Scholarship on Indexing

Burke on Indexing

Other Scholars

David Isaksen on Indexing

Burke, Kenneth. Attitudes Toward History. Los Angeles, Berkeley: U of California P, 1984. Print.

---. A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: U of California P, 1969. Print.

---. A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. Print.

---. Counter-Statement. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1957. Print.

---. “Curriculum  Criticum.” Counter-Statement. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1957. Print.

---. Drafts of “Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education.” Kenneth Burke Papers. Paterno Library,

        Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

---. Essays Toward A Symbolic of Motives. Ed. William H. Rueckert. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2007. Print.

---. “Fact, Inference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism” Essays Toward A Symbolic of Motives.

         Ed. William H. Rueckert. West Lafayette: Parlor P, 2007. 49-73. Print.

---. “I, Eye, Ay: Emerson’s Essay on ‘Nature’: Thought on the Machinery of Transcendence.” The Sewanee

         Review. 74.4. (1966): 875-895. Print.

---. “Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education.” Ed. Henry B. Nelson. Modern Philosophies and

          Education: The Fifty-fourth Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education: Part 1.

          Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1955. Print.

---. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose. 3rd ed. Berkeley: U of California P, 1984. Print.

---. “Questions and Answers about the Pentad” College Composition and Communication. 29.4 (1978):

         330-335. Print.

---. “Rhetoric – Old and New.” The Journal of General Education. Oct. 1950. 202-209. Print.

---. “The Philosophy of Literary Form” The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. 3rd ed.

         Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: U of California P, 1973. 1-137. Print.

---. “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle’” The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. 3rd ed.

          Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: U of California P, 1973. 191-220. Print.



Avalos, Elizabeth Riley. "Concepts of Power in  Betty Friedan's Rhetoric: An Application of Burke's Cluster-Agon

              Method." Diss. University of Denver, 1983. Print.

Berthold, Carol A. “Kenneth Burke’s Cluster-Agon Method: Its Development and an Application.” Central States

              Speech Journal. 27.4. (1976): 302-309. Print.

Blakesley, David. The Elements of Dramatism. New York: Longman, 2001. Print.

Cooks, Leda and David Descutner. "Different Paths from Powerlessness to Empowerment: A Dramatistic Analysis

            of Two Eating Disorder Therapies." Western Journal of Communication. 57.3. (1993): 494-514. Print.

Corcoran, Farrel. "The Bear in the Back Yard: Myth, Ideology, and Victimage Ritual in Soviet Funerals."

             Communication Monographs. 50. (1983): 305-20. Print.

Crowell, Laura. "Three Sheers for Kenneth Burke." Quarterly Journal of Speech. 63.2. (1977): 152-67. Print.

Enoch, Jessica. “Becoming Symbol-Wise: Kenneth Burke’s Pedagogy of Critical Reflection.” College Composition

             and Communication. 56.2 (2004): 272-296. Print.

Foss, Sonja K. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice. 2nd ed.  Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland P,  1996.


---. "Women Priests in the Episcopal Church: A Cluster Analysis of Establishment Rhetoric." Religious

             Communication Today. 7.3. (1984): 1-11. Print.

Fritz, Paul Alvin. "A Cluster Analysis of the Hippocratic Oath." Diss. Bowling Green State University, 1978. Print.

Hart, Roderick P. and Suzanne Daughton. Modern Rhetorical Criticism. 3rd ed. New York: Pearson, 2005.  Print.

Heinz, Bettina and Ronald Lee. "Getting Down to the Meat: The Symbolic Construction of Meat Consumption."

             Communication Studies. 49.1. (1998): 86-99. Print.

Lee, Sang-Chul and Karlyn Kohrs Campbell. "Korean President Roh Tae-Woo's 1983 Inaugural Address:

             Campaigning for Investure." Quarterly Journal of Speech. 80.1. (1994): 37-52. Print.

Mechling, Elizabeth Walker and Jay Mechling. "Sweet Talk: The Moral Rhetoric Against Sugar." Central States

             Speech Journal. 34.2. (1983): 19-32. Print.

Marston, Peter J. and Bambi Rockwell. "Charlotte Perkins Gulman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper:" Rhetorical

             Subversion in Feminist Literature." Women's Studies in Communication. 14.3. (1991): 58-72. Print.

Peterson, T. R. "The Meek Shall Inherit The Mountains: Dramatistic Criticism of Grand Teton National Park's

              Interpretive Program." Central States Speech Journal. 39. (1988): 121-133. Print.

Reid, Kathaleen. "The Hay-Wain: Cluster Analysis in Visual Communication." Journal of Communication Inquiry.

              14.2. (1990): 40-54. Print.

Rueckert, William H. Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations. Los Angeles and Berkeley: U of

               California P, 1982. Print.

Weaver, Richard M. The Ethics of Rhetoric. Davis, CA: Hermagoras P, 1985. Print.



I conducted primary research on the method and how he taught it to his students.  As a part of this research, I have searched the Kenneth Burke Archives at Penn State University, interviewed former students of Kenneth Burke at Bennington College, Vermont, and analyzed Kenneth Burke's vast scholarship for traces of the method. Some of this research is published in my master thesis "Indexing and Dialectical Transcendence: Kenneth Burke's Critical Method."


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When scholars say they are performing a Burkean analysis of texts, or using a Burkean frame (as Clarke Rountree does in Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore), they usually refer to using the pentad. The pentad is the method introduced by Burke which has so far had the widest application, with uses in rhetoric, literature, communication studies, and even organizational behavior. As David Blakesley writes, “When the elements of dramatism do make an appearance, they are usually in the form of the dramatistic pentad” (vi). Blakesley goes on to claim that dramatism “has the pentad at its core ” (vi), that the pentad “is the heart of what is now known as dramatism” (5), and that “Burke used the pentad to conduct textual analysis” (34).

 However, when Burke responds to applications of his pentad in writing pedagogy and critical analysis in “Questions and Answers about the Pentad,” he seems rather reluctant to give it the same status awarded to it by scholars. As for his using the method in textual analysis, Burke contends that although the pentad “affords a serviceably over-all structure for the analysis of both literary texts in particular and human relations in general, I usually begin with more direct ways of sizing up a text” (334 emphasis added). In other words, although Burke concedes that the pentad can be used for those purposes, he prefers a different approach to textual analysis which he sees as “more direct.” The method he then goes on to outline is one he refers to in different texts as "indexing" ("LAPE"), "clustering" (PLF), "statistical analysis" (PLF), "dramatistic analysis" ("Questions"), and "analysis of literary symbolism" (Symbolic), and which other scholars have referred to as "indexing" (Crowell) "cluster analysis" (Heinz and Lee), "cluster criticism" (Foss), "cluster-agon analysis" (Bertold), and "dramatistic analysis" (Peterson) to name a few.


 Among the scholars who have used this method in their research, there are some different opinions as to its method and procedure. Indeed, there seems to be some difference in the ways Kenneth Burke envisioned that this method could—and should—be used.


Indexing in Kenneth Burke's Scholarship

Kenneth Burke first mentions the method in Counter-Statement, published in 1931, where he writes that every person forms a “pattern of experience” which is based on their adjustment to their environment or situation: “Any such specific environmental condition calls forth and stresses certain of the universal experiences as being more relevant to it, with a slighting of those less relevant. Such selections are ‘patterns of experience’” (151). This pattern then influences the way we use language. Burke writes, “the underlying pattern is observable when an apparently arbitrary or illogical association of ideas can be shown to possess an ‘emotional’ connective” (159), and “the underlying pattern is best observable when words refer to no specific thing – as ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ – ‘my country’ – ‘the good of society.’ In such cases, the contexts in which the words appear will generally be constants” (159). The concept that the real meaning of words in a symbol system can be found by tracking the contexts in which those words appear occurs at the very beginning of Burke's academic scholarship.

In "Curriculum Criticum," written in 1953 as an epilogue to the new edition of Counter-Statement, Kenneth Burke gives us a brief history of his development of this method. He claims that The Philosophy of Literary Form, published in 1941, “aims both to give a summarization of the author’s notions about the symbolic function of literary forms and to sketch a technique for the analysis of a work in its nature as a structure of organically inter-related terms” (217), with the latter focusing on “the ‘equations’ which it [the text] inevitably embodies in its action as an evolving unity” (217). Burke then mentions that “the method was illustrated by reference to various works, the analysis of Hitler’s Mein Kampf being perhaps the fullest instance” (217).


The method is applied in Permanence and Change, published in 1935, where the "pattern of experience" mentioned in CS creates a sense of "piety" or "what belongs with what" in individuals and groups. In Attitudes Toward History, published in 1937, "clusters" is mentioned in his "Dictionary of Pivotal Terms" as "Significance gained by noting what subjects cluster about other subjects" (232), and he uses this term to describe connected ideas in for example Walt Whitman and Christian theology, but we do not get a full description of the method. As he mentions in "Curriculum Criticum," it is first in The Philosophy of Literary Form (1941) that Burke tries to take readers through a description and applications of the method.


The essay "The Philosophy of Literary Form" is most explicit about method and "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle'" is perhaps the clearest application of the method. Burke writes, "The 'symbolism' of a word consists in the fact that no one quite uses the word in its mere dictionary sense. And the overtones of usage are revealed 'by the company it keeps' in the utterances of a given speaker or writer" (35). In his subchapter "On Methodology" he outlines a three-step process for indexing. "First: We should watch for the dramatic alignment . . . We discover these inductively, obediently, by 'statistical' inspection of the specific works to be analyzed" (69). With these equations one can then find levels of generalization, "whereby different modes of concrete imagery may be classed together" leading finally to "some over-all category . . . that would justify us in classing all these . . . together on the basis of a common strategy despite differences in concrete imagery" (70). Much of the rest of the subchapter discusses what would qualify as an equation, including close associations, opposites, and images or terms which lead to each other.


 It is first in A Grammar of Motives, published in 1945, that the steps of generalization and finding the "over-all category" are discussed in more detail. In his discussion of dialectics as linguistic transformation, Burke writes, "one may study particular instances of linguistic transformation (as with the critic describing the developments in some one work of art)" (402), and, "Our primary interest here is . . . in considering the grammatical relations inherent in the key terms which the author selects as the coordinates for his calculus of human relations" (354). He gives an example of how we can find higher levels of generalization with the concept of "good:" "It would subdivide into 'good' and 'evil,' as with 'duality.' . . . The 'synthesis' might be found in some 'higher level' generalization, like 'morality,' which unites both" (413). We find levels of generalization by looking for moves of merger, division, and transcendence. He also calls the "over-all category," which is found through indexing, a "God-term." It "designates the ultimate motivation, or substance, of a Constitutional frame" (355). The method of abstraction and generalization is discussed in more detail in A Rhetoric of Motives, published in 1950, where we are told to move "dialectically" from "positive terms" (concrete items, containing "size, shape, texture, color, and the like")(183), to "dialectical terms" (more abstract terms "the realm of ideas or principles")(187), until we finally reach the "ultimate term" which works as a unitary principle within this cluster of terms and organizes and infuses all the lower terms with meaning (187).


 The much awaited but never completed A Symbolic of Motives was expected to feature a detailed explanation of the method of indexing. The work was never completed, but we can derive some things from the essays that were written to be used in this book ("LAPE" 302). “Fact, Inference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism” gives us a thorough description of the first steps of indexing. Other essays published with it in Essays Toward A Symbolic of Motives, published in 2001, give us some clues as to how this first step fits with the other steps of the method. Of them, "Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education" is probably the most comprehensive in explaining each step and weaving them together in a comprehensive educational program based on a rhetorical perspective of society.


 From "Fact, Inference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism" (originally published in 1954) we learn that the first challenge we meet in attempting to index a text is in the selection of "key terms," and he writes "we must find some principle of selection, since some terms are more likely than others to yield good hermeneutic results" (54). Some advice he gives is to look at the title or characteristics of central characters. A good indication may be the frequency and intensity of use a term has. Yet, "there must be a certain amount of waste motion here . . . One is threatened with a kind of methodic demoralization – for anything may pay off" (56). One starts by simply noting concordances, or words occurring together in a text. Burke remarks that one can note many correlations without being able to fit them into “an over-all scheme of interpretation” (“Fact” 53), but after a while one starts to notice a pattern. He takes the readers through a sample analysis of James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and mentions briefly how one can find "titles" to describe the stages of symbolic transformation until one finds some controlling motive or "over-all term," but does not go into great detail on that part of the method.


"Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education" (published in 1955) does not go into as much detail about the first of the three stages, referring rather quickly to the questions of "what goes with what" and "what follows what" and accumulating such equations (270), but it is perhaps in this text that Burke most clearly connects this search for equations with a search for hierarchies. He claims that texts reveal the motivational structures in a society, and we can link the "personality or a work" to the "personality of a social order" (275). As he writes later, "Since language, however manipulated by the individual user, is essentially a collective or social product, the powers of the social order will inevitably be manifested in it, quite as these powers can only be developed by the use of linguistic resources" (288). He therefore asks us to be aware of verbal pyramids (structures of abstraction) which mirror linguistic, social, natural, and supernatural orders of higher and lower. "The verbal pyramid is most clearly revealed in the design  of Platonist and Neo-Platonist dialectic, the upward way from particulars to higher and higher orders of abstraction, matched by a corresponding downward way from the one to the many which are imbued with the substance of its oneness" (288). At the top of the supernatural verbal pyramid we find the God-term, because of "certain dialectical resources that permit of progress toward an over-all 'term of terms' that will sum up complexity much as the title of a novel could be said to simplify the myriad of details by one word that stood for the single spirit infusing them all" (289). The influence of these verbal pyramids in the actions and thoughts of individuals and groups is what Kenneth Burke refers to as the "hierarchical motive" which indexing should seek to uncover (295-6).


Verbal pyramids are constructed by "dialectical transcendence, which is a method Kenneth Burke explains best in "I, Eye, Ay,: Emerson's Early Essay on 'Nature': Thoughts on the Machinery of Dialectical Transcendence," published in 1966. In this essay, he explains the rhetorical appeal of dialectical transcendence, and gives examples of how it is achieved in Emerson's essay as well as how such structures can be detected.  For Burke, transcendence “viewed as a sheerly terministic or symbolic function” is defined as “the building of a terministic bridge whereby one realm is transcended by being viewed in terms of a realm ‘beyond’ it” (877). For example, a priest can help a parishioner terministically transcend death by viewing the end of life on Earth in times of eternal life and the life of the spirit, where he or she may expect a union with God. Once the parishioner takes this terministic journey to its destination and then moves back to contemplate death, the reality of physical death seems different.


These journeys of dialectical transcendence can be found almost anywhere in human communication. In “Rhetoric – Old and New” Kenneth Burke claims that “we are continually encountering fragmentary variants of them” (204). This is because “the machinery of language is so made that things are necessarily placed in terms of a range broader than the terms for those things themselves. And thereby, even in the toughest or tiniest of terminologies . . . we consider things in terms of a broader scope than the terms for those particular things themselves” (“Transcendence” 895). The human mind or the instruments for communication are so constructed that they seek for meaning beyond the simple term. It is Burke’s claim that “wherever there are traces of that process, there are the makings of Transcendence” (“Transcendence” 895). It therefore follows that some version of dialectical transcendence and hierarchies of terms, however undeveloped, will be found in any writer’s terminology, and it is often this step of the process which most clearly shows the ideology or interpretation of life hidden in the text.


Indexing in Secondary Scholarship

 One of the first applications of indexing by other scholars is found in William H. Rueckert's Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations, published in 1963. Rueckert writes, "The method is simple: the essential meaning of an image, term, or sound is equal to the sum of its generic, contextual, entelechial, and equational relationships. Or . . . the essential meaning . . . is equal to the sum of whatever it is identified or associated with in a given work" (175). He then gives an example by indexing Howards End by tracking associational clusters between the wych-elm and the female characters in the book, showing some of the deeper poetic meanings which can be found in the statements some of the characters make about the tree. He carefully tracks all passages containing the wych-elm, and finds people and concepts associated or dissociated with it. The wych-elm comes to stand for magic, tradition, blood bond, friendship, and passion, which is identified with some of the women, standing in opposition to development, the city, modern nomads, rootlessness, and the men in Howards End. He does not move beyond the associations to find hierarchies of terms or verbal pyramids, although the traditional vs. modern construction is very obvious.


 In 1976, Carol A. Bertold attempts to describe the method with more precision and to make it more available for rhetorical scholars in the article, "Kenneth Burke's Cluster-Agon Method: Its Development and an Application." As she writes, up until this point, "Despite Rueckert's clarifications, rhetorical critics have made little use of Burke's method" (302), claiming that the "lack of a clearly defined procedure" from Burke's vague description and lack of testing "on a rhetorical action to prove that the method is usable" are mainly to blame (302). She describes the procedure as first selecting key terms by looking for important words in the rhetoric one is studying and choosing some marked by their "frequency and intensity" (303), then arriving at a God-term. She uses Richard Weaver's concept of god and devil terms to clarify the concept, which is in some ways significantly different from Kenneth Burke's concept of God-terms.  Terms can be made into equations by connecting them by conjunctions, cause-effect relationships, imagery, mutual relationships to a third term, and actually "No apparent limitation exists on the number of ways in which terms may be combined" (303), leaving this decision to the careful critic. Key terms are only ranked in a hierarchy based on the key terms they are associated with and the frequency of such connection, as well as being placed in clear opposition to the devil term (303). She then applies this methodology to speeches by John F. Kennedy, and finds that although he spoke much in favor of "freedom" (which she placed as his God-term) and peace, that freedom and peace is closely associated with "security" and placed in an agonistic position to the devil term "Communism." This may show that John F. Kennedy was much more of a cold warrior than he gave the impression of. In conclusion, she writes that "Cluster-agon analysis has several potential uses in rhetorical criticism" (309): It can establish a certain measure of objectivity in rhetorical analysis, provide a method of "comparing the rhetoric of several speakers," evaluate how "a speaker's key concepts are perceived by his audience," and it can be employed "as a precise method of discovering key term relationships in the rhetoric of a social movement" (309).


 Despite this being the first article published by Carol A. Bertold, based on her dissertation from Northwestern University, it had quite an impact and in some ways set the standard for future applications of Kenneth Burke's method of indexing, which was hereafter mostly referred to as "cluster analysis" or "cluster criticism." She bases her understanding of the method from Attitudes Toward History and the articles "The Philosophy of Literary Form" and "Fact, Inference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism," using Rueckert's Kenneth Burke and the Drama of Human Relations and Richard Weaver's The Ethics of Rhetoric as her secondary sources. No other books or articles from Burke or his critics are mentioned. As a result perhaps of not consulting any work on indexing published after "The Philosophy of Literary Form," with the exception of "Fact, Inference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism," Bertold includes little in her analysis about the hierarchal motive, dialectical transcendence, or how verbal pyramids help us find the God-term. The resulting index is a horizontal network of interrelated terms without a visible difference in hierarchy between terms except that which is caused by centrality and interconnectedness in a symbolic structure. To give a metaphor, the God-term is the hub in a network of linked individuals. There is little connection to the vertical structures of verbal pyramids or dialectical transcendence, which Burke mentioned as steps two and three of indexing in "The Philosophy of Literary Form" (70).


 Less than half a year later, "Three Sheers for Kenneth Burke" is published in the Quarterly Journal of Speech by Laura Crowell, Professor Emeritus of Speech at the University of Washington at the time. Although she refers to the method as indexing and uses it to index the occurrences of "sheer" in Kenneth Burke's scholarly work, she only consults "The Philosophy of Literary Form" concerning the method and describes it very briefly as "discovering equations" (154). Her article is less about method and more about understanding Kenneth Burke's use of language, and it is not often referred to by scholars who seek to ground their use of indexing in a scholarly description of the method.


 After this there is a small surge of rhetorical critics using indexing, or cluster criticism as they call it. Paul Alvin Fritz completes a dissertation called "A Cluster Analysis of the Hippocratic Oath" in 1978, Elizabeth Riley Avalos completes a dissertation called "Concepts of Power in Betty Friedan's Rhetoric: An Application of Burke's Cluster-Agon Method" in 1983 and two journal articles are published using cluster criticism the same year (Mechling and Mechling; Corcoran). Sonja K. Foss publishes an article using the method in 1984, and at least five more journal articles are published using the method during the next ten years (Peterson 1988; Reid 1990; Marston and Rockwell 1991; Leda and Descutner 1993; Lee and Campbell 1994). It is worth noting that a great many of these publications as well as Bertold's article on method were released in the Central States Speech Journal. Of these, the articles by Mechling and Mechling and later Peterson are often used as the new standard. For example, in "Getting Down to the Meat: The Symbolic Construction of Meat Consumption," published in 1998, Bettina Heinz and Ronald Lee do not refer to Bertold or Crowell, but rather write that their method "is similar to that used by Mechling and Mechling (1983), who examined three books on sugar, and Peterson (1988), who analyzed trail guides, news releases, and leaflets related to the Grand Teton National Park" (98). In this article, Heinz and Lee do not even discuss concepts such as "God-terms" or "hierarchies of terms." Rather, they see the uncovering of associational clusters as an end in itself. They claim, "By uncovering associational clusters, critics can reveal the predominance of certain cultural values. Values indicate a society's understanding of particular objects or sentiments as desirable or necessary. Like Burke, the critic asks what kinds of acts go with specific cultural values" (89). There is a brief mention of how these clusters can uncover a rhetor's world view, but there is no discussion of how charting a hierarchy of values can help with that task. Most of the methodological discussion is spent repeating Bertold's description of equations: "The equations may be between individual symbols or between associational clusters. These symbols and clusters may equate with one another, stand in opposition to one another, or merely coexist with one another. These connotations form a pattern of representation" (89).


 This is the form of indexing which has found the most widespread expression in books describing methods of rhetorical criticism. In Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice by Sonja K. Foss, cluster criticism has been given a whole chapter describing the method and showing its application in published journal articles. The description of the method is very similar to that of Bertold in 1976: "(1) identification of key terms in the rhetorical artifact; (2) charting of terms that cluster around the key terms; and (3) discovery of patterns in the clusters around the key terms to determine meanings of the key terms for the rhetor (65). In the third part of the method, agon analysis makes an entry as the charting of opposites within the clusters. Critics are told to try to chart "the worldview the rhetoric has constructed" (66), with a keen eye for strong associations between key terms which would indicate "that the key term's meaning for the rhetor is modified or influenced by that associated term" (66). She uses Bertold's example from Kennedy's speeches, stating that "If the term freedom, for example, usually appears with security, the critic may speculate that the rhetors view of freedom is constrained by the notion of security" (66).


 In Modern Rhetorical Criticism by Roderick P. Hart and Suzanne Daughton, cluster criticism is mixed with other methods in a chapter on "Dramatistic Criticism." They also describe the basic first step of indexing: "By tracking which images went with which images, which opposed which, or which followed which, Burke often had novel things to say about rhetorical tone" (276). However, they do account to a small extent for the hierarchical element which is usually neglected or ignored. "When doing this sort of analysis, Burke looked for increasingly abstract relationships among stylistic elements. Unless the critic tracks word patterns up the ladder of abstraction, they become mere tidbits of data that have been tidily assembled by the critic but whose conceptual importance is impossible to discern" (276). This part of the text seems to be added as an afterthought. None of the examples which they mention thereafter (Bertold's analysis of Kennedy among others) do this work of abstraction and finding the hierarchy of generalizations in texts. The concepts of "hierarchy" and "transcendence" are mentioned earlier as separate critical tools (274-5), but show no more inherent connection with indexing than the concepts of scapegoating, dramatic force, motive, or dramatic comfort which are also mentioned earlier.


 In general, it seems like Kenneth Burke's concepts of hierarchies and God-terms are not being used generally with cluster criticism, and that the element of indexing which has become most widely used is that of finding equations, key terms, and clusters. Two exceptions may be the textbook The Elements of Dramatism by David Blakesley, and “Becoming Symbol-Wise: Kenneth Burke’s Pedagogy of Critical Reflection” by Jessica Enoch. Blakesley describes the method much in the same terms as Bertold, but then goes on to say that students should see how within the clusters they could see a connection to some ultimate order, and if (within the clusters) they can find a term which works as the motivational foundation for the rest of the structure. Enoch writes that "dramatistic analysis," which is not exactly the same as the pentad but rather describes a general approach or attitude to language, starts with the tracking of what goes with what and what follows what, but "By making these kinds of assessments, students, it seems, would also be led to discover the "ultimate order of terms" in the text—a concept Burke describes more fully in A Rhetoric of Motives" (283). She makes it clear that there is a direct connection with indexing and verbal pyramids or dialectical transcendence.


Through charting, students would see how each key term in a text reinforces an overall argument, a "guiding idea," or "unitary principle" for the entire literary piece (187). Burke's charting would put students in the practice of understanding how a key term in a text reinforces the others (or in Burke's words "is arranged hierarchically") to perform a kind of textual unity as all the terms "work together" as "successive positions or moments in a single process" (187)


It is not made clear in her article exactly how this kind of discovery is achieved, but it is clear from what she writes that contemplation and charting of hierarchy can and should be the outcome and purpose of the method of indexing. Enoch concludes her article by writing that “Burke's theory and practices should become a pedagogical priority because what Burke argued for then is what we must argue for and implement now. Like the students Burke wrote about in LAPE, students today should learn to reflect on the language used to move people to action and war” (291).




 Although it is clear that indexing was Kenneth Burke's preferred method for textual analysis, it is not undeserved that the pentad has received the kind of prominence as a method that it has. In some ways, it definitely is a method which is easier to understand and to apply without much explanation. It has also been thoroughly introduced, explained, and applied in A Grammar of Motives, whereas indexing was never fully explained or applied, perhaps because A Symbolic of Motives was never completed. Those who seek to understand and apply this method find it scattered throughout all of Burke's momentous scholarship and have to try to piece it together. Carol A. Bertold seems to have been the scholar who made parts of indexing more widely available and accessible through her formulation of "cluster-agon analysis." Her article on method encouraged increased use of indexing as a critical method for rhetorical scholars, although her version depended greatly on Burke's earliest scholarship on the method and relied on Weaver's explanation of God-terms rather than Burke's own concept. The result is a strong separate tradition of rhetorical criticism which is based on indexing but does not embrace the entire method and goes by the name of cluster criticism. Some scholars have tried to revive the hierarchical elements of indexing. Blakesley has done so by trying to reform cluster criticism, choosing to still refer to the method by that name; Enoch describes the method based purely on Burke's writings and refers to it as "dramatistic analysis" or "indexing." None of these scholars provide a step by step guide and procedure which is easy to follow as Bertold did. The time may be ripe for someone to update Bertold to account for the hierarchical method connected to indexing from Burke's later scholarship.


This website is an attempt to bring back the connection in practice between cluster criticism and dialectical transcendence and God-terms which were originally all a part of Kenneth Burke's indexing method.