Elitism, Original Debt and a Pulp Fiction Manifesto

Leslie Bruder LBruder at elcabop.org
Tue Mar 27 15:58:43 EST 2001

We undergrads perhaps ask unpolished questions, when we ask at all.  Ed's
textbook seems like it has material which the newcomer can digest as well as
material which the seasoned Burkofile would not become bored with.  All of
this is tongue in cheek, of course.  If we have Linux for Dummies and Sex
for Dummies why not Dramatism for Dummies?  How about a children's version
of Crime and Punishment or Moby Dick; Martha Stewart for BagLadies; or
Little Orange Bibles for Freeloaders in Soup Lines?  A little sermon first
and then you can heave ho on the canned potatoes.  I don't think Jerry Ross
was seriously poking fun at Ed; nor do I think Ed or Herb or James Klumpp
mean to criticize the undergraduate when they drop down a notch or two in
their vocabulary.  The spirit remains overall that of mutual education and

That said, I want to address the ritual aspect of Dramatism, especially how
it relates to the redemption cycle.  As a guilt-obsessed actor and dabbler
in language effects I find that I often write to ritualistically right
perceived wrongs.  Unable to change things here and now I perhaps settle for
representing a righteous (and symbolic) revenge which for the moment clears
my conscience.  Ed's Fit-All-Finger Paradigm of Dramatic Essence goes along
way toward simplifying the writer's craft.  I wonder if anyone has heard of
a Volume entitled PLOTTO which was circulating in the 20's and 30's among
contributers of Street and Smith and other pulp fiction publishing houses?
Apparently it was a catalog of all possible plot constructions in algebraic
symbols.  Afficionados used it to produce the next 10 cent drama.  Kenneth
Burke seems a likely candidate for its authorship.  I read Burke for just
this type of instruction: to become a deeper and significant dramatist, not
just to become an entertainer or a theoretician.  

The very desire and effort to be eloquent, if I understand Burke, is a
ritual of redemption the artist or dramatist is carrying out.  Above and
beyond any particular wrong to which the individual is responding there is
the very generalized condition (which some of us guilt-obsessed actors out
there resent) of inherited sin.   It appears that the actor knows (if only
unconsciously) of his *fallen* condition, that of being cast down into the
hell of words and expelled from the pristine heaven of the WORD, and is
trying to regain or retake that former perfection by choosing his words
carefully and with a view to beautiful and powerful effects.  

As a Wannabee Winabego who has a tendency to swarm all over the classroom,
providing the professor with his or her quarterly example of "enthusiam," I
would like to make a few comments about Burke's take on language users and
the condition of man.  

Imagine an artist performing his encomium to language; he celebrates
language and explores its many facets and possibilities.  Along comes Dr.
Grim who diagnoses the writer as guilt-ridden and in need of redemption.
Like the Little Drummer Boy all the writer has is his song, his pen, his
drum, and he wonders if it is enough.  He may even feel a little cheap and
guilty that a song is ALL he has and feel further confirmed in his pathetic
condition.  If the Dr. only hadn't come along with his diagnosis.  A
celebration has turned into mourning, into confession and penitence; it has
turned into a prayer.  But what if Dr. Grim was wrong, the artist thinks, if
only partially wrong?  "Would I have felt a lack if the Doctor hadn't come

Is the artist not trying to regain paradise not by atoning for HIS sin but
simply by ascending into the heights of artistic creation?  No sin; no
fallen state.  There is art and there is economics, there is the jungle and
there are churches or refuges from the jungle.  

It goes without saying too: no paradise.  At most there is the secular
paradise of artistic creation...and of theoretical sophistication.

 I would like to be redeemed from the redemption cycle, from the begged and
so-called fallen state; I would like to be saved from those who insist I
need to be saved.  In this case the guilt-ridden condition is coming from
some human authority who "said so" and is not some fact of nature.  If I
want to be free from this unnatural guilt and voice my concern I suppose you
may say that I only feed back into the redemption cycle, still feel outraged
with the false accusation, and insist that the church or the authority drop
the charges.  It seems that the imputation of original sin is the original
act of scapegoating itself and since we're all being scapegoated by our
sacred texts man and woman has turned around and scapegoated certain members
of this scapegoated race, the criminal, the weak, the dumb, and the perfect;
I suppose we do this in order to lift from ourselves this original
imputation, as if we could save ourselves.  The only thing we need to be
saved from, besides each other, is our own ignorance.  We don't need
redemption...just a bit of education...and a vacation from the social jungle
and its cyclical game of musical chairs.

If we can't divest ourselves of Original and Inherited Debt then what is the
point of artistic production and entertainment?  Any Theologians out there
want to entertain the notion that there is no sin?

Leslie B

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