№ 9 2020

УДК / UDK: 82(091)

Author: M. Elizabeth Weiser
About the author:

M. Elizabeth Weiser (PhD, professor, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA)

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Most scholars of American theorist Kenneth Burke consider him a founder of the post-war New Rhetoric, a movement to shift rhetorical studies from a historic focus on persuasion to a more expansive understanding of language, dialogue, and communally constructed truths. However, Burke throughout the 1930s and 40s thought of himself primarily as a literary critic, albeit one who turned literary critical techniques to the social scene around him. Without his ongoing, often contentious dialogue with the literary scholars of the New Criticism, Burke’s rhetorical theories on the power of language to answer questions of human motivations may well have never materialized. New Criticism and New Rhetoric, therefore, forged each other in the crucible of the mid-century years of depression and war and the intellectual ferment they generated. It was Burke’s attempts to explain himself to these literary critics and exhort them to turn their critical lens to the world around them that provided the methodology for his action-analysis of the socio-political world. In this article I examine three of these contentious relationships—with Allen Tate prior to World War II, with John Crowe Ransom during the war, and with René Wellek following it. Their debates and congruences led Burke to formulate his purposely ambiguous understanding of hierarchies and norms that constitute what he termed the “wrangle” of parliamentary debate— a constitutive rhetoric that continues to drive international relations today.

Keywords: New Rhetoric, New Criticism, Kenneth Burke, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, René Wellek, Historiography

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