[KB] Conversation Editing in Sum

Phillip Tompkins tompkinp at Colorado.EDU
Fri Feb 3 22:57:22 EST 2017


    I’ve enjoyed your theorizing out loud.  And your note that daughter Beth just attended a convention in Denver.  And liked it.  Yes, it is too bad about that little fellow “ecology.”  We live in a loft in downtown Denver.  In all directions we see derricks and cranes erecting more and more stories.  We still love it here but your comments reminded me of one of Burke’s poems.




Buildings should not be tall, that we be spared

The need to walk in gulches.  Of their pride

We are the squalor.  We the traffick-eyed

. . . . 



From: KB [mailto:kb-bounces at kbjournal.org] On Behalf Of Edward C Appel
Sent: Friday, February 03, 2017 6:45 PM
To: kb at kbjournal.org
Subject: [KB] Conversation Editing in Sum




Just a few more thoughts before letting go of Burke’s “Trouble[free],” basic grammar-related “reenvisioning”---may I put it that way?---of dramatism (see Stan Lindsay’s posts on how basic the quest for the roots of a “grammar of motives” can be).


For pentadic criticism, I like the suggested metaphors of the X-ray and/or the MRI as replacements for skeleton (from Les, I believe). The connotation of a more living, breathing, developing document seems to make for a better fit. That proposal is a useful outcome of our discussion. The MRI suggests visually the “from what,” “through what,” “to what” of PLF, as applied via the flexible and potentially transformative pentad.


I suggest the term “reenvisioning” as perhaps applicable to the Grammar, because it drains the blood (literally as well as figuratively) out of the full-fledged “drama” of both pre-logological and logological Burke (with the transition, as I see it, between 1950, with the Rhetoric, and 1951, with the Princeton paper and the articles on the negative in QJS in ’52 and ‘53).  Both “perfection” and the more thorough exploration and application of “Original Sin and Redemption,” and their relation to “Hierarchy” and social order, can be seen to commence in “On Human Behavior Considered ‘Dramatistically’” (Appendix, P&C, 2nd edition, 1954, the Princeton paper revised).


As for how closely or distantly related are the pentad and the terms for order, I obviously opt for close; others may opt for distant. Observe, though, that, even in his “Introduction: The Five Key Terms of Dramatism” (Grammar, pp. xv-xxiii), not just in that passage in “Terministic Screens” I already referenced, Burke says:


“And we shall note, in passing, how the Rhetoric [the locus of that rowdy “Trouble” of “the Human Barnyard,” Rhetoric, p. 23; see, also, p. 19 in the Rhetoric for a list of those “Troubles”] and the Symbolic hover about the edges of our central theme, the Grammar” (p. xviii).


That “vexing problem” that “Dramatism is always on the edge of” (LASA, p. 55), that “Trouble,” is always implicit in the terms of an utterance that names an act, a scene, an agent, an agency, and/or a purpose, in the discourses of our species (the “Symbolic Species,” as Terrence Deacon [1997] analogously calls us). For heuristic purposes, we can disjoin, but not totally eradicate, the implicit.


This “implicitness,” and Burke’s rather clear following through on it, is why I see late Burke, logological Burke, as not dislocative, but rather consistent, “entelechialized.” Sure, he didn’t write a book entitled A symbolic of Motives, as appeared to be his wont. And yes, that “book” on “identity,” “self-expression,” “modes of appeal and expression in the fine arts,” the “forms and method of art,” concern with “purely psychological or psychoanalytic matters,” was sort of downplayed into separate critical/theoretical essays of his in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and beyond. There’s a sharp break in Burke’s trajectory in that regard.


 But what Burke did do, book-wise, logology-wise, seems to me to have been a thorough implementation of one of Burke’s definitions of “logology” itself: Tracking down the implications of words in terms of the way in which they do our thinking for us via the kinds of “commonsense” observations and discriminations they suggest. The logological emphasis on the negative, the motive of perfection, the cycle of terms implicit in the idea of order, and theological drama as epistemic master screen (yes, Burke resonates with both “ironic” and “straight” readings of such) seems to me to be the entelechial flowering of what’s pivotal in ontological dramatism.


However, I think we’ve chewed over that one before.


Stan, best wishes on your new book!


Phil, daughter Beth got back from a conference in Denver the night before your post. She called it an “awesome” city. Too bad Burke’s near coinage, “Ecology” (ATH, p. 150 n), has suddenly become, under our new regime, an almost invisible “little fellow.”


Bob, Burke’s highlighting of non-“neutral” terms (for Burke, the only kind there is) as characters in a drama gets play, also, in ATH, p. 312.


Thanks for all the contributions to this thread. I think the pentad has been nuanced.


Back to my dogmatic slumbers.






P.S. Remember, you can’t really get to genre criticism with only the pentad, I don’t believe. You need full-bodied drama, with guilt-redemption.


Burke’s toolbox is chock-full.  I list 34 Burkean tools and/or concepts in my summary chapter in the Primer, and add one more in an Addendum, the paradox of pure substance. And there are more still.  To borrow phrasing from Tilly Warnock, Burke affords many, many “ways in, ways out, ways roundabout” for the analysis of discourse.  



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