Kenneth Burke  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Kenneth Duva Burke (May 5, 1897 – November 19, 1993) was an American literary theorist, as well as poet, essayist, and novelist, who wrote on 20th-century philosophy, aesthetics, criticism, and rhetorical theory. As a literary theorist, Burke was best known for his analyses based on the nature of knowledge. Furthermore, he was one of the first individuals to stray away from more traditional rhetoric and view literature as "symbolic action."

Burke was unorthodox, concerning himself not only with literary texts, but with the elements of the text that interacted with the audience: social, historical, political background, author biography, etc.

For his career, Burke has been praised by The Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism as "one of the most unorthodox, challenging, and theoretically sophisticated American-born literary critics of the twentieth century." His work continues to be discussed by rhetoricians and philosophers.


His other principal works are

  • Counter-Statement (1931)
  • "Towards a Better Life" (1932), Googlebooks preview, pp. 25–233 not shown.
  • Permanence and Change (1935)
  • Attitudes Toward History (1937)
  • The Rhetoric of Hitler's "Battle" (1939)
  • Philosophy of Literary Form (1941)
  • A Grammar of Motives (1945)
  • A Rhetoric of Motives (1950)
  • Linguistic Approaches to Problems of Education (1955)
  • The Rhetoric of Religion (1961)
  • Language As Symbolic Action (1966)
  • Dramatism and Development (1972): a description of the contents of the two part lecture devoted to biological, psychological and sociocultural phenomena
  • Here and Elsewhere (2005)
  • Essays Toward a Symbolic of Motives (2006)
  • Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare (2007)
  • Full list of his works from KB: The Journal of the Kenneth Burke Society

He also wrote the song "One Light in a Dark Valley," later recorded by his grandson Harry Chapin.[1]




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Kenneth Burke" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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