[KB] Conversation Editing Redux 3

Leslie Bruder bruderian at gmail.com
Tue Jan 24 03:36:53 EST 2017

When Burke talks about a grammar concerned with the basic forms of thought
exemplified in the attribution of motives I have to believe he is not only
referring to verbal forms of thought, but also to any and all forms of
expression. Burke is a word-man so the pentad is primarily verbal, but so
much of his thinking deals with form, with images, with figures of thought
and action that it is no stretch at all to view the pentad as a ritualistic
device that aides in the conversion of the literal into the figurative, the
figurative into the imagistic, the imagistic into the sonic, the concrete,
etc. The figure of the wheel is implied in the call to round out our
statements of motives, and whether it is a wheel of cheese, a pie, a cake
or the somewhat more spherical roast beast, all may be carved up in
numerous ways, some better than others.  Does a wheel have an optimum
number of spokes, five, six (with attitude), seven (with Trouble), no
spokes like a wheel in the sky, or an infinite number of spokes like a
solid disk or a starburst?  All we can do is try them all and see for
ourselves.  To test a theory we no doubt need to perform a few experiments
or simulations.  The trajectory from grammar, logic, rhetoric to drama or
symbolic action likewise points rather drastically beyond the written
toward the oral tradition of storytelling and enactment.

I have been challenged lately with sorting the Jungian archetypal criticism
from the Judeo-Christian Science buried in Burke’s thought and with an
exploration of ritual drama in Native North American Indian mythology and
spiritual traditions.  Along the way I came across Ananda K.
Coomaraswamy’s *Figures
of Speech or Figures of Thought* (1946):

“The most immediately significant point…is that of the artist’s priestly or
ministerial function.  The original intention of intelligible forms was not
to entertain us, but literally to re-mind us; the chant is not for the
approval of the ear, or the picture for that of the eye (although these
senses can be taught to approve the splendor of truth, and can be trusted
when they have been trained), but to effect such a transformation of our
being as is the purpose of all ritual acts.  It is, in fact, the ritual
arts that are the most ‘artistic,’ because the most ‘correct,’ as they must
be if they are to be effectual.” (28).

As I read these words they appear to corroborate Burke’s contribution to
rhetoric, specifically his ideas about identification.  The ritualistic and
performative nature of identification seems to complement Plato’s and
Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric as “the art of giving effectiveness to
truth.”  Just as “killing” is seen in the Rhetoric of Motives as symbolic
of transformation, I thought Jerome S. Bruner’s notion of “trouble” might
be pointing in the same direction.  Phillip Tompkins suggested “trouble”
might be located within the agent.  I previously speculated that until
desire encounters an obstacle there is no conflict or “trouble” or drama.

Let me dip briefly into the popular fiction of one of America’s favorite
storytellers and then I’ll hit the sack.  “It was battle that paid off,
battle was the beginning and the end of a soldier’s life.  The Apache, the
greatest guerrilla fighter the world ever knew, had never heard of
close-order drill or any kind of training except in fighting and
surviving.”  (L’Amour *Shalako*).  If killing can symbolize transformation
then certainly struggle, conflict, the fight is quite literally the process
of transformation.   This is not exactly a profound statement, but the
fight for the survival of a way of life, even if lost, may have only driven
it temporarily underground, especially if it is effective and uniquely
adjusted to nature.  As Martin E. Marty summarizes in the forward to Ake
Hultkrantz’s *Shamanic Healing and Ritual Drama*, “...health, medicine and
religion taken together made up a coherent and credible system.  It enabled
Native Americans to live in a relationship to the environment in a way that
did not lead to exploitation or exhaustion of that natural setting.”


On Sat, Jan 21, 2017 at 4:32 PM, Phillip Tompkins <tompkinp at colorado.edu>

> Colleagues,
>      I have been reading this exchange about “trouble” in the Pentad and
> perhaps other constructs that Burke left us.  It seems to me that the
> “trouble” is located mainly in the agents, and that reminded me of a
> written exchange I had with KB.  In the 1970s I taught a freshman-level
> course in rhetoric and communication at what is now called the University
> at Albany.  I began with the Definition of [Hu]man; the audio-visual people
> on campus achieved a work of art illustrating it with sounds and sights.
> Students applauded it.  I sent a printed copy of it to KB in the hope we
> could persuade him to visit our campus.
>     “Thank you most cordially,” his typewritten letter of November 16,
> 1974 began, “for your letter about my ‘Definition of Man’ and the
> charmingly picturesque representation.”  The second paragraph explained his
> delay in responding to my letter.  The third paragraph began this way:
>      “I might get at the point by saying that I have been thinking of
> inserting one more clause in my Definition.  Probably between ‘goaded by
> the spirit of Hierarchy’ and ‘rotten with perfection,’ I’d add ‘acquiring
> foreknowledge of death.’  It seems to be a notable distinctive aspect of
> human motivation.  And maybe, in the last analysis, it is subsumed under
> the term ‘perfection,’ in the somewhat ironic sense that, etymologically,
> the ‘perfect’ is the ‘consummated,’ the ‘finished.’”
>      This foreknowledge is located in the Agent, of course, where other
> problems may be found.  KB went on to say that the thought of death had not
> crept up on him in old age; “for thoughts of death exercised me most when I
> was a child.”  This letter has always meant to me that KB did not want us
> to take his writings as “rotten with perfection,” that he saw ways of
> improving how he had expressed his basic ideas.  That means that we can
> enter into the small drama of finding problems in that work, i.e., agency,
> and trying to solve them.
>      Sincerely,
>      Phil
> *From:* KB [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org] *On Behalf Of *Edward C Appel
> *Sent:* Friday, January 20, 2017 2:17 PM
> *To:* kb at kbjournal.org
> *Subject:* [KB] Conversation Editing Redux 3
> Burkophiles,
>           Thanks to Jim and Les for the ponderable points they raise. Will
> get to them later. Want to keep on the trajectory I’ve begun.
>           Continuing on with my “troublesome” reading of Burke:
>           In addition to Burke’s explicit, if elliptical, fastening of the
> pentad to the manifest “Trouble,” as I see it, suffusing the terms of the
> guilt-redemption cycle (in “Terministic Screens”), Burke, in his
> “collage-like” way (Tilly Warnock’s descriptive for Burke’s quirky style),
> performs the same operation even more nonlinearly in his introduction to
> the order terms in* RR*. Note in particular pages 180-188 in the chapter,
> “The First Three Chapters of Genesis.” These are the pages that come just
> before and just after Burke’s famous chart, “Cycle of Terms Implicit in the
> Idea of ‘Order’” (p. 184). Just prior to introducing those guilt-redemption
> terms in elaborated form, Burke harks back to the pentad in order to show
> its inadequacy, by itself, for giving a full picture of “verbal action.”
> Burke says, on page 180, “The most general starting point for the
> Dramatistic cycle of terms would be in the term ‘act.’” Burke goes on to
> reference “the many kinds of ‘rationally’ purposive motion” that might
> implicitly follow from the idea of an “act.” One example: God’s act of
> Creation.
>           However, Burke says, this “general,” high-abstraction start for
> the “Dramatistic cycle of terms” would, by itself, “not serve our present
> purpose,” which will be putting “stress upon ‘sin’ or ‘guilt.’ Frankly, it
> [the pentad] would not be morbid enough.”
>           Morbid: etymologically, diseased. “Of, relating to, or
> characteristic of disease. Abnormally susceptible to or characterized by
> gloomy or unwholesome feelings” (the *Collegiate*, p. 807).
>           How, once again, did Burke describe that “route” down which the
> notion of an “act,” and therefore all the other “general” pentadic terms
> the notion of an “act” inevitably suggests, that “route” toward, also, on
> presumably a less-general level of abstraction---how did Burke language
> that slippery slope downward that “always” draws us on to, or efforts to
> withstand or guard against, some measure or intensity of “conflict” and
> “victimage,” i.e., full-fledged “drama”? It is the “gloomy route,” the
> “morbid” route, some manifestation of the endemic “disease” of human
> symbolism.
>           “Morbid[ity],” “disease”: analogous terms for “Trouble” in
> Burke’s “reenvisioning,” if you will,
>           On p. 17 in *PLF*, Burke invokes “disease” as literally
> construed, yes, but also, I think, as metaphor, equivalent to the “burden”
> or “discomfiture” that Burke indicates serves as, what, the “trouble” (?)
> that initiates one’s drama. Burke goes on, then, to articulate this general
> axiom of dramatic criticism: “. . . The true locus of assertion is not in
> the DISEASE [initiating conflict, complication, violation, burden,
> “Trouble”], but in the STRUCTURAL POWERS by which the poet encompasses it”
> [read: victimage, sacrifice, of self or other or both]” (p. 18, emphasis in
> original).
>           Disease or “sickness,” with its “symptoms,” as Burke’s terms,
> metaphorically employed or not, for the “Trouble” that prompts and
> exacerbates human dramatic conflict is highlighted in both endings of the
> *Grammar* (pp. 317, 443).  Hence Burke’s prescription for
> “hypochondriasis” as salubrious ATTITUDE or regimen for coping with such
> symptoms, if not “curing” this endemic epidemic. “Hypochondriasis: the
> attitude of a patient who makes peace with his [sic] symptoms by becoming
> interested in them.”
>           In explaining in *RR* the operations of the guilt-redemption
> terms, Burke cannot get away from use of the pentad/hexad, nor can anyone
> else. The two paradigms of action are inextricably related in general
> discussion. Only by studied abstraction can the pentad be so detached,
> isolated, and employed for critical use. See especially p. 188 in *RR*
> for such an integrated usage.
>           Here’s the thing, though, that dawns on me in respect to the
> article in question in the *KBJ*. The authors are, as I see it, surely
> right that “Trouble,” no matter how it’s phrased, drives the drama. But,
> also, they are calling attention, perhaps indirectly, but still calling
> attention, to a seemingly huge lacuna in the case Burke makes in the
> *Grammar*. What in the foregoing text prepares us for, especially, the
> first ending, the one that comes after the “Philosophic Schools”? Where is
> the “Trouble” in the *Grammar* that explains Burke’s conclusion that
> symbolic facility should be likened to a “sickness” that fosters “absurd
> ambitions” that are dangerous for humankind and likely unstoppable? As the
> authors suggest, such “Trouble” is not in the *Grammar* as carefully
> developed analysis. The negative, the motive of perfection, the terms for
> order thoroughly anatomized, theological impetus as master screen and
> temptation that, when immanentized in pursuit of some ultimate secular
> reverence in this imperfect world---i.e., “logology”---these later
> obsessions of Burke’s that would more clearly justify the dire warning
> Burke makes on pp. 317-20 are nowhere present in argumentative relevance,
> even in Burke’s brief treatment of the “negative” under “Agency and
> Purpose” (pp. 294-97).
>           For someone reading the *Grammar* in isolation, too much seems
> to be missing from that book to support something of a prologue to the
> Helhaven Papers of the early 1970s. Such a prologue is what Burke seems to
> be suggesting in those two endings to the *Grmmar*. The Helhaven Papers
> appear after the lineaments of logology have been drawn.
>           More later, perhaps, on the pentad as separate critical tool, on
> the ubiquity in Burke of the dramatic terms for order way BEFORE Burke gets
> to the *Grammar* and its airy pentad, and therefore the question, could
> the pentad be seen rather as the “reenvisioning” of the messy
> nitty-gritties of sacrifical drama?
>           Inquiring minds want to know.
>           Ed
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