Seminars at KBS 2011

The tradition of outstanding seminars at past conferences continues in 2011. We have six distinguished scholars leading five seminars, each of which radiates from the conference theme, "Burke, Rhetoric, and Social Change." Seminars will meet all four days of the conference in a small group setting for discussion, debate, and competitive cooperation (friendly as it may be). The leaders describe their seminars below and include a list of work to read prior to the conference. Seminar participants are often asked to prepare inforrmal response papers of some sort. Seminar leaders will make contact with seminar participants in advance of the conference with updates as needed.

Conference registrants should select a seminar when they submit their 2011 KBS Registration Form. We'll make every attempt to give each person the first or second choice (you'll be asked to rank your top three). Space in some seminars will fill up quickly, so be sure to register early. These descriptions may be updated before the conference, so be sure to check back before sending in your registration.

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Burke and Law

Clarke Rountree
University of Alabama, Huntsville

This seminar will explore intersections between Burke’s work and law, with particular attention to the Clarke Rountree’s application of the pentad to the analysis of judicial discourse. Seminar participants will read the essays below. Additionally, the group will read the U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London (the controversial case approving Connecticut’s use of imminent domain) as a case study in legal rhetoric.

Prior to the conference, small group members will submit a f5-8 page exploratory essay considering how Burke’s ideas might help us understand law, justice, or judicial processes. The focus should be narrow, considering the role of identification, form, terms for order, terministic screens, perspective by incongruity, bureaucratization of the imaginative, the master tropes, the five dogs, administrative rhetoric, substance, dialectic, the constitution-behind-the-constitution, or other Burkeian concepts relevant to legal discourse or talk about the law. Essays may consider explicit statements Burke has made about law or apply one of his concepts to general legal processes, to a particular example of those processes, or to talk about law and justice.

Materials to Read

  • Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives. 1945. Berkeley: U of California Press, 1969. (Especially the Introduction, Part 1, and Part 3.)
  • Rountree, Clarke. “Coming to Terms with Kenneth Burke’s Pentad.” The American Communication Journal 1, no. 3 (May 1998). (Online at
  • Rountree, Clarke. “Instantiating 'The Law' and Its Dissents in Korematsu v. United States: A Dramatistic Analysis of Judicial Discourse.” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 87 (February 2001): 1-24.

Provided by the Seminar Leader

  • Rountree, Clarke. “Chapter 1: Judicial Motives in American Jurisprudence.” In Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2007.
  • Rountree, Clarke. “Setting the Stage for Brown v. Board of Education: The NAACP’s Litigation Campaign Against the ‘Separate But Equal’ Doctrine.” In  Brown v. Board of Education at 50: A Rhetorical Perspective. Edited by Clarke Rountree. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2004.
  • Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).

Clarke Rountree is Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Alabama, Huntsville. Rountree was awarded the prestigious 2008- 2009 Kohrs-Campbell Prize in Rhetorical Criticism by Michigan State University Press for his book, Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motive in Bush v. Gore. He is presently the Vice President of the Kenneth Burke Society.

Race-ing Burke

Bryan Crable
Villanova University

In many respects, this seminar topic would seem to figure a connection at best unlikely, and at worst antagonistic. Burke might seem an unlikely figure to link with race--simply because his origins (geographic, generational, and racial) contrast sharply with the concerns of those who advocate or construct critical race theory. More to the point, Burke was not then, and is not now, known for his writings on issues of race. Not only are Burke's own writings relatively quiet on matters of race (with some notable exceptions), but the same is true of the secondary literature. To be sure, some scholars have done work connecting Burke's work to issues of race, identity, and racism (e.g., Bobbitt, Rhetoric of Redemption; Carlson, "'You Know It When You See It'"; Crable, "Race and A Rhetoric of Motives"; Crable, "Symbolizing Motion"; Klumpp, "Burkean Social Hierarchy"; Lynch, "Race and Radical Renamings"). In many respects, however, Burkean scholarship focuses much more strongly on issues of class than of race (or of gender). This seminar will hope to change that somewhat, by focusing attention on several key works by Burke that deal with matters of race, and from throughout his career, including the "Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle,'" an early review from The Philosophy of Literary Form, the controversial citation of Ralph Ellison in A Rhetoric of Motives, and a late essay on Ellison's Invisible Man. Further, by reading these works alongside essays by Ellison and Donald Pease, seminar participants will be in a position to contribute new, Burke-fueled statements on our nation's ongoing "conversation" on race and identity.

Materials to Read

  • Bobbitt, David A. The Rhetoric of Redemption: Kenneth Burke's Redemption Drama and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2007.
  • Carlson, A. Cheree. "You Know It When You See It: The Rhetorical Hierarchy of Race and Gender in Rhinelander v. Rhinelander." Quarterly Journal of Speech 85 (1999): 111-128.
  • Crable, Bryan. "Race and A Rhetoric of Motives: Kenneth Burke's Dialogue with Ralph Ellison." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 33.3 (Summer 2003): 5-25.
  • Crable, Bryan. "Symbolizing Motion: Burke's Dialectic and Rhetoric of the Body." Rhetoric Review 22.2 (2003): 121-137.
  • Klumpp, James F. "Burkean Social Hierarchy and the Ironic Investment of Martin Luther King." Kenneth Burke and the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Bernard L. Brock. Albany: SUNY Press, 1999. 207-41.
  • Lynch, John. "Race and Radical Renamings: Using Cluster Agon Method to Assess the Radical Potential of 'European American' as a Substitute for 'White.' KB Journal 2.2 (Spring 2006).
  • "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle.'" The Philosophy of Literary Form. 1941. Berkeley: U of California P, 1973.

Bryan Crable is the Chair of the Communication Department at Villanova University. He is also the Founding Director of the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society. He received the Charles Kneupper Award from the Rhetoric Society of America, for best article of 2003 in Rhetoric Society Quarterly: "Race and A Rhetoric of Motives: Kenneth Burke's Dialogue with Ralph Ellison." In 2008, he chaired the 7th Triennial Conference of the Kenneth Burke Society. Crable is finishing a book on Kenneth Burke, Ralph Ellison and the American "racial divide," scheduled to be published by The University of Virginia Press in 2012. He is also completing an edited volume on Kenneth Burke and the transcendence of social conflict, to be published by Parlor Press in 2012.

Burke and Education

Elvera Berry
Roberts Wesleyan College

Peter M. Smudde
Illinois State University

Whatever our particular interest in the work of Kenneth Burke, to the extent that we engage his ideas, we become both student and teacher of those ideas. Taking Burke seriously calls for an examination not only of the substance of his corpus, but also of the implications of that substance for how we function as educators. The theme of the 2011 conference, “Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric, and Social Change,” speaks directly to the nature and role of education. While he did not write extensively about education, per se, Burke left a corpus filled with implications for education as well as a major resource in his remarkable 1955 essay, “Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education.”  Concerned though he was about the lack of pedagogical imagination in his time, Burke himself could not have fully anticipated the level of polarization and bureaucratization in today’s colleges and universities, let alone the atomizing effects of web-based news cycles and social media. However, his work remains invaluable in raising questions, identifying concerns, and proposing changes aimed at transcending our own “explosive words” and disarming anger and hate with civil discourse.

This seminar is organized around these questions:

  • What did Burke advocate directly regarding education and civil discourse, and what attitudes toward education can one glean from the rest of his corpus?
  • What role should we, as educators, play in creating social change?
  • What would a Burkeian educational approach for course design and classroom pedagogy look like?
  • What insights does Burke offer regarding the challenges of educating today’s students?

Participants are also encouraged to identify their current educational concerns. Ample time will be given to examining what it means to take Burke seriously, as educators, and to consider implications for the ways we teach and students learn.

Materials to Read

Participants are asked to read Burke’s 1955 essay, “Linguistic Approach to Problems of Education” (National Society for the Study of Education, Modern philosophies and education: The fifty-fourth yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Part I of 2) and to consider its applicability 56 years later. This essay will serve as the foundational reading for the Seminar. It is the cornerstone and opening chapter in Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching and Learning as Symbolic Action. Anderson, SC: Parlor Press, 2010

Additional Highly Recommended Readings

  • The set of thought-provoking essays contained in Humanistic Critique of Education, all of which speak to the idea of “teaching and learning as symbolic action.”
  • “On Words and The Word” (opening chapter of Burke’s 1961 book, The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology, pp. 7-42)
  • “Dramatism” (International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, Vol. 7, pp.445-452, Crowell Collier and Macmillan, Inc.)*
  • “Terministic Screens” (third chapter in Burke’s 1966 book, Language as Symbolic Action, pp. 44-62)
  • “Poetics and Communication” (in Perspectives in Education, Religion and the Arts, H. Kiefer & M. Munitz, editors [1970], pp. 401-418, SUNY)*
  • “Literature as Equipment for Living” (in Burke’s 1941/1973 book, The Philosophy of Literary Form, pp. 293-304).
  • Enoch, J. (2004). Becoming symbol-wise: Kenneth Burke’s pedagogy of critical reflection. College Composition and Communication, 56(2), 272-96.

* Electronic version to be made available.

Elvera B. Berry (Ph.D.) is Professor of Communication and Director of the Honors Program at Roberts Wesleyan College, and 2010 recipient of the inaugural Spiritan Award for Teaching bestowed by Duguesne University’s Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies. A long-term member the Kenneth Burke Society involved in regional and national organizations, she has been studying, teaching, and applying the works of Kenneth Burke for 25 years. Her essay, "The Both-And of Undergraduate Education: Burke's 'Linguistic' Approach" appears in the 2010 collection Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching and Learning as Symbolic Action.  

Peter M. Smudde (Ph.D., Wayne State University) is assistant professor in the School of Communication at Illinois State University. He came to academe full-time in 2002 after sixteen years in industry in the fields of public relations, marketing communications, and technical writing. His primary research and teaching interest is the application of Kenneth Burke's ideas and contemporary theories of rhetoric to pedagogy and industry. He is also the editor of Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching and Learning as Symbolic Action (Parlor Press, 2010).

Burke, "Hitler's 'Battle'" and Beyond 

Steve Katz
Pearce Professor, Clemson University

Kenneth Burke’s “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s 'Battle',” ostensibly a book review, was a rhetorically perspicacious if not prophetic analysis of what was yet to transpire. Though the layers of biography, bigotry, tirades, hatreds, and political strategies that permeate Mein Kampf turned others away in disgust and disbelief, Burke foresaw the general outline of events, read in relation to capitalism, religion, and anti-Semitism, just beginning to unfold. Burke did not have the last word on the interpretation of Mein Kampf; others have examined it since. But despite Burke’s warning that “we need to discover what kind of ‘medicine’ this medicine-man concocted, that we may know exactly what to guard against if we are to forestall the concocting of similar medicine in America,” for obvious and subtle reasons, rhetorical scholars, with a few exceptions, have tended to shy away from engaging Hitler’s manifesto, or its wider implications about genocide and rhetoric, in any hermeneutic depth.

This seminar will not be so shy. What can Burke’s analysis of Mein Kampf teach us today? Or, conversely, what does Mein Kampf and the horrors of history that followed teach us about Kenneth Burke’s rhetoric? After a general introduction of these two primary sources, and discussion of some pieces of scholarship about or that employ Burke’s insights, concepts, or methods of reading, in this seminar participants will share and discuss their five-page exploratory papers focusing on a Burkean method applied to a section or part of Mein Kampf, and/or similar and perhaps rhetorically untreated holocausts in subsequent history. The concept or methods applied could include Burke’s notions of identification, consubtantiality, or substance; form, casuistry, and/or entelechy; tropes, terministic screens, pentadic ratios, etc. Papers should be as specific as possible.

Materials to Read

Burke, Kenneth. “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle’.”  The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. 3rd ed. Berkeley: U of California P, 1973. 191-220.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (any unexpurgated edition. I have the 1939 edition, published by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin). You might want to pay particular attention to Volume 1,“Chapter VI: War Propaganda” and in Volume 2, “Chapter VI: The Struggle of the Early Days—The Significance of the Spoken Word,” or “Chapter XI: Propaganda and Organization,” as I do in some of my work (see below), but any part or topic of Hitler’s manifesto, which are highly discernible in the Table of Contents, is ripe for the talking.

Pauley, Garth. "Criticism in Context: Kenneth Burke's "The Rhetoric of Hitler's 'Battle'" KB Journal 6.1 (Fall 2009).

Schmidt, Josef. “In Praise of Kenneth Burke: His ‘The Rhetoric of Hitler’s ‘Battle’ Revisited.” Should be available for free from your university computer at: RHETOR – Volume I (2004).

Weiser, Elizabeth M. “Burke and War: Rhetoricizing the Theory of Dramatism.” Rhetoric Review, Vol. 26, No. 3, 286–302. Copyright © 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.  Should be available via university journal subscriptions or may be downloaded from Prof. Weiser here:

Materials to Read Provided by the Seminar Leader

Katz, Steven B. “The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust.” College English 54 (March 1992): 255-75

Katz, Steven B. “Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Hitler’s Program, and the Ideological Problem of Praxis, Power, and Professional Discourse as a Social Construction of Knowledge.” Special issue on Power and Professional Discourse, Journal of Business and Technical Communication. (Jan. 1993): 37-62

Steve Katz is the Pearce Professor of Professional Communication at Clemson University. He received his Ph.D. in Communication and Rhetoric from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1988. His most recent book is the 3rd edition of Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse, co-authored with Ann Penrose and published in 2010 by Allyn & Bacon/Longman. In 1993, Dr. Katz won a National Council of Teachers of English Award for his article on "The Ethic of Expediency." His book Plato's Nightmare is due out from Parlor Press in 2011.

Mining Burkean Archives

Ann George
Texas Christian University

Archival research is changing the face of Burke studies. In the past decade, a host of essays and books have demonstrated how the archives ask us to reexamine what we “know” about Burke by reexamining how we’ve come to this knowledge. Archives, that is, changewhat we study (his rhetorical strategies as well as his theory, how he wrote as well as what he wrote) and how we study, enabling us to employ Burke’s methodologies—to read dramatistically, to “use everything.” And, then, archives help us begin to define what “everything” means in each case.This seminar will enable participants to explore, practically and theoretically, the potential for and the limitations of creating new understandings of Burke via his archives.

 Materials to Read

Anderson, Dana, and Jessica Enoch. “Introduction.” Burke in the Archives:  Using the Past to Transform the Future of Burkean Studies. Ed. Dana Anderson and Jessica Enoch. Under review at U of South Carolina P.  

Crable, Bryan. “Distance as Ultimate Motive: A Dialectical Interpretation of A Rhetoric of Motives.” RSQ 39.3 (2009): 213-39.

George, Ann. “Kenneth Burke’s ‘On Must’ and ‘Take Care’ ”:  An Edition of His Reply to Parkes’s Review of Attitudes Toward History.”  RSQ 29.4 (1999):  21-39.

---. “Finding the Time for Burke.”  Burke in the Archives:  Using the Past to Transform the Future of Burkean Studies. Ed. Dana Anderson and Jessica Enoch. Under review at U of South Carolina P.  

“Interview: Jessica Enoch—Striking Metaphors.” Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Research and Composition. Ed. Alexis E. Ramsey, Wendy B. Sharer, Barbara L’Eplattenier, and Lisa S. Mastrangelo. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2010. 152-53.

Morris, Sammie L., and Shirley K Rose. “Invisible Hands: Recognizing Archivists’ Work To Make Records Accessible.” Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Research and Composition. Ed. Alexis E. Ramsey, Wendy B. Sharer, Barbara L’Eplattenier, and Lisa S. Mastrangelo. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2010. 51-78.

Robert J. Connors, “Dreams and Play: Historical Method and Methodology.” Methods and Methodology in Composition Research. Ed. Gesa Kirsch and Patricia A. Sullivan. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1992. 15-36.

Tell, David. “Burke’s Encounter with Ransom: Rhetoric and Epistemology in ‘Four Master Tropes.’ ” RSQ 34.4 (2004): 33-54.

Wible, Scott. “Professor Burke’s ‘Bennington Project.’” RSQ 38.3 (2008): 259-82.

Ann George is Associate Professor of English at Texas Christian University.  Currently President of KBS, she is co-author, with Jack Selzer, of Kenneth Burke in the 1930s and is working on a critical edition of Permanence and Change.