Course Description

Dr. David Blakesley (
Office: Strode 616; Phone: 765.409.2649 (c)
Office Hours: W 11-1 and by appt.
Skype: david.blakesley1 (by appt.)
Gmail: (also for Google Chat)
Course Contact Form: user/2/contact (must be logged in)

RCID 813
Spring 2014
W 1:25–3:55 pm
1941 Studio, Daniel Hall

Course Website

Reading List

These are the primary course readings. The books are available at Clemson University Bookstore. The course calendar specifies what should be read and when.

  • Blakesley, David. The Elements of Dramatism. New York: Longman, 2002.
  • Burke, Kenneth. Counter-Statement. 1931. Berkeley: U of California P, 1968.
  • —. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose. 1935. 3rd edition. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984.
  • —. The Philosophy of Literary Form. 1941. Berkeley: U of California P, 1974.
  • —. A Grammar of Motives. 1945. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969.
  • —. A Rhetoric of Motives. 1950. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969.
  • —. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley: U of California P, 1966.

Digital Coursepack: This will be distributed electronically via the course website, our Feed Aggregator, and a shared folder in Dropbox. It includes some of Burke’s uncollected essays, poetry, and  important secondary readings. Required readings will be identified on the course calendar, but you should also check the feed now and then for new items, some of which may be listed on the calendar.

Extensions, Connections, Elaborations

During the semester, each student will read and report orally on one of these books, focusing on ways that each extends, elaborates, complicates, refines, or shares ideas with Burke, however loosely. Some of these books do not mention Burke at all, even though the interanimation may be substantial. Students will choose books the second week of the course, and a calendar of presentations and will be then be developed. Oral presentations (10-15 minutes, no more) should be accompanied by a one-page (print and digital) handout/overview. For a sense of what the handouts should look like, view these samples, which you can also find under the Review Tab in the menubar.

More Burke

We don't have time during the course to cover these works by Burke, so students will work collaboratively in teams of two to prepare a short oral presentation and summary sheet on the nature of the work and its place in Burke's corpus. Teams will form in Week 2 and books will be chosen by Week 3.


This course will take Kenneth Burke as an exemplary figure in the genesis of rhetoric, composition, communication, cultural studies, and literary theory in the twentieth century. The focus will be on Burke’s continuing relevance for our understanding of key rhetorical principles (identification, division, context, terministic screens), of emergent subjects in the field (visual rhetoric, complexity theory, cultural studies, object-oriented rhetorics), and of the relationships between rhetoric, composition, new media, and literary theory. Course readings will include primary Burkeian texts and secondary work by other rhetoricians, theorists, and philosophers. Coursework will include book presentations, short written responses to the readings, a major print or multimedia project, an individual bibliographical or engagement project, and a large-group project involving development and delivery of a Burke-MOOC the last two weeks of the semester. Some student projects may be developed for presentation at the 2014 Conference of the Kenneth Burke Society and/or submission to KB Journal, which is hosted and edited here at Clemson.


Further details about each of these project will be discussed in class:

  1. Weekly (Short) Written Explications: Each week, I want you to write a short (one-paragraph, 150-word maximum) elaboration or explication of what you consider to be important sentence(s) from the reading for that week. Each response should be posted to your blog at the course website and tagged "explication" (lower-case). These responses will need to be posted by class time every Wednesday. I will also give you 10 minutes at the start of every class meeting to write comments on the posts of others and to compose new responses of your own. You should choose a very short passage (1-5 sentences) from the text, include it at the top of your post as a block quotation, then write your elaboration or explication. The focus should be on a close reading of the passage, which may include your interpretation of what it means, why it's significant, what it helps explain, what problems it poses or solves, how it might relate to a key concept in rhetoric, or some other aspect worth mentioning. (An "explication" is an explanation that highlights implications or analyzes or elaborates ambiguities.) In addition to the explication itself, I would also like you to write a minimum of 3 comments or replies each week to the posts of others. These can be even shorter posts that ask questions, comment, elaborate, or link. These follow-up comments and replies should normally be no more than 50 words, but length ultimately depends on the nature of your response. (15% of course grade.)
  2. Book Presentations (2): Each student will present on two books (selected from the "Extensions/Connections/Elaborations" and "More Burke" lists above) in class. These presentations should be fifteen-minute oral reports, accompanied by a summary sheet that outlines key ideas and suggests connections to Burke's corpus and its relevance. One presentation will be individual (the "Extensions") and the other, collaborative. You will be able to use a computer and projector for any of these presentations if you'd like. The summary sheets should be posted to the course site after the presentation has been completed, following guidelines discussed in class. (20% of course grade.)
  3. Major Print or Multimedia Project: At the end of the semester, submit a research essay, hypertext, or other multimedia project that draws on course readings and any other work relevant to your subject matter and advances a position on a topic of potential interest to others in your field of study and that draws significantly on course readings. You’ll be provided with detailed guidelines for this project in Week 7 and be required to submit work-in-progress on a regular schedule in a project log. A list of suggested topics will be provided. Length: 4,000 – 8,000 words or the equivalent. You may think of this project as a conference presentation or the draft of a project to submit for publication to a journal. (30% of course grade)
  4. Bibliography/Engagement Project: Half of the students will work on bibliographical projects, the other half on an assortment of projects tied to the KB Journal. The overall goal of the bibliography project will be to update the Primary and Secondary Bibliographies at the KB Journal site. Each student will take a small subset of these large collections and then update and correct it. This work will involve bibliographic research, data retrieval, and electronic correspondence. The engagement project will be tailored to individual student interest but will focus on some aspect of the production and publication of a professional, open-access journal (KB Journal). (15% of course grade)
  5. Group Project—Burke-MOOC: The class will work as a group to create, promote, and deliver a two-week MOOC that will take place near the end of the course. We'll talk in class about the possibilities, develop teams and to-do lists, and work with various constituencies on- and off-campus to plan this short course. (15% of course grade)


KB Discussion List . In existence now for 16 years, this list includes approximately 270 members from many different fields of study. I would like each of you to join the list and “lurk” or participate (as you choose). List traffic is usually light but will pick-up now and then as people ask questions or introduce topics. To learn about how to join the list, visit I am the list moderator. Please email me by the start of Week 2 to let me know that you have successfully joined the list.

KB Journal
In addition to newly published articles on Burke, the journal features discussion forums, bibliographies, information about the Kenneth Burke Society, announcements, and more. KB Journal is hosted at Clemson. The bibliographies will be especially useful for your research.


Weekly Explications 15%
Book Presentations (2) 20%
Print or Multimedia Project 30%
Bibliography/Engagement Project 20%
Group Project 15%

To earn full credit for explications and comments on the class website, you will need to complete all of the weekly responses and actively respond to your peers. Explications will be scored on a two-point scale: 2 (excellent), 1 (satisfactory), 0 (incomplete, late, or not submitted). Your reading responses and replies should show that you are engaged with the reading and are open to new possibilities and ideas. The criteria for evaluation of the book presentations and other course projects will be spelled out on the full description of each. For the collaborative book presentation, you’ll be asked to complete a Collaborative Project Evaluation Form and submit it privately to me right after your group presentation.

You’ll receive feedback along the way throughout each project from your peers and a grade on the projects after they’re completed.


Attendance is required at all scheduled meetings. Two absences may result in your final grade being lowered by as much as a letter grade. More than three absences can result in a failing grade for the course. Excused absences will only be granted for religious holidays or university-sponsored events, provided you make a written request to me no less than two weeks in advance and that you complete any required work before the due date. Being excessively or regularly late for class can also be counted as an absence. Note: If the instructor is late to class, you only need to wait fifteen (15) minutes.

Decorum and Professional Communication

All students are expected to behave responsibly and collegially in the course's online space, via email, or in any other interactive course communication (e.g., Skype, if used), just as they would in a face-to-face course. Everything you write in the course, including email with each other and the instructor, blog posts and replies, peer responses, and even text messages should be conducted professionally and (probably) more formally than you might expect. You should be especially mindful of decorum, which is alertness to the ethical practices of a community. Harassment of any kind in email, blog post, or other communication will not be tolerated and may be subject to a warning from the instructor, dismissal from the course space, or referral to the Dean of Graduate Studies. Students who feel they have been harassed in some way should contact the instructor privately by email, Skype, or phone.

Academic Integrity

Clemson students and their instructors are expected to adhere to the community and ethical standards for behavior and academic integrity at the University:

"As members of the Clemson University community, we have inherited Thomas Green Clemson's vision of this institution as a "high seminary of learning." Fundamental to this vision is a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn the trust and respect of others. Furthermore, we recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form."

"Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form. In instances where academic standards may have been compromised, Clemson University has a responsibility to respond appropriately to charges of violations of academic integrity."

You should review the graduate integrity policy here:

Unless otherwise noted in assignment guidelines, you should not submit work for this course that has been submitted for a grade in other courses.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities who need accommodations should make an appointment with Arlene Stewart, Director of Student Disability Services, to discuss specific needs within the first month of classes. Students should present a Faculty Accommodation Letter from Student Disabilities Services when they meet with instructors. Student Disability Services is located in G-20 Redfern (telephone number: 656-6848; e-mail: Please be aware that accommodations are not retroactive and new Faculty Accommodation Letters must be presented each semester.

In Case of a Campus Emergency

In the event of a major campus emergency, course requirements, deadlines and grading percentages are subject to changes that may be necessitated by a revised semester calendar or other circumstances. You can acquire updated information from the course website, by emailing, texting, or calling me using the information provided on this course description, or by contacting me through the English Department at (864) 656-3151.

Late Work

The majority of missed class assignments cannot be made up. If a serious and unavoidable problem arises, however, you should contact me in writing prior to the deadline to determine whether or not an extension for the work will or will not be granted.