[KB] question about resistance to Burke

James F. Klumpp jklumpp at umd.edu
Tue Dec 4 15:26:22 EST 2007


Since you wanted anecdote, you get a story.

A number of years ago I attended a convention of the Eastern 
Communication Association and sat in on a panel about "The Role of 
Culture in Rhetoric."  The first paper went into a long argument on how 
Burke ignored culture which, the author contended, was an essential 
element of rhetoric.  The second paper made much the same move.  I sat 
there making notes about how wrong they were -- Malinowski, Duncan, 
Rhetoric of Hitler's Battle, Gusfield, etc., etc., etc. -- notes that I 
would use after the last of the papers to enlighten these naive young 
scholars.

After another dose of this, I began to ponder its source.  I remembered 
back to when I started doing Burkean criticism shortly after Ed Black's 
influential book had opened the possibility of alternative methods for 
criticism.  I remembered how we all began by attacking Aristotle.  I 
began to think through the similarity of the two moments.  In those 
days, we attacked Aristotle -- in some cases justly, in some cases not 
-- to make a space within which our voices could be heard.  He was the 
hegemony of the day.  These students at ECA were making a similar move, 
but there was a new hegemony.  Their attack on Burke, regardless of how 
bogus, opened a space for them to make the case for their ideas.

The assumptions that structure Burke's thought and that led us away from 
the Neo-Aristotelianism of an earlier era are now the air that we 
breathe.  The effort to make room for other voices will naturally need 
to open space within that hegemony.

-- 
James F. Klumpp
2130 Skinner
Department of Communication
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-7635
Email: jklumpp at umd.edu
Voice: 301.405.6520
FAX: 301.314.9471
Website: http://www.wam.umd.edu/~jklumpp/home.htm



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