Dramatism Theory and Kenneth Burke

Keywords: burke dramatism theory, dramatism theory critique, dramatism theory communication

Investigation IN TO THE Theory Of Dramatism And Kenneth Burke

This survey investigates the communication theory of dramatism and Kenneth Burke, to understand the basic principles of dramatism and obtain a knowledge. Kenneth Burke is the creator of the theory of dramatism, he resided until the age of 96 (1897-1993). The idea uses two conditions to identify between activities, action is employed to spell it out intentional action and action identifies meaningless action. The theory uses the term guilt to describe any feeling of tension inside a person. Burke believed that humans communicate to purge their guilt, in a guilt redemption circuit. The theory explains identification as a consubstantiation, some of material that overlaps when people communicate. A core element of dramatism is the dramatistic pentad and its own elements, which can help analyse a communication event. A good example of making use of the pentad is roofed and explanation about how dramatism can be employed to day to day events, with a portion explaining how dramatism can be employed in information technology. Dramatism is then examined by using common tests for screening interpretive communication theories. This report contains several criticisms of dramatism regarding problems in the theory and with interpretation of the idea.



The reason for this statement is to research the communication theory of dramatism and Kenneth Burke, to gain an understanding of the theory to talk about with my course. The foundation of the research in this record will be used for an education display, in an attempt to share my conclusions with my category.


The scope of this report is to research Kenneth Burke and his theory of dramatism, to get a simple understanding. This included an understanding of Burke's history, the ideas of dramatism and issues with dramatism. The info explored was from books, journal articles entirely on databases and Internet sites with information about dramatism.


This record is afflicted by several constraints, the biggest which is my knowledge of rhetoric communication ideas starting this research project. This is a big restriction because dramatism is based on previous work in the field of rhetorical communication, and this significantly increased the time taken to understand the theory. Time is another restriction which afflicted this survey, as this article is written under the pressure of an deadline, reducing the quantity of research that may be done. Another factor including time that impacted this survey is that while writing this survey as a student, time is a appreciated and rare commodity. A final limitation on this survey is the option of information which is directed at a student looking into dramatism, as most of the work is aimed at Burklean scholars.

Research Methods

Information obtained for this report is available from literature, journal article from databases and Internet sites. The books were a basis for my research, as they provided a broad overview of the key theory and explanations. While the journal articles and Internet sites provided an in depth view into one or few aspects of the theory.

Structure Of Report

This report moves onto a literacy review which gives a brief conclusion, evaluation of reliability and evaluation of validity of the info. The literacy review is made up of two sources from catalogs, journal articles and websites related to this issue of dramatism. The findings section follows which provides a qualifications to Kenneth Burke, an overview of theories, an application of the idea and an evaluation of the idea. From the studies a final result section is attracted, providing a listing of points of information points and a critique of the theory. A glossary of conditions, recommendations and bibliography is provided to assist the reader.

Literature Review

Theories of human being Communication (7th ed. )

Littlejohn, S W. (2003). Theories of individuals communication (7th ed. ).

California: Wadsorth/Thomson Learning.

Although Littlejohn does not cover Kenneth Burke's personal history, he will cover the idea of Dramatism comprehensive. Littlejohn details the terms actions, motives, guilt, product, consubstantiality and recognition from Burke's work, with samples. Other basic principles of Burke's work are described in great fine detail such as icons, no neutral words, dramatistic pentad and the five elements of the dramatistic pentad. Littlejohn also uses the exemplory case of Edward Kennedy to explain how the dramatistic pentad can be employed.

Littlejohn's information appears to be exact and valid to other sources studied, he also includes a sizable bibliography and footnotes in the bottom of each web page to reference the information. Aside from the described physical information found to validate reliability, Littlejohn is a highly regarded authority in communication theories.

Communication Theories

Miller, K. (2001). Communication Theories. NY: McGraw-Hill Companies

Miller details Burke's personal record and education before moving onto this issue of Dramatism. It really is explained that four aspects of Burke's thought have been specifically influential in shaping views of the communal world. Aside from describing aspects of Burke's work such as action versus action, guilt and Burke thinking life is crisis, Miller includes and briefly analyses Burke's poem labelled as "explanation of man, and discusses a paper written about the condition of agency. The dramatistic pentad and its five elements are evidently defined, along with action as rhetorical, recognition, element, consubstantiation and the importance of Burke's work.

Miller is undoubtedly an authority in the field of communication theories, and used a huge bibliography in this e book. The info on Dramatism was consistent with other resources studied.

"Identification as an integral Term in Kenneth Burke's Rhetorical Theory

Quigley, B L. (n. d. ). Id as a key term in Kenneth Burke's rhetorical theory. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from http://acjournal. org/holdings/vol1/iss3/burke/quigley. html

Quigley talks about that Burke's use of Recognition is accessories to the original concentrate of persuasion, and then talks about how and just why. The article explains the basic concepts of Burke's work in the field of identification and persuasion, and then moves onto different types of identification. The article covers id as semi-conscious, through self-persuasion, though mundane/continuing and through representation with illustrations from Princess Diana's loss of life.

Quigley only acquired five references for this article, although three of these are work by Kenneth Burke. Despite a comparatively few references, this short article expands on matters that I have studied in other resources.

Coming to Terms with Kenneth Burke's Pentad Clarke, J. (n. d. ). Coming to terms with Kenneth Burke's pentad. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from http://www. acjournal. org/holdings/vol1/iss3/burke/rountree. html

This paper begins as an advantages to Burke's work, to move onto expanding the pentad into a heuristic, as Burke found out in his later work frame of mind belongs in the pentad. The paper also points out that Burke will not state any originality for his pentad, as past theorists had produce the same heuristic using different conditions. Clarke then clarifies an interpretation of the pentad where critics should also look for grammatical and non-verbal function for motives, not simply their superficial link with a source.

This newspaper included ideas and theories that I had not yet examined or seen before, but it included examples of how the ideas should be applied. Clarke has used a sizable list of referrals to set-up this record and the article are available from Em Griffen's website. With this thought, a lot of the information I've seen in other options and I believe the others to be appropriate and valid for reasons given.

Re-visiting Kenneth Burke: Dramatism/Logology and the condition of Organization Conrad, C. , & Macom, E A. (1995). Re-visiting Kenneth Burke: Dramatism/Logology and the situation of company. The Southern Communication Journal. 61(1), 11-29.

The problem of agency develops in this report from human stars being thought as "choice-making family pets, the balance between voluntarism and determinism are questioned. The issue with agency identified in this article is based on the challenge of finding a means of accounting for individuals experience with reputation, and a natural determinism and pure voluntarism are undesirable. The article represents Burkes work with this issue and a number of different interpretations of the partnership between action and motion. It is suggested that a interpersonal action theory needs to be developed which is not grounded in dualism between action and composition inevitably.

This record has been thoroughly researched as it includes a large set of references which include Kenneth Burke's work and his thoughts and the criticism received regarding this matter. This article is through the Southern Communication Journal, indicating that it should be very accurate and contain only valid information.

Defending Dramatism as ontological and literal Crable, B. (2000). Defending dramatism as ontological and literal. Communication Quarterly. 48(4),

This article was written to report Crable's are he reread the dispute the work of Burke to provide insight to the discussion of dramatism as epistemological and metaphorical or ontological and literal. The doc investigates Burke's work with an unbiased view to find how Burke could have responded the question at hand. But it is figured Burke defends dramatism as ontology because he begins with vocabulary as action, not representation. Burke's work also argues that this starting place is literal, that it provides the most complete approach to the study of desire.

The article generally references Burke's are that is what is in question, and this article was printed in the Communication Quarterly. Therefore the work must contain a advanced of correctness and validity.


Background To Theorist

The theory of dramatism originated by Kenneth Burke who resided from 1897 to 1993, to "express what he found occurring when people exposed their mouths to communicate (Griffin, 2009, p. 289). Burke's work has had a large impact on communication although Burke never graduated from college, and not surprisingly he trained at lots of companies of higher-level education. Burke came into the field of communication in 1952 and he was introduced by Maris Hochmuth Nichols, with her compare between old rhetoric and the new rhetoric. Burke's job included literary critic, cultural critic, poet, fiction publisher, translator, composer and social theorist. Since Burke's loss of life at age 96, there is now a Kenneth Burke Culture which holds meetings and tributes to Burke and his work.

Outline Of Theory

To understand humans and the interpersonal world, Kenneth Burke uses two conditions to differentiate between intentional and unintentional activities or behaviour. They are motion used to describe behaviour that are non-purposeful or unintentional and action which is behaviour that is purposeful or intentional. Burke presumed that it is the difference between action and movement that makes real human distinct from other pets. Miller expresses "In the most basic sense, through, the move from motion to action through the use of symbolism, and especially terms marks humans as realtors rather than reactors in the interpersonal world (p. 90). The difference between an action and a reaction from previous experience has triggered much controversy on the description of company.

For Burke terms is always psychologically loaded and no term can be natural, as behaviour and feelings come in the terms used. Miller (2001) expresses "Burke (1935) believed that the drama of life is encouraged by guilt (p. 90). Burke used the word guilt to spell it out a number of negative operations such as anxiety, embarrassment, shame and disgust. He also presumed that to purge our guilt we use victimage, in that we either blame ourselves just as the term mortification or blame some else as in the word scapegoating. The guilt redemption circuit is complete after the guilt has been purged through mortification or scapegoating, though it is often short lived because the interpersonal world entails guilt that will start the circuit again. Burke's work used three resources of guilt, the negative, primary of perfection and primary of hierarchy.

For Burke rhetoric had not been just a procedure for persuasion, but also a process of creating recognition. For this identification Burke used the word substance, to describe characteristics or individuality of a person. When two different people meet their chemicals overlap to different extents, the quantity of product overlapping was called consubstantiation by Burke. It really is through consubstantiation that recognition is felt between people, and loudspeakers will often make an effort to gain a location of consubstantiation with the audience to create identification. Burke suggested three resources of identification, material id, idealistic id and formal recognition. Littlejohn (2003) states "Id is no either/ or incident but a matter of level (p. 156).

There are many different types of identification referred to in Burke's work, one common method of identification is common floor. Recognition by common floor can be id as semi-conscious, this id occurs whenever a speaker uses icons associated with an abundance or class. Identification through self-persuasion can be described as keeping faith despite criticisms, due to rationalising their choice in ways that strengthen identification. Recognition through mundane and repeating can be triggered by becoming acquainted with something or someone because they're always in your life somehow. Recognition through representation typically occurs whenever a person views another person's actions as inspiring, and this creates id with see your face they wish to be.

Successful communicators often choose strategies in order to identify with the audience, and Burke suggests to be able to analyse an event the strategies must be determined. Miller areas "His proposal of the dramatistic pentad (Burke, 1945, 1968) considers five areas of social life that should be considered to be able to understand how exactly we behave, and speak about our behavior, in the symbolic world (p. 91). When analysing with the pentad it is important to also look for grammatical and non-verbal functions for motives as well as their analysis of words. The five components of the dramatistic pentad are
  • Act What was done
  • Scene The positioning and framework of the action.
  • Agent The person or people that performed the act
  • Purpose The purpose of the act
  • Agency Method used to execute the act

From analysing a predicament with the five elements of the dramatistic pentad and using Burke's pentadic proportion, you'll be able to find the concealed views of any communication event.

Application Of Theory

Littlejohn (2003) represents David Ling's work on how the Burke's pentad can be used to understand a communication event, as similar marketing communications are seen often from politicians around the world

In 1969 Edward Kennedy, a senator from Massachusetts, was in an car accident with an aide, Mary Jo Kopechne, in which he accidentally drove a car off a bridge into a fish-pond. Kennedy escaped, but Kopechne drowned. Inside a amazing address to the general public about a week later, he described what took place and attempted to restore the support of folks. Ling writes that Kennedy wished to achieve two things: to minimize his own responsibility for the mishap also to make the folks of Massachusetts in charge of whether or not he'd continue in office. Kennedy's charm on the first point describes himself (agent) as helpless victim of the incidents resulting in the fatality of the young girl (scene). He explains his own failing to report the accident (action) because of his distress and injury. Kennedy's depiction makes him out to be a victim of a tragic situation. Later in his conversation, Kennedy essentially wanted to resign if the residents wanted him to. Here, the field shifted to the public reaction to the mishap, the agent became the folks of Massachusetts, the take action was their decision concerning whether he should resign, the firm will be a assertion of resignation, and the purpose is always to remove him from office. Ling feels this was an effective speech. The effect was overwhelmingly positive, and Kennedy continuing in office. (p. 156-157)

From the aforementioned example of how to apply Burke's work and the pentad to analyse a meeting, as the pentad may be used to analyse many communication events including politics speeches. Burke's work can even be applied to virtually any other communication event as well, to analyse actual concentrate and views. Recognition methods and material is seen in common incidents such as Michael Jackson's fatality, there is much criticisms when he was alive by the press, although some people still distributed a sense of recognition with him. The guilt redemption cycle can be utilized on a daily basis to help understand different motives for marketing communications, especially communications resulting from a negative situation or result.

Initially Burke's work originated for face-to-face communication, but it can even be put on the IT industry. A main source of communication in the IT industry is via email or instant messaging, this can be analysed by the Burke's work. By analysing communication strategies, terminology and tones found in the message delivered it is possible to detect guilt, mortification or scapegoating. It's very easy to send a note of recognition through hierarchy via online messaging, as the physical distance is disregarded. Id and persuasion may appear very easily through online messages and from websites, by the sender exhibiting a wide substance. Due to the massive amount communication methods in the info technology industry, the method of communication (scene) can take relevance in the communication strategy. This can be in the case of mailing an important concept as a contact, signifying that the individual does not especially interested or want to see you. With the opposite being possible as well, a person not mailing an email for an unimportant reminder can show an excuse to get started on conversation.

Evaluation Of Theory

Dramatism is an interpretive theory about understanding why a person behaves in the manner that they are doing, and not very much in the predication of human being behaviour. Burke's theory offers a new understanding of people, behavior and symbolic discussion. Burke applied his theory to Shakespeare, and since that time has been put on many politicians and general population speakers to be able to obtain a greater knowledge of the underlying marketing communications and text messages. Burke's pentad put on texts can provide a clarification of beliefs, as it could identify the ideology behind the concept being examined. The theory will not contain much cosmetic appeal, though it does use bibliographic terms over scientific terms which creates an visual appeal. Apart from the bibliographic terms, the idea does not provide much appearance. Burke's work has came out in many communication journals, and there is now a Kenneth Burke contemporary society dedicated to making sure the knowledge of dramatism and development on the kbjournal (Kenneth Burke journal). Although there are debates over the different parts of dramatism, the idea is widely accepted and considered to be a simple part of individuals interpretation. Aside from the Kenneth Burke culture, there are now Burklean scholars which are dedicated to dramatism, so it is fair to conclude that this theory has caused a reform of world.


Summary Of Points Of Information

This record has detailed information found about Kenneth Burke and the idea of dramatism learned from my research. A qualifications of Kenneth Burke was found and identified before explaining dramatism and its elements. To start talking about dramatism, it is described first different between action and movement in regards to symbolism. Another topic referred to is guilt and the guilt redemption pattern, including explaining the ideas of mortification and scapegoating. To comprehend id it is identified how Burke looked at this with product, consubstantiation plus some common types of recognition. Some brief explanations and descriptions are included as recognition through common floor, as this is an essential part of identification. Finally the dramatistic pentad, components of the pentad and its use are detailed.

An exemplory case of applying dramatism to the real life event of Edward Kennedy is included, as it is a great example of dramatism. It really is then pointed out that Burke's work can be applied to many day to day happenings and the guilt can be seen on a day to day basis. Then it is explained how dramatism can be applied to the info technology industry, especially when information communication technology is used. The final section to studies evaluates dramatism as an interpretive theory, finding that all the typical assessments for an interpretive study are successful in dramatism.

Critique Of The Theory

A key concern with Burke's work has been labelled the "problem of organization, and the situation is finding a means of accounting for human being reaction credited to activities and situations. It really is when this is taken into account it becomes unclear as to if the choice was volunteered or established, as an essential part of company is choice. Burke was aware of this issue and spent a big portion of his career hoping to construct a far more accurate definition of company, action and action. This theme has been completely analysed by many communication scholars with the suggestion that further work in creating a rhetorical theory of sociable action, that they start at the start with a view of the action-structure relationship which is not based on dualism like Burke's work.

Another issue with Burke's work is the issue on whether dramatism is epistemological and metaphorical, or that dramatism is ontological and literal. This problem was first debated at the Eastern Communication Connection conference, the argument failed to negotiate the issue. There isn't as yet an answer to this concern, as Burke has mentioned that his work is not merely metaphorical, but is instead a literal way of talking about the human condition. Although Burke has said his work is ontological and literal, there exists debate that his work will not depict out this way.

Burke's theory of dramatism is highly well known and a tool in interpretive analysis of your communication event. Although many students have difficulty in coming to conditions with dramatism and just how it is written, provides a difficult learning experience. The theory is made off past work in neuro-scientific rhetoric, which also provides learning problems when studying dramatism without exposure to old rhetoric. This theory is utilized frequently, although it is arguable whether dramatism is complete as problems remain and debates still take place. In conclusion, Burke's work has modified the world of rhetoric although it may well not be complete, in the sense that Burke didn't finish dealing with problems in dramatism and controversy continues. Although Burke is accepted for dramatism and most of its elements, Burke does not promise any originality for his pentad. As the same pentad is situated in Aristotle's and Talcon Parson's work, apart from different conditions used to spell it out the same components of the pentads.

Glossary Of Terms

Action Purposeful and voluntary behaviours.

Consubstantiation The overlapping material between people.

Dramatism What Kenneth Burke noticed when people opened up their mouths to talk.

Dramatistic Looking at the type of dialect stressing on language as action.

Guilt Term used to describe any sense of tension in a person.

Mortification Purging guilt through self-blame.

Motion Non-purposeful and non-meaningful behaviours.

Scapegoating See victimage.

Substance Term to spell it out a person's physical characteristics, skills, occupation, encounters, personality, beliefs and behaviour.

Victimage The process of purging guilt through blame of someone else or people.


Griffin, E. (2009). A first check out communication theory. (7th ed. ). Areas of America: McGraw-Hill Companies

Littlejohn, S W. (2003). Theories of human communication. (7th ed. ).

United Says of America: Wadsorth/Thomson Learning.

Miller, K. (2001). Communication Ideas. United states: McGraw-Hill Companies


Clarke, J. (n. d. ). Arriving at conditions with Kenneth Burke's pentad. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from http://www. acjournal. org/holdings/vol1/iss3/burke/rountree. html

Conrad, C. , & Macom, E A. (1995). Re-visiting Kenneth Burke: Dramatism/Logology and the problem of firm. The Southern Communication Journal. 61(1), 11-29.

Crable, B. (2000). Defending dramatism as ontological and literal. Communication Quarterly. 48(4), 323-343.

Griffin, E. (2009). A first take a look at communication theory. (7th ed. ). Says of America: McGraw-Hill Companies

Kenneth Burke. (2009) Retrieved August 30, 2009, from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Kenneth_Burke

Littlejohn, S W. (2003). Ideas of human being communication. (7th ed. ). United States of America: Wadsorth/Thomson Learning.

Miller, K. (2001). Communication Theories. United States of America: McGraw-Hill Companies

Quigley, B L. (n. d. ). Identification as a key term in Kenneth Burke's rhetorical theory. Retrieved August 12, 2009 from http://acjournal. org/holdings/vol1/iss3/burke/quigley. html

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