The University of Wisconsin Press

Literature & Criticism


The Legacy of Kenneth Burke
Edited by Herbert W. Simons and Trevor Melia

In 1981 Kenneth Burke was awarded the National Medal for Literature from the Academy of Arts and Sciences. On that occasion, Richard Kostelanetz, writing in the New York Times, observed that although some of Burke’s nonfiction could be classified as literary criticism, the majority of his writing resisted classification except perhaps as “Burkology.”

Widely heralded as one of America’s premier critical pathfinders, Burke has greatly influenced the current “rhetorical turn” in the human sciences. The likes of W. H. Auden, Harold Bloom, Wayne Booth, and Hayden White have testified to his credentials as a virtuoso reader and critic. Yet it has never been easy to say what “Burkology” is, let alone how to do what Burke does so well. The passage of time since the initial publication of his major works has not made the job any easier.

Coeditor Simons believes that “a rereading and reassessment of Burke are particularly needed in light of recent developments in the literary and rhetorical theory and of what Clifford Geertz has called ‘the refiguration of social thought.’” In this volume, stemming from the 1984 Temple Conference on the Legacy of Kenneth Burke, Simons and Melia have gathered essays that aim to place and clarify, assess and extend Burke’s contributions, as well as to estimate his potential as a unifying force across the human sciences.


Herbert W. Simons is emeritus professor of communication at Temple University. His publications include, Persuasion: Understanding, Practice and Analysis, Persuasion in Society, Form, Genre, and the Study of Political Discourse and Rhetoric in the Human Sciences. Trevor Melia was associate professor of communications at the University of Pittsburgh, and taught seminars about, and on occasion, with, Kenneth Burke, for a quarter of a century. Besides producing a “Burkeian novel,” Lucifer State, he has written for such publications as Philosophy and Rhetoric, The Quarterly Journal of Speech, and Rhetorica.

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February 1989
LC: 88-040197 PN
324 pp. 6 x 9
ISBN-10: 0-299-11834-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-11834-1
Paper $21.95 s

The 1989 cloth edition of this book is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

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