[KB] Burke in Chicago

Edward C Appel edwardcappel at frontier.com
Tue Jan 28 10:22:29 EST 2014

Just to get this straight: Suaan Sontag was 16 years old when she started her freshman year at the U. of Chicago, and had already, before she even got there, read 3 of Burke's books?


On Mon, 1/27/14, John Duffy <John.M.Duffy.27 at nd.edu> wrote:

 Subject: Re: [KB] Burke in Chicago
 To: "Weiser, Elizabeth" <weiser.23 at osu.edu>, "David Blakesley" <dblakes at clemson.edu>, "Clarke Rountree" <rountrj at uah.edu>
 Cc: "kb at kbjournal.org" <kb at kbjournal.org>
 Date: Monday, January 27, 2014, 2:43 PM
 are wonderful anecdotes!
 From:  <Weiser>,
 Elizabeth <weiser.23 at osu.edu>
 Monday, January 27, 2014 4:48 PM
 To:  David Blakesley <dblakes at clemson.edu>,
 Clarke Rountree <rountrj at uah.edu>
 "kb at kbjournal.org"
 <kb at kbjournal.org>
  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
 Elizabeth Weiser,
 PhDAssociate Professor,
 RhetoricCo-director, Professional Writing
 MinorThe Ohio State UniversityCollege
 of Arts and Sciences Department of English244
 Warner Center, 1179 University Drive, Newark, OH
 43055740-366-9175 Officeweiser.23 at osu.edu
 kb-bounces at kbjournal.org
 [kb-bounces at kbjournal.org]
 On Behalf Of David Blakesley [dblakes at clemson.edu]Sent:
 Monday, January 27, 2014 11:13To: Clarke
 RountreeCc: kb at kbjournal.orgSubject:
 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).
 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
 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.
 On Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 10:52 AM,
 Clarke Rountree <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
 RountreeChair and Professor of Communication
 Arts342 Morton HallUniversity of
 Alabama in HuntsvilleHuntsville,
 AL  35899256-824-6646<tel:256-824-6646>clarke.rountree at uah.edu<mailto:clarke.rountree at uah.edu>
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