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Kenneth Burke and the Conversation after Philosophy

Kenneth Burke and the Conversation after Philosophy

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Timothy W. Crusius


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
272 pages, 6 x 9

Rhetorical Philosophy & Theory


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About the Book

Throughout much of his long life (1897­–1993), Kenneth Burke was recognized as a leading American intellectual, perhaps the most significant critic writing in English since Coleridge. From about 1950 on, rhetoricians in both English and speech began to see him as a major contributor to the New Rhetoric. But despite Burke's own claims to be writing philosophy and some notice from reviewers and critics that his work was philosophically significant, Timothy W. Crusius is the first to access his work as philosophy.

Crusius traces Burke's commitment and contributions to philosophy prior to 1945, from Counter-Statement (1931) through The Philosophy of Literary Form (1941). While Burke might have been a late modernist thinker, Crusius shows that Burke actually starts from a position closely akin to such postmodern figures as Michel Foucault and Richard Rorty.

Crusius then examines Burke's work from A Grammar of Motives (1945) up to his last published essays, drawing most heavily on A Rhetoric of Motives, The Rhetoric of Religion, and uncollected essays from the 1970s. This part concerns Burke's contributions to human activities always closely associated with rhetoric-hermeneutics, dialectic, and praxis. Burke's highly developed notion of our species as the "symbol-using animal," argues Crusius, draws together the various strands of his later philosophy—his concern with interpretation, with dialectic and dialogue, with a praxis devoted to awareness and control of the self-deceiving and potentially self-destructive motives inherent in language itself.


Timothy W. Crusius is an associate professor of English at Southern Methodist University. His books include Discourse: A Critique and Synthesis of Major Theories, A Teacher's Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics, and The Aims of Argument: A Rhetoric and Reader (with Carolyn Channell).


"I found myself consistently enlightened by Crusius's discussions. By locating Burke's concerns within philosophical thought, Crusius takes us to the heart of Burke's project and contributes mightily to the resolution of many Burkean problems. By taking a philosophical approach, Crusius is able to claim substantial new territory. This study is impressive, original, and important."—Jack Selzer, author of Kenneth Burke in Greenwich Village: Conversing with the Moderns, 1915–1931