APPENDIX A
BURKE'S METHOD IN ACTION

A MAIN DEFECT in Burke's critical method is that he is apt to train his sights before the object to be aimed at comes into view. It would not be quite fair to say that the object has no effect on the direction chosen; but often an aspect is selected which is partial and may lead to serious distortions and misreadings. The essay 'Symbolic Action in a Poem by Keats' 1starts with the assumption that the famous aphorism at the end of the Ode on a Grecian Um is an assertion of the identity of poetry and science, the "aesthetic" and the "practical" ("'truth' being the essential word of knowledge [science] and 'beauty' being the essential word of art or poetry"). 2 What happens after this is summarized in Burke's own words at the end of the essay:

The poem begins with an ambiguous fever which in the course of the further development is "separated out," splitting into a bodily fever and a spiritual counterpart. The bodily passion is the malign aspect of the fever, the mental action its benign aspect. In the course of the development, the malign passion is transcended and the benign active partner, the intellectual exhilaration, takes over. At the beginning, where the two aspects were ambiguously one, the bodily passion would be the "scene" of the mental action. . . . But as the two become separated out, the mental action transcends the

-139-

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Attitudes to Criticism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Crosscurents Modern Critiques i
  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Possibility of Relevance 3
  • 2 - Strategic Selection: Criticism by Choice of Terms 38
  • 3 - The Rationalist Ideal 66
  • 4 - The Limits of Relevance 101
  • Appendix A Burke's Method in Action 139
  • Appendix B Winters and Eliot 145
  • Notes 153
  • Index 171
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