№ 9 2020

УДК / UDK: 82(091)

Author: Bryan Crable
About the author:

Bryan Crable (PhD, Professor; Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA)

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There is no question but that Kenneth Burke transformed twentieth century scholarship in rhetorical studies—although too often scholars’ emphasis on identification has led them to neglect other portions of the Burkean canon with important implications for the theory and criticism of rhetorical discourse. In this essay, therefore, I draw upon Burke’s (ultimately unsuccessful) efforts to craft a follow-up to his groundbreaking volume A Rhetoric of Motives, and do so in order to focus specifically on his writings on catharsis. However, I do so not in order to provide a definitive account of this stage of Burke’s career, nor of his unfinished project on poetics (whatever that might be), but to instead engage a difficult question raised by these writings: are the rhetorical dimensions of catharsis necessarily restricted to the transformation of strictly civic motives? Might, in other words, catharsis act instead upon the troubling byproducts of our existence as “bodies that learn language”—the byproducts that drive our (human) rhetorical existence? In the conclusion of the essay, I flesh out this question through the creation of a “perspective by incongruity”— a juxtaposition between Burke’s writings on catharsis and Anne Carson’s innovative volume of Greek tragedy combining works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, An Oresteia. Ultimately, I argue, this planned incongruity might help us complete Burke’s account of catharsis, and to thereby outline a kind of pollution and cleansing of vital importance to the study of human social life, in all its vital manifestations.

Keywords: Kenneth Burke; rhetoric; transcendence; catharsis; tragedy; comedy; The Oresteia.

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