[A] Counter-Statement

"For though the state of society may be such, at a certain time, that certain emotions and attitudes prevail, and the the state of society may so change that other emotions and attitudes come to prevail, the gamut of human emotions and attitudes is neither increased nor diminished. Thus can one, out of the particularities of his times, write for other times--since the "gravitational pull" of his contemporary situations will draw him repeatedly to certain emphases, thus making him expert in such emphases as are less exercised in other eras." [121]

Trans-lation. Art.

Art is a translation, and every translation is a compromise (although, be it noted, a compromise which may have new virtues of its own, virtues not part of the original). (Counter-Statement, 54)

Getting to Know You... Getting to Know All About You...

A Midwestern city outside of Chicago, Elgin contains its own prairie, dairy aristocracy. One of the best claims to fame of the still growing city (over 100k last I checked) is the internationally renowned Elgin Watch Factory around the turn of the 20th century into the 1920s, which my grandfather worked at for a time.


Since the body is dogmatic, a generator of belief, society might well be benefited by the corrective of a disintegrating art, which converts each simplicity into a complexity, which ruins the possibility of ready hierarchies, which concerns itself with the problematical, the experimental, and thus by implication, works corrosively upon those expansionistic certainties preparing the way for our social cataclysms. An art may be of value purely through preventing a society from becoming too assertively, too hopelessly, itself." (Counter-Statement, p105)

Art: Beyond Experience

“One can feel pity much more keenly at the sight of some actual misfortune—and it would be a great mistake to see art merely as a weak representation of some actual experience” (41).

Music Against Language

"Music, then, fitted less than any other art for imparting information, deals minutely in frustrations and fulfilments of desire, and for that reason more often gives us those curves of emotion which, because they are natural, can bear repetition without loss" (Counter-Statement 36).

Surprise! Just Kidding.

“Suspense is the least complex kind of anticipation, as surprise is the least complex kind of fulfillment.” (Counter-Statement 36.n4)


Welcome to the Seminar on Kenneth Burke!

So that we can get to know each other a little better, please post a reply to this message in which youBurke in mock academic regalia

  • describe where you are from
  • give your course of study and year in your graduate program
  • talk about your areas of interest and career goals
  • tell what you would like to get out of this course
  • describe one of your favorite books and what you like about it

I'll start. I'm in my fourth year at Clemson.I came here from Purdue University, where I was the Director of Professional Writing and Professor of English for ten years. I earned my PhD from the University of Southern California in "Rhetoric, Linguistics, and Literature." My areas of specialization include rhetorical theory, digital and visual rhetorics, print and digital publishing, information architecture and content management, and film theory and production. In 2002 I founded Parlor Press, an independent scholarly press that has now published about 175 titles. I'm currently the editor of KB Journal, the journal of the Kenneth Burke Society. I've also chaired to Burke conferences, the first in New Orleans in 2002 and the most recent here at Clemson in 2011, which was a fantastic event involving many RCID students.

One of my favorite books is Kenneth Burke's Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (1935). I've always loved this book because it covers so much important ground in rhetorical theory, is filled with wry anecdotes that explain human communication in ways that resonate broadly across all types of writing and speech, and (perhaps most important), manages to present its case in a form and style that is finely crafted and richly textured, like a book of theory as a form of art. I own multiple copies, each of them marked up and dog-eared (except for the digital version!). I first read it in the mid-1980s in graduate school and will usually read it again every year or two.

I was fortunate to meet Burke twice, first at a publisher's party in Seattle at the 1990 4Cs, in the Space Needle of all places. He had given a presentation earlier that day (more on that in class). I met him a few months later in New Harmony, Indiana, at the 3rd Triennial Conference of KBS. He was still going strong at 93. KB and I have even corresponded, but it didn't amount to much. At the bottom of my letter to him requesting permission to conduct research in the Burke archives at Penn State, he wrote "OK. KB." I guess I'll take it!


Week 1, Jan. 8

Wednesday, January 8

Group Activities

  • Introduction to the course and each other.
  • Review carefully the Course Description, paying particular attention to all requirements. It is important that you become very familiar with the course policies so you can understand what is expected of you in this class.
  • Overview of Burke Resources

Guidelines for Book Presentations

From the Course Description

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.)

Format of the Summary Sheets

The summary should be one-printed page, single-spaced, to be distributed in class and then posted (in HTML format) to the course site, with the tag book review. You may add additional components to the summary sheets, but at minimum they should include the following parts. Each part includes a short description:


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