Kenneth Burke and Mary Baker Eddy
During an interview for All Area in 1983, Kenneth Burke was asked a rather standard question about the writing of Permanence and Change, "But weren't you rebounding from a kind of naive Marxism in that book?" ("Counter-Gridlock" 18). 1 Burke returned a wild curve. "You know what I was rebounding from? This is a drastic confession. You wouldn't believe this. There's an awful lot of that book that was really secularizing what I learned as a Christian Scientist. All this psychogenic illness stuff ... there's no other secular book in the world where you find so much of that published at that time. I got that from Mary Baker G. Eddy, and I secularized it! ("Counter-Gridlock" 19). The interviewer responded with a secularization of his own, "That's a revelation." Then everyone silently agreed to drop the subject. I'd like to revive it here. 2
For most students of Burke, the All Area interviewer's presumption that Permanence and Change was written in response to the Marxists fits comfortably with the received stories of Burke's development through the twenties and thirties. In a 1989 article with the perfectly apt title "Kenneth Burke's 'Secular Conversion,'" Don Paul Abbott tells that received story. "A significant change occurred in Burke's thinking between the publication of Counter-Statement and the writing of Permanence and Change, which Charles Glicksberg describes as a 'sudden leap from a corrective philosophy of science to a militant Marxist gospel'" (39). The following discussion will require some revisions in that received story.
All readers of Burke are aware of his many secularized terms: piety, secular prayer, secular conversion, god-terms, the Demonic Trinity, and so on. Hugh Dalziel Duncan, in his introduction to the second edition of Permanence and Change, goes so far as to call dramatism "a
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Unending Conversations:New Writings by and about Kenneth Burke. Contributors: Greig Henderson - Editor, David Cratis Williams - Editor. Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press. Place of publication: Carbondale, IL. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 206.