Summer 2009, 39:3, pages 213 - 239
Distance as Ultimate Motive: A Dialectical Interpretation of A Rhetoric of Motives
Drawing upon published and unpublished texts from Kenneth Burke, this article argues that A Rhetoric of Motives represents the first, "Upward" half of his project on rhetoric. Emphasizing this unexpected connection between Burke and Plato, the article offers a dialectical rereading of the text, one that locates the ultimate rhetorical motive not in identification, but pure in persuasion. Interpreting the latter as a "'mythic image,"' it emerges as a non-empirical, imagistic portrayal of the formal conditions underlying persuasion, the origin of rhetoric. Rhetoric, dialectically redefined in terms of pure persuasion, produces the divisions that we humans would (paradoxically) discursively bridge.
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