Analyzing Narratives of Expertise: Toward the Development of a Burkeian Pentadic Scheme


abstract discourse, narratives of expertise, professional identity, dramatism


Recent work in the sociology of professions highlights the central importance of abstract discourse in professionalization processes. Drawing on the work of Kenneth Burke, I argue that broadening the focus of analysis from “abstract discourse” to “narratives of expertise” will provide the ability to (1) more clearly analyze the social conditions that are conducive to the efficacy of abstraction as a basis for a claim of expertise and (2) theorize and empirically examine the formation and maintenance of a collective professional identity. To assist in the reformulation of professionalization studies around narratives of expertise, I develop a modified extension of Burke's five key terms of dramatism (act, agent, scene, agency, and purpose). Burke's pentadic scheme enables researchers to show how narratives of expertise ground jurisdictional claims and the constitution of professional identity in one of the elements of pentad. I illustrate the empirical power of the pertadic scheme through an examination of claims of psychotherapeutic expertise, particularly claims of marital and familial expertise.

Original Publication Citation

Knapp, Stan J. 1999. “Analyzing Narratives of Expertise: Toward the Development of a Burkeian Pentadic Scheme.” The Sociological Quarterly 40: 587-612.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


The Sociological Quarterly




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor