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Burke, Kenneth


Subject Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


(1897-) American literary critic. Although Burke is usually considered a literary critic – he has even been hailed as the foremost critic since Coleridge – his own definition of his project was that it constituted an investigation into symbolic motivations and linguistic action in general ( Burke, 1966 , p. 494). Burke was a prolific writer, translator, poet, short-story writer, and novelist. By concentrating much of his attention on the effects of texts on their audience, he both expanded and refined the art of rhetoric. The fierce independence of his thought, however, greatly limited his influence. His theoretical interests, which distinguish him from the N ew CRITICISM, ranged from P sychoanalysis and linguistics to M arxism and pragmatism; but he was not systematically responsive to any of those disciplines. Nevertheless, as a model of the committed intellectual in America at a time when both political commitment and intellectualism were suspect, he has a secure place in the history of American letters. Critical assessments of his work are likely to be either fulsome or dismissive. His last major book, Language as Symbolic Action (1966), provides an excellent retrospective of his work. 1966 : Language as Symbolic Action . ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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