustrations with the "comic frame" of criticism arise because they hope for too much. William H. Rueckert's treatment of comic criticism tends to elevate it into a grand, final stance against the threat of over-powering technology and order. Perhaps in spite of itself, it presents Burke as something of a tragic hero. Against this looming image of a total confrontation against a total menace, Herbert Simons and his followers insist upon "warrantable outrage" that is foreign to the comic spirit as originally posed by George Meredith.

By returning to Meredith, we can see what the young Kenneth Burke blocked or ignored in his initial absorption of the comic idea. Writing about his ideal comic poet, Meredith claimed, "Molière followed the Horatian precept, to observe the manners of his age and give his characters the colour befitting them at the time" (14). Upon graduation from high school, Burke had not yet had time to observe the manners of his age. In his zeal, he took the entire comic process upon, and into, himself. Burke imposed a self-inflicted chastisement, as if anticipating later errors.

As described above, critics (beginning with Malcolm Cowley) have taken Burke's own self-criticism (in part revealed through Burke's criticism of Jules Laforgue) as a literal statement of Burke's adolescence. Reading the early poems against George Meredith reveals a more complicated picture, of Burke as a self-chastising romantic. It should be no surprise that Burke eventually turned to drama as an ultimate metaphor for human relations. After all, it was in the actual stage drama that Molière was able to capture the comedy of manners which gave birth to Meredith's social ideal. While skipping over its patient elaboration (the observation and presentation of manners in his own age), Burke held to an internalized comic ideal, and so, in a way, doomed himself to eventually return to drama.

What, then, of "warrantable outrage"? George Meredith makes no pleas for the goodness of human nature. He does not "forgive" or "tolerate" humanity, as some interpretations of Burke's comic criticism might urge us to do. No one, Meredith claims, will doubt that "it is unwholesome for men and women to see themselves as they are, if they are no better than they should be" (12). One does not need the extreme example of Adolf Hitler to perceive human ugliness, and no one, least of all the comic poet, will desire that we tolerate or forgive human weakness.

The key to comic improvement, in Meredith's scheme, lies in what "should be." We should learn to detect the comic spirit in our own and others' lives; we should shrink from being the object of comic chastisement; we should seek to gain admission into that "higher fellowship" defined by a narrow circumference, where men and women, meeting and conversing on equal ground, exchange in witty banter and grow more like each other. The fact that such occasions are so rare may warrant outrage. But outrage, far from "transcending" comic tolerance, may in fact take our eyes away from the comic goal of a better society. Let us keep our attention fixed on that "higher fellowship," and its absence in so much of the world will be criticism enough.


1. See Carlson (1986, 1988); Kastely; Toker; Renegar and Dionisopoulos; and Renegar, Dionisopoulos, and Yunker.

2. Archival letters to Cowley suggest that Burke did not seriously take up the study of French until late 1915. The first French writers Burke mentions in the letters are Anatole France, with whom Burke "made a bad beginning," and Victor Cherbuliez, whose novel Burke had not yet read, on November 9, 1915. On November 29, 1915, he wrote, "Which is better- to talk Berlitz French fluently, to read French poetry naturally, or to be able to know what I mean by, say, the Eleatic school?" He felt himself on the verge of entering college for the first time, and anticipated what he would study and do.

3. A version of this poem, likely written earlier, appears in the archive typed and dated June 1, 1915, some four months before Burke sent it to Cowley in the form printed above. The earlier version contains "that" for "the" in Line 2; and the last word of Line 10 was "blush" instead of "bow." As Burke transcribed the poem in the letter to Cowley of October 5, 1915, he first wrote the word "blush" but crossed it out, and wrote the four lines printed above to conclude. The final five lines in the original corresponded with the earlier "blush" in Line 10: "At my own stupid blandishments I'd blush,– / And be the gentle cynic of success. / Then I could waste my talents, not just booze, / And never would I call my genius mush gush. / But yet by that what Russian pride I'd lose." Without his self-imposed ridicule, Burke would waste his talents in praising his own genius; furthermore, the earlier version suggests a Russian influence behind this "self-acquaintanceship."

4. In transcribing Burke's poetry, I have maintained the spelling and punctuation from his archival documents. In the poem "To a Sense of Humor," he only puts the one solitary set of quotation marks.

Works Cited

Blakesley, David. "Introduction." Late Poems, 1968–1993: Attitudinizings Verse-wise, While Fending for One's Selph, and in a Style Somewhat Artificially Colloquial by Kenneth Burke. Edited by Julie Whitaker and David Blakesley, U of South Carolina P, pp. xvii–xxvii.

Bloom, Harold. Wallace Stevens: The Poems of Our Climate. Cornell UP, 1980.

Blum, W. C. "A Poetry of Perspectives." Review of Book of Moments by Kenneth Burke. Poetry, vol. 87, no. 6, March 1956, pp. 362–66.

Burke, Kenneth. "The Armour of Jules Laforgue." Contact, vol. 3, 1921, pp. 9–10.

—. "If I could view myself without a laugh." In Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 5 October 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 30 September 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 5 October 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 9 October 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 12 October 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 9 November 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 29 November 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. Letter to Malcolm Cowley. N.d. [14 September 1917]. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 22. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. "The Metropolitan Light As Seen From The Jersey Shore." N.d. Burke-3 P0.6 Box 1, Folder No. 10. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. "Some would call music a prestidigitator." In Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 30 September 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. "A Sonnet on Myself." 1 June 1915. Burke-3 P0.5 Box 1, Folder No. 4. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

—. "To a Sense of Humor." In Letter to Malcolm Cowley. 9 October 1915. Burke-3 P4 Box 1, Folder No. 20. Kenneth Burke Papers. Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections. The Pennsylvania State University Libraries.

Carlson, A. Cheree. "Gandhi and the Comic Frame: 'Ad Bellum Purificandum.'" Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 72, 1986, pp. 446–55.

—. "Limitations on the Comic Frame: Some Witty American Women of the Nineteenth Century." Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 74, 1988, pp. 310–22.

Ciardi, John. "The Critic in Love." Review of Book of Moments by Kenneth Burke. The Nation, vol. 181, 8 October 1955, pp. 307–08.

Cowley, Malcolm. And I Worked at the Writer's Trade. Viking, 1978.

—. Exile's Return. W. W. Norton, 1934.

Crusius, Timothy W. "Kenneth Burke on His 'Morbid Selph': The Collected Poems as Comedy." CEA Critic, vol.43, 1981, pp. 18–32.

Desilet, Gregory, and Edward C. Appel. "Choosing a Rhetoric of the Enemy: Kenneth Burke's Comic Frame, Warrantable Outrage, and the Problem of Scapegoating." Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 4, 2011, pp. 340–62.

Frank, Armin Paul. Kenneth Burke. Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1969.

Girard, Melissa. "Kenneth Burke and the Claims of a Rhetorical Poetry." Kenneth Burke & His Circles. Edited by Jack Selzer and Robert Wess, Parlor P, 2008, pp. 129–48.

Kastely, James A. "Kenneth Burke's Comic Rejoinder to the Cult of Empire." College English, vol. 58, no. 3, March 1996, pp. 307–26.

Lenhart, Gary. "A Poet's Distrust of Poetry." Review of Late Poems, 196–1993: Attitudinizings Verse-wise, While Fending for One's Selph, and in a Style Somewhat Artificially Colloquial by Kenneth Burke. American Book Review, vol. 27, no. 4, May/June 2006, pp. 22–23.

Madsen, Arnie J. "The Comic Frame as a Corrective to Bureaucratization: A Dramatistic Perspective on Argumentation." Argumentation & Advocacy, vol. 29, no. 4, Spring 1993, pp. 164–78.

Meredith, George. An Essay on Comedy and the Uses of the Comic Spirit. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1915.

Meyer, Gerard Previn. "The Enemy of Bureaucracy." Review of Book of Moments by Kenneth Burke. The Saturday Review, vol. 38, 3 September 1955, pp. 28–29.

Moore, Marianne. "A Grammarian of Motives." A Marianne Moore Reader, Viking P, 1961, pp. 233–37.

Renegar, Valerie R., and George N. Dionisopoulos. "The Dream of a Cyberpunk Future? Entelechy, Dialectical Tension, and the Comic Corrective in William Gibson's Neuromancer." Southern Communication Journal, vol. 76, no. 4, September–October 2011, pp. 323–41.

Renegar, Valerie R., George N. Dionisopoulos, and Matthew Yunker. "Up in the Air with a Burkean Clown: The Comic Frame of Acceptance in Uncertain Times." Western Journal of Communication, vol. 80, no. 2, March–April 2016, pp. 185–203.

Rueckert, William H. Encounters with Kenneth Burke. U of  Illinois P, 1994.

Selzer, Jack. Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village: Conversing with the Moderns 1915–1931. U of Wisconsin P, 1996.

Simons, Herbert W. "Burke's Comic Frame and the Problem of Warrantable Outrage." KB Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, 2009, n.p.

Symons, Arthur. The Symbolist Movement in Literature. Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd., 1908.

Toker, Caitlin Wills. "Debating 'What Ought to Be': The Comic Frame and Public Moral Argument." Western Journal of Communication, vol. 66, no. 1, Winter 2002, pp. 53–83.

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Dialogism Versus Monologism: Burke, Bakhtin, and the Languages of Social Change

Greig E. Henderson, University of Toronto

Burke and Bakhtin have at least two things in common. First, both endorse and champion a dialogical theory of language and literature, a theory that is better explained and elaborated by Bakhtin but better enacted and dramatized by Burke. Second, both have compelling metaphors for history and society. For Bakhtin, the social and historical world is to be imagined as "something like an immense novel, multi-generic, multi-styled, mercilessly critical, soberly mocking, reflecting in all its fullness the . . . multiple voices of a given culture, people and epoch. In this huge novel . . . any direct word and especially that of the dominant discourse is reflected as something more or less bounded, typical and characteristic of a particular era, aging, dying, ripe for change and renewal" (DI 60). For Burke, history is "an unending conversation" into which people are thrown (PLF 110), a conversation that has neither a discernable originary cause nor an ultimate teleological endpoint.1

Both metaphors make essentially the same point, for whether we see human beings as characters in an ongoing novel or interlocutors in an unending conversation, we are situating them in the middle of a social and historical process that precedes and outlives them. The main difference between Bahktin and Burke is that Bakhtin is a "traditional intellectual" espousing dialogism in his discourse, whereas Burke is an "organic intellectual" producing dialogism in his. From Antonio Gramsci, I borrow these terms for two distinct types of intellectuals but put a slightly different spin on them.2 By traditional intellectual, I mean a critic and theorist like Bakhtin who writes in a more or less recognizable scholarly genre, in his case, the academic essay. The content of Bakhtin's argument may be counter-hegemonic, but its form is professional, scholarly, and conservative. By organic intellectual I mean a critic and theorist like Burke who is responding to the exigencies of his historical moment "us[ing] all that is there to use" (PLF 23). Bakhtin cites other experts and quotes from literary and non-literary documents, but his footnotes, unlike Burke's, do not constitute a parallel text, and his own discourse is not an instance of living heteroglossia, heteroglossia being his term for the multitude of social languages that exists within a single national language. Bakhtin's utterances tend to be propositional; they say things about the nature of language, literature, and communication; we assign a truth value to them, usually a positive one. Burke's utterances tend to be performative; they are doing something as well as saying something; his dramatism is dramatistically presented; it is an instance of self-exemplification. Though Bakhtin is clearly conversant with a myriad of other thinkers, he writes as if his arguments require nothing more than his own terminology. Burke, by contrast, writes as if his arguments are part of a swirling intertextual pluriverse, a pluriverse that tries to embrace everything, preferably all at once, as Howard Nemerov had cause to remark decades ago.3

Both Burke and Bakhtin reject the Saussurean view that the codes and conventions that undergird discourse are the true object of linguistic study. For them, language is better understood as social activity, as dialogue. Every linguistic act imagines, assumes, or implies an addressee. The word, Voloshinov writes, "is a two-sided act. It is determined equally by whose word it is and for whom it is meant. A word is a territory shared by both addresser and addressee, the speaker and his interlocutor" (Marxism and the Philosophy of Language 86). Language, therefore, is essentially dialogical. "The word in living conversation is directly, blatantly, oriented toward a future answer word. It provokes an answer, anticipates it, and structures itself in the answerer's direction" (DI 280). All language use is language use from a certain point of view, in a certain context, and for a certain audience. There is no such thing as language that is not ideological, contextual, and dialogic. The words we use come to us as already imprinted with the meanings, intentions, and accents of previous users, and any utterance we make is directed toward some real or hypothetical other. Moreover, each speaker "is himself a respondent" for he is "not, after all, the first speaker, the one that disturbs the eternal silence of the universe" (Speech Genres 69). Each speaker builds on previous utterances, polemicizes with them, or simply presumes that they are already known to the listener. Each utterance refutes, affirms, supplements, and relies on the others, presupposes them to be operative, and somehow takes them into account. However monological an utterance may seem to be, however much it seems to focus on its own topic, it cannot help but be a response to what has already been said about the topic.

Any concrete . . . utterance . . . finds the object at which it was directed already . . . overlain with qualifications, open to dispute, charged with value, already enveloped . . . by the 'light' of alien words that have already been spoken about it. It is entangled, shot through with shared thoughts, points of view, alien value judgments and accents. The word directed towards its object, enters a dialogically agitated and tension-filled environment of alien words, value judgments and accents, weaves in and out of complex interrelationships, merges with some, recoils from others, intersects with yet a third group: and all this may crucially shape discourse, may leave a trace in all its semantic layers, may complicate its expression and influence its entire stylistic profile. (DI 276)

In short, verbal discourse is a social phenomenon. All rhetorical forms are oriented toward the listener and his or her answer, this orientation toward the listener being the constitutive feature of such discourse. "Understanding comes to fruition only in the response. Understanding and response are dialectically merged and mutually condition one another" (DI 282). Language is conceived not so much as a system of abstract grammatical categories than as a network of ideologically saturated speech acts that constitute our world view as well as our collective existence. For Burke as for Bakhtin, there is a ceaseless battle between, on the one hand, the centrifugal and counter-hegemonic forces that seek to rip things asunder and challenge the unitary language or dominant discourse of a given society and, on the other, the centripetal and hegemonic forces that seek to hold things together and sustain the status quo.

For Bakhtin, the two most powerful centrifugal forces are polyglossia (different national languages) and heteroglossia (different social languages within the same national language). For Burke, there are other important centrifugal forces, one of which is perspective by incongruity, "a kind of sheerly terministic violence achieved by a method for wrenching words from a customary context and putting them in new theoretical surroundings" (On Human Nature 30). Bakhtin, however, mainly confines perspective by incongruity to the realm of heteroglossia.

For him, heteroglossia comprises

the internal stratification of any single national language into social dialects, characteristic group behavior, professional jargons, generic languages, languages of generations and age groups, tendentious languages, languages of the authorities, and of passing fashions, languages that serve the specific sociopolitical purposes of the day, even of the hour . . . This internal stratification present in every language at every given moment of its historical existence is the indispensable prerequisite of the novel as a genre. (DI 262).

By contrast, the canonic genres–tragedy, epic, and lyric–suppress this inherently dialogic quality of language in the interests of using a single style and expressing a single world view. To the degree that these genres have not been novelized, these genres are monologic. The novel is Bakhtin's representative anecdote, and for a stylistics of the novel to have an adequate scope and circumference it must foreground the conversation among different languages, speech types, and literary forms and thus take into account the multiplicity of social voices that constitute a cultural world. Indeed, Bakhtin believes that it is the destiny of the novel as a literary form to do justice to the inherent dialogism of language and culture by means of its discursive polyphony of fully valid voices and its carnivalesque irreverence towards all kinds of repressive, authoritarian, and monological ideologies. The authentic novel always runs counter to the dominant discourse of a given social order. There is an indissoluble link in Bakhtin's theory between the linguistic variety of prose fiction, its heteroglossia, and its cultural function as the continuous critique of all totalizing discourses and ideologies, including its own.

Bakhtin's theory, therefore, hinges on this binary distinction between dialogism and monologism, a distinction that is really a matter of degree rather than kind, even if he himself sometimes speaks as if it were categorical. His theory also hinges on a stipulated definition: a novel is genuinely a novel if and only if it is dialogical, heteroglot, and polyphonic. Ayn Rand's fiction, then, with its single-minded, one-sided, and didactic discourse on the philosophy of objectivism and the virtue of selfishness, is not in his terms novelistic. Shakespeare's plays, on the other hand, with their subplots and multiple perspectives, deploy variegated social languages that range from the base to the elevated, the bawdy to the sublime, and thus are abundantly novelistic in Bakhtin's sense of the term as is "The Waste Land," a poem constructed almost entirely out of heteroglossia and polyglossia. Nevertheless, Bakhtin's general point holds. Classical tragedy is linguistically homogeneous and embraces the virtues of civic order and unity even if its restorative catharsis can only be achieved through carnage and violence; the Homeric epic is also linguistically homogeneous, invoking the pietistic language of tradition and received value to inscribe the ethos and worldview of Greek culture; and lyric poetry usually embodies a singular semantic intention and expressive intonation. Each of these genres tends to deploy a single voice, perspective, and style.

As an advocate for the novel, Bakhtin endorses the virtues of a multivoiced, multiperspectival style. Strangely enough, however, his own style, though quotable and memorable, as Adam Hammond points out, is single-voiced and uniperspectival. Whereas Burke is always attentive to his readers–imagining their responses and objections, even telling them what parts of his argument they might skip–and whereas Burke's writing is full of hesitations, qualifications, digressions, parentheses, footnotes, asides, recapitulations, and retrospections, Bahktin is oblivious to his readers. His writing relentlessly churns out elegantly shaped and strongly phrased declarative propositions, propositions that are variations on and repetitions of a single theme. Burke is hard pressed to get through a sentence without modifying his position or being reminded of a related or unrelated point. As Hammond points out, Bakhtin's argument does not really progress. In "Discourse in the Novel," he identifies the enemy–monologism–and spends some 160 pages lambasting it while justifying and explaining his one major assertion–namely, that the novel–because of its heteroglossia, dialogism, and polyphony–is the enemy of totalitarianism as well as the most authentic and valuable artistic genre. He persistently denigrates poetic style because of its alleged monologism. With Bakhtin, taking quotations out of context is almost impossible. He is a staggeringly redundant writer whose penchant for repetition is so pervasive that it ceases to subserve a summarizing function but becomes instead a pleonastic celebration of tautology and synonymity. With Burke, one is forced to follow his argument sentence by sentence. This is because Burke is in conversation with himself and other writers as well as with his readers.

Bakhtin and Burke share the same dialogical view of language and literature, but they write in radically different styles. Bakhtin's style is far removed from what he argues for. He says that "the prose writer does not purge words of intentions that are alien to him, he does not destroy the seeds of heteroglossia embedded in words, [and] he does not eliminate those language characteristics and mannerisms glimmering behind the words and forms" (DI 298). A style that "does not purge words of intentions that are alien to it" would seem to have to acknowledge the inescapably polysemantic nature of language, its referential and rhetorical liquidity. We might expect such a style to be ludic, ironic, digressive, multivoiced, comic, grotesque, or what not. Moreover, a style that "does not eliminate those characteristics and mannerisms glimmering behind words" would, like Burke's, verbalize in a multiplicity of voices–linear academic prose would yield to parables, jokes, colloquialisms, proverbs, puns, poems, songs, prologues in heaven, rhetorical lexicons, dictionaries of pivotal terms, electioneering in psychoanalysia, the thinking of the body, and so forth. But Bakhtin's style is not like this at all. It is serious, uniform, and polite even when he is talking about carnivalesque revelry and the grotesque body.

Unlike Burke, Bakhtin is in no danger of turning "beauty is truth, truth beauty" into "body is turd, turd body." Nor is he in any danger of saying that when dealing with mystical poetry, "we may watch for alchemy whereby excrement is made golden or for ways of defining essence whereby the freeing of an evil spirit is like the transformation of flatus into fragrance" ("Mysticism as a Solution to the Poet's Dilemma" 110). For Burke scatology and eschatology go hand in hand, and as all seasoned readers of Burke are well aware, sometimes to their chagrin, Burke is obsessed with "the interpretative sculpting of excrement" (PLF, 259) and sings scat with an almost adolescent verve. He also has his urinary tracts, "Somnia ad Urinandum" (LSA, 344), to give the most obvious example, not to mention his demonic trinity of sperm, urine, and feces (GM, 300-03).
Returning to Bakhtin, we might further expect a heteroglot style to embrace opposing views and voices, to welcome rejoinders and counter-statements.4 But Bakhtin's style is neither embracing nor welcoming. For the most part, he unrelentingly argues that prose is dialogical, polyphonic, and therefore authentic, whereas poetry is monological, univocal, and therefore inauthentic even if according to his own theory of language, no discourse can ever be absolutely monologic. Near the climax of his argument against poetry, Bakhtin says that when the language of poetic genres approaches its stylistic limit, it "becomes authoritarian, dogmatic, and conservative, sealing itself off from the influence of literary social dialects" (DI 287). But, in a rare footnote, as Hammond points out, Bakhtin adds a damaging admission. "It goes without saying," he writes, "that we continually advance as typical the extreme to which poetic genres aspire; in concrete examples of poetic works it is possible to find features fundamental to prose, and numerous hybrids of various generic types exist" (DI 287, n. 12).

Hammond further points out that on the very next page, while still haranguing the poet for his meretricious and misguided efforts to achieve a "unitary" language, Bakhtin confesses that any positing of a unitary language is fictive, for language "is unitary only as an abstract grammatical system of normative forms, taken in isolation from the concrete, ideological formulations that fill it" (DI 288). He admits in his footnote to taking poetry in such isolation, to treating it as an extreme that does not really exist in its elemental purity. Central to his argument, however, is the assertion that poetic and novelistic discourses are categorically different. He calls novelistic style "the expression of a Galilean perception of language, one that denies the absolutism of a single and unitary language" (366) and says that poetry presents "a unitary and singular and Ptolemaic world outside of which nothing else exists and nothing else is needed" (286). The inference is obvious–Galileo is correct and Ptolemy is mistaken (Hammond, 646). Yet Bakhtin's footnote suggests that in practice there is no purely Galilean or Ptolemaic style. All styles incorporate shades of hybridity. He makes this admission in a footnote, Hammond maintains, because the critical style of his main text is unremittingly monologic and cannot tolerate counter-statement. Even though the objection against the absolutism of the distinction between poetry and prose "[goes] without saying" (Hammond, 646), it must be banished from Bakhtin's argument and relegated to an explanatory note.

Utterly convinced that dialogic novelistic style is superior to monologic poetic style, Bakhtin talks like a dogmatic authoritarian. But such a tone is understandable given his status as an exile in Kazakhstan for six long years in the 1930's. In the terrifying darkness of Russia's seemingly endless Stalinist night, it is no wonder that Bakhtin is so passionately opposed to monologic speech. But it nevertheless remains the case that his own critical style, rather than embracing dialogism, is incessantly monological. This is not to say that an argument in favor of dialogism necessarily has to be made in a dialogical style. It is only to say that Bakhtin does not write in a dialogical style whereas Burke does. Burke's dialogical style, as I said earlier, is an instance of self-exemplification. It enacts his dramatistic philosophy of language, and "language," as Bakhtin observes, "is not a neutral meaning that passes freely and easily into the private property of the speaker's intentions; it is populated–overpopulated–with the intentions of others. Expropriating it, forcing it to submit to one's own intentions and accents, is a difficult and complicated process" (DI 294).

Burke is sensitively attuned to the language of others–be they scholastic philosophers or members of the gas house gang. As an organic intellectual, he welcomes heteroglossia and language diversity into his own work. In fact, it is out of this stratification of language that he constructs his own style. Deploying his dramatistic pentad in A Grammar of Motives, he is able to make use of diverse philosophical languages without wholly giving himself up to any one of them. He makes use of concepts already populated with the intentions of other thinkers and compels these concepts to submit to his own intentions, to serve, as it were, a second master. These concepts carry with them their own propositional content, their own semantic intention, and their own expressive intonation, features which dramatism assimilates, reworks, adapts, and re-accentuates. This is not to say that Burke does not have his own style. He plays with other thinkers' languages so as to refract his own semantic and expressive intentions within them. But this play with languages in no sense degrades the overall entelechy of his own project, his dialectic of the upward way.

Burke's entire corpus–heteroglot, polyglot, and polyphonic–can be seen as a Bakhtinian novel. A Grammar of Motives is a massive exercise in conceptual and tonal re-accentuation, a multiply-voiced discourse that translates various philosophical languages into the language of the pentad, a translation that opens up zones of dialogical contact between dramatism and its ideological comrades, dramatism and its polemical antagonists. Burke's dialogical style makes the movement of an abstraction or concept become readable as the procession of a character through multiple trials and perils, menaced by its ideological adversaries and aided and abetted by its magical helpers. The protagonist is dramatism and its ideological comrades; the antagonist is scientism and other essentialist, reductivist, and determinist vocabularies of motives. And the book is the dialectical battlefield itself, for as Burke reflects elsewhere, "terms are characters . . . an essay is an attenuated play" (ATH 312). In A Grammar of Motives, terms truly are characters, characters on trial, characters in alliance and combat with other characters, characters in competitive cooperation moving toward a higher synthesis.

The same can be said of almost everything that Burke wrote. His arguments never constitute a seamless whole. There is no figure in the carpet. If you persevere as a reader, you can discover a way in, a way through, and a way out, but the structure of his books is more like a maze than a path. Part One of Attitudes Toward History begins with frames of acceptance and rejection in James, Whitman, and Emerson, devolves into a discussion of poetic categories and instances of transcendence, and ends by circling back to frames of acceptance and the advocacy of comic criticism. Part Two traces the curve of history, taking us from Christian Evangelism to Emergent Collectivism while furnishing comic correctives along the way. Part Three analyzes symbolic structure and the general nature of ritual, ending with a 122 page dictionary of pivotal terms that rehearses the discussion in a non-consecutive fashion. Throughout we are immersed in a polyglot and heteroglot world of Latin, German, French, the language of philosophy, the language of criticism, the language of the street, the language of politics, the language of advertising, and so forth. The invoking of "Unseen Value" in a car advertisement leads to a meditation on the Christ/Chrysler pun (ATH 91n). And lengthy footnotes are in dialogue with the main argument, paratext at times threatening to overwhelm text. And, of course, there is a conclusion, an afterword, an appendix, and a retrospective prospect.

Burke's writing is writing that looks like thinking, and all of his books might well be prefaced with a warning–"Caution, Mind at Work." We miss the point if we focus primarily on propositional content, for it is the drama of poiema (action), pathema (passion or suffering) and mathema (knowledge or transcendence) that is paramount. "The action organizes the resistant factors, which call forth the passion; and the moment of transcendence arises when the sufferer (who had originally seen things in unenlightened terms) is enabled to see in more comprehensive terms, modified by his suffering" (GM 264).

This is not to say that Burke does not have a master narrative, a dialectic of the upward way moving toward a higher synthesis, "a perspective-of-perspectives that arises from the co-operative competition of all the voices as they modify one another's assertions, so that the whole transcends the partiality of the parts" (GM 89). The cooperative competition of divergent voices may be the desideratum, but often at odds with this dialectical aspiration are the centrifugal forces of heteroglossia, along with "the paradox of substance" and other destabilizing concepts discussed under the chapter heading of "Antinomies of Definition" (GM 21-58). In Burke's writings, there is a productive tension between a progressive movement toward an ultimate order—a wholly ample dialectic—and a regressive lapse into unstable irony—an inevitable capitulation to the forces of aporia that perpetually frustrate what Wittgenstein derisively called the deplorable craving for unity that besets the human mind. Burke's mind was beset by a deep-seated logological yearning, but his honesty as a critic kept him from ever imposing a premature closure on the dialogical process.

Burke knew two things at least: the first was that a way of seeing is a way of not seeing, all education being trained incapacity, every insight containing its own special kind of blindness; the second was that a new way of seeing and a new way of living can only come from a new way of saying, that social change can only come from linguistic change. This is why he assigned such an extraordinary importance to language even if "no single terminology can be equal to the full complexity of human motives" ("Freedom and Authority," 374). Terminologies of motive are ways of talking about a reality that talking itself largely creates. And sometimes it is necessary to "violate cultural pieties, break down current categories, and outrage good taste" (PLF 303) because such taste engenders static and inert categories when what we need are dynamic and active categories. An unquestioned terministic screen fosters a static and inert view of our collective existence, a view that sees change–the historical–as permanence–the natural. Criticism is a form of intervention. By changing our vocabularies, it helps us change our ideas of purpose, our symbols of authority, and our hierarchies of value.

Let us take as an example an October 1933 occasional essay reproduced in The Philosophy of Literary Form: "War, Response, and Contradiction." Here Burke intervenes in a dispute between Malcolm Cowley and Archibald MacLeish, a dispute that focuses on the representation of war. The controversy plays itself out in The New Republic of September 20, 1933 and centers on a volume edited by Laurence Stallings. Burke presciently points out that the volume's very title, The First World War, may be read as a prophecy of ominous things to come in an anticipated second world war. MacLeish criticizes the volume for picturing only the repellent side of war, its horrible and ignoble aspects rather than its heroic and adventurous aspects, whereas Cowley applauds the volume for realistically picturing the atrocities of war and thus inducing a revulsion toward militarism in the book's readers. Both assume a one-to-one correspondence between aesthetic stimulus and reader response. For Burke, of course, it is more complicated than that.

A work picturing the "atrocities" of the enemy would exploit our attitudes toward such atrocities. It would arouse our resentment by depicting the kinds of incidents which we already hated prior to the work of art. Such a work might form our attitudes by picturing a certain specific people as committing those atrocities: it would serve to aggravate our vindictiveness toward this particular people. (PLF 235)

Thus, Burke intervenes to complicate the agenda and to advance the perhaps counter-intuitive position that

MacLeish's plea for a total picture of war has much to be said in its favor. There are some reasons for believing the response to a human picture of war will be socially more wholesome than our response to an inhuman one. It is questionable whether the feelings of horror, repugnance, [and] hatred would furnish the best groundwork for a deterrent to war. They are extremely militaristic attitudes, being in much the same category of emotion as one might conceivably experience when plunging his bayonet into the flesh of the enemy. And they might well provide the firmest basis upon which the "heroism" of a new war could be erected….The sly cartoonists of The New Yorker might possibly do most to discourage militarism, while deeply pious tracts are but the preparation for new massacres. (PLF 239)

For Burke, a genuine question emerges, for if a depiction of "only the hideous side of war lays the aesthetic groundwork above which a new stimulus to 'heroism' can be constructed, might a picture of war as thoroughly human serve conversely as the soundest deterrent to a war?" (PLF 239). Noting that he has never seen anyone "turn from The Iliad a-froth with a desire for slaughter" (PLF 239), he wonders whether the graphic depiction of an inhuman war might act as a stimulant for a future war by inadvertently inculcating a "counter-hysteria of rabidity and ferocity" (PLF 240). In our day, rabid and ferocious anti-terrorist rhetoric promotes violent acts against the demonized other. It inculcates a rabid ferocity that invites us to make ourselves over in the image of our opponent.

Moreover, paradoxically, a steady diet of graphic violence may result in desensitization or anesthesia. "A book wholly constructed of the repellent may partially close the mind to the repellent. It may call forth, as its response, a psychological callus, a protective crust of insensitiveness" (PLF 241). We are so inured to images of bombings and beheadings that we are largely immune to them. Such immunity is not surprising. Under the contradictions of a capitalist society, responses to stimuli are bound to be contradictory and paradoxical. The stimulus of the horrific side of war does not necessarily engender antimilitarism just as the stimulus of the human side of war does not necessarily engender militarism. Characteristically, Burke wishes "merely to raise the question" (PLF 243). Does a pro-war book make its readers pro-war, an anti-war book make its readers anti-war? The answer itself is tentative. Not necessarily, Burke says.

Not necessarily, for there are good grounds for suspecting that our responses to stimuli under "normal" capitalist conditions of cognitive, sensory, and informational overload are inevitably contradictory. There is no one-to-one correspondence between stimulus and response. The machine metaphor and behaviorist model are insufficient. It is just not clear that anti-militarism produces anti-militarism. Indeed, contradictoriness of response yields apt equipment for living because "our capitalist social structure contains fundamental contradictions" and anyone "born and bred under capitalism" cannot "be expected to honestly and correctly express his attitudes without revealing a contradiction in them" (PLF 244-45). Those who display leftist attitudes in public may privately make profits on the stock market and thus practically thrive under the system they theoretically despise. They may believe in fair trade philosophically yet still purchase cheap commodities made in the third world under deplorable conditions. This is the existential burden most of us in the first world bear—the self-deception we permit ourselves to live in. A complete and nuanced response to a contradictory society is bound to be contradictory.

Contradiction can only be avoided if one embraces a monological or essayistic method of recommendation. But the dialogical or

poetic (tragic, ethical) method of recommendation would be quite different. The poet might best plead for his Cause by picturing people who suffered or died in behalf of it. The essayistic critic would win us by proving the serviceability of his Cause—the poet would seem as spontaneously to stress the factor of disserviceability. For how better to recommend a Cause by the strategies of a fiction than by picturing it as worthy of being fought for? And how better picture it as worthy of being fought for than by showing people who are willing to sacrifice their safety, lives, and happiness in its behalf? (PLF 251-52).

Business Christianity, Burke goes on to say, may be rational, but "Poetic Christianity" is contradictory, "building its entire doctrine of salvation about the image of a god in anguish" (PLF 252), a god dying on the cross, pierced by swords and bleeding profusely. The monological, essayistic, or "rational method would clearly be to plead for one's Cause by the most unctuous strategy one could command—but ethical attachments make one tend to 'testify' by invitation to martyrdom" (PLF 254).

"War, Response, and Contradiction" intervenes in the dialogue and becomes part of it, leaving the dispute between MacLeish and Cowley open and unresolved. It does not try to make a unifying synthesis emerge out of the clash between thesis and antithesis. Instead, it affirms Burke's earlier observation in Counter-Statement that "no categorical distinction can possibly be made between 'effective' and 'ineffective' art. The most fanciful 'unreal' romance may stimulate by implication the same attitudes toward our environment as a piece of withering satire attempts explicitly" (CS 90). Nostalgia for remembered plenitude, alienation from present reality, and projection toward future plenitude are all capable of functioning as revolutionary stimuli. "People have gone too long with the glib psychoanalytic assumption that an art of 'escape' promotes acquiescence. It may, as easily, assist a reader to clarify his dislike of the environment in which he is placed" (CS 119). Similarly, as we have seen, an art of unflinching realism toward the heinous brutalities of war does not necessarily make its readers recoil from militarism. It may, as easily, desensitize readers to violence or spawn in them a desire to take revenge against the evil enemy. Responses to the imagery of war run the gamut from numbed anesthesia to vindictive violence, and, as an organic intellectual responding to the exigencies of his historical moment, Burke keeps the contradictions alive and the dialogue ongoing.

In the end, Bakhtin is an essayistic and monological thinker espousing dialogism, whereas Burke is a poetic and dialogical thinker enacting it. Both, however, believe that linguistic and social change are intertwined and that whatever life and literature may be, criticism had best be comic.5 As Bakhtin puts it, the purpose of the comic frame is "to apply the corrective of laughter and criticism to all existing straightforward genres, languages, styles, and voices" as well as "to force people to experience beneath these categories a different and contradictory reality that is otherwise not captured in them" (DI, 59).

For Burke as for Bakhtin, history is an unending conversation, and the aims of comic criticism are threefold: first, to liberate what identifies itself as culturally given and politically correct from the hegemonic language in which it is enmeshed; second, to destroy the homogenizing power of myth and ideology over that hegemonic language by cultivating heteroglossia and perspective by incongruity; and third, above all, to create a distance between that language and reality so that the emancipatory possibilities of new languages and new social programs become not only visible but viable.


1."Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress" (PLF 110).

2. In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci sees the traditional intellectual as implicated in the ideological state apparatuses of education, law, religion, and so forth. Exiled by Stalin in the 1930's, Bakhtin was not part of the establishment. His work is traditional in form but not in content.

3. "Everything, Preferably All at Once: Coming to Terms with Kenneth Burke" is the title of a 1971 article published by Nemerov in The Sewanee Review, an article that confronts the perplexities of Burke's critical style. In "The Honest and Dishonest Critic," Adam Hammond compares and contrasts the critical styles of Erich Auerbach and Mikhail Bakhtin. Although I have learned much from this article and am deeply indebted to Hammond for the manifold insights and leads he has proffered, the issue for me is not honesty versus dishonesty, mainly because I do not see why there is any imperative for a writer to write in the style that he or she advocates. In the case of Burke and Bakhtin, what we have is the dialogical style of an organic intellectual versus the monological style of a traditional intellectual. By contrast, Auerbach and Bakhtin, though stylistically distinct in the same way, are both traditional intellectuals.

4. In this and the next paragraph, some of the points made, quotations used, and examples adduced have been adapted from Hammond's essay.

5. As Burke puts it in a famous passage from Attitudes Toward History: "The progress of humane enlightenment can go no further than in picturing people not as vicious, but as mistaken. When you add that people are necessarily mistaken, that all people are exposed to situations in which they must act as fools, that every insight contains its own special kind of blindness, you complete the comic circle, returning again to the lesson of humility that undergirds great tragedy" (41). He later concludes that this "might be a roundabout way of saying: whatever poetry may be, criticism had best be comic" (107).

Works Cited

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Trans. Vern W. McGee. Ed. Caryl  Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1986.

—. The Dialogic Imagination (DI). Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Ed. Michael  Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.

Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives (GM). Berkeley and Los Angeles:  U of California P, 1969.

—. Attitudes Toward History (ATH). 3rd Edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles:  U of California P, 1984.

—. Counter-Statement (CS). 2nd Edition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1968.

—. "Freedom and Authority in the Realm of the Poetic Imagination." Freedom and Authority in Our Time. Ed. Lyman Bryson, et al. New York: Harper, 1953. 365-75.

—. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (LSA). Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1966.

—. "Mysticism as a Solution to the Poet's Dilemma." Spiritual Problems in Contemporary Literature. Ed. Stanley R. Hopper. Gloucester, Mass: Peter Smith, 1952. 95-117.

—. On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967-1984. Ed. William H. Rueckert and Angelo Bonadonna. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 2003.

Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. Ed. and trans. by Quentin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith. London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1971.

Hammond, Adam. "The Honest and Dishonest Critic: Style and Substance in Mikhail Bakhtin's 'Discourse of the Novel' and Erich Auerbach's Mimesis. Style, 45.4 (Winter 2011): 638-53.

Lodge, David. After Bakhtin: Essays on Fiction and Criticism. London: Routledge, 1990.

Nemerov, Howard. "Everything, Preferably All at Once: Coming to Terms with Kenneth  Burke." Sewanee Review 79.2 (Spring 1971): 189-205.

Voloshinov, V. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Trans. Ladislav Matejka and I.R. Titunik. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1986.

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A Response to Greig Henderson's "Dialogism Versus Monologism: Burke, Bakhtin, and the Languages of Social Change" by Whitney Jordan Adams

Henderson, Greig. "Dialogism Versus Monologism: Burke, Bakhtin, and the Languages of Social Change," KB Journal, 13.1, 2017.

Whitney Jordan Adams, Clemson University

In regard to a dialogic theory of language and literature, Greig Henderson articulates the similarities between Burke and Bakhtin. Why bother making this comparison, as he does in "Dialogism Versus Monologism: Burke, Bakhtin, and the Languages of Social Change"? Henderson does so to reflect on why Burke and Bakhtin should be studied together, or at least considered similar in terms of their scholarship on dialogism. The unique relationship between Burke and Bakhtin is important and one that warrants continued study. Henderson suggests that "[b]oth endorse and champion a dialogical theory of language and literature, a theory that is better explained and elaborated by Bakhtin but better enacted and dramatized by Burke." Bakhtin is the informer, and Burke does the enacting. Further investigation of the relationship between these two thinkers can illuminate some of the discord within the U.S., as well as the gap in identification between divided groups, especially those within divided regions like the American South. As Henderson writes, for both Burke and Bakhtin, language "is better understood as social activity, as dialogue." Henderson brings up an important point here, as it is this very notion of dialogue as a social activity that holds the potential for social change through dialogic language. This social change is needed in a region like the American South, where monologic discourse has held court for so long.

So, what is dialogic about Burke's body of work? How is he specifically enacting dialogism? Burke's work is dialogic in his focus on the rhetoric of identity, especially with his work on consubstantiality, or the ability to identify with others. Identification through consubstantiality also allows for the realization of division and suggests ways to confront it. Although division is apparent, as Burke suggests in the Rhetoric, the recognition of division fosters dialogism, which opens up the possibility for ongoing conversation and a return to past ideas and discourse to see how and why they impact the present and future. If we can first see how we identify with someone, then the differences might not seem so great. Focusing on Burkean identification and commonalities might have the potential to reduce division in regions like the American South, or in any area or situation where dichotomies have held power. Dialogic conversations about say, the proposed removal and vandalization of Confederate statues can position competing perspectives to be in conversation with one another. This type of dialogic move would not force closure, resulting in false unity, but would rather open conversation. Forced closure is monologic, whereas acknowledgment of differing perspectives is dialogic. This concept can be very useful when considering the current debate surrounding the Confederate monuments. I see the acts of vandalization as monologic, furthering the impossibility for identification between the different groups in the South. However, there is also severe monologic discourse on the other side, as hate groups like the KKK take over protests, espousing their one-sided rhetoric of white power.

Drawing on not just the South, personal identity and group identity are of significant importance at the moment, especially in terms of the current political climate. A real division exists between individual and collective identity, as Henderson mentions with his reference to Ayn Rand's fiction: "Ayn Rand's fiction, then, with its single minded, one-sided, and didactic discourse on the philosophy of objectivism and the virtue of selfishness is not in [Bakhtin's] terms novelistic." Bakhtin saw the novel as important due to its ability to critique itself, therefore encompassing the ability to promote social change, which Henderson is interested in.  However, "As [critic] Hammond points out, Bakhtin's argument does not really progress. In "Discourse in the Novel," he identifies the enemy—monologism—and spends some 160 pages lambasting it while justifying and explaining his one major assertion—namely, that the novel–because of its heteroglossia, dialogism, and polyphony—is the enemy of totalitarianism as well as the most authentic and valuable artistic genre." It is important that Henderson discusses Bakhtin's shortcomings here because this further necessitates the consideration of Burke to see if he moves beyond Bakhtin's critique of what Burke called in Counter-Statement "pamphleteering" (vii). As Henderson so importantly points out, "Burke is in conversation with himself and other writers as well as with his readers." It is this conversation which is so desperately needed.

The specific structure of Burke's work lends to its dialogic nature and shows dialogism in action, therefore allowing for this conversation with himself, other writers, and his readers that Henderson discusses. The dialogic, as a multiply voiced discourse, is illuminated through Burke's work, and it is unique in this aspect. As Henderson writes, "The main difference between Bakhtin and Burke is that Bakhtin is a "traditional intellectual" espousing dialogism in his discourse, whereas Burke is an "organic intellectual" producing dialogism in his." An example of this "produced dialogism" is Burke's "Dictionary of Pivotal Terms" at the end of Attitudes Toward History. The inclusion of the dictionary suggests a different undertaking for a text in terms of produced dialogism, furthering Burke's personal ongoing relationship with language. Although Burke's total accessibility may be comparable with that of Bakhtin's, his application of theory is what differentiates him. Through produced dialogism, Burke makes dialogic theory accessible to his audience and readers, whereas Bakhtin was writing to a more limited audience. As Henderson suggests, "Though Bakhtin is clearly conversant with a myriad of other thinkers, he writes as if his arguments require nothing more than his own terminology." Burke's writing is involved and complex, but his inclusion of the dictionary stands in contrast to Bakhtin. Burke makes his writing dialogic rather than just suggesting it.

Although Burke's writing is dense, especially when considering texts like A Grammar of Motives or A Rhetoric of Motives. Burke is self-taught. His scholarship reflects this self-taught education; as Henderson suggests, Burke, "writes as if his arguments are part of a swirling intertextual pluriverse, a pluriverse that tries to embrace everything, preferably all at once, as Howard Nemerov had cause to remark decades ago." Burke's work and writing reflects this self-created education of studying everything—literature, poetry, rhetoric, philosophy and aesthetics. As Henderson articulates about Grammar, Burke "is able to make use of diverse philosophical languages without wholly giving himself up to any one of them."Did Burke's lack of a "formal" education allow for his move away from "traditional" rhetoric? Burke still engaged with traditional rhetoric and aspects of rhetoric, as he does in "Traditional Principles of Rhetoric" (Rhetoric), but did his distance from the academy allow for his ability to see and experience rhetoric in unique ways? Burke's acknowledgment that rhetoric exists in nontraditional places allows for his work to be more dialogic, especially when considering works like Permanence and Change and Counter-Statement. Permanence and Change, written during the Great Depression, highlights the importance of form and its impact on society. Burke claims that forms of art are not "mutually aesthetic." These texts represent a "pulling apart" of ideas and thought structures which up to this point had largely been untouched. Burke opens up new conversations, which allows for continued play and engagement with these ideas. His ability to recognize rhetoric in literature is another aspect that separates him from other scholars, considering that the split between literature and rhetoric/composition occurred late in the nineteenth century. Burke's treatment of literature as rhetoric has allowed for continued conversation on the topic, influencing later scholars, like James R. Averill, to investigate the rhetorics of emotion and how they connect to literature.

In Counter-Statement, Burke takes on "pure literature," psychology and form, poetry, as well as the "Lexicon Rhetoricae", or his narrative theory. The second edition of the work contains the "Curriculum Criticum," where Burke enters into a dialogic conversation with his own work, in order to consider Counter-Statement in light of his later texts. To revisit a work to reconsider how it impacts an evolution of thought is certainly dialogism in action, as Burke sees the importance of returning to his earlier ideas to track their change and progression. Henderson remarks that Bakhtin's "style is neither embracing nor welcoming." Henderson also suggests that "Burke is sensitively attuned to the language of others—be they scholastic philosophers or members of the gas house gang." Burke's superb attunement to the language of others, and not just those in the academy, is what leads to the language of social change Henderson alludes to in his title.

Burke's idea of returning to your own ideas and opinions, as well as being attuned to the language of others, is what is needed now in the wake of recent events, like the Confederate statue dilemma. If those within the academy, as well as those outside, can understand that ideas can change, and that how we think about things should be constantly shifting depending on dialogic conversation, then I am curious to see how a continued exchange with Burke's work can open new possibilities and push forward the social change through language that Henderson discusses.

Work Cited

Burke, Kenneth. Counter-Statement.1931. Second ed. U of California P, 1968.

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Toward a Praxis of a Language of Social Change: A Response to Greig Henderson on Burke and Bakhtin by Charlotte Lucke

Henderson, Greig. "Dialogism Versus Monologism: Burke, Bakhtin, and the Languages of Social Change," KB Journal, 13.1, 2017.

Charlotte Lucke, Clemson University

While both Burke and Bahktin propound theories of the dialogic, only Burke performs it. Thus, Burke practices what he preaches, and Bahktin only preaches. This is the essence of Greig Henderson's argument in "Dialogism Versus Monologism: Burke, Bakhtin, and the Languages of Social Change," where he compares the pair's theories and practices as they pertain to theories of monologic and dialogic discourses. Moving forward, I would like to revisit and extend Henderson's comparison of Bahktin and Burke as well as use this extension to reconsider their implications for a "language of social change."

But first, what is the dialogic? Using Bahktin, Henderson explains the dialogic as happening when "[e]ach speaker builds on previous utterances, polemicizes with them, or simply presumes that they are already known to the listener.  Each utterance refutes, affirms, supplements, and relies on the others, presupposes them to be operative, and somehow takes them into account." This account of discourse considers the use of language as social act, where speakers are in conversation with each other and build on each other's utterances.  It is a critical conversation where a speaker reflects on and incorporates another's utterance into their own, whether in agreement, disagreement, or somewhere between. Unlike Bahktin, Burke formally explicates neither a theory of the dialogic nor of the monologic. However, we can see the way Burke's texts enact this discursive model. As Henderson states so well, "In A Grammar of Motives, terms truly are characters, characters on trial, characters in alliance and combat with other characters, characters in competitive cooperation moving toward a higher synthesis." Henderson explains that for Burke, "The protagonist is dramatism and its ideological comrades; the antagonist is scientism and other essentialist, reductivist, and determinist vocabularies of motives." Henderson compares Burke's opposition between dramatism and essentialism to Bahktin's comparison between dialogism and monologism.

To develop his theory of the monologic, Bahktin compares the novel to the traditional epic, lyric poem, and traditional literary genres. Henderson explains that Bahktin develops this dichotomy to champion his theory of a dialogic discourse that challenges the authoritarian, traditional dominant discourses that sustain the status quo. Monologism is pious discourse; Henderson uses Ayn Rand's fiction as an example of such pious discourse, explaining that it is monologic "due to its single-minded, one-sided, and didactic discourse." Although Burke doesn't explicitly theorize the monologic, we can note the way he describes similar concepts in his own writing. When discussing occupational psychosis, for example, he writes about the "doctor's point of view, as distinct from the lawyer's, the chemist's, the sandhog's, and the reporter's. Such interlocked diversification may be revealed psychotically in our emphasis upon intellectual intolerance, information giving … also perhaps in a kind of individualism" (PC 47). Each of these points of view could be considered monologic insofar as they are limited to specific, professional points of view. The same could be said about Burke's use of the concept, "piety," which refers to "a schema of orientation" such as utilitarian or religious orientations. It seems, then, that the monologic is the expression of a didactic or pious discourse. For Henderson, the primary difference between Burke and Bahktin's conceptualizations of these types of discourses is Bahktin's analysis of the discourses in comparison to Burke's enactment of the dialogic against the monologic.

Henderson focuses primarily on the distinction between Burke and Bakthin with respect to the form of their writing as dialogic or monologic, raising the question of the critic-writer's own involvement in the act of interpretation, the hermeneutics of criticism, and reaching an audience. According to Henderson, language, for both Burke and Bahktin, is best understood as "social activity, as dialogue" and "all rhetorical forms are oriented toward the listener and his or her answer, this orientation toward the listener being the constitutive feature of such discourse." Thus, a critic not only enacts the dialogic through their writing but also stages the dialogic to better reach an audience. Unanswered, then, is how critics orient their writing toward listeners— especially listeners who may be dogmatic or entrenched in their own monologic discourses and whose own pious orientations may be under critique. How does the critic engage dogmatic and monologic discourses in a way that works toward understanding rather than conflict? In addition to their focus on monologism and dialogism, or essentialism and dramatism, both Bahktin and Burke theorize a sociological and psychological approach to discourse and those who embody discourse. Focusing on this approach can perhaps extend Henderson's discussion about Burke and Bahktin's shared approach to a language of social change.

In the introduction to the Bahktin Reader, Pam Morris argues that Voloshinov and Bakhtin propound a "Marxist sociological understanding" of texts. She writes that Bahktin believes that "[r]elations of production, political and social structures determine the discursive forms of social interaction across a multitudinous range of daily and occasional speech, formal and informal verbal interactions referred to in the text as speech performances and speech genres" (12). The relations described suggest that economic, social, and political environments determine speech, further suggesting that such environments influence individuals to internalize discourses. In addition to considering the way productive, political, and social structures determine informal and formal speech and texts, Bahktin and Voloshinov suggest that such structures and speeches reflect ideology, suggesting a relationship between speech and ideology. Morris argues that they recognize "the Freudian account of the psyche as the existence of the unconscious and arising from it, a dynamic and conflictual account of life" (9). They, however, extend the notion of the psyche, and while Freud's conflictual emphasis is retained, Voloshinov and Bahktin "[transfer] this conflict from what is seen as Freud's report to elemental biological forces to the realm of social and ideological conflicts" (9). This transference suggests both that the psyche arises from structures and discourses and that conflicting social and ideological positions allow the opportunity for growth. While such growth of consciousness or ideology is possible, it is important to understand the way dogmatic or monologic discourses may resist this opportunity due to entrenched discourses and beliefs. Bahktin's focus on material influences on discourse, however, allows an understanding of how he interprets discourse to enact dialogue as a social activity oriented toward an audience.

Burke, like Bahktin, uses both Marxist and Freudian ideas to interpret the influence of social, political, and economic conditions on individual identities and discourses, suggesting that such interpretive processes can bolster communication. Consider again, for example, Burke's notion of occupational psychosis, a term borrowed from John Dewey and extended in Permanence and Change. Burke explains that "the term corresponds the Marxian doctrine that a society's environment in the historical sense is synonymous with the society's methods of production. Professor Dewey suggests that a tribe's way of gaining sustenance promote certain pattern of thought which, since thought is an aspect of action, assist the tribe in its productive and distributive operations" (PC 38). Although Burke insists on a complexity beyond simple reduction to methods of production and their impact on human thought patterns, his belief that economic circumstances play a role in the formation of human identity and experience is evident. In the Rhetoric, Burke extends this idea, suggesting that individuals develop or identities and habits through identification with properties, writing that "Man's moral growth is organized through properties, properties in goods, in services, in position or status, in citizenship, in reputation, in acquaintanceship, and love" (24). While properties can be considered in terms of economic properties, they can also be considered in terms of religious, moral, or nationalist properties. As a person develops through such properties, his or her morals, thought patterns, and discursive schemas also grow, and Burke discusses this through a focus on ideology. In Permanence and Change, Burke, like Bahktin, discusses the Freudian idea that consciousness develops or transforms through conflict. He writes, "there is general agreement that, whatever the so-called phenomenon of consciousness may be, it occurs in situations marked by conflict" (30). This implies that conflict can contribute to development of consciousness, allowing further consideration of the way different ideological discourses have potential to contribute to ideological growth. For this growth to take place, however, it seems necessary to interpret and recognize social and economic influences on an audience or discourse, in order to develop better communication and understanding. Henderson argues that in the dialogic, a critic orients rhetorical forms toward an audience. A focus on Bahktin's and Burke's shared sociological and psychological approaches to interpreting discourse and audience allows a better understanding of how this can take place.

When Henderson writes about monologism and dialogism, he writes about a writer's use of them in critical texts or novels. Today, dialogism for literary critics and writers in the humanities does not seem that revelatory. Rather, it seems to be something that critics and writers tend to practice through their writing and by responding to scholars in their field. Throughout Burke's work, however, he analyzes orientations and identification and discusses their implications for communication. This suggests that the dialogic could be enacted not only in the textual but perhaps even in the corporeal realm. Although neither Burke nor Bahktin explicitly discusses dialogism as it could relate to the public sphere, I wonder if they could be applied to the public sphere as a kind of social dialogic. Could a language of social change happen outside of academic texts and in the public sphere? Burke wrote during a time of "crisis," when communication was failing and concepts were shifting. Today, the crisis seems exacerbated, given the state of divisive discourse and social relations in the United States and across the world. Could it be worthwhile to consider the concepts of monologism and dialogism, as they relate to social and economic conditions and ideology and identity, when trying to enact languages of social change in the public sphere?

Works Cited

Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. 1950.  U of California P. 1969.

—. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose. 1935. 3rd edition. U of California P, 1984.
Morris, Pam, ed. "Introduction." The Bahktin Reader: Selected Writings of Bahktin, Medvedev and Voloshinov. Oxford UP, 1994.

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Review: Out of Mind by Michael Burke. Reviewed by Karyn Campbell

Out of Mind Cover

Burke, Michael. Out of Mind: A "Blue" Mystery. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press, 2014. 188 page. $14.99.

Reviewed by Karyn Campbell, Clemson University

In Out of Mind, Michael Burke's richly-drawn private eye is back for another raucous ride on the roller-coaster that is the life of Johnny "Blue" Heron.  The third book in the series layers themes of Greek mythology, sexual fantasies that interrupt the narrative in unexpected places and the gritty characters who live at the Gold Hill Arms into a sandwich sprinkled with a slew of possible suspects and a cell phone that rings to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkaries."  In addition to the familiar ringtone, Out of Mind brings us Blue's love interest, Kathy, aka the Chief of Police, grey-haired, pony-tailed hippie Leroy, owner of Leroy's Bar and (added almost as an afterthought) Strip Club, and a perfect plot puzzle that incorporates scenes from the story of mythic Perseus.

We are first introduced to Blue Heron in Swan Dive, Burke's 2009 debut mystery novel that borrows themes from the myth of Leda and her swan god lover.  If you like your mystery with a side of Greek mythology, you will appreciate how Burke weaves small details from the myths into the narrative of his novels, but still leaves enough surprises and even the obligatory twist at the end of the novel to satisfy the reader with an unexpected culprit.  In his second novel Music of the Spheres (2011) we revisit Blue's balcony with the panoramic view of the night skies where we are treated to small, but regular references to Pythagoras's theory of the inaudible musical frequencies created by the rotation of the planets. In fact, one of the strippers, Stella Starlight, pole dances every night to "Music of the Spheres" (no cameras allowed). The tie between the title of Out of Mind and mythology is a bit more elusive and the twist is revealed on the very last page of the book.  However, Burke does allude to the legend of Perseus who severed the head of the Gorgon Medusa and we even have references to Hades's helmet of invisibility used by Perseus in his quest.

It's not surprising that the son of a gifted literary critic would be able to write a novel that embodies what Kenneth Burke had to say about the nature of form in Counter-Statement.  If "form" in literature is an arousing and fulfilment of desires that leads the reader sequence by sequence in anticipation and gratification, Michael Burke has mastered the ability to tell a rousing story that creates expectation in the reader and then meets that need. However, like any good mystery writer, the syllogistic progression is not perfect, as the unexpected intrigues us and keeps us turning the pages.  Michael Burke does not follow a completely predictable trajectory, which would give the mystery away, nor does he pin the whodunit on an illogical suspect.  He has mastered the trick of following a logical progression while still surprising us.

Part of that surprise is in the characterization of Blue Heron himself.  The back cover of Music of the Spheres refers to Johnny (Blue) Heron as a "down-on-his-luck detective," and at first glance, he doesn't appear to be what most little boys dream of becoming when they grow up.  However, Blue is, in fact, living a pretty good life. Yes, he does reside at the Gold Hill Arms on Machinist Drive.  Yes, to reach his place you have to pass by Iron Inc, the "rusted remains of a once-thriving iron industry" as well as Pharm-a-Lot, the drugstore that still hangs on because even those who are down on their luck need pharmaceuticals.  Blue's place of residence is inhabited by the strippers at LeRoy's bar and others who, for whatever reason, do not feel a need to have a McMansion in the suburbs, but most of them are exactly where they want to be.  Blue, a man of uncertain age, but definitely young and good-looking enough to have a lot of hot women hitting on him, seems to have plenty of things go his way. While many of the women who proposition him are only fantasy figures, he actually has real live women flirting with him wherever he goes and in every book, he gets to make love to a sexy character.  While his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kathy, wants him to get a "real" job, he manages to live his vagabond lifestyle of picking up private eye gigs and freelancing for the local police department, and keep the girl, despite her threats to leave him.  And it's not like he can't get a real job; his friend at the police department frequently offers him full-time employment, which he turns down because he doesn't like the morning hours. 

Michael Burke's eclectic life trajectory can be seen in the little details of Out of Mind.  His turn as an astronomer is evident in the book's first line, "It was a hot, damp August night, and the Perseids were spectacular."  In fact, his description of the night sky as seen from Blue's balcony is a spectacular painting, executed by a master artist.  Burke's turn as an urban planner is evident in his spot-on descriptions of Blue's generic town, somewhere on a train line to New York City, that has seen better days.  Burke is currently a painter and sculptor who has held exhibitions and installations in the U.S. and Europe and he puts this experience to good use as he paints pictures of the characters inhabiting Blue's world as well as the world itself – from the crumbling ruins where Blue lives and hangs out to the palatial realms of his clients.

One of the most satisfying mysteries about Out of Mind is the title itself.  What does this have to do with Perseus, Medusa, a headless corpse and a charity for kittens? As we gallop through the novel, we see plenty of references to the Medusa tale, but the relationship to "out of mind" is elusive.  It is only after the mystery is solved and all the loose ends are wrapped up, that Burke brings us back to the final mystery – that of the book's title.  Deftly using pieces of the Perseus legend and tying them in to the characters in the novel, Burke solves that final mystery on the very last page, wrapping up the syllogism neatly in a way that would have made Kenneth Burke proud.

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Review: Tibet on Fire: Buddhism, Protest, and the Rhetoric of Self-Immolation by John Whalen-Bridge. Reviewed by Ashley S. Karlin

Cover of Pedaling the Sacrifice ZoneWhalen-Bridge, John. Tibet on Fire: Buddhism, Protest, and the Rhetoric of Self-Immolation. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. 216 pages. $89.99 (hardcover)

Reviewed by Ashley S. Karlin, University of Southern California

When words fail, rhetoric turns to the rest of the body, beyond vocal chords and orthographic markings—when the voice cannot persuade an end to oppression, in the absence of learned helplessness and apathy, the body calls out in whatever way it can to end its suffering. It strives against the oppressor and, in some cases, turns on itself. In such cases, depending on the presence and perspectives of its witnesses, death becomes a rhetorical act and a rhetorical end. As Burke himself notes in A Rhetoric of Motives, "The depicting of a thing's end may be a dramatic way of identifying its essence" (17). The "may be" in this quote is important—particularly when we try to understand suicide. Anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide knows how harrowing an attempt to reconstruct that story can be, and how a context and a story can either heal or haunt.

While death is in most cases a private event, it has many public faces. The visage of death almost always prompts visceral responses and, sometimes, it prompts political action. From the viral 2015 photograph of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian refugee who drowned on the journey to safety on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea, to the contested media-circulation of the images of Sadaam Hussein's executed sons in 2003, the images of death carry potent rhetorical material. Those images, however, are the aftermath of death, not "dying" in action—In Tibet on Fire: Buddhism, Protest, and the Rhetoric of Self-Immolation, John Whalen-Bridge seeks to understand the images and stories of self-immolation as a performance on a public stage. When I first approached this text, I was concerned it would be a distancing, academic analysis of deep pain, but as I progressed through the pages, Whalen-Bridge offered not only an academic lens but the heart, empathy, and deep engagement with the Tibetan diaspora necessary to fully process this acute manifestation of human suffering.

In Tibet on Fire, Whalen-Bridge situates self-immolation in Tibetan monastic communities and seeks to understand its causes and effects through the lens of Burkean rhetoric. Of the many ways a person can take their own life, fire is perhaps most dramatic and has specific historical and sociocultural meaning in Tibet and its neighboring nations. A fire puja cleanses, a butter lamp illuminates a spiritual path, and 1,000 flames celebrate the legacy of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug lineage (the Dalai Lama's own sect). Fire has many symbolic purposes in Tibetan Buddhism, which Whalen-Bridge is quick to note should not be lost on a reader when it comes to the subtle messages the act of self-immolation delivers to Tibetans. With the dual purpose of spiritual meaning and community protest, self-immolation also violently shines light on China's long-standing oppression of Tibetan people, from cultural genocide (moving Han Chinese residents into the Tibetan Autonomous Region) to political gaslighting (kidnapping a Panchen Lama and putting a decoy in the child's place). Like most refugees, displaced and exiled people, Tibetans have experienced a shared loss of home, comfort, and meaning. Whalen-Bridge, without losing sight of the seriousness of his object of analysis, honors those lost lives by trying his best to understand the message of self-immolation—to situate it in context and to elucidate the complexity of each individual case.

In the simplest and most brutal sense, setting oneself on fire is an action that cannot be reneged, cannot be reversed, and, destroys all evidence of the act and the agent. In both symbolic and material senses, the act leaves an indelible mark on the earth, a tangible absence, but is a fleeting, cancelling event. Whalen-Bridge argues that the act is also a dramatic one, in Burkean terms, in the sense that it relies on the responses of a global public to give it meaning. According to Whalen-Bridge, drama makes an event newsworthy, and lack of coverage is ultimately a form of censorship. He gears this book toward an audience who may not be familiar with rhetorical terms—in doing so, he spends a great deal of space explaining concepts that may be relatively elementary to a rhetorician. The effect is that it is at times unclear who the audience for this book may be: academic or public. This may be a product of the fact that the "[a]udience for self-immolation is up for grabs" (6).

So, too, are the motivations behind acts of self-immolation. For Whalen-Bridge, dramatism is a way to "forestall premature conclusions about motivation" (15). This is an apt message because we could easily get lost in "drama" and forget "reality." Yet, here dramaturgy offers the reader a gap, a way to take a step back to get a clearer perspective on a confusing, terrifying, and emotionally jarring event. To achieve this critical distance, Whalen-Bridge's analysis of self-immolation progresses in four main parts, the first two translational and the second two meditations on rhetorical impact: 1) a translation of key terms; 2) translation of cultural meaning; 3) analysis of the impact on the internal community;, and 4) analysis of the impact on the global stage. From a rhetorical perspective, this piece adds new dimension to Burke in two key ways: it examines the fine line between the dramatic and the real; and it frames performance not as fantasy or whimsy, which is incredibly important when covering such a sensitive topic.

Tibet on Fire first approaches the question of how we define the word immolation and whether the English term translates well from the Tibetan. Whalen-Bridge argues that in English the term connotes "sacrifice" and "martyrdom"­—in a sense this translation is both deficient and ebullient. He offers a unique interdisciplinary perspective here, interweaving a Burkean rhetorical analysis of political context and text with a Tibetan Buddhist phenomenological perspective to understand religious and political motivations and how these are witnessed translated, understood, and reiterated across a broad, global audience. He charts the ebbs and flows of the internal culture, religious, cohesive narratives of Tibet in Exile and the extreme tidal impact of the CTA and Western Liberal values. As such, he joins an interdisciplinary conversation that is already well underway about Tibet in the "West", including arguments form religious studies scholar Donald Lopez (2008), historian David McMahan (2008), and cultural anthropologist Michael Lempert (2012), among others.

Whalen-Bridge asks more important fundamental questions that undergird self-immolation in the name of "Tibet": What is Tibet? Where is Tibet? Who is Tibet? Prior to 1957, we may have had a clearer sense of what the answers to those questions might be, but in 2017, there are few clear answers that link ethnicity, geography, and culture.

And in the final chapters, he asks what will happen not just in the next 5 to 10 years while the Dalai Lama presumably still reigns in the hearts and households of the Tibetan diaspora, but the next 50 years. What will happen when the Dalai Lama passes, when battles of reincarnation ensue, what obstacles the Karmapa will face when taking over political power?

Two things are useful about Burke in this context. First, Tibet on Fire employs Burke's theories of dramatism and rhetoric to foster awareness that the global stage has great bearing on the meaning of an act of self-immolation. The post-colonial relationship between Tibet and China plays out on that global stage, and a Western-liberal audience becomes exceedingly important for both to leverage power, but particularly for Tibet to foster alliances and solid identifications. Second, Burke offers a framework for analyzing "motive" and a fundamental fascination with the "ends" of rhetoric, which is key to parsing out whether or not death, per Burke's flourishing language around mortality and immortality, transcends the individual lifespan and uses the thrust of rhetoric to achieve immortal aims. Or, conversely, whether self-immolation is merely symbolic of tragedy and very real pain and heartbreak. To be clear, I am inclined to see it as the latter, but Whalen-Bridge's analysis aptly balances on the edge of this tension.

While the complexity of the issue means that there are few answers at the end of this book, its focus on "emanation" at the very end makes me look forward to a longer, extended conversation. Borrowed from the idea that the Dalai Lama is not merely the Dalai Lama in human form, but also Avalokiteshvara (or Chenrezig in Tibetan), the thousand-armed deity of compassion. Add to that Tenzin Gyatso, the man himself, an idea distinct from his role as Dalai Lama, and you have three people occupying the same space, filling the same vessel. An extension of this idea is that, perhaps, opposites can coexist, that we can be this and that, here and there, simultaneously. The idea is particularly compelling in the face of widespread global change, displacement, and strife. In applying Burke, it would have been a beautiful addition to look at some of the teleological perspectives that inform Burke's theory, since those are quite different from the iconography and teleologies that inform Tibetan Buddhism.

An element that could add to this analysis would be to examine whether Burke's overview of consubstantiation would be at all relevant to emanation—it would have been a natural fit to reference consubstantiation, but "emanation" offers a stronger, more optimistic and more Buddhist framework for dealing with cognitive dissonance. Burke, writing for a monotheistic perspective, may not entirely fit the underlying epistemologies feeding into Tibetan Buddhist iconography—the multi-deity (tantra) and otherwise nontheistic worldview. Moreover, sacrifice, interpreted by and through these two epistemologies, holds very different meanings.

It is also noteworthy that whether an act of self-immolation is powerful or futile relies on the response of global institutions, academic institutions notwithstanding. Western academic institutions are often the tangible grounds on which global forces fight on behalf of Tibet (such as in dialogues between Buddhism and Science hashed out via the Mind and Life Institute, Robert Thurman's vocal activism, or the intensely positive media coverage of Richard Davidson's study of Tibetan monks' pre-frontal cortex activity) and China (such as a growing base of Confucius Institutes in the U.S.). Whalen-Bridge argues that the constraints and cognitive dissonances that global audiences see when Buddhists get angry—that "monks and mobs" (19) do not fit together, that Tibetans demonstrate "political weakness and perceived moral superiority," that systems of karma and expressions of anger are at odds—have given rise to a "engaged Buddhism" (36). He asserts that this is how Buddhism will preserve itself in the near future—through direct, compassionate political action.

Buddhism is often reframed as "this, not that": open, not dogmatic; skeptical, not new-age-y; a philosophy, not a religion. As I've argued in my own research, the floating, contested definition of Buddhism (religion, philosophy, or fill-the-blank), makes it both easy to defend and culturally vulnerable. What Buddhism is in some ways is "up for grabs," in the same way the audience for self-immolation is. Whalen-Bridge asks essential questions in this book that, in my estimation, make this important reading for public audiences. The preface and concluding remarks of the book show an author who is not just invested in his own academic analysis but in the humane and humanistic ramifications of that work.

On the whole, this book is a strong contribution to the field of Buddhist studies and, one heartily hopes, to the Tibetan community and those who wish to protect it. Moreover, with the rise of new nationalistic movements, it is increasingly salient that we reflect on the many ways that oppressed people have fought to preserve their identities, their cultures, and their human rights in changing global contexts, as precious, fragile, mortal bodies call out for ever more powerful rhetorical ends.

Works Cited

Burke, K. A Rhetoric of Motives. 1950. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1969.

Lempert M. Discipline and Debate: The Language of Violence in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. University of California Press, 2012.

Lopez, Donald S. Buddhism and Science. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Lopez, D The Scientific Buddha, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

McMahan, D. The Making of Buddhist Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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Review: Kenneth Burke + the Posthuman, ed. by Mays, Rivers, and Sharp-Hosking. Reviewed by David Measel

Kenneth Burke + Posthuman cover

Mays, Chris, Nathaniel A. Rivers, and Kellie Sharp-Hoskins, eds. Kenneth Burke + the Posthuman. Penn State University Press, 2017. 248 pages. $32.95 (paperback)

David Measel, Clemson University

Kenneth Burke + The Posthuman, edited by Chris Mays, Nathaniel A. Rivers, and Kellie Sharp-Hoskins, is a collection of responses to the emergence of posthuman studies in an era when Burkean literary and language theory remains pervasive. As we know, there are "many Kenneth Burkes," and naturally his work requires a great amount of unpacking. That unpacking is exactly what the authors of these essays do, in the light of posthumanism and a technologically oriented future. This collection brings Burke into proximity with a number of theoretical perspectives, all voiced by scholars seeking to pull more from Burke's thought than has already been illuminated.

The introduction to Kenneth Burke + The Posthuman contains two points that characterize the collection effectively. First, the editors sum up the book's thesis with a statement that is supported by all of its authors: "In brief, we argue that Burke is compatible with posthumanism." Compatible is the perfect versatile term here: Burke's work is notably skeptical of a techno-future, but it also contains enough ambiguity and, quite frankly, hope, to be altered, carried into, and grafted on to posthumanism in ways that alter how we currently think about that field of inquiry.

The second quote that I will highlight from this introduction is this description of a future (present) network of entities and ideas: "As Deleuze and Guattari remind us, despite its seeming table, from this multiple can always be subtracted the one; as they put it, a person must begin mapping, or must find a point at which to engage, via 'subtraction.' In short, to deal with the multiple, as we do with this project, a person has to start somewhere" (3). It is on this self-explanatory note from the authors that I launch my critical review of this fantastic collection.

"Boundaries" opens with "Minding Mind: Kenneth Burke, Gregory Bateson, and Posthuman Rhetoric." In this essay Kristie Fleckenstein kicks off the book's greater conversation by diving directly into cybernetics through a comparative analysis of the work of Kenneth Burke and Gregory Bateson. She connects Burke's perch above history, which allows for his panoramic view, with Bateson's concept of "second-order cybernetics," arguing that both express the vision of monitoring complex systems in a metacognitive way. Essentially, the idea is that we are (or house) our own ways of knowing, and we are watching ourselves (27). Fleckenstein boldly ushers Burke directly into the posthuman conversation (alongside Bateson, to note), and brings Burke's sense of moral obligation along for the ride, which may be what the posthuman discourse needs most: "These, then, are the three implications of Burke's minding Mind: responsibility-with-intent, differences with a future, and a kairos of the long view" (38). Key to understanding the relationship between Burke and Bateson is their mutual understanding of difference and how it can be harvested and applied to futures. Fleckenstein highlights this facet of the Burke-Bateson conversation well, and demonstrates an understanding of how harnessing and harvesting ambiguities can serve to our betterment, illuminating a sometimes dim cyberfuture.

Jeff Pruchnic recognizes the inevitability of a posthuman rhetoric, and asks ethical questions that straddle a border between What can we do? and What will we do? In "The Cyberburke Manifesto, or Two Lessons from Burke on the Rhetoric and Ethics of Posthumanism," Pruchnic quickly reminds us that Burke never forgets the self-serving quality of ethical behavior, and the mirrored self-interest that characterizes (or, essentially, is) humanism. Pruchnic suggests that if the key ethical component of posthumanism is to extend our ethical behavior to consider nonhumans as subjects deserving of ethical treatment, then we can capitalize on the self-serving quality of humanistic ethics, and carry it over into posthumanism as a pillar of a new ethics: "…a posthuman rhetorical strategy that focuses on the 'vice' in the human tendency toward perceived exceptionality or supremacy, in order to motivate more ethical action toward other humans and nonhumans, might be a far from unethical process for creating more responsible behavior in the world" (57).

"Revision as Heresy: Posthuman Writing Systems and Kenneth Burke's 'Piety'" by Chris Mays is a fascinating exploration of mechanistic agency at work in the writing process. Mays asserts that each text comes equipped with its own agency, and therefore the revision process is not only much more complex than it may seem but it is also largely outside of the writer's hands, so to speak. Mays writes, "By taking seriously the notion that texts themselves have agency," his own argument "complicates commonplace notions of writing and, in particular, of revision" (61). He builds on the suggestion by Peter Elbow that a text is "in itself" oriented in a particular direction (qtd. in Mays, 61). The insertion of Elbow into this discussion is highly enlightening personally; the inquiry into agency in language and texts is not new, but it is in need of much more concentrated attention if we are to fully understand and articulate language's potential as a co-agent to the human.

Mays highlights Burke's emphasis on increasingly complex systems and our involvement in them, both as movers and moved entities. The implications behind Burke's designation of piety as expression of a need for orientation expand significantly when considered in the context of complex systems theory. Utilizing Dramatism, Mays uses Burke's pentad of terms to analyze the writer and text as codependent actors working together to create meaning in a shared drama. Ultimately his point is this: "Systems [here, texts] aren't 'willed' into new configurations. They 'drift' into them" (74). What sets this essay apart from others in this collection is its insistence on carrying pentadic analysis into the posthuman conversation.

The topic of the nonhuman as periphery enters the conversation with Robert Wess's essay, "Burke's Counter-Nature: Posthumanism in the Anthropocene." According to Wess, "Counter-nature may well be more important today than when Burke conceived it. Furthermore, it could become much more important in the decades ahead if posthumanists and Burkeans join together to use it to turn theorists toward Anthropocenic posthumanism" (80). He appropriately highlights critical attention beyond his own to Foucault's prediction of a coming epoch at the close of The Order of Things. Wess draws a line between posthumanism and the Anthropocene, arguing that the posthumanists can "turn to Burke" to find a bridge between posthuman and the Anthropocene, to an "Anthropocenic Posthumanism" (83). He notes, "Burke's interest in human difference is actually suited to the Anthropocenic difference that undermines the humanist difference. For Burke consistently sees that what makes us different is no reason to make us proud" (84). Wess's delineation between posthumanism and the Anthropocene is difficult to disentangle at first, but it becomes more apparent as the essay continues.

Wess digs into Burke's 1983 revisions (afterwords) to Permanence and Change and Attitudes Toward History to reveal Burke's reconsideration of his own term "counter-nature," which assigns to it an "open-ended" ambivalence rooted in the Latin contra (87). The strength of Wess's argument lies in the assertion that Burke's "counter-nature" anticipated the Anthropocene, and the Anthropocene in turn influenced Burke's own revision of his term "counter-nature." This particular part of the argument is a bit windy, but I believe it is intended to demonstrate through the prose the complexity of this (post-)predicament. Wess's argument ultimately boils down to this: the ambivalence that ultimately prevails in Burke's assessment of man's future in an environment dominated by technology can be applied in the modern epoch to emphasize human awareness of our ongoing interaction with technology, and move forward with (or against) technology with a sense of both curiosity and caution.

In his essay "Technique—Technology—Transcendence: Machination and Amechania in Burke, Nietzsche, and Parmenides," Thomas Rickert performs a comparative analysis of three daunting thinkers, focusing on their understandings of the relationship between technique and technology. His invocation of the Greek terms askesis, amēchania, and mêtis reminds us of the interactivity of these terms both aurally and logically (and lexically), and stakes a position similar to that put forward by Robert Wess in the previous chapter. To sum up the relationship between methods and modes of being, Rickert writes, "Technique, then, would be equivalent to styles of being with the technological. Techniques and technologies share a transcendent push, with technique emerging as the machining of the human that has sprung a technological attitude" (119). By "modes of being" I refer here to the human and the technological. These Rickert refers to additionally as the "Ding" and the "Non-Ding," heading to his suggestion of the human's awareness of shared activity, and possibly shared being, with technology, or the Überding (118). While the notion of "techniques and technologies" working together can be apprehended simply, the scope of this essay is awe-inspiringly large. It's a wide net that catches Burke, Nietzsche, and Parmenides together, but Rickert has the ethos to manage such an argument.

In "The Uses of Compulsion: Recasting Burke's Technological Psychosis in a Comic Frame," Jodie Nicotra seeks a path toward hope in Burke's skepticism toward technology. Nicotra draws attention to Burke's curious shift from the comic corrective focused on acceptance frames, to a tragic perspective focused on rejection frames. I can't help but wonder how this argument will transform in the light of Robert Wess' argument in "Burke's Counter-Nature." The attention Wess pays to Burke's "self-revision" brings to light a fresh perspective on the term "counter-nature" that could lead Nicotra to reconsider Burke's tragic perspective on technology (87). The "affirmative approach" that Nicotra suggests is curious: "How could we use this [Burke's] very idea of compulsion not as a corrective to technology, but as a way to push it through? […] naming and treating technology compulsively will open up certain possibilities for responding and shut down others" (137). The strength of this argument is in Nicotra's diction: her equivocation of Burke's "compulsion" with the modern buzzword "addiction" makes immediately clear the area where we can pivot between multiple positions on our relationship with technology. She demonstrates through examples (dependence upon oil, etc.,) that understanding the deeply rooted relationships between humans and technology can lead to insights into our dependence on technology, which we can use to fulfill the potentials we choose. In other words, the more we know, the fewer limits we have, and the more intelligently we can manage our dependence, or perhaps codependence, as surrounding essays suggest, on technology (138-39).

Steven B. Katz and Nathaniel A. Rivers state the issue succinctly: "As with Burke, so with posthumanism. Neither is stable and settled, and so much hinges on the point of departure and the attitude of the journey. How does one move from a given starting point?" (143). These authors identify "seeds of a postambiguity" in The Rhetoric of Religion, and move forward from this point to attempt answering the difficult question posed above. Katz and Rivers hone in on a curious phrase that shows up in Burke's prose: "the ground of the process as a whole" (151, quoting Burke). This is a classic postmodern juncture: what are the grounds of an ambiguous structure? How do we identify the seeds of a being in flux?

Before launching an extensive analysis of the film "Fixed," these authors deal with Burke's concept of entelechy with a complexity that leaves my head spinning. While arguing for the retention of Burke's dramatistic method of analysis in the consideration of "new materialisms," Katz and Rivers employ a Burkean move themselves, shifting from emphasis on the term "entelechy" to the term "predestination," and arguing for not only the potentiality in predestination, but also the prima facie quality of that entity: "Entelechy certainly seems to emerge, but it is only ever predestined." As I understand, it is to Burke's own "blurry predestination" that these authors turn in their rereading of his attitude toward our future in a complex technological environment. Despite the complexity and, honestly, the difficulty of the many points in this argument, Katz and Rivers offer eloquent summative phrases at key points in the essay: phrases like, "Posthumanism is…nothing new," "blurry predestination," and "Entelechial black boxes emerge" clarify what otherwise might be arguments too complex for most readers to untangle. Then again, these are complex subjects to tackle, and difficult questions often spur difficult answers.

All of this discussion is followed by a lengthy analysis of the film Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement, directed by Regan Brashear. The analysis of this film brings a thoughtful criticism to emerging and imagined technologies in a new world that works with human bodies to blend the human and technological words. The analysis certainly follows well conceptually where the argument by Katz and Rivers leaves off: interviews offer individual accounts of satisfaction and even ongoing joy as a result of technological implements that allow additional mobility to individuals with disabilities, expanding their worlds of possibilities. While the film analysis may fit more comfortably into the greater discussion that this book inhabits as a separate article, it is another example of how the editors in this collection bring a selection of authors with an eclectic array of interests and positions together in one resource.

In "Emergent Mattering: Building Rhetorical Ethics," Julie Jung and Kellie Sharp-Hoskins bring the issue of "mattering" to the table in order to discuss "the politics of differential mattering—namely, how and why objects come to matter differently" (163). Like many of the other chapters in this collection, this essay examines borders and oppressive activity in both the environmental and human worlds, and how modern and future technologies come to bear on both. What separates this essay from its surrounding arguments is that it calls for us to pay attention to a future that is already upon us. Not only do we know that our traditional linear considerations of time are becoming irrelevant, but even while we still can see the "future" as what it is, we can, according to Jung and Sharp-Hoskins, find significant issues to address here on our periphery, if we take the time to look for them.

These authors demonstrate the presence of these issues through examples concerning mandatory implantation of IUD's and "Toxic Tours," which highlight these problems through a shock tactic that these authors suggest can be utilized to reorient the viewer's perspective dramatically in the moment of viewing the toxic spectacle. For my money, the strength of this essay is its treatment of Burke's master tropes. Jung and Sharp-Hoskins demonstrate the metonymic relationship between a term and its entelechy (171), as well as the relationship between material excess and synecdoche (176). It may work as well in other contexts, as it supports much activity in critical studies and various genres of activism.

Nathan Gale and Timothy Richardson return to the theme of competing agencies in "What Are Humans for?" These authors argue that "pure persuasion" is evidently operative in modern data "data-driven technology": "Technological devices, like literary devices, make demands beyond the uses to which they are put by users and authors" (185). Gale and Richardson combine Kevin Kelly's idea of the "technium" and technological agency with Burke's "admittedly pessimistic treatment of Big Technology" to establish what they call "technolostic screens (185)." The holistic in "technolostic" refers to a perspective that takes in all of the humano-technological future in field of endless possibilities. The argument in this essay is similar to that of Rickert's and Wess's, except that Gale and Richardson are quick to point out that in Kelly's theory, the entities of language, humanity, and technology remain individual. One issue in this essay is an apparent double iteration of Kevin Kelly's theory.

Gale and Richardson asserts that Kelly's optimism toward what Burke refers to as "Big Technology" does not challenge the delineations that he draws between humanity, technology, and language (191). However, this assertion follows one of the highlights, for me, of the book as a whole: Gale and Richardson quote Kelly stating that language very well should be considered a technology: "…we tend not to include in this category paintings, literature, music, dance, poetry, and the arts in general. But we should. If a thousand lines of letters in UNIX qualifies as a technology (the computer code for a web page), then a thousand lines of letters in English (Hamlet) must qualify as well" (190). Despite this confusion, these authors employ the concept of technolostic screens to make a compelling argument as to how we can apply Burkean theory and keep it alive in a new era that does, and quite frankly has to, embrace technology. Personally, I get lost in reading and rereading the closing argument about looking for love in technology. Beautiful.

Casey Boyle and Steven Lemieux's essay A Sustainable Dystopia" closes the collection well by summing up the hopeful spirit of "Futures," and ends the collection building directly on another cornerstone (many Burkes; many cornerstones) of Burke's work. These authors look closely at Burke's "Towards Helhaven: Three Stages of a Vision," identifying it as a dystopia. The strength of this essay is the same as its weakness: it is in the wordplay. Their advent of the term "dystopoi" to orient and manage the human role in the field of emerging technologies upon which the human becomes dependent both smoothly leads the eye and the ear from one term to the next, and insists upon more than validates itself. Then again, this is how Burke achieves much of his brilliant linguistic magic, so the tactic is not without its merit.

Regardless of this issue, the ensuing discussion of man's potential for insisting upon resistance to his machines by creating technological screens to work against his writing faculty is both fascinating and . . . well, more fascinating. I feel the need to create a Kafka desk and limit myself to working in some difficult contraption not yet conceived. I sense that, in this way, I would be both challenging myself and the technology. Boyle and Lemieux close the essay with these memorable constructions: "We shall enact a reversal of the ultimate medium, life itself, when we realize that the manageable strife offered by dystopoi offers us equipment for living forever by dying well. In concert with Burke's claim that the human is "rotten with perfection" (Language 16), we propose the posthuman is ripe with imperfections."

Beyond its unique point of inquiry and the brilliant set of voices it brings to the table, the strength of this collection is in its coverage of Burke's many complex ideas. Furthermore, the close readings that these authors bring to the conversation touch on thoughtful points in Burke's prose that can easily otherwise be missed, due to his depth of thought and the breadth of his corpus. Not only do these texts enlighten the reader to fine points of Burke's theory and how it can be applied in new ways and new sectors, but we are reminded of the sheer breadth and complexity of his work.

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Review: The Role of the Rhetorician in Sacrifice Zones

Cover of Pedaling the Sacrifice ZoneGuignard, Jimmy. Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing, and Living above the Marcellus Shale. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2015. 256 pp.  $24.95 (paperback)

Reviewed by Megan Poole, Penn State University

It is rare that a Burke book becomes intimately personal. Scholars of rhetoric often theorize Burkean terms and theories yet overlook how these teachings transfer to everyday lived experience. In other words, living by Burke's rhetorical precepts might differ from theorizing or teaching them. This practice—employing rhetorical awareness to better intervene in the community and the surrounding world—is precisely the task of Jimmy Guignard, associate professor and chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Mansfield University, in Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone. More specifically, Guignard sets out to reveal his personal encounters with the rhetorical techniques used by extractive industries in north central Pennsylvania to influence how people understand the land and its resources.

Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone opens with a map of Tioga County, Pennsylvania, the "blank space," Guignard narrates, that he and his family attempted to transform into a "place" of their own (x). This space is "blank" for Guignard because it has not yet been filled with meaning, those hopes, beliefs, and ideologies that transform space into place. That is, all locations appear as blank spaces to those who have never inhabited or heard about them. In Guignard's experience, blank spaces can either become a place of belonging or a "sacrifice zone," those locations pillaged of their worth for the desires of others. The outcome is dependent on how actors conceive of and act upon that scene.

Residents who have leased their mineral rights and risked the safety of their land so that others throughout the nation can enjoy the privileges of natural gas occupy the "sacrifice zones" of Tioga County. Although Guignard's depiction of sacrifice zones provokes unanswered questions—what does it mean to "own" land? does one sacrifice the land or a way of life? who can be sacrificed by whom?—he offers a unique version of "rhetorical analysis made personal" (7) that places Burke's theories into action. As Guignard literally cycles through the rural landscape on various roads throughout north central Pennsylvania, he narrates how farm and forestland devolve into contamination sites and how the wildlife traveling backcountry roads give way to freightliner trucks hauling equipment for fracking. To put it another way, Guignard witnesses what happens when oil and gas industries consider places as blank spaces on a map. The map of Tioga County, then, becomes a site of contestation that could best be described as a "confusing web of words" (7).

Words have power to shape the land—this is the controlling idea that Guignard sets out in the first two chapters of his book. Though his specific task is to understand "how rhetoric used by extractive industries influences the way we see and use places" (77), he addresses not only rhetoricians and residents of Tioga County but also individuals at the local level who experience the realities of sacrifice zones. Indeed, the book is published by Texas A & M University Press (as part of a new series titled "Survival, Sustainability, Sustenance in a New Nature") in College Station, Texas, a town near the Gulf Coast that also bears witness to such realities. To these individuals and others like them, Guignard extends the following directive: "We need to care for the world we live in, and we owe it to ourselves and the land to understand how the rhetoric we craft and encounter shapes our attitudes toward it" (77). Burke's definition of humans as symbol-using animals becomes even more crucial to the book's argument as Guignard moves into the second chapter. It is through symbols, and the people who use them, that spaces becomes defined, appropriated, or saved. As Guignard reports, "Symbols can be understood in different ways, depending on what the person reading the symbol brings to his or her reading of it. That also means that symbols can be used in different ways to achieve different ends. . . . Same map, different attitudes. That's how symbols work." (60). That is, the symbols that compose individuals' attitudes and actions determine how they work with or against one another and how they use or misuse the land.

Chapters three through five center on specific rhetorical techniques engaged in by the natural gas industry in Tioga County to persuade individuals and families to lease their land to private companies. These techniques include oscillation between abstract concepts to valorize the industry's successes and concrete examples to downplay its failures. For example, the jobs, benefits, and economic successes of the industry are experienced by "us" and generalizable to "any place," while instances of pollution and contamination are specific to a certain location and a select few individuals (82). Other techniques include evidence of visual rhetoric on company websites: images of open farmland evoke notions of the pastoral, images of stoic laborers conjure the idea of the "roughneck," and continual display of the American flag appeals to a sense of patriotism. Throughout his analysis, Guignard reveals the complexity of the individuals who must consider socioeconomic concerns when deciding whether to work with or against fracking. Indeed, Guignard never offers a solution, implying that there is no one-size-fits-all resolution to a problem that consists of a multiplicity of motives. Even rhetoricians, Guignard demonstrates, have trouble determining exactly how symbols interact, persuade, and hold power to redirect the conversation.

The role of the rhetorician is the focus of the book's final two chapters. At times, the ethical responsibilities of this role seem nearly impossible for Guignard: "It's hard enough to keep up the energy to question something. It's even harder when I have to keep up the energy to see what I need to question" (166-67). Rhetoric, in other words, is not just about knowing the rhetorical situation—it's about seeing the self, a constant examination of the one acting within scenes and among other rhetorical agents. Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone ends with a call for non-academic readers to develop and employ rhetorical awareness and for academic rhetoricians to realize the stakes inherent to their work. If words can turn places into desolate, blank spaces, Guignard insists, they are also what can redeem the land.

Throughout this untraditional mix of narrative and analysis, Guignard's "pedaling" through the landscape serves as his way of witnessing the effects that the natural gas industry has on the land. While this aspect is part of the book's appeal, it is also what constrains the message: his perspective is unique to one individual whose position as a white, middle-class, male professor is not common to all. Guignard does seek to overcome his situated role in the academy by emphasizing his status as a first-generation college student with a blue-collar upbringing. Yet such an admission does not quite excuse the explicitly gendered tone of the book in which Guignard casts his wife as someone who should defer to his opinions because he "bring[s] home the damn cash" (2). Although Guignard attempts to dismiss his gendered moments with humor, admitting that they are evidence of "good, old-fashioned patriarchy" (2), such moments risk alienating readers who do not share the author's sympathies or sociocultural background.

Admittedly, Guignard's goal is to present rhetorical criticism through a personal narrative unique to this own situatedness in life, and in this he is successful. Such a narrative might also help individuals living in places impacted by the natural gas industry learn how to evaluate their rhetorical landscape and garner tools for pushing against verbal weapons. Further, while Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone does not offer Burke scholars any novel evaluation of Burke's work, the book may still be revelatory if we pair it with Burke's persistent concern with environmental issues throughout his career, concerns that Marika A. Seigel and Robert Wess have explored in their scholarship. Lastly, the book holds appeal for any scholar of rhetoric interested in the ethical role of the rhetorician at the local level of the community.

In the interest of making analysis personal, perhaps I should end with my own encounters with the oil and gas industry, which Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone made more immediate. Growing up in a rural town in Southwest Louisiana, I was acutely aware that the oil industry employed friends and family members and placed food on many tables. In 2005 when Hurricane Rita demolished homes and kept students away from school for many months, it was a local natural gas company that provided food, water, and clothing for those who lost their homes. As I grew older, I often questioned whether the ground I lived on was contaminated, but as a young college student I felt disempowered, as if pushing against the oil and gas industry would be a death sentence for my hometown.

Years later when I made the decision to move to central Pennsylvania, fracking was certainly in the back of my mind: I was moving from one contaminated state to the other. Yet was there any other choice? Was there a place where contamination of our land, our ecosystems, our lives starts and stops? Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone allowed me to articulate such questions and realize that our land and the words that shape that land are always contaminated, whether by oil or ideology. The task becomes reading, writing, teaching, and perhaps even pedaling, in such a way that makes a difference.

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Review: Rhetorical Criticism, ed. by Jim Kuypers. Reviewed by Eryn Johnson

Cover of Rhetorical Criticism

Kuypers, Jim A. Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action. 2nd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. 344 pages. $55.00 (paperback)

Reviewed by Eryn Johnson, Indiana University

The second edition of the textbook Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action from Jim Kuypers and his chapter contributors offers an insightful and productive look at what it means to write rhetorical criticism and why that practice matters, especially today. In the preface, Kuypers notes the challenge instructors face when students desire a "formula" for writing criticism and explains that with this book he has tried to give students "some starting point" while also stressing "the very personal nature of criticism" (xiii). While I agree with J. Michael Hogan of Penn State who describes the text as "sophisticated yet accessible" for both undergraduate and graduate students, I would add that Kuypers also delivers a textbook that lives up to the challenges of teaching rhetorical criticism.

New to this edition are "chapters on critical approaches to rhetorical criticism and the criticism of popular culture and social media" and appendices containing thirteen additional perspectives, four steps to begin writing criticism, and a glossary (xiii). Though Kuypers includes only the one chapter on Dramatism, notably at the heart of the text, Kenneth Burke's influence on both Kuypers and rhetorical criticism as we know it can be felt throughout. The investment in rhetoric as a pragmatic and humanistic subject is perhaps the text's most important overarching argument and its most apparent link to continual echoes of Burkean thought. This is evidenced early on when Kuypers's writes that rhetoric "allows for the creation of new knowledge about who we were, who we are, and who we might become" (1).

In the effort to show students why and how rhetorical criticism is worthwhile, Kuypers and his chapter contributors explain the basics of a range of rhetorical perspectives, ultimately advocating for rhetorical criticism as a means of civic engagement. Though Kuypers sets out to overview what rhetorical criticism looks like for the rhetoric scholar, he stresses the point that bringing these tools into our daily lives bears the potential to effect real societal change—a truly Burkean notion.

The textbook is organized into three parts: Overview of Rhetorical Criticism, Perspectives as Criticism, and Expanding Our Critical Horizons. Following an introductory first chapter, part one includes chapters two through six where Kuypers and contributors cover basic concepts related to the study of rhetoric in general and how those concepts translate into criticism. Chapter two covers rhetoric in its traditional sense (as persuasion) while encouraging students to understand rhetoric in its more nuanced forms. Among other important concepts, the authors also address rhetoric as it intersects with questions of intentionality, ethics, ideology, and objectivity and subjectivity.

In chapter three, Kuypers writes of the "critical turn" in rhetoric scholarship by defining criticism broadly and then explaining its application in the study of rhetoric. In rhetorical criticism, he writes, "We are looking at the many ways that humans use rhetoric to bring about changes in the world around them" (21). He takes care to characterize rhetorical criticism as an art rather than a science, stressing the idea that even though it does not adhere to a scientific method, criticism is still meant to be "quite rigorous and well thought out" (23).

In chapter four, Marilyn J. Young and Kathleen Farrell discuss "rhetoric as situated" (43). Leaning on the tradition of Lloyd F. Bitzer, they emphasize that situational rhetoric involves more than just context. Though exigence, audience, and constraints are essential factors, they explain how public knowledge comes to bear upon interpretations of rhetorical situations. Ultimately, Young and Farrell convey to readers that "[s]ituational analysis allows us to view rhetoric as an organic phenomenon" (44).

Additionally, William Benoit's chapter on genre and generic elements addresses the role of genre in the development of rhetorical criticism. He explains that "[g]eneric rhetorical criticism is based on the idea that observable, explicable, and predictable rhetorical commonalities occur in groups of related discourses as well as in groups of people" (47). Though no two pieces of rhetoric are identical, Benoit advocates for the "intelligent use" of criticism to broaden our understanding of rhetorical discourse (57-58).

To conclude part one, Edwin Black's chapter, "On Objectivity and Politics in Criticism", argues that rhetorical criticism has no obligation to avoid subjectivity; rather, as Benoit has suggested, it has the obligation to be intelligent (62-64). Black's closing paragraph succinctly captures this textbook's overarching message:

The only instrument of good criticism is the critic. It is not any external perspective of procedure or ideology, but only the convictions, values, and learning of the critic, only the observational and interpretive powers of the critic. That is why criticism, notwithstanding its obligation to be objective at crucial moments, is yet deeply subjective. The method of rhetorical criticism is the critic. (66)

The eight chapters included in part two of the text describe various perspectives from which to approach rhetorical criticism. Each chapter provides an overview of the perspective and its key terms, an explanation of the perspective in practice, sample essays, and a brief overview of the potentials and pitfalls of each perspective.

Part two begins naturally with a chapter on The Traditional Perspective in which Forbes Hill covers the traditional notions of rhetorical criticism. He includes content that instructors would typically expect to find here as well as key rhetorical concepts like artistic/inartistic proofs and syllogisms (74-7). Though Hill addresses a lot of content in this chapter, he does so effectively for students already familiar with basic rhetorical concepts.

In chapter eight, Stephen H. Browne illustrates the role that close textual analysis can play in rhetorical criticism. In spite of the tension between communication studies and literary studies, he asserts that this type of analysis "requires a sensibility cultivated by broad reading across the humanities and asks that we bring to the task a literary critic's sharp eye for textual detail" (91). In plotting out the "guiding principles" of close textual analysis, Browne emphasizes that "rhetorical texts are sites of symbolic action" (92), further cementing the Burkean strain of the text.

In their chapter Criticism of Metaphor, David Henry and Thomas R. Burkholder illustrate how this perspective can be a useful tool when metaphor is central to the artifact under consideration. Metaphors can be important sites for analysis, the authors suggest, because they influence how we understand seemingly unrelated ideas and "establish the ground for viewing" a given rhetorical situation (108). This chapter builds nicely upon the previous one by offering a tool that can work well in tandem with close textual analysis.

With chapter ten, Robert Rowland provides insight into narrative criticism, another perspective closely connected to Burkean notions of rhetoric. Because people have been telling stories for thousands of years, he asserts, narrative rhetoric is not only worthy of critical attention but also functions differently at the persuasive level than traditional argumentative or descriptive rhetoric (126). The theories of Burke and Walter Fisher become important assets to Rowland in this chapter as he lays out four functions for narrative in rhetoric. This perspective is essential, for Rowland, because narrative is central to how humans influence one another.

Notably, Kuypers's strategically places Ryan Erik McGeough and Andrew King's chapter, "Dramatism and Kenneth Burke's Pentadic Criticism", at the heart of the textbook. Building upon the previous chapter, they stress the idea of humans as storytellers by explaining Burke's theorization of Dramatism and the pentad's correspondence to narrative construction. They emphasize Burke's notion of identification because of the less often considered way in which persuasion occurs unconsciously. McGeough and King remind students in this chapter that "Burke thought that people ought to be able to analyze and understand public questions on their own" (151), which also ties this chapter back to Kuypers's original purpose of advocating for rhetorical criticism as a means of civic engagement.

In their overview of fantasy-theme criticism in chapter twelve, Thomas J. St. Antione and Matthew T. Althouse define a fantasy theme as "a narrative construal that reflects a group's experience and helps a group understand that experience" (168). The authors explain this perspective's relationship to symbolic convergence theory and provide a sample essay that analyzes multiple fantasy themes surrounding the same topic. They do well to explain that this perspective is useful to understanding webs of communication and the influence of fantasies on constructions of reality; however, this chapter will require more work on the part of the instructor to help students see how this perspective transfers into practice.

In chapter thirteen, Donna Marie Nudd and Kristina Schriver Whalen offer a compelling chapter on feminist analysis. In addition to making space for a productive discussion of gender, they define feminism as "a pluralistic movement interested in altering the political and social landscape so that all people, regardless of their identity categories, can experience freedom and safety, complexity and subjectivity, and economic and political parity—experiences associated with being fully human" (191). These authors identify four prevailing critical "techniques" for feminist criticism and emphasize language analysis as a means for reclaiming and redefining the symbolic systems that perpetuate gender inequalities (195-96).

Following Nudd and Whalen's important chapter on feminist analysis, Ronald Lee and Adam Blood provide rich insight into the practice of ideographic criticism. The authors identify Michael McGee's theory of "rhetorical materialism" as the "ideological turn" in rhetorical criticism and add significant points to the text's multiple discussions of ideology (215). While students are typically first introduced to rhetorical analysis as the nature of the effects of rhetoric on an audience, they explain that ideographic criticism better reflects what rhetorical critics actually do, which is to understand rhetoric as "a symptom of changes in ideology" (224). This chapter challenges students to move beyond the standard textbook notions of rhetorical analysis and toward the more complex, artistic notions of rhetorical criticism that Kuypers calls for.

 With Lee and Blood having elevated the expectations for rhetorical criticism, Kuypers begins part three of the textbook by discussing eclectic criticism. This chapter pushes students to think about the previous chapters as tools rather than proscriptive methods for becoming effective critics. He makes this point best when he writes that eclectic criticism "takes components of various rhetorical theories and blends them together into a comprehensive whole, all to better explain the workings of an intriguing rhetorical artifact" (239).

Though Burke's influence can be felt throughout, Raymie McKerrow's chapter on critical rhetoric carries particularly Burkean overtones. While he foregrounds the necessity for students to understand that "the critic gives voice to his or her own ideological commitments in the act of evaluating the discourse of others", he also emphasizes that critical rhetoric is about embodying an orientation for its "emancipatory potential" (254). McKerrow credits Burke with influencing his idea of the orientation of critical rhetoric and concludes that the critical rhetoric project commits us to "the realization that action is never final" (266)—critical rhetoric commits us to keeping the conversations going ad infinitum.

In the final chapter, Kristen Hoerl demonstrates the value of popular culture and social media analysis as it allows critics to "participate in the political and social struggles of our time" (269). Citing Raymond Williams's conception of culture as a "'whole way of life'", Hoerl argues that this definition opens the door for scholars to critically approach what might be considered "low brow or trivial" cultural practices (269). She distinguishes pop culture as "an object of analysis" rather than a method and argues that rhetorical criticism of popular culture has a direct connection to "investment in civic life" (270). If for no other reason, Hoerl contends that we should be interested in pop culture and social media analysis for the same reasons that Kuypers believes we should care about rhetorical criticism—it can teach us something about "who we were, who we are, and who we might become" (1).

For as much as Burke's influence on rhetoric is apparent here, Kuypers and his contributors also resist allowing that influence to overpower the various perspectives that are offered. In keeping with the nature of rhetorical studies as a humanistic discipline, this text continually advocates for rhetorical criticism as an exercise of human agency that can affect social change. As intended, the textbook provides structure for students learning to write criticism while emphasizing that criticism is an art that requires intellectual rigor. Though students may not yet see it, Kuypers seems to argue, engaging with rhetoric is as crucial to their lives as anything. After all, he writes, "We simply cannot do without rhetoric. In fact, knowledge about the wise use of discourse has never been more necessary than it is today" (18).

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Review: "Rhetoric, Narrative, and Management: Learning from Mad Men" by Ronald Soetaert and Kris Rutten. Reviewed by Martha Sue Karnes

Soetaert, Ronald, and Kris Rutten. "Rhetoric, Narrative, and Management: Learning from Mad Men." Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 30, no. 3, 2017, pp. 323–33.

Martha Sue Karnes, Clemson University

Ronald Soetaert and Kris Rutten in "Rhetoric, Narrative, and Management: Learning from Mad Men" use theories from Kenneth Burke and Richard Lanham to analyze Mad Men and discuss advertising and marketing in terms of rhetoric. In particular, the authors use the main character of Mad Men, Don Draper, as a case study for Lanham's homo rhetoricus. The authors use Mad Men due its massive popularity as a television show and its display of the professional and personal life.

The article begins by explaining the concepts from Burke and Lanham that will make up the theoretical backing of the study. The authors draw on Burke's definitions of identification and division, as well as his famous concepts of terministic screens and the principles of selection, reflection, and deflection, calling terministic screens "a vocabulary or a discourse to frame reality" (324). They briefly mention trained incapacities and how they act as "blind spots of human communication" (325). Richard Lanham's economy of attention serves as the major theoretical point of entry for this article, as it "highlights the role of styling and image-making in an economy where branding has become a central principle of marketing and corporate success" (325). This manifests itself in the concept of "stuff" and "fluff," which the authors invoke throughout. Finally, Lanham's concept of homo rhetoricus is discussed at length. The homo rhetoricus, evolving from Burke's homo symbolicus, results when a man or woman is trained in rhetoric. Soetaert and Rutten claim "The rhetorical man/woman is trained to interpret reality as dynamic or narrative and describes him/herself as a role player" (325).

The authors argue for Mad Men as a "revival of rhetoric as a major skill" (326) and offer various examples of rhetorical sophistry at work in the series They use Burke's concepts of identification and terministic screens to display how the show itself acts as an advertisement: "All over the world, people identify with the characters and this identification is the basis for the success of the series... this process shows how identification is based on how symbols can be used to create and perform identity" (327). Draper creates his own identity in order to sell and uses terms to carefully allow people to identify with the product.

Soetaert and Rutten conclude by claiming that Don Draper "becomes a case study of what it means to be a homo rhetoricus (and the entelechy of the concept)" (330). Draper creates the reality around him and is able to sell it to others, as displayed in the example Soetaert and Rutten offer about Draper selling Jaguars. Although Soetaert and Rutten explain the Burkean concepts and theory of Richard Lanham quite well, more examples would help connect all the theories together. While Draper makes sense as a homo rhetoricus, the reader is left to wonder just how the principle of terministic screens funtions in the series. Nevertheless, this article offers a interesting application of Burkean concepts to a popular culture phenomenon.

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Review: Joel Overall's "Kenneth Burke and the Problem of Sonic Identification" by Martha Sue Karnes

Overall, Joel. "Kenneth Burke and the Problem of Sonic Identification." Rhetoric Review, vol. 36, no. 3, 2017, pp. 232–43.

Martha Sue Karnes, Clemson University

In "Kenneth Burke and the Problem of Sonic Identification," Joel Overall discusses Kenneth Burke's contribution to the field of sonic rhetorics. Namely, Overall contends that Burke's conception of identification can be applied to sonic rhetorics to form sonic identification, a term that melds Burkean scholarship and sonic rhetorics. Through the analysis of two of Burke's reviews for The Nation and Burke's early definitions of identification in Attitudes Towards History, Overall offers "a Burkean theory of identication that more fully accommodates sonic symbols such as music" (233).

Burke served as a music critic for The Nation from 1934 to 1936, right in the midst of Hitler's rise to power in Germany. During this time, Burke reviewed Paul Hindemith's Mathis der Maler and Roy Harris's "A Song for Occupations." According to Overall, Burke saw in the Nazi music scene sonic identification that "merged problematic ideologies while concealing divisions" (235). Hindemith weaved together conflicting identifications of Nazism and traditional German values in his Mathis der Maler in a way that did not preserve division. Burke saw this as deeply problematic and led him to "consider a more balanced approach between advocating sonic identification while preserving division as well" (235).

In the second half of the essay, Overall discusses the term integration in terms of sonic symbols. He says that "music integrates a variety of musical forms and the many disparate experiences of the audience into one symbolic synthesis, while erasing any reference to prior divisions" (239). Sonic symbols, according to both Burke and Overall, "lack the linguistic material of 'the negative'" (239). This is how sonic identification is problematized for Burke. If there is no negative present in sonic identification, there can be no division.

Joel Overall skillfully weaves Burke's theories of identification into sonic rhetorics. His contention that Burke's contribution emphasizes "the fragile nature of sound, meaning, and division in sonic symbols" (240) is articulated through his use of Burke's work as a music critic and his involvement in the Nazi Germany music scene. Overall's work is relevant today as the field of sonic rhetorics continues to grow, and hopefully Burkean concepts will continue to open the field.

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