Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950-1955

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Parlor Press LLC, 2007 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 315 pages
In August, 1959, an anxious William Rueckert wrote Kenneth Burke to ask, "When on earth is that perpetually 'forthcoming' A Symbolic of Motives forthcoming? Will it be soon enough so that I can wait for it before I complete my book [Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations]? If the Symbolic is not forthcoming soon, would it be too much trouble for you to send me a list of exactly what will be included in the book, and some idea of the structure of the book?" Burke replied, "Holla! If you're uncomfortable, think how uncomfortable I am. But I'll do the best I can. . . ." In the course of their long correspondence, the nature of the Symbolic--Burke's much-anticipated third volume in his Motivorum trilogy-vexed both men, and they discussed its contents often. Ultimately, Burke left the job of pulling it all together to Rueckert. Forty-eight years after they first discussed the Symbolic, Rueckert has fulfilled his end of the bargain with this book, Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950--1955. ESSAYS TOWARD A SYMBOLIC OF MOTIVES, 1950¬-1955 contains the work Burke planned to include in the third book in his Motivorum trilogy, which began with A Grammar of Motives (1945) and A Rhetoric of Motives (1950). In these essays-some of which appear here in print for the first time-Burke offers his most precise and elaborated account of his dramatistic poetics, providing readers with representative analyses of such writers as Aeschylus, Goethe, Hawthorne, Roethke, Shakespeare, and Whitman. Following Rueckert's Introduction, Burke lays out his approach in essays that theorize and illustrate the method, which he considered essential for understanding language as symbolic action and human relations generally. Burke concludes with a focused account of humans as symbol-using and misusing animals and then offers his tour de force reading of Goethe's Faust. About the Author KENNETH BURKE (1897-1993) is the author of many books, including the landmark predecessors in the Motivorum trilogy: A Grammar of Motives (1945) and A Rhetoric of Motives (1950). He has been hailed as one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth century and possibly the greatest rhetorician since Cicero. Paul Jay refers to him as "the most theoretically challenging, unorthodox, and sophisticated of twentieth-century speculators on literature and culture." Geoffrey Hartman praises him as "the wild man of American criticism." According to Scott McLemee, Burke may have "accidentally create[d] cultural studies." About the Editor William H. Rueckert, the "Dean of Burke Studies," has authored or edited numerous groundbreaking books and articles on Kenneth Burke, including the landmark study, Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations (1963, 1982). His correspondence with Burke was collected in Letters from Kenneth Burke to William H. Rueckert, 1959-1987 (Parlor, 2003). His most recent book is Faulkner From Within-Destructive and Generative Being in the Novels of William Faulkner (Parlor, 2004).

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Contents

First chapter
5
Index
311
Back cover
316
Copyright

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Page 282 - Take but degree away, untune that string, And, hark! what discord follows; each thing meets In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores, And make a sop of all this solid globe: Strength should be lord of imbecility And the rude son should strike his father dead...
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Page 223 - Shakespeare included, are poisonous to the idea of the pride and dignity of the common people, the lifeblood of democracy. The models of our literature, as we get it from other lands, ultramarine, have had their birth in courts, and bask'd and grown in castle sunshine; all smells of princes
Page 81 - Laughter, when out of place, mistimed, or bursting forth from a disordered state of feeling, may be the most terrible modulation of the human voice. The laughter of one asleep, even if it be a little child, the madman's laugh, the wild, screaming laugh of a born idiot, are sounds that we sometimes tremble to hear and would always willingly forget. Poets have imagined no utterance of fiends or hobgoblins so fearfully appropriate as a laugh.

About the author (2007)

Born in Pittsburgh, Burke was educated at Ohio State and Columbia universities. During his early career, he became involved with a number of little magazines, including Broom and Secession. He also wrote for The Dial and The Nation as a music critic. His greatest fame, however, has been as a literary critic. Omnivorously eclectic, Burke has found in the analysis of human symbolic activities a key to the largest cultural issues. For Burke, literature is the most prominent and sophisticated form of "symbolic action," one that provides "equipment for living" by allowing us to try out hypothetical strategies for dealing with the endless variety of human situations and experiences. Human society demands some principle of order, but the language and reason that create order can fall into rigid abstractions that can be destructive and violently imposed. Literature shows us an image of sacrifice, forgiveness, and flexibility that plays an important role in keeping society functioning flexibly. Burke's writing is extensive, complex and wide ranging, but also unique and uniquely important among current critical approaches.

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