A Grammar of Motives

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University of California Press, 1969 - Literary Criticism - 530 pages
6 Reviews
"A Grammar of Motives," published in 1945, is the first volume of a gigantic trilogy, planned to include A Rhetoric of Motives and A Symbolic of Motives, which will be called something like On Human Relations. The aim of the whole series is no less than the comprehensive exploration of human motives and the forms of thought and expression built around them, and its ultimate object, expression in the epigraph: 'ad bellum purificandum,' is to eliminate the whole world of conflict that can be eliminated through understanding. The method or key metaphor for the study is 'drama' or 'dramatism,' and the basic terms of analysis are the dramatistic pentad: Act, Scene, Agent, Agency, and Purpose. The Grammar, which Burke confesses in the Introduction grew from a prolegomena of a few hundred words to nearly 200,000, is a consideration of the purely internal relationship of these five terms, 'their possibilities of transformation, their range of permutations and combinations'..."--Stanley Edgar Hyman, author of The Armed Vision

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Review: A Grammar of Motives

User Review  - Andrew - Goodreads

Weighty, dense, rife with ideas, and at times utterly baffling to a non-expert. The basic premise of the book-- a "dramatistic pentad" that explains human activity in terms of rhetoric-- seems sound ... Read full review

Review: A Grammar of Motives

User Review  - Mary - Goodreads

Admittedly not my favorite work by "Kenny B." Bit too long and obtuse--even for Burke. The core of it, the pentad, is just as genius as you could expect, but there are plenty of long digressions. The ... Read full review


Container and Thing Contained
Antinomies of Definition
Scope and Reduction
Agent in General
Agency and Purpose
The Dialectic of Constitutions
Limits and Powers of a Constitution
Essentializing and Proportional Strategies of Interpretation
Political Rhetoric as Secular Prayer
Dialectic in General
A Symbolic Action in a Poem by Keats
B The Problem of the Intrinsic
Motives and Motifs in the Poetry of Marianne Moore
The Four Master Tropes

Terminal as Anecdote
Five Basic Terms as Beginning
Strategic Choice of Circumference for Freedom

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About the author (1969)

Born in Pittsburgh, Burke was educated at Ohio State and Columbia universities. During his early career, he became involved with a number of little magazines, including Broom and Secession. He also wrote for The Dial and The Nation as a music critic. His greatest fame, however, has been as a literary critic. Omnivorously eclectic, Burke has found in the analysis of human symbolic activities a key to the largest cultural issues. For Burke, literature is the most prominent and sophisticated form of "symbolic action," one that provides "equipment for living" by allowing us to try out hypothetical strategies for dealing with the endless variety of human situations and experiences. Human society demands some principle of order, but the language and reason that create order can fall into rigid abstractions that can be destructive and violently imposed. Literature shows us an image of sacrifice, forgiveness, and flexibility that plays an important role in keeping society functioning flexibly. Burke's writing is extensive, complex and wide ranging, but also unique and uniquely important among current critical approaches.

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