Burke scholars oftentimes overlook Burke's fundamental role as educator and how his work can and should be applied to the classroom. This paper explores Burke's theoretical works and centers on two concepts important to developing rhetorical skills necessary for functioning and participating in a democratic society: his theory of aesthetic form and his distinction between motion and action. Specifically, this paper (1) clarifies these concepts and explains how they relate to each other and the emotional experience of literature, and (2) demonstrates how these concepts work together to imply a new method of practicing rhetorical criticism in the literature classroom necessary to meet Burke's goals of education: to help students become critically aware of the symbolic influences working upon them and to make critical judgments about them. To do that, I explain Burke's theory of form outlined in Counter-Statement, as clarified in additional texts, and how this form engages readers in a sequential and dialogical process, which creates in readers a specific emotional experience. I discuss how this experience subjects those who encounter form to what I describe in Burke's terms as a "motional" and consequently passive experience. I then discuss how practicing a method of reflection during and after the experience of form can help subject this experience to critique, into what Burke defined as the realm of "action"—conscious, deliberative choice.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Kenneth Burke, literature pedagogy, form, emotion, reflection