[KB] Editing Redux

Edward C Appel edwardcappel at frontier.com
Tue Jan 24 13:33:02 EST 2017

Jim M,

          There’sno doubt that Burke did not invent or first discover and explore the “Trouble”or “conflict” inherent in drama. Such analysis has been around for a long, longtime, as we know.


          Thanksfor those quotes from your letter from Burke back in the 1970s. The more we getgeneral access to those more informal statements of Burke’s, the better. Thenotion of Burke urging a further “perfecting” of his philosophy by his readersand interpreters is both encouraging and characteristic of his style of thoughtand composition.


          Yousay you basically agree with me. I say I basically agree with you. In sayingthat I agree with the way you characterize the pentad and its function is tosay, also, that I agree with the authors of the “Trouble[some]” article in the KBJ on that score. They can’t find“Trouble” in the Grammar. There’s no need for “Trouble,” i.e.,the “conflict” of full-fledged drama and all its consequences, to be in the Grammar. These “basic forms of[pentadic] thought,” as Burke calls them, for “attributing motives,” derived asStan says from the grammar of language itself, can be used on what Burkeindicates is a “general,” high level of abstraction to bring to the surface ina discourse the motivational strategies at work to finesse listeners andreaders into concerted action. Those twists, feints, and sleights of hand maynot be apparent on the surface.

          WhatI disagree with in the KBJ article inquestion is the authors’ broader statement that “Trouble” is not to be foundanywhere in Burke’s corpus, that, indeed, this implicit and ultimatelynecessary dramatic concept should be attributed to Jerome Bruner, as Bruner hasinterpreted and employed Burke. Various terms and uses of the “Trouble[some]”guilt-sacrifice-redemption cycle are scattered throughout Burke’s earlywritings, and then in more detailed anatomical analysis, starting at least inBurke’s Princeton conference paper (1951), published as an appendix to the 2ndedition of P&C in 1954. Thechapter, “The First Three Chapters of Genesis,” in RR, we surely know, brings this trajectory to a most thoroughgoingconclusion.

          Now,in my Primer, I do two relevantthings: In the first three chapters, I show, I do believe, how theguilt-redemption cycle, or terms implicit in the idea of order, devolve fromthe pentad, or the basic grammar of language. Drama in all its aspects isimplicit in the language humans use even “trivially,” as Burke says early in RR, the book that brings this trajectoryof implications into full view, ifelliptically. I entitled Chapter 1 in the Primer, “The General, Implicitly MoralPattern of Verbal Action”; Chapter 2, “The Specific, Explicitly Moral Patternof Verbal Action”; Chapter 3, “A Paradigm for Invention of Discourse andAnalysis of Texts That Combines the Two Patterns.” This generic pattern thenbrcomes the basis for distinguishing Burke’s notions of “tragic” drama, “comic”drama, and “burlesque” drama, by way of various levels of dramatic intensity. Iadd my conception of “melodrama,” about which Burke does not have as much tosay.

In my Addendum 3, Iexplain, in my humble way, how the pentad can be detached from the trajectoryof implications Burke explicitly offers in “Terministic Screens” in LASA, and used as a “Separate CriticalTool.” I highlight three aspects of Burke’s creative employment of thesefundamental grammatical concepts:

First, in discurse, asin philosophies, one pentadic term, one of these basic forms of thought, tendsto get emphasized. I tie this tendency to Burke’s notions of “perfection” or“entelechy.”

Second, another pentadicterm will often be coupled with this source of overarching explanation in whatBurke calls a “ratio.”

Third, these basicforms of thought that imply one another are, in each case, not tied down to anyparticular entities or processes whatsoever. Pentadic terms are eminently“flexible.” I use “war” and the “human body” to show how they each can be anagent, act, purpose, means, or scene, depending on the route of strategicambiguity a rhetor chooses. Burke’s metaphor of the “alembic” of transformationvia the melting of metal serves as descriptive such strategic transformation. Ireference Clark Rountree’s superb book on “Motives in Bush vs. Gore” asillustration.

So I don’t think I’mstinting on the value and uniqueness of pentadic theory and criticism. I justhave not personally used it. I excuse that lacuna by reference to my admittedly“morbid” personality. That’s what Burke says is the drawback in pentadic theoryand criticism alone. It’s not MORBID enough. And “morbid[ity]” is “Trouble”!

All this raises theissue of late Burke in relation to early Burke. My simple mind sees morecongruities than dislocations between Burke before the 1950s, and Burke afterthe turn of the half-century.

But time’s up fortoday. That question for later.







    On Monday, January 23, 2017 4:57 PM, James Klumpp <jklumpp at umd.edu> wrote:

 I am not certain that I disagree at all with Ed Appel.  But I do think 
that we err when we try to overburden the pentad by loading all Burkean 
insights on it.  Trouble is one of those.  We need to remember that the 
pentad was a vocabulary designed to work with variety of accounts.  
"This book is concerned with the basic forms of thought which, in 
accordance with the nature of the world as all men experience it, are 
exemplified in the attributing of motives. . . We shall use five terms 
as generating principle for our investigation.  In a rounded statement 
about motives . . ."  Now when we accomplish this task of understanding 
the ways in which the symbol using animal attributes motives, provides 
symbolic accounts of situations, we have not said all that is to be 
said.  Very well. Why does the pentad need to capture all of the world's 
insight?  Let Ed say that the dramatistic process is necessary to a 
fuller statement about diachronic narrative (and to human conflict).  I 
am fine with that.  I agree.  And, drama is a natural metaphor because, 
Burke argues elsewhere, the state of Babel creates disorder and 
conflict, as Jim Moore adds.  But let us not lose sight of the necessary 
work that the pentad does so well -- illuminating the variety of motives 
that mark the Babel of human speech.  Let it do that work well and let 
other insights take that necessary work and proceed further in the human 

In short, the addition of Trouble into the pentad does not enhance its 
ability to clarify accounts, in my judgment.  Save the insights that 
flow from Trouble and the many other terms of disorder that Ed has 
cataloged for a fuller discussion of the rich complex of terminologies 
of which the pentad is one.  Let the humble pentad do its work well.  If 
we do, I think that we will have less chance of losing the point that 
the pentad was posited for in the first place: to capture ways that 
symbolic accounts carve up the world differently.

Jim Klumpp

James F. Klumpp, Professor Emeritus
Department of Communication, University of Maryland
409 Upper Haw Dr., Mars Hill, NC 28754
Email: jklumpp at umd.edu
Voice: 828.689.4456
Website: http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~jklumpp/home.htm

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