[KB] Burke in Chicago

John Duffy John.M.Duffy.27 at nd.edu
Mon Jan 27 17:43:22 EST 2014

These are wonderful anecdotes!


From: <Weiser>, Elizabeth <weiser.23 at osu.edu<mailto:weiser.23 at osu.edu>>
Date: Monday, January 27, 2014 4:48 PM
To: David Blakesley <dblakes at clemson.edu<mailto:dblakes at clemson.edu>>, Clarke Rountree <rountrj at uah.edu<mailto:rountrj at uah.edu>>
Cc: "kb at kbjournal.org<mailto:kb at kbjournal.org>" <kb at kbjournal.org<mailto:kb at kbjournal.org>>
Subject: Re: [KB] Burke in Chicago

Hi Clarke. Only because it influenced his '40s writings, let me also just mention that he taught first at Chicago in the summer of '38, and as he wrote to Allen Tate in '42, "I haggled much" with the Chicago Neo-Aristotelians "the summer I taught there. And I worked out my methodology" for PLF (symbolic action) "in part under fire from them."


Elizabeth Weiser, PhD
Associate Professor, Rhetoric
Co-director, Professional Writing Minor
The Ohio State University
College of Arts and Sciences Department of English
244 Warner Center, 1179 University Drive, Newark, OH 43055
740-366-9175 Office
weiser.23 at osu.edu<mailto:weiser.23 at osu.edu> http://profmeweiser.com
From: kb-bounces at kbjournal.org<mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org> [kb-bounces at kbjournal.org<mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org>] On Behalf Of David Blakesley [dblakes at clemson.edu<mailto:dblakes at clemson.edu>]
Sent: Monday, January 27, 2014 11:13
To: Clarke Rountree
Cc: kb at kbjournal.org<mailto:kb at kbjournal.org>
Subject: Re: [KB] Burke in Chicago


It was the Autumn Quarter, 1949, at the invitation of Champ Ward, who'd received a Carnegie Foundation grant to help with Burke's salary. The course was "Humanities III." James Beasley's excellent Purdue dissertation covers all this in some depth ("A Prehistory of Rhetoric and Composition:
New Rhetoric and Neo-Aristotelianism at the University of Chicago, 1947-1959"). Susan Sontag was one of the students. I'll quote a few passages below that might interest Burkeians . . .


"When Kenneth Burke joined the staff in 1949, he was a regular participant in the weekly staff meetings. Through the course of the term, however, Burke found these meetings tedious, particularly the propensity of several of the staff to pontificate on matters mostly small. Burke exercised his position as Visiting Instructor to begin opting out of these meetings." (Beasley 62).

Susan Sontag was one of Burke's students and had this to say (qtd. in Beasely, 114-15):

Kenneth Burke was a great influence on me. I studied with him during my first year at Chicago, 1949-1950, when he was a visiting professor and was teaching a section of Humanities III. That was one of the courses I was required to take, and it was sheer luck that I was assigned to the section he taught.
I remember the first day. The man standing in front of the class looked ancient to me; he was probably all of forty-five. I was sixteen. He wrote “Mr. Burke” on the blackboard. Then he began talking about the approach to literary texts he would be using. I thought, “This sounds familiar.”
I’d already been reading Kenneth Burke on my own for several years—I read a lot of criticism and literary quarterlies. After class I went up to him and said, “Excuse me, Mr. Burke”—I was very shy and didn’t approach a teacher easily—“I hope you don’t mind my asking, but could you please tell me your first name?”
“Why do you ask?” he said. I have to explain that at that time Kenneth Burke was not famous. I mean, he was famous to a tiny literary coterie, but he certainly didn’t expect any undergraduate to know who he was.
                        I said, “Because I wondered if you might be Kenneth Burke.”
                        He said, “How do you know who I am?”
            “And I said, “Well, I’ve read Permanence and Change and The Philosophy of Literary Form and A Grammar of Motives, and I’ve read…”
                        He said, “You have?”
                        Another miracle.
            Burke was not a Chicago product—in fact, he’d never even gotten a B.A. But his approach confirmed the Chicago method of close reading. I remember we spent three months on one shortish novel of Conrad’s, Victory, reading and discussing it line by line (164; Sontag, Susan. "A Gluttonous Reader." An Unsentimental Education. Ed Molly McQuade. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Pp. 159-168).

On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:52 AM, Clarke Rountree <rountrj at uah.edu<mailto:rountrj at uah.edu><mailto:rountrj at uah.edu>> wrote:
Dear Burkelers:

Can someone tell me the exact semester Burke taught at the University of Chicago in the 1940s? And the title of his course? This is a stretch, but do we know who was in his seminar?



Dr. Clarke Rountree
Chair and Professor of Communication Arts
342 Morton Hall
University of Alabama in Huntsville
Huntsville, AL  35899
clarke.rountree at uah.edu<mailto:clarke.rountree at uah.edu><mailto:clarke.rountree at uah.edu>

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