A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke

By Kenneth Burke

As critic, Kenneth Burke's preoccupations have been before everything merely esthetic and literary; yet after Counter-Statement (1931), he started to discriminate a "rhetorical" or persuasive part in literature, and thereupon grew to become a thinker of language and human conduct.
In A Grammar of Motives (1945) and A Rhetoric of Motives (1950), Burke's notion of "symbolic action" comes into its personal: all human activities--linguisitc or extra-linguistic--are modes of symbolizing; guy is outlined because the symbol-using (and -misusing) animal. The critic's activity turns into one of many reading human symbolizing anyplace he unearths it, with the purpose of illuminating human motivation. hence the succeed in of the literary critic now extends to the social and ethical.
A Grammar of Motives is a "methodical meditation" on such complicated linguistic types as performs, tales, poems, theologies, metaphysical structures, political philosophies, constitutions. A Rhetoric of Motives expands the sphere to human methods of persuasion and id. Persuasion, as Burke sees it, "ranges from the bluntest quest of virtue, as in revenues merchandising or propaganda, via courtship, social etiquette, schooling, and the sermon, to a 'pure' shape that delights within the strategy of attraction for itself by myself, with no ulterior goal. And id levels from the flesh presser who, addressing an viewers of farmers, says, 'I used to be a farm boy myself,' during the mysteries of social prestige, to the mystic's religious identity with the resources of all being."

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In any case, here too would be a consideration o£ audiences; hence even by the tests o£ the classic tradition it would fa11 under the head of rhetoric, though it necessarily extended the range of the term to cover a situation essentially new. Thus, al1 told, besides the extension of rhetoric through the concept of identification, we have noted these purely traditional evidences o£j the rhetorical motive: persuasion, exploitation of opinion (the "timelfI topic is a variant), a work's nature as addressed, literature for use (ap-!

In his Orator, an earlier work than the De Oratore, when defending his verbal opulence against a rising "Attic" school in Rome which called for simpler diction, Cicero distinguishes three styles (genera dicendi, genera d e n d i ) : the grandiloquent, plain, and tempered.

The "presentness" of epideictic, which brought it closest to appeal by sheer delight, also explains why it is, according to Aristotle, the kind that lends itself best to the written word. For its effects can be savored, hence may profit by a closer, more sustained scrutiny. Also, since pure display rhetoric comes closest to the appeal of poetic in and for itself, it readily permits the arbitrary selection of topics halfway between rhetoric and poetic. And here even methods originally forensic may be used as artifice.

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