[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 

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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