mila bee's blog


The "symbol-using animal," yes, obviously.

"Definition of Man" Language as Symbolic Action 5

Major Project

I am planning on creating a multimedia project that engages Kenneth Burke’s definition of man. I wish to look particularly at the “symbol-using (symbol-making, symbol-misusing) animal” aspect of the definition in light of the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of biosemiotics, which has as its premise that all of biological life signs. While signs are not necessarily synonymous with symbols, of course, there are persuasive arguments within biosemiotics that “symbol” is appropriate for all of biological life, as well.

metonymy and material

The basic "strategy" in metonymy is this: to convey some incorporeal or intangible state in terms of the corporeal or tangible. E.g., to speak of "the heart" rather than "the emotions." If you trail language back far enough, of course, you will find that all our terms for "spiritual" states were metonymic in origin.

paradox of substance

Here obviously is a strategic moment, an alchemic moment, wherein momentous miracles of transformation can take place. For here the intrinsic and the extrinsic can take place. To tell what a thing is, you place it in terms of something else. This idea of locating, or placing, is implicit in our very word for definition itself: to define, or determine a thing, is to mark its boundaries, hence to use terms that possess, implicitly at least, contextual reference.

myths as second order reality

"Myths" may be wrong, or they may be used to bad ends--but they cannot be dispensed with. In the last analysis, they are our basic psychological tools for working together. A hammer is a carpenter's tool; a wrench is a mechanic's tool; and a "myth" is the social tool for welding a sense of interrelationship by which the carpenter and the mechanic, though differently occupied, can work together for common social ends. In this sense a myth that works well is as real as food, tools, and shelter are.

exorcising by misnomer

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 naming in itself that does the work, but the conversion downward implicit in such naming. Has one seen a child trembling in terror at a vague shape in a corner? One goes impiously into the corner, while the child looks on aghast.

on style

"In its simplest manifestation, style is ingratiation. It is an attempt to gain favor by the hypnotic or suggestive process of 'saying the right thing.' Obviously, it is most effective when there is agreement as to what the right thing is. A plain-spoken people will distrust a man who, bred to different ways of statement, is overly polite and deferential with them, and tends to put his commands in the form of questions... He, conversely, may consider their blunt manner a bit boastful, even at times when they are almost consumed with humility.

literary forms

"A rhythm is a promise which the poet makes to the reader." (140)
"An ability to function in a certain way implies gratification in so functioning." (142)

the legitimacy of "big" rhetoric

"Furthermore, when scholars inside of NCA point out the strength of the rhetorical turn taking place outside of NCA, we reduce ourselves to mere 'supplement,' since our 'legitimacy' is relative to the measurable 'presence' of rhetoric found outside our discipline" (Schiappa 265).

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