[KB] Conversation Editing Redux 2

Phillip Tompkins tompkinp at Colorado.EDU
Sun Jan 29 19:15:44 EST 2017


     I think I have found a coincidence that you will find amusing and
perhaps instructive.  We have been immersed in conversation about Drama's
"problems."  Quite by accident while checking out a question about
Shakespeare,  I saw a reference to the "problem-plays" of our greatest
dramatist.  I have to admit that I then Googled the topic to find out that
the expression is attributed to "critic F.S. Boas in Shakespeare and his
Predecessors (1896), deriving from a type of drama that was popular at the
time of Boas' writing."   

     "In these problem plays the situation faced by the protagonist is put
forward by the author as a representative of a contemporary social problem."
It does seem clear to me that most dramas are built around personal problems
that the protagonist must face.  When that problem is also social in nature
our agents are caught up in scenes with different, far more complicated

     I recall that KB himself took pride in having talked or written in the
1930's about a little fellow in science called "ecology," making the
prediction it would become more important in the future.  It is now a social
problem made even more salient, among others, by our new Problem.

Reporting from Denver,





From: KB [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org] On Behalf Of Edward C Appel
Sent: Thursday, January 19, 2017 10:54 AM
To: kb at kbjournal.org
Subject: [KB] Conversation Editing Redux 2




          First off, let's go to where Burke explicitly, if elliptically
(that's Burke's style, right?), ties his pentad to the "Trouble" that is
inherent in what Burke labels the "Iron Law of History," humankind's
lamentable addiction to the guilt-sacrifice-redemption cycle. The terms
Burke employs here, as implicit in the pentad, are analogous to the word
"Trouble," or can be subsumed under its general heading: "drama,"
"conflict," and "victimage." "Drama" and "conflict" are inseparably related.
Merriam-Webster's defines "drama" as "a state, situation, or series of
events" having a "serious tone" and "involving interesting or intense
conflict of forces" (the Collegiate, Eleventh Edition, p. 378). The simplest
definition of "drama" I use in the Primer is, moral conflict to set right a
situation gone wrong, or prevent a situation from going wrong. Symbolizers
are always on the edge of full-fledged drama, rule violation, failure to
live up to expectations, leading to "conflict." That's why there's
surveillance, in the family, in school, in the workplace, in the community,
in the Garden of Eden before the Fall---everywhere, even before a big-time
violation of the rule or rules that undergird the established hierarchal
structure in those venues occurs.


          Here's how Burke vouchsafes that trajectory from the pentad to the
potentially dire "Trouble" given shape by the cycle of terms implicit in the
idea of order:


          "There is a gloomy route, of this sort: If ACTION is to be our key
term, then DRAMA; for drama is the culminative form of action (this is a
variant of the 'perfection' principle discussed in the previous chapter
[culmination: the climax of the trajectory]. But if DRAMA, then CONFLICT.
And if CONFLICT, then VICTIMAGE. Dramatism is always [note: ALWAYS] on the
edge of this vexing problem [read: TROUBLE], that comes to a culmination in
tragedy, the song of the scapegoat [see Leviticus, Chapter 16, on the
function of the "scapegoat" on the Day of Atonement in Ancient Israel, and
Burke's congruent description of that function in "The Dialectic of the
Scapegoat," Grammar, pp. 406-408]" ("Terministic Screens," LASA, pp. 54-55,
emphasis in original).


          "Perfection" in Burke is analogous to "entelechy," "the
actualization of form-giving cause as contrasted with potential existence ,
. . . an inherent regulating and directing force . . . ." Meriam-Webster's,
p. 416. See, also, DD, Appendix A, pp. 57-58.


          Which is to say, anytime you see an actor performing an action for
some purpose, employing certain means or steps or stages in attempting to
achieve that end, in response to necessarily scenic or situational
pressures, rules, or constraints, look for a troublesome conflict of some
kind, actual or potential, driving that action, however overtly or subtly.
Warding off possible "trouble" in the form of feared "conflict" and its
likely victimizing consequences is as dramatic as acting to overcome them.


          I remember taking college Shakespeare way back when. Professor
Bomberger made us diagram selected plays we were not able to get to in
class. "Rising action" began with what we were to label the initial
"complication." Call it just as readily the opening "conflict" or "trouble."
No human action in real life, or in literary or theatrical drama, happens
without that "gloomy" route, of lesser degree (comedy) or more (say,
burlesque, melodrama, or tragedy) lurking as threat up ahead.


          Next: The "Trouble" initiating "drama" (as the end-result of
pentadic implications) as "morbid[ity]" or "sickness" requiring
"hypochondriasis" as program of intervention and melioration.






          P.S. After my first post on this matter, I received a reply from a
subscriber. I responded to the post by hitting "reply" rather than "reply
all," thinking that would send the message only to the respondent in
question. If that reply went out to all subscribers to the list, I
apologize. It contained private information not for general posting. I've
changed the title of this thread so as to be sure not to repost that private

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