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Addressing Postmodernity

Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric, and a Theory of Social Change

Written by Barbara Biesecker

Publication Year: 2009

Biesecker reveals the full range of Kenneth Burke's contribution to the possibility of social change.

In Addressing Postmodernity, Barbara Biesecker examines the relationship between rhetoric and social change and the ways human beings transform social relations through the purposeful use of symbols.  In discerning the conditions of possibility for social transformation and the role of human beings and rhetoric in it, Biesecker turns to the seminal work of Kenneth Burke.

Through a close reading of Burke's major works, A Grammar of Motives, A Rhetoric of Motives, and The Rhetoric of Religion:  Studies in Logology, Biesecker addresses the critical topic of the
fragmentation of the contemporary lifeworld. As Biesecker shows, postmodernity will have a major impact on Burkeian scholarship and on the rhetorical critique of social relations in general.

Biesecker confronts directly the challenges posed by postmodernity to social theorists and critics alike. In juxtaposing the work of Burke and Jurgen Habermas, Biesecker argues that a radicalized rereading of Burke's theory of the negative opens the way toward a resolutely rhetorical theory of social change and human agency.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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pp. ix-x

To finish a project such as this and then to reflect upon the conditions of its possibility is to realize that there is nothing further from the truth than the commonly held belief that writing is a solitary affair. For without the instruction, encouragement, assistance, and kindness of a great many people over the past several years this book...

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1. Entering the Fray

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pp. 1-23

As its title suggests, this book aims to offer an answer to the question, What are the conditions of possibility for social change in post modernity? Hence, this book moves from the assumption that prior theorizations of social relations and their transformation no longer serve, that the peculiarities and particularities of our postmodern...

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2. Reading Ontology in A Grammar of Motives

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pp. 24-39

There can be no doubt that Kenneth Burke's A Grammar of Motives is a book concerned with the practical art of interpreting symbolic acts. Indeed, the introduction and part one of the Grammar could have been subtitled "The Protocols of Dramatistic Analysis." First comes a declaration of the project: the book, Burke states, will...

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3. A Rhetoric of Motives, or Toward an Ontology of the Social

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pp. 40-51

In the previous chapter I argued that one may read in A Grammar of Motives an ontology. More specifically, I argued that motive is Burke's name for the irreducible action/motion differential or rift resident in the human being that is the condition of possibility for its historical emergence in a world. In this chapter I will argue that one...

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4. Further Speculations on the Dialectic: The Rhetoric of Religion

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pp. 52-73

Although much has been made of what Kenneth Burke has called logology, very little attention has been paid to his inaugural booklength manuscript on the subject entitled The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology. Oddly enough even less attention has been paid to its third chapter wherein Burke applies logological analysis to the...

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5. From Communicative Action to Rhetorical Invention

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pp. 74-102

The turn toward and deconstruction of Burke's trivium of motives, as I stated at the outset of this book, emerge out of the need for a retheorization of the relation of subject and structure and, hence, of social change that maIzes it possible for us not only to newly appreciate our past but also, and perhaps more important, to refigure...


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pp. 103-114

Works Cited

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pp. 115-120


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pp. 121-123

E-ISBN-13: 9780817382599
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817310639

Publication Year: 2009