[KB] Footnote to archive of Burke vs. Jameson (about 600-700) words)

wessr at oregonstate.edu wessr at oregonstate.edu
Tue Jun 21 12:16:28 EDT 2016

Fellow Burkeans:

This email footnotes a fine essay: David Tell, "Burke and Jameson:  
Reflections on Language, Ideology, and Criticism," in BURKE IN THE  
ed. Dana Anderson and Jessica Enoch, Columbia: U of South Carolina P,  
2013, pp. 66-83. This footnote adds to the archive on Burke's  
relationship with CRITICAL INQUIRY, one chapter in the larger story of  
his relationship with the University of Chicago.

The passage footnoted appears on page 71: Wess was "so provoked by  
Jameson's English Institute address that he immediately drafted his  
own response for CRITICAL INQUIRY (RW to KB December 7, 1982). . . .  
[T]he untimely death of Sheldon Sacks and the disruption this caused  
at CRITICAL INQUIRY prevented this response from being published."  
(I've posted this response at my site at academia.edu; more Burkeans  
might consider posting materials at academia.edu to add to the  
presence there of Burke scholarship).

One thing to add to Tell's account is that my response was not the  
only one. The letter I got from CRITICAL INQUIRY (CI) indicated that  
they had received "a number of other Critical Responses." While CI  
would normally limit discussion to the principals, Jameson and Burke,  
it was thinking of widening the discussion by including all these  
responses. Toward this end, I was asked to shorten my response. But  
then my shortened version was rejected for reasons that did not make  
sense because what was originally fine suddenly became not so fine. I  
took the liberty of writing back and did get a response: "I hope you  
will forgive what may strike you as somewhat vague assessments of what  
you have submitted, and understand it as the product of editorial  
considerations, many of which have little to do with the absolute  
value of your essay." Neither mine nor any of the other responses was  
published. Somewhere along the line, there appears to have been a  
change of mind that gave up the idea of publishing all the responses.

This change of mind occurred during a change in editors from Sheldon  
Sacks to W. J. T. Mitchell, occasioned by Sacks's death in 1979. All  
the letters I got were from Mitchell and all came during 1979; he was  
co-editor on the letterhead of the first letter, editor on the next  
two. Was the change in editors and the change of mind causal or  
coincidental? There is enough information to suggest that there may  
have been a causal connection, but not enough to be absolutely sure.

In correspondence, Burke did mention what he called "the QUIETUS that the
post-SS policies of CI imposed upon [him]," a remark prompted I  
believe by CI's rejection of his "Sensation, Memory, Imitation/and  
Story," something Booth regrets in his essay in Henderson and  
Williams's UNENDING CONVERSATONS (198). Under "SS policies," CI  
featured Booth's Burke essay as the first essay in the first issue  
(1974), along with Burke's response. It also published Burke's,  
"Post-Poesque Derivation of a Terministic Cluster" (4.2, 1977),  
"(Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic) Action" (4.4, 1978), a poem "A  
Critical Load, Beyond That Door . . ." (5.1, 1978) and, of course, his  
response to Jameson (5.2, 1978). CI was clearly very welcoming to  
Burke until it was not.

Also relevant is a Mitchell essay, "`CRITICAL INQUIRY' after Sheldon  
32-36). Burke is conspicuously absent from one sentence in which  
Mitchell is looking forward: "Contributors such as E. H. Gombrich,  
Nelson Goodman, Quentin Bell, Stanley Fish, and Jacques Barzun will  
continue to appear in our pages" (34). (Gombrich appeared in 2.3, 3.3,  
5.4; Goodman in 1.4; Bell in 1.1, 1.3, 2.3, 5.4; Fish in 1.4, 2.3,  
3.1, 4.4; Barzun in 1.3). Burke appears in only one sentence, but the  
reference is designed to make a point about Sacks, not Burke: "Kenneth  
Burke liked to begin his letters to Sheldon Sacks with the salutation,  
`Editorissimus!' and the superlative seemed perfectly appropriate to  
those who knew how much" passion and intellect Shelley invested in  
every issue."

For the record--


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