The Kenyon Critics: Studies in Modern Literature from the Kenyon Review

By John Crowe Ransom | Go to book overview

Isaac Rosenfeld


DRY WATERSHED

KENNETH BURKE'S criticism, from Permanence and Change to the present volume, has been moving toward greater generality in form while remaining more or less static in content. He has been covering the same ground, but each time around the course has cut a deeper track. The subject has remained "motives," which, as Mr. Burke uses the term, means "situation," "situation involving attribution of motives," "statements about motives," "criticism of statements about motives," etc. The term has also designated a variety and complexity of things having to do with, among others, poetic, monetary and political strategies and perspectives--the purpose of such "anatomizing" of motives being to inculcate an attitude of "linguistic skepticism" and to "purify war" by extending the area of rational intercourse. The means to this end have grown more specific; one can trace their development from the multitude of interlocking linguistic perspectives in Permanence and Change, through the extrapolation of dramatic or poetic perspectives as basic strategies, with the comic serving as primus inter pares, in Attitudes Towards History, to the present division of the dramatic perspective into five key terms: Scene, Act, Agent, Agency, and Purpose. The interrelationship of these key terms and their analytic function in varying ratios make up the text of A Grammar of Motives.

The use Mr. Burke makes of his pentad of terms and the significance he attaches to them call to mind Kant's deduction of the categories. The dream of philosophical criticism, as of critical

____________________
A review of A Grammar of Motives by Kenneth Burke ( New York: Prentice Hall, 1946).

-298-

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The Kenyon Critics: Studies in Modern Literature from the Kenyon Review
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Essays 1
  • The Sorrows Of Thomas Wolfe 3
  • Pure And Impure Poetry 12
  • Myth And Dialectic in the Later Novels Of Henry James 17
  • Kafka's Distorted Mask 58
  • Joyce's Ulysses and the French Public 75
  • Robartes And Aherne: Two Sides of a Penny 88
  • The Stone And The Crucifixion: Faulkner's - Light in August 115
  • Emotions In Poems 127
  • Monsieur Verdoux As Theatre 138
  • The Good Ford 151
  • Parody And Critique: Notes on Thomas Mann's - Doctor Faustus 182
  • Novel into Film: - All the King's Men 225
  • Wordsworth And the Iron Time 233
  • Book Reviews 253
  • The Loud Hill Of Wales 255
  • Q's Revisions 259
  • The Whole Of Housman 263
  • Neither Historian nor Critic 267
  • The Humble Animal 277
  • Satan And Denis De Rougemont 281
  • The Everlasting Mr. Huxley 289
  • Dry Watershed 298
  • The Hellenism Of Robinson Jeffers 307
  • The Cost Of Distraction 312
  • Aristocracy And/Or Christianity 324
  • Bibliography 341
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