Dramatistic Textbooks

Edappel8@cs.com Edappel8 at cs.com
Fri Mar 23 14:54:14 EST 2001

No, no, class, Gusfield's Symbols and Society is NOT a textbook.  It has a 
superb 49-page lead-in to Burke's thought, especially geared to the field of 
sociology, but more than useful as a general introduction to 
dramatism/logology for the uninitiated.  Now, if Gusfield had provided a 
commentary on each of the 22 selections he made from Burke's corpus, or at 
least commentaries for each of the six major divisions he's put those 
readings in, along with some questions and exercises, then I'd say he had 
produced something akin to a dramatistic textbook.

So as of the moment, we're still looking for a textbook for courses on Burke, 
or for courses  in, say, English or communication or sociology or what have 
you that are offered with a distinctively Burkean take.

Now if I were writing a textbook of one of these types--a highly unlikely 
conceit, I will admit--but IF I WERE, I'd stitch one together for a general 
course in English literature, communication, and composition.  I'd give it a 
title, oh, something like this: Language, Literature, and Rhetoric as 
Dramatic Action: A Burkean Approach to the Study and Invention of English 

Now, what would be the main constructs I'd take from the many, many, many 
notions Burke treats of in his fertile meanderings?  Being of simple mind, I 
would highlight and apply the "toolbox" formulaic stuff that Burkean 
sophisticates disdain.  I would start with the hexad, then segue into the 
terms implicit in the idea of order, then synthesize the two paradigms in the 
cartoon-level, fit-all-finger formula I posted on this very list several 
months ago.  This hybrid pattern of verbal action would serve as the basis of 
the text and course as a whole.  As I harangued you a couple of years ago: 
The ultimate form and pattern of linguistic utterance that results from the 
trajectory of implications begun by the general, content-parts-of-speech 
pattern of verbal action found in the definitions of nouns, verbs, 
adjectives, and adverbs (the hexad, merely implicitly moral), is the 
explicitly moral pattern of verbal action found in discourse about 
distinctively human activities: religious, legal, political, social, 
educational, economic, even scientific (the terms for order, a.k.a. the terms 
of the guilt-redemption cycle).

Next, by way of further introduction, being not only of simple mind but also 
perverse enough to want to confuse undergraduates in particular and dabblers 
of any kind in general, I'd follow up, before the "application" part of the 
tome, with several "little lower layer" chapters.  I'd expatiate 
pendantically on the "negativity of dramatic action," the "theology of 
dramatic action," and the "anthropology of dramatic action."  By the end of 
Chapter 6, student readers would be so thoroughly grounded in Burkology, or 
so completely confounded by it, they couldn't wait to delve into the selected 
texts in English or American literature, or march to the registrar's office 
to alter their course load.

Chapters 4, 5, and 6 would, of course, stress the negative of command, the 
motive of perfection, and transcendental moral purpose as grounding ideas for 
any construction of language, literature, and discourse in general as 
dramatic action.

The following chapter or two or three would apply my droll, cartoon-level, 
fit-all-finger pattern of dramatic action to the analysis of such literary 
standards as, say, Moby Dick, the Scarlet Letter, the Glass Menagerie, and 
Our Town--by way of exemples.  Only here, in addition to having students 
answer the questions, and other queries they suggest, that I posted in 
respect to each of the five stages or features of dramatic action in my 
synthetic paradigm, I'd introduce, in addition, the notion of cluster/agon 
analysis.  The second stage of the drama, none of you will recall, I 
languaged like this:

    Look for: the guilt-obsessed actor vs. a guilty opponent (the who did it, 
does it, or will do it of the dramatic action)

What I would do is expand on this moment of drama in the following fashion:

    Look for: the guilt-obsessed actor, along with the attributes, 
properties, things, or qualities that are associated with her or with her 
side; and the guilty opponent, along with the attributes, properties, things, 
or qualities that are associted with him or his side.  That is, look for the 
"what goes with what" and the "what vs. what" by way of discovering the main 
axis of conflict in the work.  These clusters of "associations" will come by 
way of predication, synonymy, parallelism, juxtaposition, comparison, 
contrast, opposition, metaphor, etc.  They will congeal in a work explicitly 
and implicitly.

A chicken pie just came out of the oven and I'd like to eat it.  Maybe I'll 
get back to this flight of fancy again later, and maybe I won't.

I'll conclude with this bellowing cheer, with half-hearted, only 
half-hearted, apologies to PSU Jack:

Go Owls!


More information about the KB mailing list