Posts Tagged ‘Burke


Burke’s Counter-Statement

Kenneth Burke
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
From Joshua Gunn’s summary

•    There can be no objective rule of taste which will determine by concepts what is beautiful. For every judgement from this source of taste is aesthetical; the feeling for the subject, not the concept of the object, is its determining ground. To seek for a principle of taste which will furnish, by means of definite concepts, a universal criterion of the beautiful is fruitless trouble, because what is sought is impossible and self contradictory” (par. 232).
Chapter One: Three Adepts of ‘Pure Literature’
•    A. Useful background: Burke discusses Gustave Flaubert, Walter Pater, and Remy de Gourmont
•    Pater is allied with Nietzsche in “one respect”: “both kept the theme of transvaluation [of values] well within the sphere of ceremony”(15), meaning that Pater preferred “ceremony” to “information.” Burke later seems to relate ceremony to the psychology of form.
•    “Art was ‘justified’ because art was an appetite – in being desired it found its ample reason for existence. Art did not require defense as an instrument of political or social reform. Art was purely and simply a privilege, to be prized as a cosmic exception” (16-17).
•    A method of analysis termed “dissociation,” which divides a concept “which we usually take as a unit” in order to draw out associative relationships that inhere in “desires” and “interests” (23).
Chapter Two: Psychology and Form
•    Form: “form would be the psychology of the audience. Or, seen from another angle, form is the creation of an appetite in the mind of the auditor, and the adequate satisfying of that appetite” (31).
•    Psychology of information: displaces the psychology of the audience with the psychology of the “hero” or subject; specific details and bits of information are valued over that of the whole. From this perspective, “one might denounce Cezanne’s trees in favor of state forestry bulletins” (32).
o    a) “Under such an attitude, when form is preserved it is preserved as an annex, a luxury, or as some feel, a downright affectation” (33).
o    b) The corresponding methods of sustaining interest “are surprise and suspense” (37).
•    Music is offered as the example par excellence of the psychology of form: “Here form cannot atrophy. Every dissonant chord cries for its solution, and whether the musician resolves or refuses to resolve this dissonance into the chord which the body cries for, he is dealing with human appetites” (34).
Chapter Three: The Poetic Process
•    Burke invokes the principle of crescendo (or “a general rise to a crisis”) as a chief characteristic of art: “Over and over again in the history of art, different material has been arranged to embody the principle of crescendo” (45). He then confidently asserts that the “work of art utilizes climatic arrangement because the human brain” has the potential to respond (“arrested, or entertained”) to climax.
•    However, the principle or concept of crescendo needs to be “individuated” in a particular work of art in order to evoke emotion.
•    Burke then glosses Plato’s theory of the forms as an illustration, and discusses the nominalist philosophy (which holds all one can know are “particulars”). Burke corrects the nominalists by modifying Plato’s conception of the universal forms – he sticks them in the mind: “So eager were the nominalists to disavow Plato in detail that they failed to discover the justice of his doctrines in essence. For we need but take his universals out of heaven and situation them in the human mind …, making them not metaphysical, but psychological” (48).
•    Thus, “we have the original emotion [or mood] which is channelized into a symbol. This symbol becomes a generative force, a relationship to be repeated in varying details, and thus makes for one aspect of technical form” (61). In other words, the consistency required by emotional form, once symbolized, requires a “logical consistency” too, which in turn is part of technical form.
Chapter Six: Program
•    The Thesis: “The present Program speculates as to which emotions and attitudes should be stressed, and which should be slighted, in the aesthetic judgment to the particular conditions of today” (107). What are these conditions?:
•    Mechanization and industrialism, which “affects our political institutions, as it alters our way of living … ” and so on (107).
•    A symbolic of the “past” and “future,” as represented by the “Agrarian” and the “Industrial.”
o    The Agrarian is the “morally conservative.”
o    The Industrialist is the progressive, yet the progressive whose agenda solidifies rather quickly and, though open to innovation “will usually be found to harbor a set of cultural retentions which completely undo” innovation (109).
o    The artist must play the intermediate.
Chapter Seven: Lexicon Rhetoricae
•    The Nature of Form: “Form in literature is the arousing and fulfillment of desires.” There are five aspects of form
o    Syllogistic progression (sub. of “progressive form”):” the form of a “perfectly conducted argument,” where, “given certain things, certain things must follow, the premises forcing the conclusion” (124).
o    Qualitative progression (sub of “progressive form”): the more subtle sort of progressive form, where “the presence of one quality prepares us for the introduction of another,” yet we only recognize the whole (“its rightness”) after the progression is complete. (124-125).
o    Repetitive form: “the constant maintaining of a principle under new guises. It is the restatement of the same thing in different ways” (125).
o    Conventional form: “involves to some degree the appeal of form as form.” There is an “element of ‘categorical expectancy,’ such that the gratifications of the reader are “anterior” to the reading” (126). Seems like the most basic of forms, simply expectations of the audience.
o    Minor or incidental forms: smaller sorts of form, such as “metaphor, paradox, disclosure, reversal, contraction, expansion, bathos, apostrophe, series, chiasmus … ” (127).
•    Burke then proceeds to further clarify (that is, complicate) the five aspects (or types) of form:
o    Interrelation of forms: The forms overlap and are not necessarily distinct in any one work (128).
o    Conflict of forms: The forms can compete, for added or destructive effect (129).
o    Rhythm, Rhyme: Burke identifies rhythm and rhyme as chiefly categorizable under the heading “repetitive form,” although can be described with the other sorts of forms too (130).
o    Significant Form: Forms are not necessarily wed to any one theme; that is, there is no essential correspondence between the peticularies of the subject matter and form. “In most cases we find formal designs or contrivances which impart emphasis regardless of their subject” (135). Burke shows how “talking at cross-purposes,” as a formal contrivance, yields different emotional effects in selections taken from Wilde, Wordsworth, and Racine (the former two for humor, the later for “tragic irony”).
•    The Individuation of Forms: In this section, Burke further elaborates and traces how form gets individuated (as he outlined in the “Poetic Process”).
o    Appeal of forms: Form is successful, or “‘correct’ insofar as it gratifies the need which it creates. The appeal of the form in this sense is obvious: form is the appeal” (138). Burke then discusses the five aspects of form in turn, fixating on the minor: ” … since the single sentence has form, we are forced by our thesis to consider the element of gratification in the sentence apart from his context” (139).
o    A special status is afforded to form as “exemplified in rhythm,” because “rhythm is more closely allied with ‘bodily processes.’ Systole and diastole, alternation of the feet in walking, inhalation and exhalation, up and down, in and out, back and forth, such are the types of distinctly motor experiences ‘tapped’ by rhythm” (140).
•    ‘Priority’ of forms: Though forms are not necessarily “prior to experience, they are certainly prior to the work of art exemplifying them.” (141). This seems to contradict the psychological universals he posits earlier, so he poo-poos the question by saying, “so far as the work of art is concerned they simply are … ” (141).
o    He then returns to his emphasis in earlier chapters on “capacities” (as “a command to act in a certain way”). Peculiar, confusing distinctions like this were sure to cause ire of many an analytical philosopher.
o    “The forms of art, to summarize, are not exclusively ‘aesthetic.’ They can be said to have a prior existence in the experiences of the person hearing or reading the work of art. They parallel processes which characterize his experience outside of art” (143).
•    Individuation of Forms: Further explanation. “A ‘metaphor is a concept, an abstraction – but a specific metaphor, exemplified by specific images, is an ‘individuation.’” (143).
•    Form and information: Because form is “embodied” or clothed by subject-matter, certain “diseases of form” can occur. These diseases come about when the subject-matter obscures the form or out-strips its “functional uses.” A balance must be struck between the intrinsic interesting effect of “information” and formal method/technique. Burke revisits the “psychology of information” and “psychology of business” stuff here. (144-145).
•    Form and Ideology: Burke vacillates between description and proscription. Ideology, because it shifts “from age to age” as well as “person to person,” can render the formal universals ineffective if not used and manipulated by the artist carefully. The artist often must appeal to ideology in order to individuate form (and thereby evoke the desired emotion). (146-147).
•    Re-individuation of forms: Burke maintains that re-individuation is the “best proof that there is ‘individuation’ ….” He offers the example of a “literal translation,” which basically rearticulates the form “with a complete change of matter [words].” Burke offers Joyce’s Ulysses as the “most elaborate re-individuation” of The Odyssey (148-149).


Kastely’s Rethinking the Rhetorical Tradition

James Kastely
Rethinking the Rhetorical Tradition: From Plato to Postmodernism
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Is there a way to read classical texts as not merely an attempt to resuscitate a dead practice?
o    Is there a way in which the past can speak meaningfully to the present?
•    Need for skepticism and skepticism as political action are Plato’s justifications for rhetoric
•    Central concern for rhetoric is logos
o    Rhetoric is a power: subject to proper and improper use
•    Three types of decisions that affect an audience
o    Time past = forensic
o    Time present = epideictic
o    Time future = deliberative
•    Audience’s ability to become present to itself through discourse
•    “Refutation seeks to make us assume a responsibility for this world while recognizing that we can never be fully present to ourselves.”
•    The issue that makes rhetoric a philosophical problem is injustice
o    Injustice is partly a problem of language
•    For persuasion to succeed, the Other must be silenced
•    Burke’s work argues for the relevance of rhetoric to the postmodern world and it recover the philosophical problem of rhetoric that’s embodied in the ongoing need for refutation
•    Q: What utility is there in the study of the rhetoric of antiquity?
•    A: Such a study justifies itself as a refutation of postmodernism
o    23: “This refutation takes the form of recovering positions that have been taken inadvertently and that have been assumed to be not choices of the particular discourse theorists but discoveries about language or power.  What postmodernism has forgotten, for all of its theoretical sophistication, is that it is itself a rhetorical and hence historical product.”
1: “The contemporary return of rhetoric presupposes, through its very structure as return, an end of rhetoric, a discontinuity within tradition, and an alteration that renders the second version of rhetoric, its modernist-postmodernist redaction, a new form of cultural practice and mode of analysis.  To understand the significance of rhetoric today is to understand why and in what ways it is discontinuous with its past.”
5: “Further, and this is the crucial point, we do not know what ‘success’ would mean except simply ‘continuance.’  We are not conversing because we have a goal, but because Socratic conversation is an activity which is its own end.”
9: “Aristotle does not formulate this failure as an ethical corruption but as an artistic infelicity.  The problem of appealing either primarily or exclusively to the emotions and prejudices of the audience is that the decision that is finally rendered is not an accurate one because the audience who makes the decision has had its judgment distorted.”
12: “Logically, if the purpose of rhetoric is defined as locating the decision that is best for the audience, then invention becomes the foremost concern for the rhetor, who will be guided by the need to discover these interests and then communicate a determinate judgment of how the audience should act.  The art of rhetoric will reside in the invention and communication to the audience of how it should understand a particular situation so that its interests are best served.  It will be the audience that finally renders any given situation determinate by making a particular judgment.  The audience as judge also affords another check to the possible corruption of rhetoric.”
16: “Audiences fail to become participants in a rhetorical exchange because their power renders them indifferent to others, or because their trust has been so violated in the past that they can conceived of any speech only as a cynical attempt at manipulation, or because they remain ignorant of who they are and how they have been formed by history.”
18: “It is the audience as problem that ties the skeptical thread of classical rhetoric to the modern and postmodern rhetorics.  If these more recent rhetorics speak little of refutation, they are fully aware of the problem of the unavailable audience.”
22: “’As far as rhetoric is concerned, then, a Marxist must be in a certain sense a Platonist.  Rhetorical effects are calculated in the light of a theory of the polis as a whole, not merely in light of the pragmatic conjuncture fetishized by post-Marxism.  Rhetoric and dialectic, agitation and propaganda are closely articulate; what unites them for Plato is justice, a moral concept itself only calculable on the basis of social knowledge, as opposed to doxa or ideological opinion.”


Warnick’s Critical Literacy in a Digital Era

Barbara Warnick
Critical Literacy in a Digital Era: Technology, Rhetoric, and the Public Interest
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

• How persuasive discourse about technology affects how we think about it
• If reading viewing, and browsing publics unquestioningly buy into predicting and ideologies in media discourse, then the beliefs embedded in it won’t be subject to public discussion and critical examination
• Critical literacy: communicating about communication
• Aural/Oral: incorporate specific abilities and competencies
• Rhetorical Criticism: concerned with how the messages are designed for audiences and how they are intended to have an effect
o How message content can contribute/detract from credibility
o How communities of interest are constructed through shared values and ways of speaking
• Selfe: technology + democracy (+capitalism) = progress
o Bolter and Grusin: “That digital media can reform and even save society reminds us of the promise that has been made for technologies throughout much of the twentieth century: it is a peculiarly, if not exclusively, American promise. American culture seems to believe in technology in a way that European culture, for example, may not… In America…collective (and perhaps even personal) salvation has been thought to come through technology rather than through political or even religious action” (60-1).
• Transparency: user forgets/is unaware of the presence of the medium
• WIRED: Technological hierarchy
o Should instead open discussion to all voices
• Need for a counter-narrative
4: “Burke noted that the ‘hierarchic principle’—the desire to transcend one’s present condition and move upward in the social hierarchy—is ‘inevitable in systematic thought.’ The promise of nearly unlimited technological advancement implies the potential for continuous self- and social improvement and upward mobility.”
15: “The New London Group defined critical framing (an important component of critical literacy) as the ability of audiences and readers to ‘gain the necessary personal and theoretical distance from what they have learned, constructively critique it, account for its cultural location, [and] creatively extend and apply it…within old communities and in new ones.”
43: “The devalued numerators [have-nots/suddenly wealthy; not at risk/at risk] of these value pairs are prototypically descriptive of technological have-nots, Luddites, women, minorities, and other groups who do not make up Wired’s readership. Wired’s marginalization of these groups becomes clear through these absences. Because dissociations expose the devalued poles that serve as foils to what is explicitly advocated, they are useful in revealing what is systematically excluded or marginalized in a text.”
119: “[Parody sites] bound themselves together through reciprocal links, intertextuality, use of coined terms, and lateral cross-references shared among sites. As a group, they constituted a discourse ‘community,’ but it was more an enclave of like-minded exchangers deriving pleasure from their positions as being ‘in the know’ about candidates’ past gaffes and misstatements.”


Burke’s Permanence and Change

Kenneth Burke
Permanence and Change
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
Notes from class

•    Reinsert ethical into natural
o    Bring these back together
•    Perspectivalism: frog’s perspective→lab use
o    ≠Enlightenment—truth and illusion
•    What’s Burke’s invention?
o    Rhetorical practices
o    Rhetoric’s revenge on philosophy
o    Talked about poststructuralism before poststructuralists did (one-up’ed em)
o    What kind of gesture if Burke making?
•    Dialectical materialism → biological materialism
•    What’s permanent and what changes in the body?
•    Blurs lines between reality and rhetoric
•    As Nietzsche tries to show the cleaving, Burke is rejoining the body and mind
o    Nietzsche: Exercising, physical response, returning in a bad way
o    Burke: recalcitrance, bow the body has become ‘bad’
•    How the body’s re-intervened
•    Rotman: invention of mind ≠ brain
•    Even Sophistic rhetoric speaks of affect
•    Maffesoli: cyclical time
o    Same thing happening—loop
o    Live forever but it’s the same
•    Nietzsche: Eternal return
o    A challenge—could you live your life if it’s lived this way forever?
o    The more attractive way of this is to change things abruptly
•    Plato→Badiou: all waiting for something
o    A teleological similarity
•    The Sophists→Deleuze: aren’t waiting for anything
•    Interpret interpretations
•    Natural v. constructed and socialized
•    Morality as fiction? Interpret without identity?
•    Fictions and how we name the world
o    This process is inherent in how we name
•    Getting around fiction
o    Necessary fiction, but not pathological
o    Different kind of fiction
•    Still some hope of transcendence
o    Everything is subject is in the subjective
o    Asubjective: so, not entirely interested in subjective
o    Haven’t lost anything—no longer individualistic
•    Subjectivity: judgement
o    Another subjectivity can be produced
•    Can we live together as subjects?
•    Subject in the moment
o    Use—computer desk example
•    Telescopes past, present, and future
o    Social cycle
•    Machinery—concommitant extensions
o    Biological v. Machinic
•    Matters of value with technology
•    Relation between ethical and obligation
•    Burke v. Hegel
•    Ethics: phenomenology rather than philosophy
o    All you have is representations?
•    Is Burke really interested in this question?
o    “The good life”—where ethics should lead us to
•    Ethics: move beyond judgment
•    Openness to different perspectives
•    Normal and pathological
•    Pretend to be something we’re not
o    Deceptive but ethical
o    The only way to produce an ethical effect through an unethical means
•    Lakoff: What’s at stake when we turn toward the body?
•    Going to the body for truth, rather than positing the truth in the body
•    What’s permanent: we’re human
o    What changes: how we interpret
•    Prison house of the body
•    Reorientation: truth is contingent
•    Accepting new orientations
•    Deleuze: Representation—haven’t we suffered enough?
•    Turn language around as it was turn on you
o    Affective response
•    Biological conditioning
o    How can you retrain your affective ways of responding to things?
•    Finding a way to be happy about something that used to make one miserable
o    Is this an ethical choice?
•    Retrain response: masochism
o    Demand, in control, communal response
•    Connolly: the concept of becoming
o    Return thought to the body
•    Non-nostalgic interaction
•    The ethical action
o    If people think differently, this creates an ethical change
•    Cultivation and self cultivation
o    The ethical work
o    Technologies of the self
•    Foucault: how people become subjects when it’s out of your control
•    People used to cultivated their own subjectivities
•    Different modes of interacting
Critical moments in the text
Xv: “Words are not merely ‘signs’; they are names whose ‘attachment’ to events, objects, persons, institutions, status groups, classes, and indeed any great or small collectivity, soon tends to determine what we do in regard to the bearer of the name.”
7: Trained incapacity: where one’s training would work against them (i.e. chickens running for feeding bell only to be led to the slaughter house); past working against the present experience
22: “Reality is what things will to do us or for us”
49: “Any performance is discussible either from the standpoint of what it attains or what it misses.  Comprehensiveness can be discussed as superficiality, intensiveness as stricture, tolerance as uncertainty—and the poor pedestrian abilities of a fish are clearly explainable in terms of his excellence as a swimmer.  A way of seeing is also a way of not seeing—a focus upon object A involves a neglect of object B.”
73: “A linkage emotionally appropriate becomes rationally inappropriate.”
90: “This are historical perspectives, which Spengler acquires by taking a word usually applied to one setting and transferring its use to another setting.  It is a ‘perspective by incongruity,’ since he established it by violating the ‘properties’ of the word in its previous linkages.”
97: “The great danger of analogy is that a similarity is taken as evidence of an identity.”
133: “Why is it so necessary that the patient be told the nature and origin of his disorder? Does one truly cast out devils by naming them? The notion of perspective by incongruity would suggest that one casts out devils by misnaming them.  It is not the name in itself that does the work, but the conversion downward implicit in such naming.”
139: Active forgetting = suppression : Freud
163: “We replace the metaphor of progress with the metaphor of a norm, the notion that at the bottom the aims and genius of man have remained fundamentally the same, that temporal events may cause him to stray far from his sources but that he repeatedly struggles to restore, under new particularities, the same basic patterns of the ‘good life.’”
181: “Could discovery be but rediscovery?”
213: pathetic fallacy
235: “Man lives by purpose—and purpose is basically preference.  Hence, where we have an even choice between conversion downwards and conversion upwards, who would feel logically obliged to select the direction which implied the destruction of human society?”
250: “Action is fundamentally ethical because it involves preferences.”
From 7007 response:
Noted in the afterword, the “investment in analogy is central” to Kenneth Burke’s Permanence and Change (324).  The above statement, therefore, functions as the most concise summarization of this text, since the notion of something alluding to something else is precisely what Burke’s discussions of language and the symbolic lend to the text as a whole.  To borrow directly from Burke, this ‘linking’ between what something is and what something is named becomes somewhat blurry, as illustrated early on with the examples of the tests performed by Watson, Pavlov, and Gestalt (i.e. fear, incited by the banging of a steel bar, was linked to rabbits, and eventually spread to all objects rabbit-related).  While reading Burke, I realized that “linking” is quite homogeneous to my personal research, and I would like to take some space here to discus how I might be able to utilize these Burkean concepts in relation to performance and gender studies.

July 2017
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