My overall assessment is that Jennifer MacLennan's essay on crime-scene analysis as viewed in the light of Burke's dramatism makes for a rich, detailed, and generally convincing analogue. Obviously, if Burke's take on human symbolic action has validity, a dramatistic critic can dig up spadefuls of drama in any set of discourses. As she makes clear, though, MacLennan explores not just the way the pentad-related "who, what, when, where, and why questions" pervade the how-to-do-it books of the sleuths who solve serial murders. She unveils "deeper connections" and similarities. Both John Douglas and Robert Ressler, her primary guides in the hunt for what are superficially thought to be motiveless killings, have "assembled . . . a grammar of the symbolic elements of violent crime," a "language of the crime scene," that mirrors many of Burke's primary insights.
Some of those points of overlap between Burke and especially Douglas include:
Treatment of human actions as symbolically infused.
Emphasis on the "situatiod nature of symbolic acts," the "motivational force of the scene-act ratio."
The profound and predictive relationships among agent, attitude, and act.
Use of drama as "an analytic framework."
Stress upon form as "a manifestation of human desire."
"Estrangement" as "the origin" of the "most desparate" strategies of "redemption and reidentification" the criminals in question seek through "victimage."
The "fundamentally rhetorical" nature of serial murders, their character as acts of addressment.
These experts in crime-scene profiling employ different terminology, to be sure. Their conceptualizations are, however, strikingly reflective of Burke's approach to language and rhetoric, MacLennan effectively argues.
That's an overview. Let's get into some of the author's more specific probes in a later post.