Download PDF Kenneth Burke on Myth: An Introduction (Theorists of Myth)

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Burke entered into and played along with these rhythms, transforming an encounter between two or more discrete thinkers into a singular composition of potentials for conceptual improvisation. Here, unlike Chapter 2, the important role of the negative is briefly examined, particularly with respect to its functions in the dynamics of order, guilt, redemption, and victimage. And this, finally, is what makes Kenneth Burke on Myth a must-read. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Find out about Harry Chapin's video interview of Kenneth Burke and how you can get a copy.

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Philosophy of language. In what way does narrative conflict differ from dialectics, discussion, sentence, instruction, argument, reasoning? What is the advantage of its terminology?

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In other words, narrative conflict has the structure of demagogy. But lest we err: as such, it constitutes only an initial, albeit formative, stage in the overall act, which is absolutely defined as a true rhetorical act. We need to understand the essence of narrative conflict and its resolution, if we want to understand this rhetorical act. On the other hand, somewhat mysteriously, the narrative also contains the secret of the resolution of its conflictuality.

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The unifying iconicity of the myth is not its major or essential trait. Myth is concrete and unique, and hence it is forced to struggle against many other myths in the narrative arena of culture. Therefore, we can merge the conceptions of rhetoric discussed above into one model to show that rhetoric is an effort directed at resolving a narrative conflict, which was consciously re-originated by means of a mechanism of mythopoesis the creation of myths.

The process unfolds in four stages. At this stage, the personality created in speech is absolutely identical to its name, a word identical to meaning. God is realized in the name of God. A name meaning becomes an object of violence. This happens owing to the renewed separation between personality and name, between word and meaning. This breaks the language down, creates a deviation from the direct meaning of words, and thus rhetoric is created. The narratives are being separated from the meaning: it is not about the image of playing God, but about the idea of the universe as cosmos as opposed to the idea of the universe as chaos.

The listener chooses an identity and regards it as his realization, and hence this stage is conducted again by the forces of mythopoesis, only this time the originating and realization of the personality bring about the resolution of the narrative conflict. I choose the idea of, for instance, chaos, and therefore I reject the proposed new myth, thus deferring the violence between two myths, identifying with the image of God playing dice, finally realizing anew His personality in a non-conflictual way.

If so, the creation of the myth is the becoming of the personality in words, or to put it differently, the invention of the name. It is the beginning and foundation of rhetoric. However, as soon as the name takes on existence in public scene, its unity with the mythic personality is undermined, and it becomes the object of the mimetic desire of other players in the public arena. The value of the myth lies in the becoming of the personality, in the miracle of the embodiment of the transcendental in the empirical.

Moreover, a personality is realized in its appropriation of the name, as if it belongs to it and only to it, and as if it realizes and represents only it.

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At this stage, violence does not exist yet, because the concept of violence does not exist. The reason for this, of course, is the awakening of mimetic desire. This right and the myth itself are no longer perceived as negotiable objects.