[KB] New issue of KB Journal
Herbert W. Simons
hsimons at temple.edu
Sat May 17 21:18:31 EDT 2008
I've read only the intro to the heretical Ch. Six, but I'm already
convinced that Camille Lewis is one fine writer. The following statement
of position bears closely upon the exchanges between Ed Appel and Greg
To summarize my argument, I took Burke's notions of tragedy and comedy
very seriously, imagined their practical possibilities, and, then
offered an additional term, foreshadowed but unimagined in Burke, in the
vocabulary of romance. From the Federalist Papers to contemporary
political theory, liberal democracy has always looked askance at
religious zealotry. Political theory and religious histories provide few
new vocabularies to theorize the religious separatists as part of the
public sphere. Crafting a new vocabulary is essential since restricting
our vision of public discourse by excluding sectarians would hinder
democracy's goals. Limiting one voice, no matter how annoying, opens the
possibility to contain other defiant views. As critical scholars, we
must craft ways to stretch our frames of acceptance to include even the
most annoying voices. And Kenneth Burke's notions of tragedy and comedy
productively offer a meta-narrative for understanding this impulse to
expunge the undesirable and for creating a critical alternative.
Burke's notions of tragedy and comedy persist throughout his writing.
While tragedy reaches for a beautiful ideal, comedy lampoons the ideal.
While tragedy feels guilty for falling short of perfection, comedy
juggles the cultural books so that a loss is translated into a win.
While tragedy blames a scapegoat for cultural sin, comedy finds that sin
in every human being. The Other in tragedy is irreconcilably evil, but
in comedy the Other is simply mistaken.
Burke opens the door for theorists to include the sectarian in their
discourse, but his tragedy and comedy dichotomy fails to adequately
describe the religious sectarian. They seem to stand outside his
vocabulary, acting neither tragically nor comically. Unlike tragedy,
they are not goaded by the cultural ideals but embody them. They do not
tragically offer themselves up as a sacrifice for the culture's
purification, but they use themselves as an example for the culture to
Thus, I am arguing for a third frame of acceptance---romance. When
"cornered," as Burke described, the sectarian /separates/ from the
dominant culture, and that separation forces an entirely new rhetoric.
The separation is never complete or permanent. They leave but never too
far so that they guarantee the dominant culture's attention. Neither
tragically purifying nor comically correcting, the sectarian
unequivocally and unalterably woos its Other. When tragedy kills and
comedy critiques, the suitor charms. The evil enemy, which the comic
transforms into a mistaken adversary, becomes a Beloved in the
romantic's sight. The cultural ideal that goads the tragic and tickles
the comic, personifies the romantic. Romantic sectarians identify not
through victimage or criticism but through wooing--- irresistible beauty
coupled with its Other outside the dominant frame.
Clarke Rountree wrote:
> Fellow Burkelers---
> The Spring 2008 issue of //KB Journal// is now available (at
> http://kbjournal.org/). It features new essays by Samantha Senda-Cook
> ("Fahrenheit 9/11's Purpose-Driven Agents: A Multipentadic Approach to
> Political Entertainment <http://kbjournal.org/senda-cook>"), Hans
> Lindquist ("Composing a Gourmet Experience: Using Kenneth Burke's
> Theory of Rhetorical Form <http://kbjournal.org/lindquist>"), and
> Camille K. Lewis ("Publish and Perish?: My Fundamentalist Education
> from the Inside Out <http://kbjournal.org/lewis>"); the newest
> contribution to the "Burke in the Fields" series by Robert Wade Kenny
> ("The Glamour of Motives: Applications of Kenneth Burke within the
> Sociological Field <http://kbjournal.org/kenny>"); and a parting
> essay, "The Future of Burke Studies <http://kbjournal.org/futurekb>,"
> by //KB Journal// editors Mark Huglen and Clarke Rountree. In a new
> feature in our Reviews section, we introduce twelve new Burke scholars
> in "Embarking on Burke: Profiles of New Scholars."
> <http://kbjournal.org/embarking> Also in this issue, Maura J. Smyth
> reviews <http://kbjournal.org/smyth> Christopher R. Darr's article
> "Civility as Rhetorical Enactment: The John Ashcroft 'Debates' and
> Burke's Theory of Form"; and Candace Epps--Robertson reviews
> <http://kbjournal.org/epps-robertson> Robert Glenn Howard's. "A
> Theory of Vernacular Rhetoric: The Case of the 'Sinner's Prayer' Online."
> It has been a pleasure for Mark and me to serve as co-editors of /KB
> Journal/. This is our last issue. Andy King of Louisiana State
> University will be taking up the mantle of editorship. New submissions
> to /KB Journal /should be directed to him at andyk at lsu.edu
> <mailto:andyk at lsu.edu>.
> Co-Editor, /KB Journal/
> Clarke Rountree
> Professor and Chair
> Department of Communication Arts
> 342 Morton Hall
> University of Alabama in Huntsville
> Huntsville, AL 35899
> KB Discussion List
> KB at lists.purdue.edu
Herbert W. Simons, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Communication
Director of National Communication Association Forum
Dep't of Strategic and Organizational Comm.(STOC)
Office 218 Weiss Hall 13th St and Moore Ave
Temple University, Philadelphia PA 19122
215 806 3741 (C); 215 204 8543 (F)
e-mail (preferred) hsimons at temple.edu
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