Moving Bodies: Kenneth Burke at the Edges of Language
Kenneth Burke may be best known for his theories of dramatism and of language as symbolic action, but few know him as one of the twentieth centurys foremost theorists of the relationship between language and bodies. Moving Bodies presents him as a major transdisciplinary theorist of the body. Debra Hawhee focuses on Burkes studies from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s while illustrating that his interest in reading the body as a central force of communication began early in his career and continued to inform his work over more than six decades.
Burke examined the human body as a participant in thought rather than as the minds binary Cartesian opposite, grappling with notions of physical form as a corporeal intellect, the mental and biological interwoven within one life. By exploring his extensive writings on the subject alongside revealing considerations of his life and his scholarship, Hawhee maps his recurring invocation of a variety of perspectives in order to theorize bodies and communication, including music, mysticism, endocrinology, evolution, speech-gesture theory, and speech-act theory, as well as his personal experiences with pain and illness. Hawhee shows that Burkes goal was to advance understanding of the bodys relationship to identity, to the creation of meaning, and to the circulation of language.
Her study brings to the fore one of Burkes most important and understudied contributions to language theory, and she establishes Burke as a pioneer in a field where investigations into affect, movement, and sense perception broaden understanding of physical ways of knowing.
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