Preferred Citation: Burke, Kenneth. On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967-1984. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.


On Human Nature

A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967–1984

Kenneth Burke

Edited by William H. Rueckert and Angelo Bonadonna Arranged and Annotated by William H. Rueckert
Berkeley Los Angeles London

For my wife, Barbara, whose meticulous and heroic labors helped make this book a reality

Preferred Citation: Burke, Kenneth. On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967-1984. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2003 2003.

For my wife, Barbara, whose meticulous and heroic labors helped make this book a reality



  Preface ix
  Acknowledgments xiii
  Introduction 1
  PART ONE · Creativity  
1. On Stress, Its Seeking, 1967 11
2. On "Creativity"—A Partial Retraction, 1971 35
3. Towards Helhaven: Three Stages of a Vision, 1971 54
4. Why Satire, With a Plan for Writing One, 1974 66
5. Realisms, Occidental Style, 1982 96
  PART TWO · Logology  
6. Archetype and Entelechy, 1972 121
7. (Nonsymbolic) Motion/(Symbolic) Action, 1978 139
8. Theology and Logology, 1979 172
9. Symbolism as a Realistic Mode: "De-Psychoanalyzing"
Logologized, 1979
  PART THREE · Theory  
10. A Theory of Terminology, 1967 229
11. Towards Looking Back, 1976 247
12. Variations on "Providence," 1981 271


13. Eye-Crossing—From Brooklyn to Manhattan:
An Eye-Poem for the Ear, 1973
14. Counter-Gridlock: An Interview with Kenneth
Burke, 1980–81



Though Burke published only one new book—his Collected Poems (1968)—after Language as Symbolic Action, he continued to write and publish essays, poems, and reviews up through l984 when the long, new afterwords to Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History appeared with the third editions of those two books by the University of California Press. The long essay "In Haste" also appeared that year in the special Burke issue of Pre/Text. Had he been so inclined, he could easily have assembled a final large collection of his later works (essays, poems, reviews, interviews, and transcribed taped talks) for the University of California Press. But, though many of us urged him to do so, and even offered to do it for him, he refused and only agreed that if such a collection were ever published, it should be entitled On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, a title he had once thought of using for Philosophy of Literary Form. He never made a final selection of his later works for such a collection, so we do not have a definitive list of what he would have included, nor any indication of how he would have arranged the material. The sad fact of the matter seems to be that after his wife Libbie died in 1969, Burke lost all interest in making new books, in part, he said, because he wrote his other books to keep proving to her that he was worthy of her love.

After Burke's death in 1993 and after we had time to compile a definitive bibliography of everything that he had published after 1966, I wrote to his sons, who were his literary executors, and proposed that I

collect his later essays and that we persuade the University of California Press to publish them. They agreed and also agreed that I should try to put together the original Symbolic of Motives as Burke conceived and wrote it during the early and middle fifties. I got to work reading and rereading the material that would make up On Human Nature and soon realized two things: A complete collection would be too long for the Press to even consider, and my work on this project would be much facilitated if I had a younger helper. I persuaded Angelo Bonadonna to become the coeditor and we set to work making the selections.

It is easy to be overly optimistic in these matters, just as it is easy to be fearful that you will omit or miss some essential essay or review. The first proposal we made up and sent to the Press was much too long, so we began to purge our list. There was some editorial confusion at the Press about how to manage the Burke file now that he was dead; Burke's sons were sorting through his files and trying to learn about the realities of the publishing world and the treasure trove of uncollected and unsorted material Burke had left behind; there were interruptions in our lives as well. All of these things slowed us down a lot, and it was not until the summer of 1997 that Angelo and I finally arrived at what we think is a representative selection of late (post 1966) works by Burke. Angelo Bonadonna scanned them all and put them on a disk; we then printed, proofread, and arranged them in chronological order by publishing date. We agreed on how we would divide up the editorial labors. We prepared an Introduction and brief headnotes to complete the manuscript so it could go off to the Press for their decision.

Our goal in bringing these fourteen pieces together in a book is to make available Burke's final logological position as he laid it out in his various "summing-up" essays. Many students of Burke used to stop at Language as Symbolic Action as if Burke had not gone on thinking, writing, and publishing for many more years—at least until 1984. Burke remained active and vigorous until that date when, at eighty-seven, he finally began to slow down. He had been active and productive for more than sixty years since the publication of his first book, The Complete White Oxen: Collected Short Fiction, in 1924. Most of us last saw him in May 1990, in New Harmony, Indiana, at the first official conference of the Kenneth Burke Society. He was ninety-three and still attentive and holding forth at the many official and unofficial meetings during the conference. Burke was not able to attend the next conference of the Kenneth Burke Society in May 1993, at Airlee, Virginia, and died in November

of that year at his home in Andover, New Jersey, where he had lived since the early twenties.

This collection is only a selection of Burke's later essays. It does not include any of the reviews he wrote during these last years, and only one of the many poems from his post-1968 years is included—the long, memorable poem "Eye-Crossing." We have not included any of the hundreds—probably thousands—of letters Burke wrote during these years. He was often interviewed, taped, and videotaped during the sixties, seventies, and eighties. We have only included the long interview "Counter-Gridlock," which seems to get us closer to the essential Burke than most of the others. We were interested in the published record because it was there that Burke was best able to clearly formulate and reformulate his ongoing dialogue with himself, a dialogue that began most obviously in Permanence and Change and continued in every book and major essay that followed right up to the afterwords in the final editions of Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History in 1984.

We are sorry not to be able to offer here a complete collection of Burke's published work after 1966; it would have been nice to have a complete record and in this way avoid the subjectivity that is intrinsic to the selection process editors impose on any body of material. We could have offered a more complete record if we had agreed between us to edit individual essays and offer snippets from this piece or that piece that revealed Burke at his witty, incisive best. But this would have been contrary to the very spirit of Burke's own work and critical tenets and it would only have allowed us to further intrude into his work and lay our ideas of what Burke was about on top of his or, worse, substitute ours for his. So we agreed that every selection would be a whole selection, for better or worse. Burke was sometimes excruciatingly tedious and boring as he did things that he thought were necessary to the kind of argument or analysis he was conducting, or when he was pursuing one of his pet topics, such as the thinking of the body or the scatological and/or symbolic implications of one of his own dreams, poems, or fictions. But after a good deal of discussion back and forth between us, we decided we would not edit any text to suit us and would go the whole way with whole texts. Readers can do their own cutting and editing.

William H. Rueckert



Angelo Bonadonna and I made all of our decisions jointly on which essays should be included. Some of the choices were easy, some less so, involving many acceptances and rejections. The ideal solution would have been a two-volume set so that more of the late essays could have been included. We had no way of knowing which of these essays Burke would have preferred. I want to stress here that the choices were ours, based on what we thought were the best and most important of the late essays. Angelo did all of the initial scanning and formatting. My wife, Barbara, did all of the later reformatting and proofreading and correcting. I wrote all of the notes as well as the Preface and Introduction. I am also responsible for the arrangement of the material into its present four-part groupings. All of the material in this collection was originally published elsewhere, as indicated in the headnote for each item, and all selections are reproduced here in their original form, but with minor editorial changes here and there.

Various members of the University of California Press staff were most helpful in getting this manuscript ready for publication. Randy Heyman, assistant acquisitions editor, was mostly responsible for getting the book started on final production; Matt Stevens, the copyeditor, was thorough and very sympathetic to the sometimes idiosyncratic ways Burke did things; Kate Warne, the senior editor in charge of this manuscript guided it safely through all the final stages of preparation for

publication. Anthony Burke took care of all the early negotiations with the Press and was responsible for getting all of the permissions necessary to use previously published material. My thanks to all of them.

William H. Rueckert



After 1966, Kenneth Burke certainly changed what he was doing. There were no more text-centered analyses. He tended to write to a request or a conference or seminar topic of some kind. He relentlessly explains and applies logology; and just as relentlessly "attacks" hyper-technologism for the ways in which it is polluting the globe and threatening us in other ways. Most everything was written as a talk and then revised (enlarged) for publication. He reuses his main material over and over. Looking back on it now (1998), I would have to say that some of it is quite repetitious and sometimes tedious because of this. There is no place to go beyond logology, and all he really has left to do is apply it and/or pit it against some other -ology or -ism. That and recapitulate himself. Hence all the self-referential comments and the self-quoting. Logology is his final position so far as the published work is concerned. "Bodies that learn language" is a final, ultimate definition of humans. The motion/action dualism so central to logology is an ultimate, final one. The pursuit of knowledge by way of the study of printed text and language in general (symbolic action embodied) is one of the main concerns of all the late essays.

The attack on technologism, which began way back in A Grammar of Motives (1945), is intensified in the late essays because of Burke's insistence on the direct connection between language and the perfection (entelechy) of technology. Burke phrases this point in a number of ways, but the most devastating one is that technology is the perfection of reason

and that reason is both constructive and destructive, even suicidal, as we see from what technology is doing to the natural world and to those who developed it. Modern weaponry is a development of hypertechnologism; nuclear weapons are so powerful and destructive no one even dares to use them for fear of retaliation. But, then, modern advances in medical practices are also a development of hyper-technology, especially electronic technology, as is the computer, which is rapidly revolutionizing the ways in which we communicate and live in the world. Without modern technology, there would have been no space travel and exploration—or exobiologic travel, a new manifestation of the relentless human push to explore, to discover and colonize new worlds. As he says in one of these essays, Burke was obsessed with technology and what he took to be the certain future of humankind. Had he lived long enough to experience and study the current computer revolution, including the World Wide Web and Internet, he might well have been even more pessimistic (tragic) than he was about our future in the seventies and early eighties. Burke only wrote marginally about computers and certainly missed the exponential growth of them and their "invasion" of every phase of American and global life. He would certainly have hated the way in which so much problem solving has been shifted to computers. He would have attacked it as a form of "unearned" (something for nothing) rewards.

The last dividing point in Burke's career is the publication of Language as Symbolic Action in 1966. All of the essays published after that date belong to his "late" period, even though it may be a residue from an earlier period, as with his long essay, "Dramatism." Burke wrote and published until 1985, when he was eighty-eight years old. Here are some statistics. Between 1967 and 1985, according to Thames's updated bibliography, Burke published at least forty essays, ten reviews, two books (Collected Poems, Dramatism and Development), long afterwords to Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History, and the long "In Haste," and numerous poems. What he actually wrote during this period is not yet known, though we do know that he wrote a lot of poems that he never published. During much of this period, Burke was on the road. He slowed down some when his wife, Libbie, became terminally ill. She died in 1969, after which Burke went back on the road, going all over the United States and even to Europe (France) for the first and only time in his life. He remained quite active through the 1980s and finally only slowed down in his nineties.

Burke produced a very substantial body of work during this "late" period.

Unfortunately for us, he chose not to select and collect his essays and arrange them, as he did for Language as Symbolic Action, in a way that suited him. He probably had at least two books worth of finished work to choose from. We have been through all of this material, made our difficult fourteen choices, and arranged the material into four groups. A second volume could easily be compiled to go with this one. The two volumes would make available to students of Burke all of his major essays from this late period as well as a substantial group of poems. Maybe that will happen in the future, but meanwhile, back to what we have assembled here.

The main concerns of almost all of Burke's late essays are logology, technology, and ecology. Logology goes back to The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), especially to the key essay, "The First Three Chapters of Genesis." But late logology is not exactly the same as early logology, most of which was worked out and written up in the late fifties. By the time Burke returned to it after wrapping up "Dramatism" in Language as Symbolic Action, his focus had shifted. Logology is Burke's final go at a universal language theory and methodology; technology (hyper-technologism) was his final enemy; ecological sanity became his final idealistic goal. With the exception of Burke's essay on his novel, Towards a Better Life, "On Stress," and his "Eye-Crossing" poem, every other essay in this collection is about some part of logology. Most also make the logology-technology connection and many of them deal directly with what Burke takes to be one of the major ecological problems caused by technology, with its global pollution. Burke's term for the "problem" was the "technological psychosis." This term (condition; phenomenon) replaced the old "hierarchic psychosis" (from A Rhetoric of Motives) as his central concern.

Burke's late essays, like much of his earlier work, are almost always admonitory, sometimes disturbingly so. He used to warn us about the sadomasochistic threats in victimization—that is, the victimization of others, as with the Jews in Europe by the Nazis; and self-victimization as in the many acts of mortification we do against ourselves. He warned us about the cold war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust; he warned us about the hierarchic psychosis that he argued was intrinsic to life in any social hierarchy (which would make it ubiquitous in human and, one might argue, in many forms of highly structured animal life—if animals in fact can suffer from a psychosis or even a neurosis." He warned us about terminological inadequacies and not having a large enough range of terms to analyze a given text or problem. If language thinks for you,

as Burke, by way of Coleridge, insisted, then the question of an adequate range of terms becomes central. And he has certainly warned us, at length, about the dangers inherent in modern, hyper-technology. Science discovered by modern technology built the atomic and hydrogen bombs, just as science designed and modern electronic technology built the computers we use today. Burke's most disturbing warning about the dangers of high technology is partly contained in his Helhaven satire, which deals with global pollution; and is partly contained in such essays as "Towards Looking Back," his centennial lecture, in "Variations on ‘Providence,’ " another look into the future essay, and in "On ‘Creativity’—A Partial Retraction."

Burke's warning in these essays (and others in the collection) is more subtle than his warning about pollution and is based on taking the development of science and technology to the end of the line. In so doing, he takes the amazing creativity at work in the physical sciences and in technology itself and follows it to a point where it turns from creative to destructive. What you have at the "end of the line" is a vast human tragedy which might have been averted if humans had paid heed to their own knowledge of what more and more technology might bring. We are not talking about pollution here, but about foreknowledge and the ability or failure to act on it. The other factor is the failure to foresee the consequences of an action or a development. Burke's favorite example is modern weaponry, which is the epitome of the devotion of the creative genius of science and technology to destructive ends. But Burke also pursues another line of thought, which starts with language that the nature of the human brain makes possible, and then moves on to what language makes possible besides itself. Science and technology, like literary works and the law, are human inventions. The flowering of our creative genius in science, the physical sciences, and technology has resulted in some truly miraculous products. Burke argues that these products represent the "perfection of reason" and that they are one of humankind's greatest achievements, along with great cities (see his poem "Eye-Crossing"), modern computers, space travel, modern medical procedures, and, maybe up ahead, gene theory, gene splicing, genetic engineering, and cloning. Cloning, in fact, is the perfect example of what Burke is thinking about. Because it is now possible to clone sheep and theoretically possible to clone a human being, some scientists want to just go ahead and do it without regard to the possible horrifying consequences. Cloning and genetic engineering are the ultimate (so far) human attempts to control and manipulate nature, by creating and altering "life" itself.

Knowledge and high technology have made this possible and the entelechial motive, which is intrinsic to humans, drives us ever onward in our attempt to understand and control nature and to be able to create life. In some ways, Data and his identical brother—the bad Data (from Star Trek), and androids in general, represent the culmination of this drive. They did, that is, until scientists learned how to clone and recreate biological rather than artificial life. Data, after all, is all circuitry and can be turned on and off. He is a technological wonder. We would not say that of a cloned human or the cloned sheep, Dolly, who is after all a "real" biological sheep.

So, as Burke might ask, Where are we now? Developments that are already happening are part of Burke's nightmare. He might have called them the curse of knowledge or the tragic ingredient in knowledge. His main question was always whether we could save ourselves from ourselves or whether our drive for more and more knowledge and the technology needed to translate it into action would finally be fatal—not for nature and the life force, which are immortal, but for us mortals. There is a wonderful episode in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five in which the Tralfamadorians, a highly advanced civilization far beyond even the wildest dreams of our scientists and technologists, blow themselves and their world to bits testing a new fuel for their space ships. They knew the risk involved, but took it anyway. So it goes, as Vonnegut says. He certainly had in mind a comparable earth situation involving nuclear weapons and the aftermath of any nuclear or any conflict in which chemical weapons are used. Thanks to modern science and technology, we are now able to exterminate ourselves.

Burke worried about this fundamental human dilemma right to the end. We acquired language, no one quite knows exactly how or exactly when, and were liberated from our total dependence on nature by it. We created " counter-nature," which is Burke's term for what humans have added to nature. What the use of language has added to human life is more obvious than the question of where language will take (or lead) us in the various possible futures open to us. Most of the essays in the collection are meditations on some part of this "language question" which is the basic logological question. There is a neat parallel here between the technologists who, Burke says, propose more technology to solve problems caused by technology, and Burke's logological proposal, which is to use more words about words to solve the problems caused by words— or, if not "solve" them, at least bring us knowledge of what they are. Burke was always a great believer in therapeutic knowledge.


Not all of the essays, of course, explore these weighty, global questions. Some, such as "On Stress, Its Seeking" are about Burke himself. Though this essay explores the general topic of its title, it also explores the autohypnotic effects of writing a novel such as Towards a Better Life. Burke used to describe this as making yourself over in the image of your imagery—or trying to, as Hart Crane and Walt Whitman clearly did. This idea or process was always a part of Burke's theory of symbolic action. A reading of his Collected Poems will reveal just how extensively this essential part of Burke's thinking about literature will apply to his own poems. It also clearly applies to his long poem "Eye-Crossing", which was written while his wife, Libbie, was slowly dying of the progressive failure of the muscular systems that enable the body to move and act. At the end of its course, it leaves you with a mind and a useless body (including the language muscles) which must still be fed and tended to. It is a horrifying end to a life as full and vibrant as Libbie Burke's. And it must have been excruciatingly stressful and painful for Burke to watch it destroying his beloved wife. As he often did, Burke wrote his way through his problems and crises, exemplifying his own theory of symbolic action and the purgative redemptive function of literature in particular and writing in general. Finally, there is the long interview "Counter-Gridlock," which is not only filled with information about Burke the man, but also provides us with a fine opportunity to experience Burke's mind in action.

Are these essays the best of Burke? Some most certainly are, but others show signs of age and Burke's late compulsion to refer back to earlier and other works of his, and to quote himself often. He also had a habit in the late essays of using the same examples over and over again. In spite of these "faults," these essays are essential reading if we want to have a comprehensive view of Burke's overall development from the twenties to the mid-eighties. Burke's longevity and his sixty years of productivity are both exceptional. He was, in fact, still carrying on in 1990 when we had the first meeting of the Kenneth Burke Society in New Harmony, Indiana, to celebrate his ninety-third birthday.

Here are some selections from Burke's "Flowerishes," which were selected and arranged by Libbie Burke:

At the very start one's terms jump to conclusions; Even humility can go to one's head; Animals are ideas walking in their sleep; All we need fear is lack of fear Itself; Poets with little to say learn to write as though guarding a secret; Wars with clean bombs; Rusty with irony; Fields lying silent in the songful dawn. ‘Echo’ he shouted—and Echo answered ‘Ego.’

Collected Poems, "Flowerishes"


Burke loved ironic, compressed wisdom—whole stories reduced to an aphorism or a title, a tragedy reduced to a tragic tension, a motive or a literary form reduced to a definition, a methodology reduced to four formulas. It is a good way to remember him. Like Faulkner, also born in 1897, he was a small man with a big mind, or is it a short man with a tall mind. They were self-taught American geniuses.


1. Creativity


1. On Stress, Its Seeking


Kenneth Burke wrote this essay in 1966–67 soon after the republication of his first and only novel, Towards a Better Life (1932), in 1966 by the University of California Press. The occasion for the essay is identified by Burke in paragraph one. The many references to the novel are to this second edition, which also has a new preface in which Burke reinterprets the novel as a ritual of rebirth rather than a ritual of riddance. A unique and interesting biographical feature of the preface to the first edition (dated September 9, 1931) is its cryptographic dedication of the novel to libbie (his second wife) using the first letter of each paragraph. Burke's first and second wives were sisters. He had married Lily in 1919 and divorced her in the early thirties; he married Libbie in December 1933. No doubt, the personal trouble he refers to in the essay was partly caused by the breakup of his first marriage and his involvement with his wife's sister. Burke wrote the novel during a period of profound stress and change in his personal and professional life, as well as in the life of his country. He discusses these briefly in the section entitled "Sociopsychology of Stress."

Burke's essay does not tell us a lot about his novel or the ways in which we know it must have functioned as symbolic action for him. The essay makes no attempt to work out an interpretation of the novel but uses it as a source of readily available illustrations for an exploration of the topic Burke identifies in his title—which is stress, generated from within and without, and deliberate stress seeking as a "call." A man who climbs Mount Everest or sails singlehandedly around the world is obviously a "stress seeker"; as are professional athletes and soldiers, CEOs of big corporations, and traders on the stock market. What Burke does in the essay is explore some of the ways in which his own fiction is stress driven and stress seeking; he also explores some of the ways in which fictions in general may help us to better understand these most basic of human motives.

My first—and some might say my lamest—excuse for offering this article is that our inquiry has to do with stress-seeking, and the article is concerned with a fiction featuring a character who is forever stressing his notions about stress and thus distress—as a vocation, the deliberate answer to a "call."

My somewhat more justified but perhaps more embarrassing excuse for writing on this subject is that the fiction is a story of my own making

and, since the story was originally published about thirty-five years ago, my discussion of it could have at least the advantage of being both ab intra and ab extra. For, in one sense, the book is nearly as alien to me as to anyone else. Yet I do know many things about it that no one else can. And since I have long been on the friendly fringes of the social sciences—much to the distrust of some colleagues—I dare hope that this area in common will have some effect.

The problem, basically, is this: First, I must set up an account of the work as viewed ab intra. Here several sheerly aesthetic considerations must be treated. However since I take it that our inquiry should ultimately focus upon an approach ab extra—anapproach that looks upon the work as symptomatic of something or other—even in the "aesthetic" section I keep incidentally pointing toward the discussion that is to follow.

All told, the article is concerned with three orders of motives, orders by no means mutually exclusive,though we can at times distinguish them clearly enough. These three orders of motives are:theaesthetic,orpoetic; the personal, or psychological; and the environmental, or sociological.

Let's illustrate the three in their obvious distinctness:

  1. It's an aesthetic or poetic fact that a fiction might put stress upon a stress-seeking character because such character helps keep a plot going. In this sense, the theme of stress is as handy to a storyteller as, for instance, vengeance, or excessive religiosity. And, in fact, when going over old notes that I had taken but not used in preparation for my novel, I found among them that gloriously resonant line from the Aeneid, Dido's curse (IV, 625): "Arise, some avenger, from our bones" (exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor).
  2. It's a personal or psychological fact that—as will be noted at many points in our discussion—the author variously reproduced or transformed for purposes of the fiction material that was experienced by him differently in the course of living.
  3. It's an environmental or sociological fact that the book was written during the period immediately leading up to and away from the cultural and economic situation rife in the United States at the time of the "traumatic" market crash in 1929.

It is necessary to begin with a consideration of the work in its internality before gradually widening the range of our speculations to include the major psychological and sociological motives.



A man, who is envious and jealous, deliberately sets up the situation whereby a friend of his is surprised, on a fatal night, into sharing the same apartment with the woman whom he himself had coveted. He bit terly resents the union that he had thus strategically helped to con summate. And his resentment is aggravated by his claim that the lovers profited from a kind of unearned increment. First, he accuses them of carrying over into real life the roles they had played in a decadent drama about the incunabula of the Christian culture. (The play de picted Mary, for all her exceptional delicacy and love of her husband, as having been successfully courted by a fiery young Greek. The aging Joseph had known about this state of affairs, which he had sympa thetically left unmentioned when the wise men came to honor the virgin birth.) Our Hero's other accusation against the lovers concerns the dignity they derived from their putative roles in plans for a colony. Though these plans never eventuate, for a while they look promising, particularly since Our Hero's rival suddenly comes into possession of the money that would make them feasible. In frustrated imitation, Our Hero starts extravagantly spending his own funds, on the hunch that something favorable will happen. Nothing does. Hence, at the end of part one we see him bankrupt and leaving town. He has picked a destination at random, in the country—antithetically to the metropolitan situation that has marked the conditions of his distress. The last two sentences of this section enigmatically foretell the subsequent develop ments of the story:

Reaching the little country station at dawn, in a valley still blank with mist, I stood on the cinders with my suitcase, in the chilly morning air, while the train continued on its way through the valley, and the vibrations of the engine diminished irregularly to silence. I noticed then the twitter of many unrelated bird-notes, with the rustle of water somewhere behind the mist— and a dog was barking, imposing fresh sharp sounds upon his own blunt echoes. (60)

The middle section of this tripartite novel marks a notable turn in the direction of its motives. Here the narrator recounts the steps he takes, after he has left the city and married for money in the country, in arranging for a troupe of actors to give a performance at a nearby town. Among them appears the girl from whom he had fled. After he has been falsely boasting of an idyllic love affair, although they are actually still apart, she finally does spend the night with him, in her dingy room at a local

hotel. His true account of this episode is of a wholly different quality. Breaking down, she tells him of various unsavory incidents in her life since his disappearance, including the fact that his friend had jilted her. The upshot of it all is that in his eyes she has lost her magic, and the section ends on his decision to see no more of her.

The final section (part three) unfolds the motives implicit in this change. "I had been pushing against a great weight," he says; "and with this weight gone, I fell forward. While her train hurried down the valley, I experienced such gloom as terrified me. For even a life of bitterness was desirable as compared with a life without purpose." She had made him live "as though … living were a vengeance." But now " ‘You have no reason,’ I whispered to myself, ‘for doing any single thing’ " (131–32).

Alone by the tracks, he begins turning his words "into a military rhythm," and "making a tune to fit at random." He calls his conduct "clownishness," and a "mechanical attempt to ward off the growth of melancholy."

But melancholy came, like the fog even then rising from the river. [Finally]… the arm of the nearby signal sank, showing that the track was free. "I will do only what I have to do," I said slowly into the emptiness, but I knew that this place would be henceforth unbearable. (132)

The story now progressively reveals the nature of this "free" track, enigmatically indicated by the sinking signal. First, the narrator becomes engrossed "in chipping crude, unfinished shapes out of stone. … Then I would punish the grotesque things by smashing them with one blow of a mallet, though I do not know why I either made them or destroyed them" (133). But surely their secret nature as vessels of a new motive is indicated when he says, "Since the beginning of my new pilgrimage, I have hacked at stone with venom. Let granite be abused, I have said, until its relevant particles drop from it, and it stands forth, a statue." In sum, this "store" which he "had accumulated unawares" and is now "tapping" is of an inward turning, reflexive nature, a symbol of selfviolation (134–35).

At various places in the story there are references to another girl, who loved the narrator with a simple, defenseless devotion, and whom he treated badly. At this point he takes up with her again, takes her with him on his "pilgrimage," and mistreats her to the point where she finally leaves, abandoning him to his self-imposed self-torment. After her departure without farewell, he calls down this evil fate upon himself:


If I were not myself, but something that looked down upon this that was myself, I should brand it, I should in quietude put an effective curse upon it, I should corrode it with the slow acids of the mind. (157)

The other aspects of the motivational recipe bear mentioning. At many points throughout the text a principle of divisiveness (a kind of "separating out") manifests itself. It takes many forms. Here I shall cite but a few:

Need one who is uneasy on finding himself in two mirrors (81). … [while talking desolately in a phone booth, he is grinning so that] the man beyond the glass, waiting to speak here next [might not suspect his condition] (221). … it was at this time, on glancing into the awry mirrors of a shop window, that I mistook someone else for me. When the phone next door was ringing, I thought it was ours (45). … he mentioned a bell which, installed at the door to announce the entrance of new patrons, gratuitously marked their exit (53). … I can remember stepping slowly into a lake, until my eyes were even with its surface, the water cutting across the eye-balls (135). … So, like a ventriloquist's doll, I suffered injurious remarks to rise unbidden to my lips (146). … the negligible shred of comfort he had got for himself recently by talking in two voices. (168)

This pattern of observations has its analogue in various kinds of characters with whom the narrator feels a kinship, sometimes hateful, because of traits or situations that he finds duplicated in himself. Two in particular should be mentioned. In chapter 5 of part one, there is the despairing lover who, while the narrator offers no resistance, commits suicide. The incident is summed up thus:

"Incipit vita nova," he confided smilingly as he left the table for this Leucadian leap into the unseen litter of the courtyard. And I felt that the new life he spoke of was to be my own. "He died for me," I whispered with conviction, though he had not yet descended. And for days afterwards I found myself repeating, "He died for me." (47)

In the third section there is a different but related mode of identification: "One evening when we were in his apartment, and he had interpreted an operatic score for me with unusual zest, after we had drunk somewhat, seeing that we were alone, and not liable to be interrupted, like youngsters we toyed with each other" (166). Since this figure is called "Alter Ego," in my present role as analyst I see it as a roundabout way of distinguishing the pattern of self-involvement by narratively splitting the motive into two roles. For such is the direction in which the "free" track is leading. And when Alter Ego vanishes, this is only another variant on the theme of self-abandonment. An earlier variant is the ritual

chapter in which the narrator ambiguously courts a "mad girl in white" (the sheer essence madness?). In keeping with the nature of the sinking signal, there are only dumb passes between them; here again he is with a woman in a dingy hotel room. And before that is a chapter in which Our Hero valiantly fights with friends, although he "could as easily have loved these people" (145).

There is an interlude, a story by the narrator. We should note its ultimate internality even as sheer form, since it is a story within a story. In my subsequent criticism I have been much concerned with this aspect of the reflexive principle, whereby a work gets to the ultimate point of being inside itself. And as regards our sheerly sociopsychological inquiries here, I might point out that, although this chapter in its present form is the product of considerable revision, it stems from a story that I wrote as an adolescent student beset by an acute sense of isolation.

By then its development had reached a stage of "symbolic regression" that would attain its most accurate formal representation by reduction to a story within a story, a withinness-of-withinness that was ideal for my purposes, but that I could not have made to order. For I could not have so directly reimagined such conditions of my past that were now closed to me, so far as conscious retrieval was concerned. Yet here was the essence of the regression with which I was dealing. An accommodating fate had preserved one copy of the story and let me find it. And as regards content, I needed a kind of document that actually stemmed from a period of fierce male virginity, as experienced from within. Yet, in keeping with the nature of the work, it had to be a fiction. Among my unused notes I found a conceit that might be introduced figuratively: "The new application of this old story is as though, after learning a foreign language, I were to remember word for word a fatal conversation I had overheard in that language before I knew it."

One detail, however, is omitted. In the original version, the narrator thinks that he might throttle a boy he had seen clinging to the wooden figure upon which the victim of the "narrator's" story gets his fixation— in its nature as a rigid statue, guilty; but in its nature as a policeman, admonitory. When I think of the choking in Othello, along with the reference to one whom Othello likened to himself and whom he "seized by the throat" precisely when killing himself, I realize that this detail of fantasy should have been left in. I took it out because at the time when I was working on the book I did not interpret the chapter as I do now, and I simply found the notion too repellent to retain.

Where next? The story within a story carries the narrator to the point

where he is caught in a vicious circle. His loneliness begets loneliness, and there is no way out except for the flare-up of a compensatory fantasy, the vision of a mystic reversal whereby he is not alone, but is one with Universal Purpose.

Is his vision a lie, or not? At least, it comes to a focus in the image of an ark. Hence all this regression might somehow add up to rebirth? In the last chapter, the narrative ambiguously tries it both ways. The development may be inexorably back, back, back into silence—i.e., the womb in the absolute—or things may be directed towards resurgence, as some of the final jottings explicitly promise.

I think that we are here involved in vacillations ultimately having to do with the relations between tragedy and comedy. The pattern is this: The character builds upon a cult of tragedy, deliberately designed to rule out the amenities of humor. "Under the slightest of reverses, I would welcome bad weather, would go out to scan a broad, lonely sky at sunset, saying, ‘This I know; this is a return, a homecoming’ " (36).

There are two aspects of this motive. First: "There was gratification from the thought that I might derive even my defeat from within" (55). Second: "Let us endure minor reversals by inviting major calamities; let us dwarf annoyances, or even melancholy, by calling upon life's entire structure to collapse" (59).

All told, he celebrates his "despisals" as a "vocation" in which he must "persevere, even at the risk of great inconvenience" (145). He chooses "to grow sullen where I might have dismissed a dilemma by laughter—laughter which leaves us untried, which is a stifler in the interests of comfort, surrendering in advance, renouncing prior to excess, enabling a man to avoid the ultimate implications of his wishes" (198). A secondary effect arises thus: "Though no one would choose failure, we may yet maintain that failure is a choice, since one may persist in attitudes which make his failure inevitable" (200). And: "One should live in such a way that he has with him these three considerations daily: madness, the Faith, and death by his own hand" (168).

It becomes a question of purpose: "Place a man among these streets, instruct him to choose some act which puts a strain upon his temper. What work will he perform here, if it is work in the absolute, and not the accidental matter of flunkeying to an employer? If he does not mean by work the earning of a little money through assisting in a superior's blind purposes, but the straining of his resources, what manner of living must he choose?" (200) To which his answer is: "How be called muscular if you would not prefer the sewers and rat-holes of the metropolis?" (200);

"Die as a mangled wasp dies—its body hunched, its wings futile, but its sting groping viciously for its tormentor" (201).

The ultimate complication lies in his relation to money. "Wealth and talent being complementary, neither will deem itself enough without the other" (57). "I have never consented to console myself with the thought that we may be rich in spirit while tangibly impoverished. Wealth— wealth in love, money, the admiration of oneself and others—is indispensable to those who would surround themselves with the flatterings and stimulations of beauty" (28). Yet, in his "vision," at the culmination of his distress, he boasts and/or pleads: "It is good that some men are scorned by their fellows and made to feel homeless among them, since these outcasts are, through their sheer worldly disabilities, vowed to graver matters and could not, even if they would, prevent themselves from pouring forth their neglected love upon a formidable Father" (206).

Throughout the book, he keeps moralistically fluctuating between the paradoxical prosperity of poverty—a deliberate cult of disaster—and the conviction that there is an ideal need for a tradition of great wealth. And even at the last, when he is reduced to a total destitution largely of his own making, he warns himself: "You cannot renounce, for none but the rich dare speak in praise of poverty" (210). He ends in the condition that a stranger had described for him in the first chapter:

And upon my enquiring as to what he feared most of the future, he answered: "Destitution. Destitution of finances, destitution of mind, destitution of love. The inability to retort. The need of possessing one's opposite in years, sex, and texture of the skin; and the knowledge that by this need one has been made repugnant. The replacing of independence by solitude." (8)

As regards the question of literary species, this fluctuant attitude involves a kind of grotesqueness that is midway between tragedy and comedy, or, in the narrator's words, "the hilarious aspects of distress" (45). Many of the situations could be easily transformed into farce. Perhaps the most obvious instance is the episode about a compulsion to address the wooden statue of a policeman at the entrance to a store. He yields to the temptation, then fears that his act has been noticed:

I could have done the same under happier circumstances, but the meaning would not have been the same. It is quite natural to address inanimate things—it is no more foolish than confiding secrets to a dog. But as I looked about apprehensively, I saw that a woman had observed me. She was pretty, and insolent, and was watching me intently. There was no kindness in her eyes, nothing but cold curiosity. Her eyes, my dear, passed a terrible

judgment upon me. And to escape her judgment, I repeated my greeting, this time leaning back, squinting, and waving my hand, as though I had been speaking to someone in the recesses of the store—but now I noticed that the clerk inside, with bewildered moonface, was staring at me glumly. I am now bending beneath eyes, the wooden eyes of the policeman, the cold, curious eyes of the woman, and the glum eyes of the clerk inside the store. (190)

Perhaps these two preparatory notes indicate the pattern most clearly: "Be sure to have him boast of things for which he has attacked others"; and "He's all for setting up rules, but when they are applied to him he insists that the case is different." In this respect, the work adds up to a grotesque tragedy with the birth of comedy ambiguously in the offing:

Though you, in learning, brought trouble upon yourself, let no man discredit your discoveries by pointing to your troubles. Nor must you turn against your bitterness. The sword of discovery goes before the couch of laughter. One sneers by the modifying of a snarl; one smiles by the modifying of a sneer. You should have lived twice, and smiled the second time. (217)

And the narrator's talk of lapsing into total silence is interwoven with his cry: "resurgam! resurgam! I shall rise again! Hail, all hail! Here is a promise: resurgam." Thus, personally, I look back upon the work as a kind of grotesque tragedy serving as a rite de passage into a cult of comedy, as explained in my preface to the new edition. But though I think that, in an ideal world, comedy would be the highest form of art, I find that tragedy leads most directly into the study of man's attempted solutions for his problems. I would but add the hope that, as with the ancient Greek theater, we sum up the analysis of "tragic dignification" by a satyr play, that is to say, a burlesque of the solemnities that have preceded it.

Before turning directly to the sociopsychology of our present concerns, perhaps I should mention one further point as regards the sheerly literary aspect of the book. At the time when I was taking preparatory notes, I was also doing much research in studies to do with the nature and etiology of drug addiction. As a result, I became interested in the notion that the case history could be readily adapted for purely poetic purposes. The form made for a kind of vignette with a strongly aphoristic aspect. Since the narrative is so designed that the plot gradually emerges from a sententious context—though the aphorisms are "in character," hence not to be taken as strictly identical with the view of the author—I discovered that the case history, as a form, blends well with the aphoristic; a reader hardly notices when one leaves off and the other takes over.

This relationship is of great assistance to the effect I mention in my preface to the first edition: "Lamentation, rejoicing, beseechment, admonition, sayings, and invective—these seemed to me central matters, while a plot in which they might occur seemed peripheral, little more than a pretext,justifiable not as a‘good story,’ but only in so far a sit could bring these six characteristics to the fore." (In the same preface I observe: "If my her olackshumor, he does not lack grote squeness—and the grotes que is but the humorous without its proper adjunct of laughter.")

So much for a view of the work in its internality. Let us now reverse things and approach it situationally, from without.


"Surely no one will fall victim to a form of insanity which he abhors," Our Hero speculates (74) while willfully imposing upon himself a kind of stress that progressively tears at the edges of his mind, until his cult of quarrelsomeness and self-interference leads him into a self-perpetuating state of total isolation.

Since we ended the former discussion on purely poetic considerations, we might take them as our point of departure for this new phase. In Djuna Barnes's novel Nightwood, her major spokesman, the overripely perverted doctor, O'Connor, avows: "Calamity is what we are all seeking." On which I commented (in the spring 1966 issue of The Southern Review), "Maybe yes, maybe no, so far as life is concerned—but certainly yes, as regards the stylistics of lamentation." That is, I take it that, purely from the standpoint of literary appeal, lamentation is a pleasure. For "there is one notable difference between a biblical jeremiad and a purely literary variant of the species. … However great the artistry of any document that gained admission to the biblical canon (even so obviously literary an enterprise as the Book of Job), one should not approach a single sentence of the Bible purely in terms of literary entertainment." One should not, that is, if one is in the role of a devout believer. But "a literary jeremiad must somehow be fun." The same point is developed thus in my essay "Coriolanus—and the Delights of Faction" (The Hudson Review, summer 1966):

I would assume that such delight begins in the preverbal solace of an infant sobbing itself to sleep. (See my comments on the "three freedoms" of lamentation, praise, an invective, in my essay on Shakespeare's Timon of Athens in the paperback Laurel edition.) Calamity, or pathos, serves another function, which I have called "tragic dignification." I here refer

to the rhetorical fact that one can dignify a cause by depicting serious people who are willing to undergo sacrifices on behalf of that cause. Suffering is a way of "bearing witness"—that is, in etymological literalness, being a "martyr." This stylistic strategy presumably ties in with the fear of boasting, a fear that runs counter to the norms of salesmanship, and that has often been rationalized along the lines of the notion that by lowliness one avoids the envy of the gods.

In the case of this particular book, since the whole cult of stress comes to a focus in what amounts to a roundabout courting of insanity—or more accurately perhaps, near-insanity, a state up to but not beyond the edge of the abyss—it might be relevant to quote some lines from the recently deceased poet, Theodore Roethke, regarding his desire "to break through the barriers of rational experience." Or again "The only knowledge is reason in madness"; and "O to be delivered from the rational into the realm of pure song." This view of poetic insight obviously takes on a hierarchal dimension in his rhetorical question: "What's madness but nobility of soul / At odds with circumstance?" (The quotations are from an excellent article on Roethke by Denis Donoghue, in his recent volume Connoisseurs of Chaos [1965].) In Roethke's case, the predicaments that he periodically got himself into were, in a sense, willed—for he deliberately cultivated a vigilant search for a kind of expression that would be in its very essence neoinfantile.

Here another strand ties in. I refer to the "aesthetic of alcohol," the desire to attain, in one's sober writing, the kind of effects that one feels one is getting when under alcohol's influence. In a sense alcohol thus acts as a kind of "call," which the sobriety of writing can never wholly answer. In particular, insofar as alcohol stimulates assertiveness, like heated argument it tends to simplify complexity, a recipe one can discern quite clearly in the author's use of the fictional device of writing letters not just to a former friend, but also against that same person—a simplified complexity further compounded by the fact that the man to whom they are addressed is a recipient only in principle, since the epistles remain unsent.

But there is a further issue, as I have observed in my article "Art—and the First Rough Draft of Living" (Modern Age, spring 1964). Alcohol qua alcohol is not the same as alcohol during Prohibition—a notable aspect of the "cultural" climate prevailing during the years when this book was conceived and written. For those who were not bootleggers but who merely patronized bootleggers, alcohol under such conditions was in a penumbra of motives indeterminately lawless and sanctioned by custom.

The chemical spirits were thus linked with a kind of spirit that had the aura of adventure even while being quite within the range of ordinary ef forts and comforts. In any case, looking back now, I find it no accident that, in my preface to the first edition, I explain a problem in method in terms of an anecdote about "an illicit ‘dive’ in Greenwich Village." And I see no reason to retract my comment in the Modern Age article: "I in cline now to believe that the whole of the F. Scott Fitzgerald enterprise would have collapsed without Prohibition and the illicit dispensing of alcoholic spirits that went along with it."

The clearest instance of this aesthetic is in part three, chapter 1, where Our Hero most energetically inveighs (140–46). Just as in some primitive tribes there are places where, without fear of punishment, one can go and curse the king, so alcoholic argumentativeness was taken for granted. Hence many things, however vehemently they were said, could be received like water off a duck's back, except for the unexpected occasion when somebody got clobbered for almost no reason at all.

All told, that complex composed a subpersonality within oneself, so that one was, as it were, "hearing a call" of that sort from within. In a sense, it added up to a vague, nagging kind of vocation for which no sheer job would be the answer. Furthermore, it could tie in with earlier motives that emerge and come to a focus in adolescence, a time when a "league of youth"—a band of heterosexual males—improvises modes or friendship that at the same time keep the members of the band sexually apart by quarrelsomeness. Such "simple" conditions necessarily drop away in later life, when one's financial and marital relationships, developed out of ties and obligations alien to the original situation, give rise to a set of "claims" no longer tolerant of such harsh sparring as was once the norm. (Perhaps the grandest instance of such a change is Falstaff's lostness when Hal becomes king and loses all sympathy with his clowning.)

An early story, "Prince Llan," in some ways illustrates the complexities of the case. The prince, now mulierose, has become separated from his old friend, Gudruff, whose nature as a motive is most clearly revealed by this passage, written in, I hope, not too ungrammatical Latin—after the fashion of the Greek Anthology, which the author had studied extracurricularly while at college, and which gave English translations for all but the "indecent" entries:

Suddenly, suddenly, plena recognitio facultaturn corporis latuit subito ei; se relaxabat, est molliter lapsus contra terram, deinde se dabat suorurn temptationi inquinum. The remainder of the morning he spent in reading.


The prince, in trying to answer this call, dissolves as in a dream while he opens a door that leads to a door that allows him "down a corridor beyond, the glimpse of a door" (The Complete White Oxen, 233). As I now interpret it, the incident represents a fantasy in which a later aspect of the author's self, in a mood of stocktaking, recalls an earlier adolescent identity, still surviving as a kind of subpersonality in the unconscious, and essentially identified with the poetic motive—in that our first literary methods are usually developed under reflexive conditions that are able to be ambiguously symbolized in terms of suicide, or "death by one's own hand."

As regards the full scope of the hierarchal possibilities here, we necessarily move into a socioeconomic sphere far beyond the muddled tieup linking propoetic, prealcoholic adolescence with the beginnings of mature relationships—a change that often breaks up old friendships completely. I have been trying to indicate ways in which adolescence, alcohol, and a modified aesthetic cult of madness, however distressing, might all tie in with one another. Yet, thinking along these same lines, we are now ready to consider a much wider range of problems.

First of all, as regards our fundamental inquiry into stress-seeking, there is an unresolved conflict centering in what might be called a secularized version of the poor-church principle—a view that comes to focus in the conviction that poverty is spiritual—in contrast with the cult of commodities without which our civilization could not last even until tomorrow. I take it that, although the narrator's surname, Neal, combines several motivational strands, a major one is "kneel." Contrast, in this regard, the conditions under which his name first figures—in connection with an act of cruelty, on page 122—and the passage on page 205: "He knelt while love poured from him, or poured into him from all outward things."

The author was raised in dingy suburban neighborhoods. To be sure, he didn't know how dingy they really were. For there was a scattering of weedy fields among the houses, and many years later he could write about them lyrically, nostalgically. (There was even a deserted, window-smashed haunted house with fascinating stories about it.) The author was among the poor relatives. And though he now realizes that there were no rich relatives, he took it for granted that his grandparents, who were so much better off, were rich, particularly since his grandfather had always boasted of great wealth when handing out a few pennies to the greedy, gratified grandson. And since the grandparents' house was obviously in a much better part of town than his parents', the difference

meant Wealth in the Absolute—for those are the years when absolutes take form.

In brief, the poor-church principle—prosperity of poverty—had to combine with the thought that wealth and aesthetic flowering needed each other. A devious fusion, or compromise, was attained by imaginary acquiescence to mental stress—mental distress as a kind of ideal. (At least, such a development was to be welcomed as a sheerly aesthetic kind of risk.)

Also, although the actual story is a fiction from beginning to end, in principle it was "true"—at least in the sense that, as discussed in my first preface, it produced a "monster" by magnifying some aspects of the author's character and minimizing others. In this alembicated sense, it was a perversely idealized self-portrait. The author was in a state of acute internal conflict owing to maladjustments in his personal affairs. He was caught in a kind of dilemma from which such imaginings seemed like a kind of escape, or at least relief, as on page 211: "Speech being a mode of conduct, he converted his faulty living into eloquence. Then should any like his diction, they would indirectly have sanctioned his habits."

Thus these potentialities were intensely ambivalent. On the one hand, the fiction threatened to be autosuggestive, aggravating the very conditions for which it served as a relief. For the author's engrossment in its developments invited him to carry the attitude of the fiction over into real life, just as his protagonist had accused the fictive lovers of doing, when they endowed their lives with glamour borrowed from their roles in the blasphemous play.

On the other hand, there was the homeopathic aspect of such tragic imaginings, along the lines of this formulation in Milton's Samson Agonistes: According to Aristotle, Milton says, tragedy is designed "to temper and reduce" such passions as pity and fear "to measure with a kind of delight, stirred up by reading or seeing those passions well imitated." And he continues: "Nor is Nature wanting in her own effects to make good his assertion; for so, in physic, things of melancholic hue and quality are used against melancholy, sour against sour, salt to remove salt humours."

At least, often the poetic usefulness of an author's personal quandaries does allow them to be faced. Some years back I suggested in the magazine Poetry that the myth of Perseus is particularly relevant in this regard. Although one cannot stare directly at the Gorgon's head of his entangled motives without being as it were turned into stone, their nature as material for art acts as a kind of protective reflector. By the subterfuges

of form, one may be able to examine one's difficulties quite "realistically," even though the instrument also has the properties of a magnifying glass which can transform a tiny spider into a huge, glowering, hairy ogre about to seize and devour the observer, who somehow imagines himself dwarfed and defenseless. On this score, when going over old notes taken at the time when the novel was in utero the author was surprised to find a letter, written to a friend but never sent, in which, referring to a wealthy man in great mental difficulty, the author wrote with regard to his fears for his own welfare:

I am battling like a fiend, battling for nothing less than my mind itself—and unless it is true, as I frequently tell myself, that () went mad for me, that I can derive from his collapse vicariously my own rescue, unless this is true (and the idea, I may convince you, may not be totally coocoo [sic], since I have in the knowledge of his errors the one stable point from which to orient my own), that unless this is true … [the sentence was left thus unfinished].

A notable feature about this statement is that the author is referring to a real person's mental collapse much as his Hero refers to the fictive suicide in part one, chapter 5. And the book itself, as early as the second page, establishes the relevant convertibility of terms when saying that a person "may worry lest this day be the very one on which he snaps under the burden and, if not talented at suicide, becomes insane." The next sentence turns to the compensatory homeopathic principle: "Yet it is possible that by a constant living with torment, one may grow immune to it." But here "constant living with" should be read as a quasitemporal synonym for "radically imagining in principle." The fictive suicide, incidentally, killed himself in the cause of jealousy, a symptom that the author shared with his "smell-feast" protagonist, although in real life there was no such triangle as the plot is built around.

Perhaps I should pause here to say that when I state that this story is fiction from start to finish, I do hope that the reader will take me at my word. I am not merely using a stylistic subterfuge, for there would be no point to my lying, since all I'd have to do would be to leave these matters unsaid. What I am trying to get at, rather, is this: I am trying to make as clear as possible those respects in which a story that is totally false in its details can somehow be true in principle.

Consider, for instance, this kind of transformation from personal experience to fictive analogue: the narrator's notion that actors can derive unearned increment by reenacting offstage their roles onstage stems from

early years of loitering about the fringes of the Provincetown Playhouse—on MacDougal Street in New York City. And whether or not the actors and actresses so thought of themselves, that's the kind of aura they had for me.

Similarly, although there was no actual plan for a colony, the congregating of artists and writers is always on the edge of "colony-thinking," and the attack upon coteries is not far, by implication, from the renouncing of a practice that was attempted again and again in the history of our nation, and thus doubtless is inherent in the very trends that militate against it.

Or consider the narrator's mystic vision on pages 111–15. I had in mind a place where I had actually lived for a time, on a hilltop. From there, one sultry afternoon, I had watched a storm, caused by contrary winds clashing and swirling in the valley. The ability to observe the sheer form of the downpour as a "happening" made an unforgettable impression upon me, particularly since the torrent was, as it were, the single outcome of conflicting currents in the air. Yet the situation was quite different from the lonely fury recounted in the book, while the nine white cranes are imported from memories of the morning after a storm at night in a wholly different valley under quite different circumstances. And who's to say that there were nine? One can only say that they somehow seemed like a message.

Nor did the author ever become the proprietor of a herd through marrying for money, to say nothing of stealing money from a woman whom he had coveted unsuccessfully. And above all, with regard to the cult of "straining" which Our Hero propounds so earnestly on pages 200–203, please allow it to be a fiction when he says, "Prowling about the wharves, I have ministered to unclean men, for in this there was some ghastly decency, something beyond mere safety."

According to my tentative notion, all such fictions are "ideal completions" of personal experiences that are circumstantially quite different; but they contain some problematic motivational trace which, if isolated and made absolute, would be symbolized most accurately—or with most dramatic thoroughness, most "drastically"—by such a fulfillment as the fiction settles on. And I would tinker with the possibility that any such aesthetic imitating of motives prevailing outside the realm of art can have literal analogues involving persons who in effect make up such works of art but live them wholly in the realm of life itself, and without benefit of the formal reflector that Perseus had in his battles with the snaky-headed monster he could not dare to look upon.


But I should say more about the role of the economic motive in these imaginings. The author's early formative years coincided, I believe, with the time in our national history when the stress upon capital goods— rails, mills, mines, etc.—was just giving way to the rise of cheap, machinemade consumer goods—an emergent trend that was epitomized in the Woolworth chain of five-and-ten-cent stores. The corresponding slogan, which my father constantly repeated with a humorous twist whenever the women began talking of some new contrivance, was "Who would sit down and make it for that?" People marveled not only at the thing itself but also at its price, which they still considered in terms of the elaborate preparations needed if you had decided to assemble all the material and go through all the operations needed for the production of one such item.

During an era when a country is building up its industrial plant, there is necessarily a strong emphasis upon modes of thinking quite analogous to what I have called the religious stress upon the "prosperity of poverty." The sentiments in Benjamin Franklin's Almanac are probably the best example of such puritanical abstemiousness, a set of secular norms religiously grounded, and still strong, though often best honored in the breach, as in the case of Franklin himself, who could become wellto-do by praising the austerities of poor men.

This sort of morality seemed natural to the author in his early years, even while feeling proud at the naive thought that his grandparents were rich. Indeed, he even thought of them as a kind of alternate parenthood—a divisive trend sharpened by the fact that, often in the summer, his grandparents took him to some lake or the seashore, where, for a week or two, he was transfigured by life in the magic of a "rich" hotel.

His book was planned—and several early chapters written and published—during the fantastic bull market of the New Era. And although the author in a mild way got enough from his jobs and writings to feel that he too was in the swim, somehow it never seemed "natural" to him. He always felt uneasy, as though he had stolen his money and would eventually get caught. True, many persons like him did get caught in the crash of 1929—but not the author; for even the few stocks he had bought at a time when people were gambling like crazy he bought outright and not on margin. So they could be held, and eventually in a mild way they recovered.

Yet the book was already far enough along to act suggestively upon the author himself. During the almost magical terror that followed the crash, he deliberately resigned from a well-paying job, having resolved

to expend all his energies on his writing, both the novel and the material that went into his first book of criticism, Counter-Statement. It so turns out that if he hadn't resigned, he'd most likely have been dismissed a year later; for the entire branch of the organization by which he had been employed was discontinued. But the point is that when he quit he had no thought of such eventualities. Thus, in effect, he put himself in jeopardy as though by deliberate intention. And the book was finished in a state of chronic financial terror, intermingled with distress due to other emotional entanglements. Yet this terror was mainly a matter of principle. For although many kinds of imaginings to do with acute monetary embarrassment keep recurring throughout the novel, the author had some money in the bank and suffered no actual deprivation. But even though his run-down farm in the country was owned outright, without mortgage, and he earned some money by reviews and articles, his little hoard was dwindling slowly yet inexorably toward zero. This was "destitution in principle," we might say punningly, for he was living on his principle.

But we have anticipated somewhat. It should also be mentioned that, particularly during his connection with The Dial, he had seen, in all its impressiveness, the magical interweaving of wealth and talent, and many of the comments on this subject reflect observations about the marvelous assortment of persons that variously came and went around The Dials offices. Here are typical comments: "I knew one man who had applied his wealth to carrying doubt into his very tissues. As birds, though out of danger, fly with self-protective darts and veerings proper to their kind, so he kept his statements guarded, even among friends" (57). Or the narrator's drunken statement of policy (197) to the effect that one should "make money … before railing against wealth"; for "whatever he would renounce, let him first acquire it in ample quantities, that he become immune to hecklers" (197). Doubtless it was for this reason that, after Shakespeare's Timon of Athens becomes a vicious misanthrope— when deserted by his friends following the loss of his fortune—the dramatist arranges for him to find another treasure, which he throws away like filth, thereby letting the audience see that Timon is now a universal hater on principle, and not just because of "sour grapes." Also at the offices was one man of great refinement whose wealthy upbringing had obviously put a great strain upon him, making him imperious even though he also had an almost pathetic desire to be frank and friendly. All told, it was a stable of racehorses if there ever was one—all swishing, and stamping, and tossing their heads nervously, all brought together by the

resources of patronage, and all under the strain of their own temperaments, which were at once their assets and their liabilities.

Perhaps the most general grounding of all for the kind of outlook we are here considering could be called Nietzschean, as with writers bent upon "glorifying the problematical in art" and "stressing the state of tension in itself, picturing the dangers and discomforts in maintaining it, hence relying upon the basic military equipment in man as their last source of appeal—though differing widely in their selection of the symbols which would serve as the channels in which this original biologic psychosis would run."

I am quoting from my Permanence and Change (1935), pages 87–88, Hermes edition. I had in mind here an animalistic grounding (64). And in a section on "The Peace-War Conflict" (197–98), I tangle with the Nietzschean puzzle in which, though "the organism has developed an equipment for attaining the benign sluggishness of satiety, the very equipment for bringing about such a worldly Nirvana is in itself the essence of turbulence and struggle." Thus:

We perceive here a contradiction at the very basis of behavior. For if the organism attained its state of quiescence permanently, the military equipment of nervous agility, of bodily and mental muscle, would fall into decay. On the other hand, to prevent such decay, one must exert himself in "warfare," abiding by the competitive genius of mind and body, thereby denying himself precisely that state of conscious death which he might derive from the booty acquired by his prowess.

It is a contrast that had long worried me. The titular story of my first book, The Complete White Oxen, is built around a contrast between a lion and the oxen, in a zoo:

Disdainful to the last, the lion retained his superiority even while being fed. He greeted the attendant with a baring of yellow fangs which gave the impression of sneering; and he snatched the meat from the iron prongs with a growl, as though he were stealing it. He kept his eyes on his feeder until he had disappeared, and then began tearing the flesh from the bone by licking it with his rough, scaly tongue. (7)

In contrast, it is said of the white oxen:

They were chewing in deliberate contentment. At times they would move their heads to look in another direction; at such times they ceased their chewing, as though disapproving of too many simultaneous motions. But once their head was firmly established in this new direction, their chewing would be resumed. Calm, harmless, sleepy, they lolled about their cage. [And later] To them the supreme gift of God was to sleep and know that

one is sleeping. He yearned to see things with their dull, slow-blinking eyes, to retire into their blissful sloth of semi-sensation. (9)

Doubtless we have a considerable measure of vegetarian idealizing here. And, as I observe in a footnote (Permanence and Change, 198–99), an overstress upon the contrast between the hunt and relaxation after gorging can mislead, in deflecting the attention from the humane realm of the sentiments. Also, in my analysis of Nietzsche's style, I tried to show that there are purely formal considerations involved in his use of what he calls "perspective"—a kind of sheerly terministic violence achieved by a method for wrenching words from a customary context and putting them in new, theoretical surroundings—a device for which I proposed the formula "perspective by incongruity."

But the main point is this: insofar as the human organism is prepared by adaptations through thousands of years to undergo strain, such equipment must manifest itself as a need to be exercised, as in sports, horror stories, monastic disciplines, excesses of ambition in the building of financial or political empire, juvenile delinquency, and similar exertions praeter necessitatem. And there may even be a kind of reality about pain that is weakened by anesthetics, anodynes, soporifics, and the like.

One may question whether such conditions establish the psychological necessity for war. But they would imply grounds for a cult of conflict. War is but one species of conflict—and the kinds of war in which we have distinguished ourselves depend upon fantastically excess wealth, in contrast with the African tribe that lives in so sparse an area it exists wholly without internecine strife. Indeed, the food supply is so scanty, the tribe would by now be extinct if its members had not developed modes of peaceful cooperation to a maximum—for nothing less could save them. But, of course, the severity of their environment supplies all the conflict necessary to exercise the body's natural aptitude for the undergoing of stress. But just as delinquency can engage the efforts of spirited youths whose way of life otherwise—in an orderly, well-to-do suburb, for instance—would not sufficiently tax them, so wars help any in our times who, unbeknown to themselves, want not jobs but vocations, as I put it in a "subversive" poem I wrote in 1933 (Book of Moments [1955], 59):

We have even hoped for the trenches,
That men might again be cronies.
We have even told ourselves how by the wars
We might again be brought together,

By the helpfulness of slaughter.
The wars are fuller than the peace
In fellowship.

We should also consider the frequent compensatory tendencies— along the lines of "tragic dignification"—whereby our ailments can provide the makings for inverted kinds of boasting—engrossments of ours that we ask others to share, even though we may bore them to the edge of shrieking. And there's a wonderful variant of such matters in a documentary film I once saw (Savage Splendor), about which I once wrote thus (in "Hermes Scroll No. 7"):


See Savage Splendor, a long documentary film too soon over. And above all, don't miss the shot of the 300-pound king using for his throne the back of a prostrate slave. The king further burdened himself with 200 pounds of ornaments, and some several hundred wives, shown bunched in rows like a choir. And all told you could observe him being weighted down literally with the responsibilities of office, only 500 pounds of which he could transfer to the back of his slave. His immobilizing fat was presumably a mark of exceptional wealth and noble status, since only a personage of great means could afford to be so sedentary in a jungle. It contrasted with the litheness of the dancers who had come long distances to perform in his honor. You could see before your very eyes a gross physical burlesque of the Stoic scruples and meditative spirituality with which a Marcus Aurelius might assume the burdens of empire. And what directness of realism there was, in the symbolism of the prostrate slave so heavily burdened by the master! There was an indirectness, too. We refer to the way in which the burdensomeness came back to plague his lordship, a sufferance attested by the drawn lines of the royal phiz, so very weary, and by the technicolor of the bloodshot eyes. Another possibility: might not the slave have felt unbearably proud? Surely he lorded it over the other slaves, who were not thus sat upon with such Distinction. And if he knew his Hegel, he must have understood that he was, in his crouching way, a world-historical figure, evolved by the Divine Idea to fulfill this God-appointed task, as regards the heavy responsibilities of Universal Order.

And since we are now on the verge of tragic farce, let's include a reference to a practice of some current pitchmen, who help reinforce your sense of guilt by selling you remedies after first persuading you that you need them. Of course you stink. So, adopt the most "natural" solution possible; namely, obstruct the pores of your body murderously, or gargle with poisons. Of course you stink. After all, what are you for, if

schemers can't get you to load yourself with chemicals costly both in money and health? In sum, think on all those stress-seeking, stresssought denizens of Madison Avenue, forever pleading with you; they beg you to help ease their ulcers by being as stupid as you can, in answer to their quack-quack. Madison Avenue stands for the very Priesthood of Stress. And it stands to reason: Of course you stink. Me too!


As regards the enigmatic foretelling at the end of part one in the novel, I take it that the sound of water behind the mist presages the final downpour—of both the ersatz mystic vision on pages 111–15 and the book's last sentence: "Henceforth silence, that the torrent may be heard descending in all its fullness." Besides the flow of water, the whole range of connotations would probably include, at various places along the way, the flow of words, the flow of time, the frightened flow of urine, and what Coleridge called "the streamy nature of association," William James the "stream of consciousness." The passage most obviously linking words and downpour is near the beginning: "I would speak as a gargoyle would speak which, in times of storm, spouted forth words" (9). Its further tie-up is indicated by the fact that the narrator is on the subject of his scorn.

The dog barking, "imposing fresh sharp sounds upon his own blunt echoes," sums up the essence of the reflexive principle (including the chapter in which the narrator vilifies his cronies). The "twitter of many unrelated bird-notes" presages the disintegrative form of the last chapter. Borrowing from the Cambridge anthropologists' speculations on the incunabula of Greek tragedy, I'd want to contend that here, even in its very form, we find the "rending and teasing" that is necessary for a next phase, the ambiguously foretold turn from grotesque tragedy to a cult of comedy.

In the novel, for reasons which I hope I have made clear, this process of disintegration preparatory to reintegration takes place enigmatically and ambiguously at the end. But in my next book, Permanence and Change, which is explicitly concerned with questions dealing with the development from an earlier orientation to a new one, fittingly the "rending and tearing"—or sparagmos—takes place in the middle section, coming to a focus in the concept of "perspective by incongruity," which involves the Nietzschean clash of categories when a term that has

come to seem natural in one context is suddenly jammed into a different and hitherto alien context. And to back this point, I should also mention, in my Philosophy of Literary Form (1941, unabridged edition), my discussion of a painting by Peter Blume. For, as I interpret it, there is a similar kind of disintegration intermediate between two quite distinct motivational realms, although necessarily, by the nature of the medium, the observer confronts the three stages—of Before, During, and After—simultaneously.

Incidentally, as considered from the sheerly aesthetic or poetic point of view, the mimetics of breakdown in the last chapter are seen to be but the transformation of a writer's preparatory note taking into a kind of culmination in extremis.

A fuller discussion of the book in its internality would have required the indexing of several other recurrent terms, such as the thesaurus of meanings surrounding the word "mouse," for instance, ranging from the "sickly and unsightly creature, a mouse-faced man" (29), through "if she but stamped her foot you would, deep within you, scurry away like mice" (149), to "would liken God to a little mouse" (209). And the term "yield" ranges from yielding in guilt, through yielding in adjustment or accommodation, to yielding like Christ on the cross.

But one term at least I should pause to consider at some length, since it also bears strongly upon an experience outside the book. Inasmuch as any cult of conflict—or stress-seeking—is likely to take on moralistic connotations, eye-imagery can naturally figure, particularly if, like the author, one was constantly admonished as a child that God was always watching. How would this conceit manifest itself in sheerly secular terms?

We have already cited the passage from the story within a story. But on going through the book again, I note two others that are particularly relevant. On page 72: "On dim, deserted streets I hurried through a city of eyes, under the surveillance of disparate objects which, as I passed, each transferred me to the supervision of the next. And there were real eyes among them, eyes of the cats that paused to note me with distrust (some of the cats stringy, others crouching in bunches behind their faces)." On page 210, when Our Hero is in extremis: "There is an eye, firm as the eye of the newly dead. When I am alone, this eye inspects me." I cannot say for sure whether I already knew Emily Dickinson's lines on watching "a dying eye." But, to the best of my memory, I can say that after finishing the book, the author had an almost intolerable

sense of an eye constantly bearing down upon him. He saw it so clearly in his mind's eye, at times he couldn't keep from looking for it outside him, even though he knew it was but a fantasy. And always, wherever he did look, it was still off to one side.


This essay originally appeared in The Bennington Review 1 (summer 1967): 32–49, used with permission from Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont; and Why Men Take Chances, ed. Samuel Z. Klausner (New York: Anchor Books, 1970), 73–103.


2. On "Creativity"— A Partial Retraction


The Foreword by Donald E. Hayden explains the occasion for Kenneth Burke's essay, which, he tells us, is a revision of an earlier talk on the same topic. "On ‘Creativity’—A Partial Retraction" is important for the way in which it further develops the antitechnology theme of his late essays, and especially for the way he formulates his ecological vision and his idea of ecotragedy. As far as I know, this is the first time Burke combined tragedy and catharsis, the central concepts in his dramatistic poetics as he developed it in the fifties, with the global ecological degradation caused by high technology. It is creativity in the physical sciences that brought about the electronic technological revolution still going strong in our time.

Burke's question at the end is whether or not creativity in the humanities (the verbal arts in particular) and social sciences, can do anything to counteract the destructive creativity of the physical sciences and the tragic situation created by the marvels of high technology. Burke's model for the tragic situation is Antigone and especially the tragic dilemma faced by Creon. Burke both admires and fears creativity in the physical sciences. His "partial retraction" is to qualify his previously unqualified praise for the principle of creativity wherever it does its work. This leads him to the principle of destructive creativity, an important concept for an understanding of the culture of the late twentieth century, where not only technology but many of the arts are deliberately as well as inadvertently destructive. Witness rock bands, for example, with their destructive names and antisocial behavior and lyrics.

Creativity is not, ipso facto, a good, as we were once taught, and as we ourselves taught, and as our children are still being taught at every level of their education. Burke speculates here, as he does elsewhere in these essays, on the autosuggestive effects of an artist's works on the artist himself—effects which, Burke argues, are often quite destructive. It was the constructive effects of creativity in the realm of symbolic action—say in Whitman's poetry—that Burke mostly focused on in his earlier work in the thirties under the aegis of the phrase that "you can make yourself over in the image of your imagery." That concept is treated with a lot of Burkean irony in this essay, part of which seems like a doomsday lament for a future too awful to think about.



During the spring semester 1970, my colleagues in the English department agreed that there might be value in holding the fall 1970 symposium (number six for the department over the past four years) on the general subject of "creativity"—and more especially as the literary artist himself sees it. (I suppose in a way this would be doubly introspective.)

The presenters of the "Symposium—70" papers met several times working out the general ground rules. On the afternoon of December 10, 1970, the five papers by members of the University of Tulsa faculty were presented. The theme of "The Creative Process—Introspection" was developed first by Winston Weathers in an archetypal fashion, followed by the four applications to specific writers.

In his study of Coleridge on Imagination (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960), I. A. Richards calls attention to a growing suspicion of "introspection" in an age of scientific inquiry. He points out that introspection may properly be discredited "as a means of settling matters not within the scope of direction inspection … but that there still remains a field in which introspection is not only a possible but an indispensable source of information" (48). Richards goes on to say that while introspection may be biased, what we seek is not definitive results but "possible, useful hypotheses." The result of such introspection may well be, as Wordsworth believed, that we learn "Something of what we are."

The evening presentation by Kenneth Burke was enthusiastically received by an audience that nearly filled the amphitheater. The next day as I drove him to the airport, Mr. Burke commented that rarely had he seen a group enjoy themselves so much upon being told that "we are all doomed!" As he put this cheery sentiment, "I began with a theory of comedy. In time I came to studying the mystique of pollution in Greek tragedy. Now I am fascinated by the horror of pollution in American pragmatics."

I was bold enough to suggest two replies: For one, the enjoyment may have been not so much from the anticipation of tragic annihilation as from the "style" in which the prospect was presented. As Mr. Burke had himself indicated in his lecture, "It seems as though, for man, the typically symbol-using animal, each fragmentarily undergone encounter in his practical existence calls for a formally perfected analogue in the realm of the purely mythopoeic." And our enjoyment thus resulted from seeing our impending doom "perfectly symbolized" by Mr. Burke's lecture.

And, for another thing, it may have been that we enjoyed the possibility that the world might yet end not with a whimper but with a bang.

In any event, Mr. Burke, concluded the evening and "Symposium— 70" by reading selections from his poem "Eye Crossing—from Brooklyn to Manhattan"—which may be found in Nation 208 (June 2, 1969), 700–704.

We wish for monograph readers a modicum of pleasure we enjoyed at the symposium.

Donald E. Hayden, January 1971


This talk is the revision of one I gave before some teachers of English in the Northwest, about this time last year.

In the original piece, I began with a reference to Remy De Gourmont, whose ingenious critical writings had had a strong formative influence upon me, over half a century ago. He had suggested that in some cases a so-called state of decadence might be due, not to a mere running-down of a people's culture; but rather it might be a symptom of over-much fertility. And I thought that this notion could serve as a good admonitory speculation regarding the state of affairs in which we now find ourselves.

Being of a divided mind, I had first tinkered with the idea of dodging my responsibilities somewhat by casting my discussion in the form of a dialogue. But I couldn't even get past the problem of choosing names for my two voices (or should there be three?). And should they, or should they not, be of the same sex?

Roughly they were intended to represent a contrast (yet sometimes a concordance) between the physical sciences and the humanities. Tentatively, uneasily, I thought of having the physical sciences represented by a sturdy male whom I named "Progressus." And the realm of the Muses in general and of literature in particular might be represented by an ardent poetess, to be named "Regresseen." Or one helpful suggestion was that, owing to the prestige of the term "imagination" in the realm of letters, I should name her "Madge."

More specifically, Progressus was to represent not theoretical science, but technology—or at times, still more narrowly, engineering. He was to be a vigorous fellow, who neither smoked nor drank, let alone dabbling in the newer psychedelic media of communication for which his own prowess is responsible. It would be stacking the cards too much if I made

him boastful. Yet there was much that he could legitimately boast about. But what of Regresseen? When I thought of her as unfriendly to the accomplishments that Progressus celebrated, I began to feel the need of a zestful chap (let's call him "Furioso") who sang of the new macrogadgetry and microgadgetry much as Whitman had sung the song of the broadaxe. Particularly in music, sculpture, painting, and the graphic arts, Furioso would be quite at home in new media made possible by such enterprise as Progressus represented. And at that point I saw emerging a willfully disorganized lad, Hirsutus, who was given to scrounging around in the interstices of our society. I began looking for ways to tie him in with some lines of mine, "The cure for digging in the dirt is an idea; the cure for any idea is more ideas; the cure for all ideas is digging in the dirt." But that statement of policy would fit my needs more than his. And by now you have seen the dialogue collapsing even before it had begun.

In any case, here was my basic quandary: I was to talk on the subject of "creativity" (and the very word made me uneasy). I was addressing a group of experts whose interest in this subject was bound up with their interest in humanism generally, and literature specifically. Yet I had the uneasy conviction that the truly vital focus of creativity today is in the physical sciences. Quite promptly, however, along with this statement of belief I felt the need to add a twist. It was bequeathed to us by a social scientist who was as ingenious in his way as De Gourmont had been, when paradoxically merging the creative and the "decadent." I have in mind Thorstein Veblen when, by the blunt, ironic reversal of a proverb, he summed up our current quandaries in that marvelously shrewd proposition: "Invention is the mother of necessity."

We are not competent to decide here whether technology can solve the problems to which it has given rise; or whether, even if it can do so on a purely technological basis, mankind can make the exacting social and political adjustments that the fantastic upswing of technological creativity demands. Nor can we decide whether the world will be ultimately better off or worse off as the result of the changes that technology has already brought or may bring in the future, as the gradual interposition of its devices between us and a sheerly animal state of nature has come to make us variously at home or lost in a man-made "second nature," a vastly complicated structure that was ultimately made possible by the hominids' special aptitude with symbol systems.

In order to contrast a simple way of life with our characteristically complicated situation, I used to lay store by an unwieldy parable of this sort: If you raise a carrot in your garden, and you want a carrot, then the

only transaction involved is your going into your garden and digging the carrot. On the other hand, if you buy the carrot at a supermarket, lo! you are enmeshed in a sociopolitical network that would be beyond human ability to trace in detail: road building, politics, police, the banking structure, advertising agencies, educational institutions, accountants, clerks, and so forth. At first the two situations do look quite different. But look closer—and the same tangled complex is seen to be implicit in both, if you but begin with your garden plot, some tools, and a packet of carrot seeds. You individually may contrive to find a place in the interstices of all that entanglement, quite as most citizens cannot—but overarching it all is the same entanglement.

We are now ready for a second step. But before taking it, perhaps I should try to anticipate a possible objection. Some persons with whom I discussed this talk contended that I should make a distinction between "creativity" and "invention," whereas I tend to treat the two terms as synonymous. Some of you may have the same misgiving. If you do feel that I should stress such a distinction (speaking of literary or poetic "creativity" on one side and of technological "inventiveness" on the other), please translate accordingly, as I proceed. My paper should then be read as though it were entitled "Scientific Invention and Poetic Creation—A Partial Retraction." With either wording the underlying burden of my argument remains the same. Using a term that would obviously apply to both, we could say that the talk concerns a relationship between two orders of innovation. And the physical sciences' kinds of innovation have produced such radical changes in the realm of motion, they have placed corresponding responsibilities of innovation upon the literary or poetic or humanistic realm of acting symbolically.

And so to our next step, hinging about my "partial retraction."


In my first book of literary criticism, Counter-Statement, published about forty years ago, I partly took issue with a position that the recently deceased critic, Joseph Wood Krutch, upheld in his volume, The Modern Temper, a work concerned with the loss of belief in the kind of relationship between man and the universe that made tragedy possible.[1]

I'll quote a relevant passage, interwoven with quotations from Krutch:

Having said that tragedy is dead, and that it is dead because the new scientific "truths" have destroyed the tragic "illusions," he ends: "Some small part of the tragic fallacy may be said indeed to be still valid for

us, for if we cannot feel ourselves as great as Shakespeare did, if we no longer believe in neither our infinite capacities or our importance in the universe, we know at least that we have discovered the trick which has been played upon us and that whatever else we may be we are no longer dupes." He will accept the full responsibilities of this "truth," though the "truth" deprive him of something so edifying, so necessary to the most wholesome human expansiveness, as tragedy: "If death for us and our kind is the inevitable result of our stubbornness, then we can only say ‘So be it.’ Ours is a lost cause and there is no place for us in the natural universe, but we are not, for all that, sorry to be human. We should rather die as men than live as animals." He pictures those of his kind watching simpler men who, through having gone far less in their thinking, enjoy certain vital advantages (high among which is "tragic importance"). But though recognizing the advantages that lie with the simple, those of his kind will follow their thoughts even to disaster. Such are Mr. Krutch's obdurate conclusions.

Maybe my answer was too pat. But anyhow, here's how it runs:

Now, tragedy as a mechanism is based on a calamitous persistence in one's ways. It is "nobler" when the persistence is due to a moral stability on the part of the hero than when it is due to a mere misunderstanding. What, then, if not the formula for tragedy is this position of Mr. Krutch? He will take a personal stand in relation to an historic process (the historic process being in this instance the loss of certain magical and theological or metaphysical "illusions" based upon "nonscientific" systems of causality)—and in this stand he will persist at all hazards. It is good to have a writer display so well the basic machinery for a modern tragedy in a book heralding the death of all tragedy.

I proposed to save the day by a distinction between tragic drama and the tragic spirit. And I contended that Krutch's own book admirably exemplified an essayistic instance of the tragic in this latter sense. Thus, by this test, the quality of his book disproved his thesis. But the matter of the "retraction" figures here because of the way in which I had set up the case:

Since certain things were believed, and poets used these beliefs to produce poetic effects, the beliefs became "poetic." But in the course of time contrary things came to be believed, with the consequence that the earlier beliefs were now called "illusions." And noting that so much of the world's poetry had been built upon what were now called illusions, the critics argued in a circle: The illusions, they said, were poetic, and in the loss of the illusions through science we face the death of poetry through science. The difficulty lay in the assumption that illusions were inherently "poetic"—whereas they had been made "poetic" by the fact that poets had constructed poetry upon them.


Along these lines, later in the article I said:

Wordsworth, in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads [1802], has stated the opposite position quite succinctly. If science, he says, "should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive," the poet will carry "sensation into the midst of the objects of the Science itself. The remotest discoveries of the Chemist, the Botanist, or Mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the Poet's art as any upon which it can be employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated by the followers of these respective Sciences shall be manifestly and palpably material to us as enjoying and suffering beings." Which is to say that if an ideology of science obtains general credence, the poet will poetize it by using it for the production of emotional ("human," "poetic") effects. It is not surprising that this statement should have been made by one whose poetry is a simplification, a utilization of "what is left," rather than an attempt to incorporate much new material. For this simplification itself indicated an appreciation of the fact that an ideology was in a state of remaking—it showed a determination to use only so much of the "certain" as remained fairly intact (which was, for him, sensation, or nature and the sentiment arising from the exaltation of natural processes).

One problem, I noted, involved the instability of science's beliefs. However, I risked naming some candidates for canonization, beginning with scientific method itself (which, in greater assurance then than I'd have now, I equated with "the acceptance of skepticism as a major principle of guidance"). In any case, I ended up thus:

Already there are many new elements to be "poetized." But in so far as the poet "looks before and after," or "binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society," he cannot at this time be concerned with the new alone.

Indeed (I'd add now), can he be concerned with "the new alone" at any time?

He will, if he is sensitive to the entire situation, retreat slowly (or advance slowly, as one prefers), relinquishing only what must be relinquished, retaining the vocabulary of past beauty so long as he can bring himself to feel its validity, yet never closing his eyes in the interests of comfort and respite, but continually testing the valves and wheels of his poetic mechanism, and not for a moment attempting to conceal from himself the fact that some part or other is outworn. It is quite likely that for each belief science takes from us, some other belief will be placed in its stead. That a new belief seems more "difficult" or less "poetic" need trouble us little, for the difficulty is not inherent, but arises from the fact that we must alter old methods—and if an old belief existed long enough for genial poets to make

it poetic, a new and contrary belief must necessarily seem unpoetic until it in turn has been exploited by a poet.

So much, to set the conditions for my partial recantation, which I hold to be necessary, in an attempt to clear the way for thoughts on creativity in the wholly literary realm.


First, on looking back over those paragraphs, I note that Wordsworth, in his idealism, had been guilty of a major oversight; and I too, in following his lead.

Thus, there is no reference to the possibility of the ecological problems that we now find plaguing us, as the result of technology's creativeness, or inventiveness, or innovative prowess. In my original talk, after briefly mentioning some of the new environmental problems that now beset us, I added: "But even as I was writing down this list, I said to myself, ‘But surely I must not take a trip all the way across the continent, just to get myself involved in a platitude.’ " And of a sudden I was greeted by a disturbingly enthusiastic outburst of applause.

As regards at least the obligations of rhetorical creativity, it is not enough that comments on a deplorable situation be relevant. Troubles need but go on being what they are; yet talk about them must continually be born anew, lest the sheer mention of the problem but reinforce our boredom with its persistence. Meanwhile, ecologists, "environmentalists," have been telling us so much about the damage done by the creativity of our contrivances, even the barely adequate distribution of the documents detailing such analyses and admonitions would in itself require a catastrophic destruction of forests to supply enough pulp-wood for the paper on which the sefate-laden persuasions would be distributed.

In all likelihood we today are neither more nor less virtuous than mankind ever was, neither more nor less stupid, neither more nor less unimaginative. But all these ingenious contraptions that we owe to the burgeoning of the applied physical sciences are powers. Doubtless the human race has made big mistakes since the beginning of time. But bad as they occasionally were, they couldn't add up to much, as regards their threat to the survival or welfare of the human race in general. For in earlier times there was simply not enough physical power available to make a mistake that even remotely approached in scope the worldwide consequences that current technology has made possible. Given the fantastic

coefficient of power with which the creative genius of the physical sciences has provided us, when we make mistakes now, they can be whoppers. Our wholesome normal human greed, our wholesome normal human stupidity, our wholesome normal lack of imagination, they never had it so good, thanks to the irony whereby the fruits of ingenuity in the physical sciences, reinforced by much creativity in the symbolism of planning and persuasion, bring forth ever-new possibilities of powerladen enterprises. And would not that situation put new strains upon the resources of creativity in the humanistic realm?

Let us now return to that partial recantation I have been leading towards.

An intermediate stage is still to be inserted, and I propose to introduce it thus: In an early book, Attitudes toward History, I tinkered with an incongruous concept that I called "the bureaucratization of the imaginative." Going back, I think, to Spengler's (for me traumatic) distinction between "culture" and "civilization," and beyond that to Eduard von Hartmann's Philosophy of the Unconscious, it looked upon historic developments as subject to a kind of progressive rigidification (somewhat like hardening of the arteries in old age). The "imaginative" I thought of as intrinsically pliant, creative—but the act of giving body to an imaginative project involved a contradiction, for which I proposed the intentionally unwieldy word, "bureaucratization." Thus, once any imaginative ideal attains its "bureaucratization," or institutional counterpart, it will have become in some respects the very opposite of its original impulse. In sum, by the "bureaucratization of the imaginative" was meant a perspective by incongruity, such as "the rigidifying of the pliant."[2]

This process seemed to involve a further paradoxical twist whereby, in the very enacting of a purpose, a society necessarily selects means somewhat ill-adapted to that purpose. For by the sheer fact of being itself, anything will contain potentialities beyond the use for which it may happen to be designed. Thus, though a hammer is specifically made for driving nails, it can also be used in a brawl for clouting an opponent. To this aspect of bureaucratization, or rigidification, I gave the name "unintended by-product." And I proposed some mild terministic innovations that I thought were needed to spot and identify cultural manifestations of this sort.[3]

The lore of the new wonder drugs makes it obvious that with my concept of "unintended by-products" I was groping fumblingly towards the current expression, " side effects." Clearly, "side effects" is the term I need, for recanting somewhat on my earlier vote of favoring the science

plank in Wordsworth's platform for poets of the future. In brief, he was thinking of how poetic creativity might celebrate the wonders of scientific creativity. And there simply was no mention of unintended side effects (or "residues") such as poets in particular and citizens in general must now variously confront, with corresponding images, ideas, concepts, and attitudinizing fictions (in brief, various modes of symbolic creativity). Whether explicitly or implicitly, poets will necessarily experience a world infused with the "second nature" of bureaucratized technologic creativity, including its many seamy side effects. These include the threat that, even if we contrive to postpone permanently an ultimate world-encompassing chemical, bacteriological, thermonuclear showdown, even in their peaceful exploitation of raw materials the side effects of the new powers may fatally upset the balance of nature on which human existence ultimately depends. And even if this eventuality is permanently postponed, we must continue to live with it as a threat, while modifying our modes of living and thinking accordingly (a situation that in itself would be a radical challenge to our powers of creativity in the realm of the spirit).[4]

Meanwhile, there is an ironic sense in which Wordsworth's prophecy has come true. Poets have already made many of our technological developments "poetic," by widening the range of things talked about in poems, despite the resistance of many readers, of many critics, and even of many poets who still look upon such modes of expression as essentially "prosaic." The prevalent aversion to didactic poetry also figures here— and though it is yielding, this resistance is probably upheld in part by poets who, being themselves teachers, think of their verse writing as flatly antithetical to their pedagogic mode of livelihood. Also, whereas I would interpret Wordsworth as having had in mind an increased range whereby things not formerly considered beautiful would be brought within the realm of beauty, there developed a different trend whereby the test of beauty itself dropped away. This, I take it, is the grounding for that kind of poetic creativity we now call the "anti-poem."

An easy way to appreciate the difference is by contrasting Wordsworth's preface with Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's manifestoes proclaiming the gospel of futurism which would go beyond free verse to free words: "The mots-libristes orchestrate colors, noises, sounds, they form suggestive combinations with the materials of language and slang, arithmetical and geometrical formulae, old words, words distorted and invented, the cries of animals and the roar of motors."

Marinetti had become remade, he tells us, during a trip in an airplane,

an occasion relevant to our present concerns. Whereupon, his manifestoes proclaim a band who "are for a ‘maximum of disorder’; a ‘lyric obsession with matter’; the abolition of sentiment; for the ‘telegraphic,’ the ‘vibratory,’ the ‘cult of speed, the new.’ For the ugly, the ‘reign of machinery,’ ‘imagination unchained,’ the glorification of industrial and financial nationalism. They are ‘against the harmonious,’ against ‘moonlight, reminiscence, nostalgia, eternity, immortality.’ " "Instead of humanizing, let us animalize, vegetalize, mineralize, electrify, or liquefy our style."

A "manifesto in glorification of war shows how well the futurist mode of acceptance was adapted for recruiting in the service of Mussolini. The futurist, to praise war, needed only to recite its horrors, and call them beautiful (somewhat as the ancient Greeks considered the left illomened, and made up the difference euphemistically by calling the left flank of their armies the ‘well named’)."

"Marinetti contrived to attain ‘yea-saying’ at whatever cost. Like a cruel caricature of Whitman, he would be the omnivorous appetite. By a cult of the picturesque, his project categorically silenced objections. To any who might say, ‘This modern world is disease,’ it could answer, ‘But what a perfect example of disease!’ … Were the streets noisy? It could counter by advocating an uncritical cult of noise. Might there be stench? It would discuss the ‘beauties' of stench." And so on.

I am here quoting some references to Marinetti that I published in 1937(my Attitudes toward History).[5] I feel that they have a kind of "this is where I came in" effect. But they punctuate a literary creativity such as Wordsworth obviously did not have in mind, regarding an attitude towards the "second nature" that would develop in response to the advance of technologic creativity. Marinetti's manifestoes are useful mainly as a symptom; or we might call them the emergent suppurating of a tendency that now manifests itself in manifold scattered and attenuated variants.

I believe it leads ultimately into a position that I might best approach somewhat roundabout, thus:

If I read the ecologists correctly, their admonitions about the technologic future really embody the principle on which Greek tragedy was built. Consider the structure of Sophocles' Antigone, for instance. Using his power for what he took to be the good of the state, Creon had conscientiously promulgated a decree that, under the circumstances, would result in the heroine's death. Then, being brought to see the error of his ways, he relented, and retracted his decree. But it was too late. He

had already set in motion the chain of developments that, acting beyond his powers, would inexorably entangle both Antigone and Creon in ultimate tragic wretchedness. I take it that our ecologists are basically concerned with a possible design of that sort, the fear that, by the time the dislocations caused by man's great technologic prowess become obvious enough for even the "silent majority" to see and renounce, things may have passed a point of no return. Thus, out of our great pride, our causes for boasting and unrestrained adventure, could come the fall. Here, certainly, would be a scientific fear quite in keeping with the design of tragedy. Or perhaps it would now show up rather as a kind of cruel, grotesque farce?


Futurism can turn into a kind of Super-Futurism, carrying to excess the Horatian formula, carpe diem seize the day. There's much creativity of that sort in our attitude towards situations that seem beyond our powers. Paradoxically, to a large extent the current cult of the irrational profits by the fact that, for all our unsureness, there still is a vast backlog of regularity. Thus, much creativity even on its face averse to current trends is actually made possible only by the conditions about which it would complain. And there are the ranges in which we can still cultivate the great works left us by tradition, sometimes loving them all the more because they are out of line with circumstances now. When, in grade school we were edified by the resounding challenge, "Woodsman, spare that tree, / Touch not a single bow, / In youth it sheltered me, / And I'll protect it now," our edification was made possible only because some other woodsmen had not spared some other trees. Just think what vast treasures must be dug up, transported, processed, bought, sold, catalogued, recorded in archives of one sort or another, so that but a single day's input may be fed into the maws of our many communicative media, thus providing material of some sort for the creativity of symbolic action. But as regards all Super-Futuristic movements, all cults of the absurd, do they not rather sift down to each generation's saying in effect, "After me, the deluge?"

Is it not possible that Freud misled us, in his stress upon the allimportance of the fatherkill? At least, as regards the creativity of the sacrificial principle, which I see as central to the Bible, in the Old Testament there is the focal story of Father Abraham piously resigned to sacrificing his son, Isaac. And the logic of the New Testament gravitates about a transcendent Father who sent his only-begotten Son for sacrifice. As for

the Greeks, the curse on the House of Atreus, which gave them so many themes for their tragedies, involved a father who unknowingly ate the hearts of his sons at a banquet. So it's just possible that there's a kind of infanticidal motive implicit in any drive "Ever onward." Some biologists now zealously at work studying the nature of genes have frankly admitted that their knowledge could turn out to be disastrous (for if perfected it would require a whole new set of sociopolitical controls). The atomic bomb, as developed in the United States, was no more subjected to the democratic processes of public debate and decision than was its development under dictatorship in Russia. And many of our citizens have similarly proved their willingness to experiment creatively with chemical and bacteriological means of genocide, wholly in defiance of the democratic traditions that we are supposedly bequeathing to the young. Yes, maybe even despite ourselves, the motto for much creativity should be: "After me, the deluge."[6]


As for specifically poetic creativity, probably its most profound aspect comes to a focus in that sense of resolution we commonly refer to as "catharsis." There is also the rudimentary catharsis of getting something said at all, as regards the pressure of a thing, situation, or process that, though affecting us, had not been named. The unnamed is another name for the potentially namable—and all men, even the most reticent, are the kind of animal that is "sentenced to the sentence," so we are moved by the ultimate logic of the summarizing, attitudinizing moment. But the catharsis of getting it well said is something else again, involving all sorts of selfimposed obligations, and corresponding sense of guilt, towards some ideal Audience X (maybe but an especially exacting aspect of one's own person). Further, the creative battle against such harassments does not end with the confronting and overcoming of the difficulties themselves. For there is still the problem of public reception, which may even be withheld not because a work is intrinsically inferior, but because it is good in ways that the author's contemporaries do not take to. Just think: The greatest Creator of them all saw that His Creation was good. Obviously He knew what He was talking about. But think of the endless grumbling that His beloved Creatures have been creatively engaged in ever since. And if a work happens to be of a sort that persons in authority consider subversive or in some other respect reprehensible, its creativity may not be a resolution at all for the author, but rather the source of much distress.


Then too, there may be a subtler issue involved. Often we tend to think of "catharsis" as a mere emetic process, a way of spitting forth undigested problems, as though "Out with it" were the recipe for a cureall and one could be cleansed of repressed vindictiveness by the sheer act of getting it expressed.

To be sure, this is an important part of the recipe; but I submit that it's not all. Total tragic catharsis also involves an attitude that is on the slope of love. If one could intensely love all mankind, by that very condition he would be cleansed. Tragedy provides a surrogate; namely; pity, which is on the slope of love. I have mentioned Sophocles' Antigone. Whereas Creon's conscientious devotion to the state and Antigone's family piety involve them in flatly antagonistic positions, the play is so designed that partisanship is transcended; and we feel pity for them both. I take it that, within the conditions of the form, the imitation of an agon in which one feels equally sympathetic to both antagonists would be the nearest dramatic analogue of universal love, so far as its "cathartic" effects are concerned.

There is a book relevant to our present concerns: Poetry Therapy: The Use of Poetry in the Treatment of Emotional Disorders (edited by Jack J. Leedy; Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1969). The various articles consider literary creativity from the standpoint of cures for sick souls rather than as examples of artistic excellence. In an item that I contributed, "Thoughts on the Poets' Corner," I brought up one point that I'd like to try out here, on the subject of "creativity":

Where speculations on these matters are concerned, I would propose one admonitory rule of thumb. Since, in past eras, many of the world's keenest minds treated central problems of human motivation in theological terms, I devoutly join forces with those who believe that one should always ask, at least experimentally, whether any theological account of motives can be shown to have a secular analogue. In the case of our present quandaries, I'd naturally think of the problematical relationship between churchmen's theories of "demonology" and contemporary concerns with creativity.

Thus, at least for heuristic purposes, we should ask whether one possible embarrassing analogue should always be kept in mind. Even if one's dreams had been an ecstatic vision of Christ or Mary, the churchmen admonished that it might be a delusion imposed upon the dreamer by the Prince of Darkness. And, similarly, should we not be on guard lest "creativity" escape proper quizzical inspection? I mean: Creativity should not bear the mask of purely and simply a "good" word.

Rather, keeping in mind possible secular analogues of the demonological should we not always be on the look-out for systematic ways of

distinguishing between "creativity" that heals and "creativity" that endangers (including further twists whereby a poorly paid and poor-paying artist might, through the creative sacrificing of himself, contribute to the comfort of trivial people for whom his dedicated sufferings provide a conversation-piece at cocktail hour)? There is much here still to be-puzzled over.

God only knows how autosuggestive one's work with symbol-systems can become. I know of at least one fellow who wrote a novel about a word-man's cracking up. By the time he had finished, he had got himself so greatly entangled in his plot's development, he barely did escape ending in an asylum himself. Several steps were needed to help him dispel the spell that the sustained engrossment in his fiction had imposed upon him. And among them was a deliberate renouncing of his emergent plans for another novel. He turned to criticism instead—and that subterfuge served him passably. He does not contend that novel writing necessarily produces such results. But he's adamant in his insistence that it worked that way with him.

And writers can develop ways of working whereby their creativity gets bound up with physically exacting habits that they could not abandon without abandoning the mental attitudes intrinsic to such creativity. So they almost necessarily persist in their ways of taxing themselves until they die by what they had most creatively lived by.

Who knows how deep all such matters go? Sometimes I have tinkered with the notion that all courses should be taught under the sign of fear, somewhat as (I assume without any but remote and unreliable knowledge) certain monks in ancient Tibetan monasteries were methodically prepared for the time when each could go into a solitary cell, never again to commune with even one other member of his own order. Things were so arranged that the interchange of food and offal could be managed, without sight or word of any other human. Eventually, there came the day when the food was not accepted. A sure sign! So the cell was opened, doubtless with appropriate ritual, and the dead monk was removed, to make room for the next saintly occupant, who would in turn have been prepared thus to commune henceforth with silence.

Maybe I heard it wrong, or maybe it's a lie in the first place. But are there not aspects in which it is true of all creativity, in principle? Along such lines, purely for preparation, I have asked students to write me three pieces, one praising something, one inveighing against something, and one lamenting. The students were to choose whatever subjects they preferred, for each such exercise. One student, choosing but one subject,

praised, inveighed, and lamented within the range of that one theme alone. We don't want to be systematically put away after the fashion of the Tibetan conceit. But what of that student, who subjected the same topic to three totally different attitudes? I mean: Might the best protection against the dangers of autosuggestion be in the development of methods designed to maintain maximum liquidity in all symbolic exercising? Essentially, Aristotle's Rhetoric is so designed. And let's not forget that he refers us to the Rhetoric when on the subject of "thought" (dianoia) in his Poetics.

My general notion is that terms are not merely suggestive in their effects upon readers, but also autosuggestive in their effects upon the writers who get used by using them. Hence, where questions of creativity are uppermost, we should above all be quizzical about the field and not just assume that every human creator is to be viewed simply as a fragment of an overall Creator. Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe he is but a victim of faulty self-diagnosis (particularly since it's so much easier to see other people's kinds of self-subjection than one's own).


For a quick summary, where then are we? I began by worrying in line with the thought that the ever-accelerating drive towards the production and consumption of technologic power is so ingrained in the nature of our economy, any notable alteration in this way of life on a national scale would have radical implications of almost staggering proportions, possibilities or necessities involving attitudinal and institutional changes far more radical than we can expect of mere communist or fascist revolutions. And such unfoldings would involve almost insuperable demands for a whole new round of creativity in the arts of human relations.

Maybe I got started on the wrong foot, and thereby painted myself into a corner. I realize now, so late in the day, I might easily have talked (quite as many of us, including myself, quite often have) about the civilizing virtues of imagination. There is a great "enrichment" of our lives to be derived from the human pursuit of the humanities. Appreciation is a form of thanksgiving—and thanksgiving is among the most felicitous of attitudes (perhaps the best of all we can have, towards the opportunities that the need to have lived affords us). In our appreciation of great works we are intrinsically giving thanks. And great works have found countless ways of thus adding to our gratitude (which is to say, the range of the appreciative), as when something said turns out to feel just right.


And since the human animal so spontaneously approaches life through the perspective of his symbol-systems (be they in words, colors, dance, sculpture, or whatever such), any appreciation of life somehow does not seem complete until this kind of animal has, as it were, doubled his experiences by finding for them a counterpart purely in the realm of symbols. It seems as though, for man, the typically symbolusing animal, each fragmentarily undergone encounter in his practical existence calls for a formally perfected analogue in the realm of the purely mythopoeic.

What harvest is truly, piously complete without a harvest song? What spring has been experienced in all its fullness, until or unless some mythman has endowed it with its lovely duplicate, the sheer formalized likeness of a beginning?

What sexual union is really in essence a union unless signalized by an epithalamium of some sort, though it may deviate far indeed from traditional expectations? (I have in mind even a couple who first had a child, next went on their honeymoon, and eventually got married, a state that could conceivably lead into a period of courtship.)

In sum, then:

Yes, in many ways creativity can become a damned nuisance. There is only one kind of Levity that could conceivably be worse than Creativity. That is Lack of Creativity.


From Introspection: The Artist Looks at Himself, ed., Donald E. Hayden, University of Tulsa Monograph Series no. 12 (Tulsa: University of Tulsa, 1971), 63–81. This paper was originally given at the Pacific Northwest Conference in English held at Yakima Valley College, Yakima, Washington, in February of 1970.

1. The pertinent selections are from Counter-Statement (New York: Harcourt, 1932; reprint, Los Altos: Hermes, 1959), 198–204. (Paperback edition, University of California Press, 1968.)

2. See Attitudes toward History (New York: New Republic, 1937; reprint, Los Altos: Hermes, 1959), vol. 2, 66 ff. (Paperback edition, Beacon Press. 1961.)

We could best sum up this view of history by a story, an anecdote presumably invented by the late Lincoln Steffens. It is so basic, if there were such a thing as a Comic Book of Genesis surely this story would be there:

Steffens, as the story goes, was entering the New York Public Library when a friend of his came stumbling out. The man was obviously in great agitation. ‘I've found it!’ he shouted. And he clamorously called for Steffens to go with him and listen while he told of his discovery.

Steffens obliged. The two bumped along Forty-Second Street and turned down Fifth Avenue while the friend somewhat incoherently explained. Gradually, despite his excitement, his words began to make sense—and Steffens

realized that his friend had found a plan for saving the world. And the more the outlines of the plan began to emerge, the better the scheme sounded.

Then Steffens became aware that someone was walking along beside them, listening to the account. And finally, turning, be saw a very distinguished-looking gentleman—then, looking again, he realized that it was the devil.


You seem to be interested in my friend's plan.

The Devil:



What do you think of it?

The Devil:

I think it's an excellent plan.


You mean to say you think it would work?

The Devil:

Oh, yes. It would certainly work.


But in that case, how about you? Wouldn't it put you out of a job?

The Devil:

Not in the least. Ill organize it (xiv).

3. For "unintended by-product" see Attitudes toward History, vol. 2, 67, 219. Or second and paperback editions, 226, 227, 259, 320.

4. Incidentally, as an obiter dictum, in behalf of the Self-Love Department, I'd like to quote a few lines from an article by William Bowen ("Our New Awareness of the Great Web" Fortune 81 [February], 198): "We may assume that most predictions put forward in 1937, like those of other years, would now be worth recalling only as examples of fallibility. But at least one prediction published in that year has since come to seem exceedingly perspicacious. It appeared in a book by Kenneth Burke, a literary critic. ‘Among the sciences,’ he wrote, ‘there is one little fellow named Ecology, and in time we shall pay him more attention.’ " The editor kindly called his article to my attention. But regrettably in the article itself his generosity fell short of naming the book. So there has been no unseemly rush to exhaust the edition. (See Attitudes toward History, vol. 1, 192, 198, 223. Or the second and paperback editions, 150, 154, 167.)

5. Attitudes toward History, vol. 1, 37–41.

6. Just as I had got this far along, and was feeling a bit depressed, I read a news story (Nan Robertson, "Seaborg Says Man Is Led by Science to Question Values," New York Times, February 5, 1970, page 1, column 4), concerning a statement by the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and codiscoverer of plutonium, Dr. Glenn T. Seaborg. He was testifying before the House Select Subcommittee on Education. His testimony was offered in behalf of increased government aid to the humanities, an admirable policy, obviously dear to us all.

He said that many scientists, rather than rejoicing in discovery as an end in itself, were beginning to ask, "What is being done with our discoveries?" (I shall leave unmentioned the fact that an adjoining story concerned our presence in Vietnam.) He told Congress "that the age of triumphant science and technology was forcing man into a new philosophic era based on the ‘why’ of living."

Since I began by quoting Veblen's conceit, "Invention is the mother of necessity," it would be relevant to observe that Dr. Seaborg's testimony was presented, on the contrary, under the sign of the proverb in its pristine Edenic form, without the ironic twist. "I believe that one of the characteristics of the human race," he said, "possibly the one that is primarily responsible for its course of evolution, is that it has grown by creatively responding to failure."

Where I would incline to worry is in the paragraph: "Dr. Seaborg expressed his belief that the ‘despair and negativism of the times' was a prelude to deeper

and more positive thinking in which man would examine human values and goals." I would categorically question any turn from "negativism" to "positive thinking." The new technology which defines our "second nature" is a vast network of new man-made powers. And such powers need controlling; which is to say they need laws, regulations; and laws and regulations are essentially under the sign of "thou shalt not." Again, man-made powers are properties—and however necessary some measure of them may be, properties are things to fight over. Thereby they fall within the realm of admonition. Furthermore, if anything is reasonably to be expected of a "second nature" shaped, for either better or worse, by the advance of technology, it will increasingly require the greatest amount of bureaucratization that the world has ever known. And if so, what then of the imaginative, as regards our formula, "the bureaucratization of the imaginative"?


3. Towards Helhaven

Three Stages of a Vision


Kenneth Burke had a great talent for irony, comedy, and satire. One can see it here in the first of the Helhaven essays, as well as the second, "Why Satire," but one can also see it in Burke's poems, his "Flowerishes," in "Epilogue: Prologue in Heaven" in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), in parts of a great many of his essays, and in his letters. Anyone who ever saw or heard Burke "perform" in his prime will remember his improvisational humor and his raspy laughter at his own ironic jokes and cracks. Like any satirist, Burke had a great sense of the absurd and a remarkable ability to reduce things to absurdity just by following certain tendencies to the end of the line—as he does here with computers, hypertechnologism, and pollution. Reading the essay twenty-five years later, one can only say of Burke's predictions that they were, alas, all too true. The Culture-Bubble on the Moon is not so far-fetched as it might seem at first. Burke himself would have been dumbfounded by the astounding computer revolution of the nineties, a technological revolution that was just beginning during his last years. Now there are computer screens everywhere and soon, every school in the country will be equipped with them and have access to the worldwide web. In some schools, there are proposals to do away with books and have students do all their reading on individual laptops.

Hypertechnologism is one of the main themes of Burke's late essays, as is the fact, according to Burke, that it is language based. It is hypertechnologism that creates "counter-nature," another main theme of Burke's late essays.


Not without uneasiness, I am going to indulge in a bit of satire. For several reasons satire is a troublous form, not the least being that some people don't know how to take it. Years ago I published a satire closely akin to the theme of my present "Helhaven" vision.

It was called "Waste—or the Future of Prosperity." The general slant was that, although there is a limit to the amount that people can use, there's no limit to the amount that people can waste. Therefore, in order to ensure maximum production, hence maximum prosperity, all that we

needed to do was keep on wasting at a constantly accelerated pace—and we could look forward to a permanent bull market.

The article was written shortly before the big market crash of 1929. It was published shortly after the crash. It satirically welcomed the already emergent principle of planned obsolescence which has since taken much mightier strides forward, so that not only products such as automobiles or refrigerators are scientifically designed to wear out before they should; but even architectural piles of considerable magnitude are now planned as temporary structures, to be knocked down after a few years and replaced by monsters twice as big (and they in turn will soon be getting pounded apart—or if not, then they will simply fall apart).

For a time, after the crash of 1929, the standard ways of accelerating prosperity by wastage lost some of their momentum. But even so, the tradition remained intact. And while many unemployed persons were starving through lack of wages with which to buy things, prices were kept up by the fact that much food was being systematically destroyed on the farms where it was produced. This was the era of the plowing-under of the little pigs.

Since those dismal days, of course, wastage has more than regained its pace. I recently read that, whereas ten years ago each citizen contributed an average of four pounds of trash a day, we now average six pounds a day; and if our current methods of production and distribution can maintain this exacting cultural standard, it is estimated that by 1980 the average output of trash per day will have climbed to the enviable height of eight pounds per citizen.

But in my earlier article, satirically saluting this view of what is usually known among us as the highest standard of living in the world, I also had a satirical passage along these lines: Despite our national prowess as wasters under conditions of peace, I said, one must recognize that war is a still more efficient means of wastage. So I included a reference to the encouraging promise of greater arms production. A syndicated columnist seized on that, quoting it as though it were to be taken straight, without the satiric discount. And in newspapers throughout the country he aired his moral indignation at the thought that any publication would sink so low as to see in war production a boon to prosperity. At the time, the editor of the weekly which had published my satire told me: In all his many years as an editor, he had never published a satire that did not provoke a rash of letters from indignant readers who had taken the piece on its face, without allowance for the satiric twist.

But things have moved on since then, until now, as Juvenal said in the

Rome of his day, it is hard not to write satire. For we all now know about the solemn puzzling of our many crack economists who can't figure out how we could possibly get along without the fantastic squandering of war material in Vietnam and the various other suspect regimes we subsidize whereby, along with such ideal wastage as the ABM system and supersonic transport planes, many factories can be kept busy, employing a vast peacetime army of factory workers in such economically helpful military output.

When I wrote my piece "Waste—or the Future of Prosperity" (1930), there was of course no talk of computers. And waste was small potatoes as compared with the concerns that now beset us, such as pollution by mercury poisoning, which has made the fish of several whole states inedible, and also has been found in life in the high seas.

On the other hand, though I have, for several months, been compulsively clipping news stories about pollution, in the long run any kind of complaining becomes a damned bore. I recall some months ago, when I was addressing a conference of English teachers in the Northwest, a section that teams with conservationists. Indeed, even while I was there, university students were doing Herculean labors cleaning the junk out of a scenic river into which every conceivable kind of discardable object had been dumped. I was scheduled to talk on "creativity." My point was that the center of "creativity" in our day was with the physical sciences, which were having an almost miraculous upsurge. And the job of the social sciences and the humanities was somehow to try to keep up with the cultural problems which this great flowering of creativity in the physical sciences had imposed upon us. So, by way or introduction, I talked for a bit about the unwanted side effects of industrial expansion. Then I happened to say, "But surely, you didn't want me to come three thousand miles just to talk with you about the subject of pollution." And I got a most disturbingly enthusiastic outburst of applause. Similarly, I had read how the Scots are indignant because some lecturer claims that pollution has killed the Loch Ness Monster.

As for complaints about technology: All of us have been weary of them for quite some time. The "God is dead" theologians have helped us to realize: It were far better that we blaspheme Our Father than that we blaspheme Technology.

We are sick of Lamentation. What we want is affirmation. And if we can't get affirmation by any other route, then let's get at least the sheer gestures and accents of affirmation, with the help of a satiric twist.

For our slogan, then, we stoutly affirm: We must not turn back the

clock. We must continue in the ways that made us great—6 percent of the world's population, using up 40 percent of the world's production.

Forward, outward, and up—as per my vision of Helhaven, to which let us now repair.


Those persons are wronging the computer who say that it will cause unemployment. Consider this situation, for instance: You confront a citizen with a questionnaire that required many hours to plan and many more hours to fill out properly. Yet all such data, however slowly and laboriously assembled, could be run through a computing apparatus in a flash. Thus is it not obvious that computers will enable us to gatnher ever greater mountains of information? And the greater the number and complexity of the computers, then proportionately greater the amount of painstaking effort that must go into the programming of such inquiries, with a correspondingly increased number of man-hours devoted to the task of keeping these omnivora adequately fed. For recall that,unlike human beings, they can perform continuously twenty-four hours a day. Accordingly, you need but allow for the great disparity between the time needed to assemble the data for a punched card and the fraction of a second in which it can be processed once the information is assembled, whereupon it becomes obvious that properly varied and complicated questionnaires could require at least three hours a day of a citizen's time in filling them out, plus all the other hours involved in planning, programming, and interviewing; then add the time and effort spent in publishing the material, and the many further activities required by the fact that no one will read it. Hence still other ingenious operations must be planned, to coordinate all such findings with many other equally unread and unreadable reports by specialists in totally different channels of investigation.

For instance, who knows how many bingo players also subscribe to the thesis: "We can't get out of Vietnam now because we shouldn't have been there in the first place"? Who knows the correlation between belief in progress and peptic ulcers due to food additives? Who knows whether the Pill has made for more fun or more boredom? Who knows the average age of the experts who helped President Johnson put over the Gulf of Tonkin ploy? Who knows what percentage of leaders in the militaryindustrial complex have become the parents of flower children? Who knows how much of the money that the United States shells out for Vietnam gets shipped straight into Swiss bank accounts by members of the

Thieu-Ky clique? Who knows what? Who knows from nothin’? Who knows his from a hole in the ground? And so on. Obviously, once we start in a big way biting on bits of information, an endless range of further information opens up before us. Is it true or false, for instance, that Johnson's private estate appreciated to the extent of five million dollars during the years when his ill-starred, five-starred war saddled his country with further costs of circa eighty-three billion?

Above all, let us take to heart the encouraging front-page story from our nation's capital (New York Times, June 27, 1970). "The police, security and military intelligence of the Federal Government are quietly compiling a mass of computerized and microfilmed files here on hundreds of thousands" of citizens who are adjudged to be what is known to the trade as "persons of protective interest." Data banks building such an "array of instantly retrievable information" would provide gainful occupation for an enormous army of snoopers, even if the purpose were but to keep known criminals under surveillance. But the scope of this Arguseyed investigation goes far beyond that. For instance (and here's a nice conceit): "The computer might immediately supply you, for but the asking, with all the information it contains on the ‘characteristics' of subjects encoded on its tapes—all the short, fat, long-haired, young white campus activists in Knoxville, Tennessee." True, at that point the reporter was probably just airing his high idealism—yet his example helps justify my claim that, on one such project alone (and I can promise you that each graduate student in the social sciences can make a dozen questionnaires be needed where but one had been before), the speed with which the computer can scan, store, ingest, and put forth its info will vastly increase the amount of work needed to keep it adequately fed. For what is more obvious than the fact that data banks along those lines cannot be complete until they tell us, in a flash, how many citizens believe in organic gardening, how many grow furious when they have been hit with the same damned singing commercial again and again and again (they who couldn't have stood a few bars of even the greatest music thus sadistically reduplicated), or how many happen to lithp when they thay pith?

However, there still remains the possibility that, regardless of all such contributions to the magnifying of the GNP (by which is meant "Gross National Product," not "guinea pig"), a computerized technology may produce a troublesome situation in which, despite the urgent generating of "new needs," the proliferation of labor-saving devices actually does save some labor—and to that extent a certain percentage of our workforce might be unemployable (and thus they will be socioeconomically

use-less to the state except insofar as corresponding instruments can be developed whereby the very existence of such unemployed would provide jobs for various sociological and psychiatric specialists devoted to the study of their plight).

However, insofar as there is unemployment (to be distinguished from those kinds of unemployment we call leisure), and insofar as some of the unemployed may not manifest enough disorders to keep researchers gainfully employed, the vision of another possibility (or rather, I should say, opportunity) opens before us.

First, there is the technical fact that computers, if properly fed, could digest and excrete authoritative information as to the number of citizens that the given economy can gainfully employ, along with the various categories of employment that would also be predictable.

For this purpose all that is needed is the gathering of data designed to predict (on the basis of each citizen's profile at the age of two) just what grades any class of such citizens can be expected to receive during its school years, what kinds of schools (if any) will be attended, what quality of education will follow from such schooling, how many are most likely to be dropouts, and what incomes these various classes of citizen will predictably receive, at various stages along their lifespan.

Thus, we would need only to arrange a draft by lot. Such a wholly democratic process would enable us to isolate the number of citizens, in the various categories, that the economy cannot employ. For instance, at the age of two, Citizen CQ7-0912-5478 gives reliable indications that he would end up as a public accountant, at such-and-such a salary. But there are more of such incipient accountants than the economy can take care of. Accordingly, it is decided by lot how many of such two-year-olds must be drafted for inclusion in a class of unemployed accountants.

Any such scientifically selected group will not have to attend school, or take jobs, and the like. But, in accordance with their classification, at the proper age they will receive whatever grades, diplomas, wages, honors, and such the computer had predicted for them, if the whole class of such incipient accountants were actually to go through all these processes that would necessarily involve the elimination of a given number. And later, in the course of their maturing, they will receive all the subsequent sums, services, psychiatric or medical aid that computerology will have established as natural to their station.

True, there are problems still to be ironed out, as regards a wholly accurate rating for all necessary data. Also, some persons drafted to be classed as unemployed accountants might be tempted to try augmenting

their legally guaranteed incomes by moonlighting in other occupations. Yet, even if these and other difficulties should prove this plan unworkable, we should never forget what splendid proof the computers have already given as regards their great contribution to the production, distribution, and consumption of military hardware. One might think, for instance, that the concept of "cost effectiveness" could not possibly serve as a test for the rationalizing of a remote foreign invasion such as United States involvement in Indochina. Rather, you'd tend to judge that this adventure under the guidance of the Pentagon's five-star businessmen is just about the most costly and ineffective blunder in all the history of Imperialism. Similarly, you'd tend to think that by "body count" is meant body count. But once you introduce the computer as a factor in your calculations, everything falls perfectly into place. Then all you need do is plaster a given area with a given amount of indiscriminate bombing, and the computer tells you what proportionate number of enemy combatants should be counted as dead bodies. (You could also compute the corresponding number of women, children, old men, and allies that got slaughtered—but forget it!) Thanks to the computer, a notable idealistic dimension has been added to what would otherwise be a pretty sorry show. And just as "body count" doesn't mean body count, so "cost effectiveness" doesn't mean cost effectiveness. And by the same token we dare hope that our insistence upon an "honorable peace" won't tie us down to anything like an honorable peace, after so dishonorable a war.


But however great the computer's contribution to our culture may be, there still remains the problem of how life on Earth can manage to survive the burdens of worldwide pollution that plague the ways of industrial progress. When you consider how much such "effluence" is almost inevitable in such highly developed technologic enterprises as oil refineries, pulp mills, chemical plants—in sum, the profuse production of power by the mining and processing of minerals, the use of agriculture for industrial purposes, and the consumption of either fossil fuels or atomic energy—it becomes hard to imagine how such trends can be adequately neutralized so long as Hypertechnologism continues to set the pace for mankind's way of life. And the most violent of communist or fascist revolutions are far from the depths of radicalism that would have to be reached before the adventurous ideals of exploitation that are associated with modern industrial, financial, and political ambitions could

be transformed into modes of restraint, piety, gratitude, and fear proper to man's awareness of his necessary place in the entire scheme of nature. Add also the grim fact that so many government bureaus, in response to the pressure of private lobbies, function as representatives of those very interests whose excesses they are nominally designed to control.

Frankly, I enroll myself among those who take it for granted that the compulsiveness of man's technologic genius, as compulsively implemented by the vast compulsions of our vast technologic grid, makes for a self-perpetuating cycle quite beyond our ability to adopt any major reforms in our ways of doing things. We are happiest when we can plunge on and on. And any thought of turning back, of curbing rather than aggravating our cult of "new needs," seems to us suicidal, even though the situation is actually the reverse, and it is our mounting technologic clutter that threatens us.

But I do not despair. For a true futurism is now dawning among us. The promise of the gospel of Total Futuristic Promotion is most quickly annunciated in a parable-like observation of this sort: When you find that, within forty years, a great and almost miraculously handsome lake has been transformed into a cesspool, don't ask how such destruction might be undone. That would be to turn back—and we must fare ever forward. Hence, with your eyes fixed on the beacon of the future, rather ask yourselves how, if you but polluted the lake ten times as much, you might convert it into some new source of energy. Thus, conceivably, you might end up by using the rotted waters as a new fuel. Or, even better, they might be made to serve as raw material for some new kind of poison, usable either as a pesticide or to protect against unwholesome political ideas.

There you glimpse the principle behind the vision. In sum: If there is a drive, why not drive with it, towards an ideal end? We need but extend to "perfection" the sort of conditions we already confront in principle when we buy bottled water because the public water supply is swill; or when a promoter, by impairing the habitability of some area (as, for instance, with a smeltery or a jetport), makes profit enough to build himself a secluded, idyllic estate among still uncontaminated lakes, meadows, and wooded peaks.

For a happy ending, then, envision an apocalyptic development whereby technology could of itself procure, for a fortunate few, an ultimate technological release from the very distresses with which that very technology now burdens us.



Some give a decent life on Earth ten years, some thirty, some at most a hundred. In any case, now that the Irreversible Change is on the way, get in on the ground floor. Buy shares for yourself or your family in Helhaven, the greatest apocalyptic project this side of Mars.

HELHAVEN, the Mighty Paradisal Culture-Bubble on the Moon. Safer than any Sea Meadows venture (even under the Arctic ice) More nearly attainable than a Martian project, helhaven, the Ultimate Colony, merging in one enterprise, both Edenic Garden and Babylonic, Technologic Tower. And paradox of paradoxes: This Final Flight will have been made possible by the very conditions which made it necessary.

Profiting by the best resources of both the physical and the social sciences, along with experts of administrative and managerial capacity, the colonists' range of options will be considerable. Some will, of course, prefer accommodations in the Luna-Hilton Hotel. Some will choose private quarters, as in suburbs (if that's how their past experience makes them feel most at home). But there will also be arrangements whereby dwellings can be equipped with picture windows looking out, as it were, upon the wholly lifelike illusion of an austere mountain scene, or a deserted lake, either distant, or with waters that seem to lap at the piles on which the house itself is built.

Also, in one compartment of the bubble, there will be an actual manmade shoreline, with waves, and breakers, splendid for surfing, and the best white sand for luxuriating on the beach (though protected from the sun and exposed only to a scientifically designed substitute). In another compartment, there will be the simulacrum of an Alpine cabin reached by a ski tow, with an artificially snow-covered slope that makes possible the most delightful of earthly winter sports. There will be dreamgardens, gambling joints, places to get lost in, and a Super-Lookout, about which more in a moment.

The lessons already learned from air-conditioning on Earth will have been so perfected that each such area will be kept in proper climatic balance. However, experts in psychophysical problems have also recommended that various Chambers of Discomfort be provided, since some consultants have pointed out that too orderly a mode of existence can itself become a source of personal disorder. But there is still some debate as to whether a Whipping Room should be made available for customers so inclined—or should I say two Whipping Rooms, one active, one passive?


Among the most deeply probing facilities in the Culture-Bubble will be the above-mentioned Super-Lookout, a kind of chapel, bare except for some small but powerful telescopes of a special competence. And on the wall, in ecclesiastical lettering, there will be these fundamental words from the Summa Theologica: "And the blessed in Heaven shall look upon the sufferings of the damned, that they may love their blessedness the more." The underlying situation here is this:

In order that the Lunar Bubble be kept perfectly provisioned (and we are being frank about such matters because we want you to realize how scrupulously this entire project is being planned), there will still be the necessity that gases, minerals, and even some organic growths be reclaimed now and then from Earth. Thus the New Colonialism will entail frequent missions back to our Maternal Source for such replacements. Increased experience in the use of spacecraft will make it certain that the trip itself will not be dangerous. But the possibility of encountering a nasty band of still-surviving hominids will add risk to these forays, and give them somewhat the quality of marauding expeditions (though the expression is obviously unjust; for any Lunar Paradisiacs of the future will be but replenishing their gigantic womblike Culture-Bubble, as it were, from the placenta of the Mother Earth from which their very body temperature is derived, and which is just as much our home, however filthy we shall have made it before clearing out, as it is the home of any scurvy anthropoid leftovers that might still somehow contrive to go on hatching their doubtless degenerate and misshapen broods back there among those seven filthy seas).

The bold fellows employed by the Bubble's Great Astronauts Corporation will be entrusted with such adventurous duties of salvaging. And those subscribers who at times choose to enter the Dark Realm of Meditation in the Super-Lookout Chapel can, while watching the Astronauts in their flights to Earth, get occasional glimpses of the worse-than-Yahoos still gasping and squirming and pestering one another on the Progress-gutted planet by which our Lunar Paradise will originally have been made possible.

In all frankness, however, one problem has yet to be solved. Since Technologism is to be tied in with Imperialism, one can reasonably expect that descendants from certain construction workers on, say, a Martian Promotion or a Sea-Bottom Meadows project might want to pick a fight with the peace-loving Lunar Paradisiacs. It has not yet been decided whether plans should also allow for the possibility that future expansionistic-minded Lunar patriots might want to undertake a preventive

war and at the same time extend the scope of Helhaven's hegemony. The cost of the whole Lunar project would be increased astronomically if such defenses had to be provided for, rather than the fairly negligible offensive weapons required when our peace-loving expeditions abroad seek to outwit the feeble resistance of the remaining subnormal Earth-organisms. We must be realistic in such matters. It's hard to believe that homo sap. will ever learn to be, in his very essence, peaceful. For by sheer definition it stands to reason that homo sap. is a sap.


Spring springs among us, on this sod,
Spring vs. Total Fall—
and may there be some kind of God,
that He have mercy on us technologic all.


Reverting to the subject of the computer, I'd note that it has already had great influence in the shaping of doctoral dissertations. There is almost an automatic tendency to work up a postgraduate project built around some kind of questionnaire whereby not the student but the persons questioned must do the bulk of the work. Recently, in a related sort of enterprise, I was interviewed for three hours, while all my answers were being taped. Occasionally the interviewer would say, "In sum, your position is suchand-such." I said, "No, that's not what I meant." Then I was told, "But there are only so-and-so many answers here, and I must check off one of them." So presumably the statistics have me assigned to the category best suited to the needs of the questionnaire, which had no exact bin for my answers. Then the interviewer left me with an elaborate set of blanks to fill out besides. There were such questions as: "With whom have you talked seriously about this matter (a) within the last three months, (b) within the last six months, (c) within the last year?" Or there'd be a list of a dozen or so possibly causative factors for something, and I was asked to rate them in relative importance, 1, 2, 3, throughout them all. I meant to behave, but simply fell apart. Having received a follow-up inquiry on July 3, I couldn't resist demurring the very next morning, and dating my letter "Independence Day" I said that, just as some people are not especially photogenic, some not especially phonogenic, and some not especially apt kinesics-wise, I find myself totally nonquestionnaireogenic. Even so, the questionnaire was sent to me in toto once again.


Returning to my vision of the "Remnant," in Helhaven, there are at least two more points that I'd like to incorporate into this scheme somehow.

The first has to do with the fact that the ever-intensifying cult of industrial power is robbing the world of many delicious natural flavors, as when oil spills and thermal pollution destroy good fishing areas. One angle I thought of was to boast that "some chemists, fired by the Helhaven vision, have nearly perfected a way of so treating mercury that it tastes like caviar. Another expert, taking to heart the thought that people like barbecued meat, has nearly synthesized an all-bituminous steak. Along these lines, the denizens of Helhaven can be promised a food supply wholly industrialized, plus an artificial stomach better able to digest such products." These promises are based on the fact that already many substitutes and additives from the chemical laboratory have been replacing unadulterated organic foods ever since we got Mom out of the kitchen and into the office or workshop.

Also, it must be recognized: To a great extent, conservationists are not in need of jobs that cause pollution. Their properties thrive better under simpler conditions. But people out of work will welcome an industry that seems likely to provide them employment, even though they might be quite aware that it will cause much contamination. In such situations, we must face it, the unemployed poor are one with the French monarch who said, "After me, the deluge." It's a mean problem.

But in any case, let there be no turning back of the clock. Or no turning inward. Our vice president has rightly cautioned: No negativism. We want AFFIRMATION—TOWARDS HELHAVEN



This essay was first published in the Sewanee Review 79 (winter 1971): 11–25. Copyright 1971 by the University of the South. Reprinted with the permission of the editor.


4. Why Satire, With a Plan for Writing One


This is the second Helhaven essay and is Kenneth Burke's most detailed and strident indictment of hypertechnology and the technological psychosis, both main themes of all his late essays, including the two long afterwords for the 1984 editions of Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History. Both of these are entitled "In Retrospective Prospect" and combine the backward and forward movement so characteristic of his late essays—especially "Towards Looking Back," "Variations on ‘Providence,’ " and of course, the Helhaven pair. This backward and forward movement is also typical of Walt Whitman, who had very different results from what we find in Burke.

Walt Whitman figures prominently in many of Burke's late works: He was the model for some of Burke's late poems (such as "Eye-Crossing" and "On Flood Tides of Sinkership"), and is a central figure in the Helhaven essays, as well as in "Towards Looking Back" and the two long poems mentioned above. Why Whitman, our great nineteenth-century poet of uplift, of the promissory in American life and in the development of the individual self?

There is a real love/hate relationship between Burke and Whitman. Like so many of the rest of us, Burke would like to believe in Whitman, the Waltman of "Eye-Crossing," but he can't because he knows for a fact that Walt's dream was becoming a nightmare. Walt's dream was a typical nineteenth-century American dream of a limitless future, of cosmic optimism, of a never-ending westering in American life—as in "Song of the Open Road" and "Passage to India."

Soured by two world wars, the brutalities of the depression, the threat of a nuclear holocaust after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nazi's extermination of six million Jews, the cold war, and massive technologically caused pollution of the environment—and more—Burke could not believe in Whitman's dream and makes a frontal attack on him in this essay. Burke liked to say that Whitman was whistling in the dark in his poems. You whistle in the dark to keep yourself from being scared. It is what kids do. It is hardly what Whitman did in poem after poem in Song of Myself and it is hardly what we would accuse Burke of doing in "Eye-Crossing." To reduce Whitman's poems to whistling in the dark is to reduce them to a kind of absurdity, to a purely verbal symbolic action with no basis in reality. To believe in Whitman you have to believe that he believed in what he wrote. He was not, as Burke suggests, just peddling nature as American real estate.

The two Whitmanian poems with which the essay ends—"O Lesson Opportune (The Master's Call)" and "Far, Far off the Daybreak Call (Night Thoughts of the Master)" are themselves tributes to Whitman's style and rhetoric

even as they mock him with heavy irony and a systematic cancellation of his dream. Maybe that is where we should leave this matter, in a typically Burkean ambiguity. Burke was a big believer in the autosuggestive power of one's own writing. Sometimes he really does seem to believe that a writer can make him/herself over in the image of his/her imagery (see Burke's essay on his novel Towards a Better Life). But if Whitman was making himself over in the image of his powerful poetry, he was hardly whistling in the dark but transforming his "self" with the magic of words into the revered figure that we now identify with.

Wallace Stegner's main character in All the Little Live Things, Joe Allston, says this about irony: "Sympathy I have failed in, stoicism I have barely passed. But I have made straight A's in irony—that curse, that evasion, that armor, that way of staying safe while seeming wise." It is precisely this view of irony that has sometimes been leveled against Burke: too much irony and not enough action, especially in this essay. But irony is also a kind of double vision, just as puns and metaphors are. The heavy irony of this essay is a two-edged sword; it cuts both ways. Though Burke kept his outhouse and relied on an outside well for water into the 1960s, he was, like the rest of us, heavily dependent upon technology and as guilty as the rest of us in promoting and using modern technology. Nobody is clean these days.

This doubleness is in the name of Burke's Culture-Bubble on the Moon: Helhaven, with an additional double meaning in the haven/heaven play on words. We are turning our lovely planet into a hell of technological pollution and overpopulation. When it becomes pure hell, we build ourselves a haven on the moon with the same technology we used to pollute the earth and then migrate to it— that is, the elite does. But it is a Helhaven because it divorces us, separates us from nature and the physical realities of both. Everything in Helhaven is an image of an image of an image, as if we were living in the TV or the computer screen, or in a movie where nothing is really real but is the creation of the special effects people.

The more you think about Helhaven, the better it gets in relation to recent developments in technology, which make it seem as if anything is possible and that humans are rushing at full speed into a technological future they have not understood at all, seduced by the radiance and allure of, the dazzling resourcefulness of, technology.


Where are we? And I use the expression not in the procedural sense, as spoken to a class which has been considering some particular subject matter through several sessions, whereby a summary bringing things up to date might be in order. Rather, I have in mind the sort of question that has the connotations, "In the name of God or the Devil, at this stage in our history, where in Hell's name are we?"


Even my title somewhat reflects my perturbations. In its first form it ran, "I Want to Write a Satire." Then things so developed that I did not want to do anything of the sort; hence the form, "I Wanted to Write a Satire." Then came developments that got me to wavering. Did I, or did I not, want to write a satire? So now, in the spirit of compromise I have hit upon a title that somewhat straddles the issue and that probably fits best in any case, since the underlying design has remained the same; namely: I propose to interlard observations about satire in general with notes towards one particular satire which, on and off, has been exercising me.

The effort will involve these several aspects: While being based on some trends in our civilization that, as a Juvenal might say, make it "hard not to write satire," it will seriously consider situations and motives on which these in turn are based, and at times incline to take the fun out of satire. It will sum up what I take to be the nature and possible virtues of satire. And it will end by discussing some twists encountered in plans for one particular satire, technically a work "in progress" (though, in an attempt to compromise between "progress" and "regress," I have proposed the intermediate term "gress," whereupon the details of my test case could be called a "Gress Report").

The design has one further strand, having to do with the fact that the satire in its present projected form was a long time a-borning. And often the handiest way to make clear just where we are (in this instance at the stage of asking "Where are we?") is to show how we got there. So my Gress Report will begin with some paragraphs of regress.

A rudimentary version of my satire was written just before the market crash of 1929, and published after. Done under the obvious influence of Thorstein Veblen, it was called "Waste—or the Future of Prosperity" (The New Republic 58 [July 1930], 228–31]). It was a perversely rational response to a time when the principle of "planned obsolescence" was already becoming a major factor in the engineering and merchandising of commodities manufactured for the mass market. Further, and I quote from the article, "Our people are being taught to buy what they don't need and to replace it before it is worn out," in keeping with the discovery that:

Our national welfare depends upon attaining the maximum rate of destruction of our national resources, whereby we could hope for an eternal bull market because The more we learn to use what we do not need, the greater our consumption; the greater our consumption, the greater our production; the greater our production, the greater our prosperity. …If

people can be taught to waste enough … business need never face a saturation point. For, though there is a limit to what a man can use, there is no limit whatever to what he can waste. The amount of production possible to a properly wasteful society is thus seen to be enormous. … The maximum possible consumption is made possible by the maximum possible waste, and therefore … culture depends upon a maximum of waste.

The article worked many variants on that now only too familiar theme, which is but a reduction to absurdity of the already quite absurd idea that cultural "progress" is to be equated with the ever mounting development of "new needs." Here I might observe that, as early as 1816, in his Headlong Hall, Thomas Love Peacock had a character, Mr. Escot, the "deteriorationist," who was "always looking at the dark side of a question," and who contended that, while mechanical movements that are called "progress" proceed "in a simple ratio," the

factitious wants and unnatural appetites they engender proceed in a compound one; and thus one generation acquires fifty wants, and fifty means of supplying them are invented, while each in its turn engenders two new ones; so that the next generation has a hundred, the next two hundred, the next four hundred, till every human being becomes such a helpless compound of perverted inclinations, that he is altogether at the mercy of external circumstances, loses all independence and singleness of character.

Peacock was there hitting around the concept of the "exponential curve" whereby a vast technologic clutter has become for us a second nature. And I can proudly report that my clowning got included in an otherwise serious anthology (C. W. Thomas, ed., Essays in Contemporary Civilization [New York: Macmillan, 1931]), along with much sound, solid, solemn work by such worthies as: Randolph Bourne, John Dewey, Robert and Helen Lynd, Sherwood Anderson, Harold J. Laski, James Truslow Adams, John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Lewis Mumford, Robert A. Millikan, Thomas H. Huxley, Julian Huxley, Charles A. Beard, AE, Bertrand Russell, and I. A. Richards. And hold! I should certainly mention Wesley C. Mitchell, then famous as the specialist in business cycles.

But satire does have its risks. I heard of one economist who, though he knew that the piece was a satire, couldn't resist explaining why the scheme wouldn't work (which is pretty much like saying that a perpetual motion machine won't work, or a man can't lift himself by his own bootstraps, or people can't make a living just by taking in one another's washing, though it has been proved that an engineer can be hoist with his own petard.)


Regrettably, the risks are greater than that. To make things as absurd as possible by driving them to their "logical conclusion," I had said:

For long we have worried about war, driven by a pre-industrial feeling that war is the enemy of mankind. But by the theory of the economic value of waste we find that war is the basis of culture. War is our great economic safety-valve. For if waste lets up, if people simply won't throw out things fast enough to create new needs in keeping with the increased output under improved methods of manufacture, we can always have recourse to the still more thoroughgoing wastage of war. An intelligently managed war can leave whole nations to be rebuilt, thus providing peak productivity for millions of the surviving population. [And of course I should have added a reference to great numbers of our citizens who get jobs working for companies that can prosper by undoing some of the damage we may have done.]

Shortly after the article appeared (in a liberal weekly, The New Republic), a newspaperman whose column had countrywide distribution hit upon the idea of singling out that passage, and quoting it "straight," without giving the slightest hint that it had to be discounted for satire. Thereby he could severely reprimand the editor for publishing such a monstrous defense of militarism. The editor Bruce Bliven, himself a newspaperman of long experience, told me he never knew of a satire that didn't bring in some indignant letters by readers who had taken the piece at face value. And the morally indignant columnist had cashed in on this susceptibility among his "readership."

But, as we all have been reminded, the world tends to outdate scientific Utopias by catching up with them and even going beyond them. Accordingly, think of all the writings since then, by editors, columnists, and wizard theorists of finance, who assume beyond question the need of great military expenditures as a basic stop-gap for keeping our economy in operation. By an ironic twist, the very thought that any actual major war would be regrettably excessive is taken to justify the fantastic billions spent on preparations for war, and such preparations in turn are viewed as a pump-priming activity of major importance to the maintenance of maximum factory output.

But the world has so outpaced my 1929 Utopia of profitable wastage by a cult of ever mounting new needs, merely to mention such matters is to be in the embarrassing position of discussing what is now the dullest and most obvious of platitudes. I shall try later to pull myself out of that hole, if I can. Meanwhile, unfortunately, I must mention the uncomfortable relevance of two more platitudes.

When I wrote the satiric plea built about the equating of increased

consumption with increased waste, I thought of the situation as but an absurdity. Yet only shortly after, when I started going through Veblen in a big way, I came across the next step that, for all its surface calm, is the handwriting on the wall. I refer, in his Instinct of Workmanship, to his twisting of a proverb thus: "Invention is the mother of necessity." Or, a bit less perversely, he refers to "the machine process" which makes use of the workman, whereat I am led to offer another way of putting it: "The driver drives the car, but the traffic drives the driver." Gradually it began to dawn on me (if we could call such thoughts a dawn) that, as the productivity of our industrial plant increased, our cult of waste was not merely a bad habit; the market for a vast glut of mass-produced consumer goods became an economic necessity (while gradually expanding the money supply by inflation and new extensions of credit). Things thus got to the point where President Johnson could publicly rejoice that we, with but 6 percent of the world's population, were consuming 40 percent of the world's production, though it soon became apparent that this state of affairs might be better grounds for embarrassment than for self-congratulation.

So much for Platitude No. 2. Platitude No. 3 has to do with the greater and greater realization of the fact that not only does technologic wastefulness involve a great drain upon our sources of supply (as with the standard yet startling dictum that we must double our production and our consumption of energy every ten years); but also there is the "environmentalist" fact that, without radical changes in its technologic ways, the world was headed for a calamity that might ultimately be as bad as were an actual nuclear war to break out.

Such, then, is the situation about which I wanted to write a satire. But as I have noted elsewhere in connection with a portion of the satire I published in the winter 1971 issue of The Sewanee Review, some time back when addressing a conference of English teachers on the subject of "creativity" I referred to the challenging upsurge of the physical sciences. There, I noted, you find creativity on a grand scale. So by way of beginning, I talked for a bit about the unwanted side effects of industrial expansion. Then I happened to say, "But surely, you don't want me to come three thousand miles just to talk with you about pollution." And I got a most disturbingly enthusiastic outburst of applause.

The unhappy fact is that the subject of my tentatively proposed satire is technological pollution. Obviously, therefore, I'd be at considerable disadvantage if my talk were but special pleading for the virtues of a satire on pollution. Rather, I must place the stress upon the pros and

cons of satire in general. Similarly, the treatment of my particular test case must be concerned with the satirist's efforts somehow to be evasive.

As a matter of fact, for several years I had been compulsively taking notes on the subject of technological pollution—and I still do compulsively take such notes. But at the same time, I loathe them. I would love to get shut of the whole issue, even to the extent of inattention by dissipation. But it goes on nagging me. Consequently, as I hope to make clear, my thoughts on satire in this connection come to a focus in plans for a literary compromise whereby, thanks to a stylistics of evasion, I both might and might not continue with the vexatiousness of this idée fixe, this damned committed nuisance.


Possibly, in part at least, because I happened to read George Meredith's essay on comedy when I was quite young and impressionable, I approach my subject, my idée fixe, with the assumption that, above all, whenever and wherever possible, one should write comedy. An ideal world would be one for which comedy would be the perfect fit. But to say as much is by the same token to disqualify comedy, since this is so far from being an ideal world.

Tragedy? Though the present developments of technological enterprise, and especially its military resourcefulness, have led to the affliction of much suffering, and raise many threats, the technically experimental attitude behind all such activities is not in spirit tragic. So far as I can see, the technological impulse to keep on perpetually tinkering with things could not be tragic unless or until men became resigned to the likelihood that they may be fatally and inexorably driven to keep on perpetually tinkering with things. But even so, the chances are that, so long as the present mentality prevails, one would go on tinkering, beguiled by the thought that we might somehow get over the problem by resorting to surgery or giving it a pill. Also, I keep uneasily coming back to the thought that, with the cult of tragedy, maybe you're asking for it. Lamentation is so near to tragedy, it would not figure as an overall mode, though quite relevant to occasional lyric moments.

What, then, of a related, but differently tempered form: the document, the evidence, the indictment? Would that qualify? In one respect, yes. By all means, we should jealously cherish the cult of the records. But precisely there is where the trouble came in. For years I had worked valiantly to uphold what I thought of as a "Comic Perspective." And I

still won't quite relinquish it. Then, on working with sociopsychological problems having to do with the nature of human congregation, I became convinced that the establishing of an Order in human affairs involves a sacrificial principle. With such thoughts in mind, I studied the modes of victimage in tragedy, and in highly developed theological structures.

I am not here being inconsistent. For though the principle of victimage is obviously central to tragedy, it itself is not exclusively tragic. Tragedy enters with the principle of sympathetic resignation, but Hitlerism is evidence enough that the principle of victimage can be viciously polemical. For instance, consider Hitler's use of it as a rhetorical and administrative device for unifying his party. It was an example of what I would call "congregation by segregation," unifying a people by antithesis, in terms of a common enemy. Though tragedy would well befit an account of Hitler's victims as such, the situation with which we are concerned would be of a different sort, with a relation to technology that ultimately involved us all, though I shall try to show how this fact might be stylistically denied, in a fiction that reaffirmed our problem by offering a satirically absurd "solution," as with Swift's "solution" to the problem of hunger in Ireland.

A treatment of "the evidence," "the documents," in the accents of invective would be even more wearisome than unrelieved accumulation of the data, though as with lamentation an occasional sally in that mode would be justified.

Thoughts on Greek tragedy and its implied theology had got me particularly interested in ideas and images of ritual pollution. But later, I found myself taking notes on pollution in the most pragmatic, literal, scientific sense; namely: pollution as the "unwanted by-products," or "side effects," of advances in modern industry. In my accumulation of clippings, here indeed were the documents, the records, the factual data, the indictments. But, as I have said, a mighty boredom beset me, even while I kept plunging on compulsively adding to this unsightly pile. And that brings us to satire, but not too directly; rather by a somewhat roundabout route.

In essays and reviews that I wrote during the thirties I got to thinking of what I called projects that "go to the end of the line." James Joyce's later work would be a prime example. Certain artists, or purely speculative minds glimpse certain ultimate possibilities in their view of things, and there is no rest until they have tracked down the implications of their insight, by transforming its potentialities into total actualization.

Eventually, I came to think of this tendency as a third creative motive,

not quite reducible to either self-expression or communication, and even at times running counter to communication. I began to think of it as implicit in terminology as such. Each specialized nomenclature, for instance, suggests further possibilities in that direction—and the person who glimpses them is "called," thus being under a kind of compulsion to track down the implications of his terministically goaded vision. Utopias are obvious examples of this goad. And in this purely formal, or logical sense, Marxism would be an example of such thoroughness, regardless of the distinction that some partisans might want to introduce here between an outright Utopia and the socialist future that Marx held to be implicit in the nature of capitalism's birth, growth, and decay.

Later I began to ask myself whether I could round out this notion of a purely formal motive (or goad, implicit in our nomenclatures) by adapting for my purposes the Aristotelian concept of the "entelechy." Aristotle applied the term in a quite broad sense. For instance, a stone would actualize its potentials as a stone, a tree would actualize its potentials as a tree, and man might (not so successfully) actualize his potentials as a rational animal. But I would settle for less. I would apply the term simply to the realm of symbolism, with verbal structures as different as the Marxist view of history, Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, and Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, all illustrative, in their different ways, of the "entelechial" principle, tracking down the implications of a position, going to the end of the line.

We're now ready for the one further step that brings us to satire. To this end I will quote a quatrain that I have used elsewhere, when discussing the principle of entelechy as I would adopt it and adapt it. The lines have a title borrowed from William Ernest Henley's "Invictus" (the poem that rings out so challengingly, "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul"):

If things are bad, and I can't make them better,
then all the more I'll be mine own begetter.
Adversity shall be my universe,
making me free to act to make things worse.

It is thus that satire can embody the entelechial principle. But it does so perversely, by tracking down possibilities or implications to the point where the result is a kind of Utopia-in-reverse. Is the world quite imperfect? If but some particular aspect of its imperfection happens to engage you, demanding despite yourself that you treat of it, you still have a fighting chance. Change the rules, resort to the ways of satire—and lo! once

more there opens up for you the most delightful of all promises, the opportunity to fare freely forth in pursuit of perfection, and thus under the aegis of perfection. In brief, the prospect of dwelling in the keen exhilaration of No-Place (that is, Utopia) beckons to you—with but the one minor proviso that, by the rules of perfection peculiar to satire, you depict your ideal realm as a species of Utopia-in-reverse.

Think of the situation thus: Technology is in its very essence rational. Yet the accumulation of its instruments, with their unwanted byproducts, has in effect transformed the fruits of our rationality into a prodigious problem, thereby giving rise to many compensatory cults of irrationality. On the other hand, as I shall try to show, the satirizing of technology can be as rational as technology itself. And thereby, once again, we glimpse the possibility of a compromise. For the satire can be as rational as the "technological psychosis" out of which it arises; yet at the same time in its way it can manifest great sympathy with the trends embodied in the irrationality of current antitechnologic trends. And even though conditions that once seemed absurd (the implicit and even explicit equating of "culture" with a cult of commodities) now seem ominous, the task of the satirist is to set up a fiction whereby our difficulties can be treated in the accents of the promissory.

Whitman, in his accents of gladness, had given us the clue:

I know not where they go,
But I know that they go toward the best—toward
something great.

The satirist's quasi solution should track that down, not just leaving it en route as with Whitman's words, but to the end of the line.

The turn involves certain implications in such poems of Whitman's as "The Song of Occupations," "The Song of the Open Road," "The Song of the Broad-Axe," and "O Pioneers." But they are to be seen satirically in the light of subsequent developments. Considered thus, they are reducible to a proposition of this sort: Since they were celebrating almost an orgy of construction, and since there is no construction without destruction, it is now clear that those poems were joyously ushering in the very era of carefree destruction now nearing its careworn culmination in environmentalist problems due to technologically caused pollution.

Whitman's poems of that sort were in effect (or at least for purposes of satire they could be viewed as) utterances by a great prophetic bard of real estate promotion. Of course there was much more to Whitman than that, and I am among those who have said so. But for reasons that

will become apparent my project needs him badly in the role I have assigned him. And now that all the territory within our borders has become the transformation of nature into real estate of one kind or another, we need but ask ourselves how, by putting satire in place of his easy idealism, we can reclaim and thus enjoy once more the accents of the exultantly promissory.

There are further tangles, still to be considered. But for the moment let us be content with what opens up before us: a post-Whitman, neo-Whitman vision, carrying the ambiguities of construction and destruction into areas of pioneering and colonization unthinkable to the technology of Whitman's times. Thus was born the project of helhaven, a scientifically designed Culture-Bubble on the Moon, and also involving a high degree of technical organization, whereas Walt was but content to loaf and invite his soul.

HELHAVEN, the expertly planned and guided enterprise of Lunar Paradisiacs, Incorporated. A Womb-Heaven, thus in the most basic sense Edenic, yet made possible only by the highest flights of technologic progress—hence Eden and the Tower in one. A true eschatology, bringing first and last things together—the union of Alpha and Omega. And so, soon now, TOWARDS HELHAVEN.

For quite a long time, I had been content to abide by a theory of satire that I had offered in a book, Attitudes toward History, published in the thirties. Approaching satire from the standpoint of the distinction between "acceptance" and "rejection" (yea-saying and nay-saying, which are attitudinally tinged variants of Yes and No) I put satire on the negative side of the equation. In contrast, for instance, I thought of epic, tragedy, and comedy as on the "acceptance" side.

Later, along those lines, I noticed the shrewdness of Homer who did not "suppress" a critique of epic war. The poet, or poets, so thoroughly poetic as the sources behind the two Homeric epics would not, like political bureaucrats in office, seek to suppress a critique of the poems' assumptions. No, you'll find in The Iliad itself an attack upon the heroism of epic war. And who was entrusted with the job of voicing such an opposition? None other than Thersites, so loathsome an excuse for a human being that Hegel expanded him into the concept of "Thersitism," a term he would doubtless have applied to much that Marx was to say of Hegelianism.

As a way of moving on by adding further considerations for present purposes, let me quote this much from my earlier comments on satire as a "Poetic category":


The satirist attacks in others the weaknesses and temptations that are really within himself. … One cannot read great satirists like Swift or Juvenal without feeling this strategic ambiguity. We sense in them the Savanarola, who would exorcise his own vanities by building a fire of other people's vanities. Swift's aptitude at "projection" invited him to beat himself unmercifully.

When I began plans for the satire I wanted to build up, I had in mind that principle. I mean: If I am to write a satire, when all the returns are in, it mustn't turn out that I am holier than thou. I must he among my victims. That is to say: I take it that my satire on the "technological psychosis" will be an offspring of that same psychosis.

But to my earlier notion that we are all, including the satirist, tarred by the same brush, there are added the sophistications whereby we can get the curative accents of assertion and perfection by calling for a Utopia-in-reverse.

Hence, to make that point clear, as I way saying, Towards helhaven.


About the edges of satire, obviously, hover related modes of expression: humor, comedy, irony, burlesque, the grotesque (which might be defined as a kind of comic incongruity without the laughter). But whereas the incongruousness of the grotesque is "gargoyle-thinking," perhaps the major resource of satiric amplification is an excess of consistency. Taking conditions that are there already, the satirist perversely, twistedly, carries them "to the end of the line."

I have already indicated why, whereas Wyndham Lewis views satire as an approach "from without," I'd want to call that approach not satire, but burlesque. For instance, we are told that Buckminster Fuller centers his energy "in a single drive: to promote the total use of total technology for total population ‘at the maximum feasible rate of acceleration.’ " There surely lies the material for satire. In that formula, surely, is implicit the incentive for satiric exaggeration. Yet who among us is not affected and infected at least to some degree by technological ways of thinking and living, though not with such vatic thoroughness, which might be called "Hyper-Technologism"?

Another way of putting it would be to say that satire is universal, but burlesque is factional. The line of demarcation becomes obscured, but it's clear enough in extreme cases. And I believe that, as I proceed, you will see how basically my notions about the entelechial principle, even

though applied with a satiric twist, or perhaps because so applied, are involved in this proposition.

A prime reason, we have been told, for undertaking certain difficult and costly technologic feats (as space travel) is that they now seem possible. Such a motive is not unthinkable, and itself has the makings of satire, or at least burlesque. But I'm digging at a deeper level. My satiric amplifications would be rooted in the proposition that money, mechanisms in general, and now the computer in particular represent culminating aspects of specifically human genius. If you define man along traditional lines as the "rational animal," here surely is the non plus ultra of his rationality, if only because so much rationality has gone into the planning and distribution of our artificial devices. In their roles as fulfillments of specifically human potentialities which are barely detectable in other animals, they embody the entelechial principle, they are taking "to the end of the line" the drives towards perfection (or completion) that are implicit in them, as representative of human genius. Man, purely as an animal, has other motivating elements. But if they are all put into the centrifuge of historical development and whirled about vigorously, this peculiarly rational substance, being of a different density, is separated from the rest in its chemically "pure" state (as when sludge in a centrifuge is separated from oil).

However, there is an obvious sense in which "perfection," as so defined, is also a caricature of man, since it plays up some traits and plays down others. Such specifically human fulfillments of man cannot laugh or cry; they are not jealous or forgiving; one observer discovered (and I take him at his word) that you can't insult a computer; and though they may wear out, and even suffer "metal fatigue," mechanisms do not grow tired or sullen. Thus, ironically, their nature as caricatures of man resides in the very thoroughness with which they represent some aspects of man and exclude others.

Maybe by now a notion I already touched upon can be made clearer. Before rationality attained its material counterpart in the rationalized procedures of the machine, it was an ideal of exceptional men. As embodied in our current technological clutter, with countless more of such on the drawing board, the rational is no longer an ideal of the few, it is a problem of the many. Materialize an ideal, and you get a problem, including the ultimate ironic fact that an excess of rationality as so defined adds up to a new level of irrationality.

One more matter of background should be considered. When the subject of a satire is, like ours, an imaginary colony on the moon, there is

the likelihood that a measure of fantasy will be involved, along the lines of science fiction. But thanks to the technological fact that men have actually landed on the moon and brought back much scientific information about conditions there, I can reduce such baggage to a minimum. I don't have to think up quasi reporting, as in H. G. Wells's The First Men on the Moon or Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. And precisely for that reason, the major satirical element can be more efficiently emphasized. I need but follow the fashion of Disneyland, where a nineteenth-century street with a horse car is reproduced.

Thus, I can envision such ideal future circumstances as when helhaven, our transcendent Culture-Bubble, has a Luna-Hilton Hotel, in every way indistinguishable from its uniform counterparts in the hotel chains you find now all over the world. The main difference between the Luna-Hilton and its opposite numbers on the terrestrial globe is that the guest will have a simulated outlook from each imitation window. For but a small fee, he can, as it were, gaze upon a beautiful lake, or upon a distant, snow-capped mountain, or a tropical beach—or if he gets homesick for urban things back here, by but pressing a different button, he can watch, squirming beneath him, a typical tangle of traffic, simulated even with the same noises, plus the stench (yet though the smell will be like on Earth, it will be scientifically free of all the poisons that actually accompany such conditions here). I assure you that there will be a far greater range of such Perspectivos if I may call these outlooks by their future trade name—but since I am not good at science fiction, I cannot imagine whether there'll also be views of muggings, pick-ups, and riots. Such decisions will be at the discretion of the management, when the time comes.

It is conceivable that rationality might have taken a different course. But once human genius got implemented, or channelized, in terms of technological proliferation, how turn back? Spontaneously what men hope for is more. And what realistic politician could ever hope to win on a platform that promised less? The overall drive was expressed in the previously mentioned statement that we must double our production of energy every ten years. But I must make sure that I don't get hooked to that thesis. Even if there is such a trend, the fact that many influential industrialists, economists, and politicians subscribe to it is not per se evidence that it will continue. (I had put it that way in an earlier draft, when my title was: "I Want To Write a Satire.")

This point I emphasized, since the distinction I had in mind is basic to a distinction between our thesis as satire and the corresponding thesis as

science. Forinstance, I wrote, the exhaustion of somere sources might interfere with the trend; also,economically colonialnations whose raw materials had been available to thet echnological giant smight with hold such sources of supply (and that is now, of course, the development that we suddenly seem to be facing, even if a lot of it did happen to be engineered by the Western oil interests in a financially laudable effort to double their profits while selling but one-third as much oil). Or enough of our own citizens might become so disenchanted with the promises of ever more and more technology that a great surge in behalf of less might find ways of implementing such a critique, as cannot be done now except for aproportionately negligible percentage of our population who shift about happily among the interstices of our vast technological bureaucracy.

No, the satire would not depend upon the factual thesis that the development of ever more and more technology is inevitable. On the contrary, the satiric foretelling would be motivated devoutly by the hope that, in the world of facts, such a trend is not inevitable. And the satire would be constructed on the assumption that, by carrying such speculations to the end of the line, one keeps the admonitions alive. Hence the satire would be so built that any downturning would have the accents of great promise, as embodied in the Utopian vision of helhaven. In this way, ideally, satire would enable us to contemplate a situation to which we might otherwise close our minds, by self-deception, or by dissipation.

The layout of the place would be in general simply things here over again, except that technological artificiality would be complete. This is an important point to keep in mind. For underneath the satire must be the fact that in principle the helhaven situation is "morally" here already. For instance, you're already in Helhaven insofar as you are, directly or indirectly (and who is not?) deriving a profit from some enterprise that is responsible for the polluting of some area, but your share in such revenues enables you to live in an area not thus beplagued. Or think of the many places in our country where the local drinking water is on the swill side, distastefully chlorinated, with traces of various industrial contaminants. If, instead of putting up with that, you invest in bottled springwater, to that extent and by the same token you are already infused with the spirit of Helhaven. Even now, the kingdom of Helhaven is within you.

So, for our Culture-Bubble on the Moon, make up things along those lines as you prefer, as with a beach, protected from the real sun, but with a scientifically designed substitute. Or add "the simulacrum of an Alpine cabin reached by a ski-tow, with artificially snow-covered slope."


But I should mention a Contemplation Room, from which one can watch the Lunar Astronauts on their trips to Earth, for various kinds of replacement. And I quote from my authoritative article on Helhaven in the Sewanee Review (see page 63 of this volume):

Increased experience in the use of spacecraft will make sure that the trip itself will not be hazardous. But the possibility of still-surviving hominids will add risks to these forays, and give them somewhat the quality of marauding expeditions. Yet the expression is obviously unjust; for any Lunar Paradisiacs of the Future will be replenishing their gigantic womblike Culture-Bubble, as it were, from the placenta of the Mother-Earth from which their very body temperature is derived, and which is just as much our home, however filthy we shall have made it before clearing out, as it is the home of any scurvy anthropoid leftovers that might still somehow contrive to go on hatching their doubtless degenerate and misshapen broods back there among those seven vast oceanic sewers.

The original version of this piece got me swamped in many details that should be included in an actual satiric narrative featuring as its setting Helhaven, the Ideal Culture-Bubble on the Moon. But fortunately, I must here make haste to discuss the subject in general, rather than getting entangled in a clutter of particulars. And that exigency works out to the good, I dare hope, once you have heard about The Master, who began as a disciple of Whitman and got into dire trouble until he found a way out. For we have located two poems of his (if you will allow that doctrinally emotional utterances in the Whitman mode are poems); and the pieces are obviously infused with the spirit of Whitman even to the extent of including some lines of his verbatim, along with slight modifications of others. Our exhibits are poems at least to the extent that they can simultaneously particularize and generalize. Hence they serve ideally as a way of bringing my talk to a close—and I shall use them accordingly.

Meanwhile, you should know: The kind of quandaries that have to do with the very foundations of our hopes for the Helhaven colony, as a Paradisiac Lunar-Bubble technologically made possible, forces us to confront a decision as to where the New Technologic Eden should be placed. Those who have to solve such problems have chosen for this Neo-Home the Sea of Tranquillity. For although our engineers named other locations that they deemed preferable, our consultants on Madison Avenue were emphatic in asserting that the Sea of Tranquillity would be the best address.



How proceed, in keeping with the thesis that a satire on so tiresome though perhaps fatal a subject as technological pollution must contrive to hang on even while dodging? That compromise, I thought, might best be contrived if things were so set up that, in keeping with the nature of the fiction, any "indictment" of technology's excesses could be welcomed as a momentous positive step towards the ideal future (or, I should say, the parody of such a step).

In keeping with our entelechial ideal of going to the end of the line, we needed some twists whereby the "logical conclusion" (which is to say, the reduction to absurdity) of hyper-technologistic energy consumption could attain "perfect" fulfillment in the total pollution of our once handsome planet. And reasons should be invented why this entelechially fated culmination could be welcomed, as mankind's final attaining and transcending of our earthly aims after long and arduous effort. By a twist of that sort one might recapture the stylistics of assertiveness so greatly needed for our time, and so imperative, if we were to keep on confronting, without the nausea of boredom, the basic problem that persisted in platitudinously pursuing us.

When we are confronting so fundamental a problem of sociology, precisely then, in keeping with the methodology of logology the first principle of axiology advises us to look for some analogy of morphology in the realm of theology.[1] And there it was, as though made to order, in the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse, that is a summing up if there ever was one, hence manifesting to perfection the kind of drive I would call entelechial, despite its divergence from the technological variety we have been considering.

As in both Revelation and The Divine Comedy, all should come to a focus in a crucial distinction between The Chosen and the Reprobates, except that in the fictive technological fulfillment, the counterpart of those not among The Chosen would not be sinners, but simply out of luck. It became clear that the design called for the ironic version of an exalted promissory attitude, such as would befit the "Vision" of an ultimate peaceful existence in a perfectly air-conditioned Culture-Bubble on the Moon, a transcendent step beyond the radical polluting of the Earth. And "perfection," as thus perversely defined, would in turn be perfected if, by the conditions of the fiction, things were so set up that those among The Chosen had been largely responsible for the very conditions on Earth they were escaping.


From now on, whatever I say with regard to possible ways of developing (or, as they put it in the old rhetoric books, satirically "amplifying") the theme of technological pollution, please regard such additions (the old rhetoric books would have called them "inventions") as instances of what I mean when I speak of such a project as a continual effort to "compromise" with my hypothetical readers. That is, the aim would be to sustain the theme of pollution not directly, but like the drone, the fixed continuous note emitted by a bagpipe, while the emphasis was upon whatever melody was being played above it. In this way, ideally, the nagging theme of pollution would never let up, yet the developments built atop it would call for attention in their own right. The result would be a compromise insofar as the antics of the satire would not make necessary the abandoning of the theme.

For instance, the Culture-Bubble on the Moon could still be but in the planning stage, and there could be rival projects similarly incipient, all three involving quite different groups of developers. Thus, besides the Lunar Paradisiac organization, there could be the Martian Promotion and Seabottom Meadows, and even some irresponsible damfools who obviously needed to be psychoanalyzed, since they were backing the manifestly unfeasible idea of an installation on Venus.

Our Man, who was administrative coordinator of the Lunar Earthlings, and was aglow with love for those who were to join in efforts towards the implementing of the Helhaven vision, could have reason to doubt these rival outfits. He could suspect that they were plotting against him in particular and the Lunar Paradisiacs in general, insofar as they could identify the Paradisiac membership (a challenging problem inasmuch as the information was a carefully guarded secret). Also, whereas the Lunar Paradisiacs were wholly peace-loving, Our Man, the major administrative coordinator of the whole Visionary venture, had turned up much evidence to indicate that behind both the Martian Promotion and Seabottom Meadows there were conspirators of decidedly militaristic cast—and so, however grudgingly, he came to the conclusion that eternal peace would be possible only if and when the members of his peaceloving band had definitively destroyed these widely separated warlike undertakings. And plans were being made to that idealistic end.

The Seabottom Meadows clique was also spreading slanders about the durability of the Lunar-Bubble if hit by a large meteor (which would not be burnt up in the atmosphere as would be the case if it had hit on Earth). To this calumny, Our Man had various answers, among which I might cite these: (1) The Lunar-Bubble was to be made of an alloy

exceptionally resistant to such blows; 2) the low gravity on the Moon would make any collisions far less violent than on the Earth; (3) there was no technical risk anyhow, since the Lunar Paradisiacs had enlisted the services of some extremely competent engineers who had worked out the know-how for detecting and deflecting such bodies (these experts were known as the Detection-Deflection Corps); (4) and most unanswerable of all, unlike the godless Seabottom Meadows racketeers, the Lunar Paradisiacs believe devoutly in the power of prayer. In fact, the movement had been joined by several influential and highly active members who had already proved their competence by their skill as evangelists preaching on the power of prayer even in earthly enterprises.

Our Man had also done ingenious work in what he called the Ad Interim Field. For the time being, that is, funds gathered by the sale of Helhaven stocks were not being spent on actual equipment for the mighty Lunar Dome. Thus, temporarily (except for work on the planning board), all investments were being pooled in a fast-growing Mutual Helhaven Super-Multinational Conglomeration that was earning high dividends from enterprises largely responsible for the progress of pollution.

In this connection for those of The Chosen who, the management finds cause to assume, are especially trustworthy and can keep confidential information to themselves, some of the big food merchandisers who are interested in that aspect of the undertaking have put together a secret list of the things they sell whereas they know so much about the contents that they themselves wouldn't touch the stuff.

And an ingenious piece of Ad Interim research is being worked out by tests on contaminant additives used as preservatives, for coloring, or texture. Whereas in Dietetics Old Style certain foods were not thought to go well together, advances of Dietetics New Style are discovering what additives don't go well together. Authoritatively monitored laboratory experiments have been performed by using various combinations of additives, free of the nutrients with which they are usually adulterated. And even when the ingredients are mixed with the various standard remedies for indigestion, there have been some quite startling explosions.

I should add at least one further refinement, as "the plot thickens." Since Our Man is deeply involved in the administrative aspects of the Paradisiac Vision, I began to realize that he could not represent the Vision in its purity. Behind him should be The Master (let's call him the Prime Personalist) of whom we get but glimpses. Our man, the Vice Personalist, though devoted to The Master, is decidedly of coarser stuff, as

befits his administrative rather than ideally Visionary role. But I was able to put together these few fleeting details about the somewhat mysterious shadowy figure, who is the generating spirit of the whole enterprise.

He had begun as a Whitmanite, elated in poetically cataloguing the revolutionary environmental changes that the predatory European invaders had visited upon this continent. When it had gradually dawned upon him, if you could call it a dawn! (where did we hear that before?), that Walt's dream was becoming a nightmare, he was desolate. Then came the fate-laden moment when he chanced upon an ingenious principle of transformation in Giambattista Vico's New Science ofhuman relations. Vico had said that the three "major vices" of mankind are cruelty, greed, and ambition. But once you add to these the motivating force of Foresight, or "Providence," he said, cruelty becomes transformed into the arts of defense, greed turns into commerce, and ambition becomes statecraft. In the case of The Master the principle of perfection in his Vision corresponding to Vico's thoughts on the transformational function of Foresight or "Providence" with regard to the nature of evil, was somewhat like what I had, I admit crudely, summed up in my "Invictus" lines:

Adversity shall be my universe,
making me free to act to make things worse.

Combine this turn (in sum, the principle of "the worse the better") with the Apocalyptic Vision of Division, and Whitman's promises are as good as ever. The ills of technology could be left to soil the Earth, the virtues of technology could rise transcendently elsewhere. (I think of an equally neat but less radical variant in Georg Lukàcs's discovery that everything wrong with technology is to be identified with capitalism, and everything right with it is to be identified with socialism.)

I can't tell you much more about The Master except that, by a piece of luck, I happened to get hold of two effusions which serve at least to reveal the trend, and even the poignancy, of his meditations. I shall turn to these for our finale.

Meanwhile, in general I should say the underlying "rationale" (the rationally satiric way of heralding a reduction to absurdity as though it were a promising logical conclusion) would be based on the search for fictions whereby no data on pollution, no matter how damning, would be presented in the accents of indictment. The stress is thus stylistically placed upon an inverted quasi-idealistic, futuristic, alchemical device for transforming the base metals of pollution into the Vision of a New Jerusalem satirically golden. Behind it all, inspiriting it all, lies The Master's firm,

devout conviction that, the greater and more thorough the progress of technological pollution (as enshrined in the cult of ever mounting energy production and energy consumption) the more urgent will be the yearnings and efforts of The Chosen to build the Womb-Heaven of the Paradisiac Lunar Culture-Bubble, an Edenic realm made possible only by the ultimate inventions and corresponding botcheries of the Technologic Tower.

To illustrate in sum how, by the addition of satiric fictions, the problems of pollution can thus be viewed through a screen of deflective stylization rather than head-on (as with outright "indictment," which too often encourages inattention or dissipation with regard to such an unpleasant subject) consider some things that went wrong with the Aswan Dam: Things so turned out that there is a higher percentage of evaporation from the reservoir than the planners had anticipated, hence the flow of fresh water in the river lessened, and salt water from the Mediterranean is pressing in to make up the difference. The change has destroyed a considerable fishing industry. An organism harmful to the human eye never had it so good. And whereas, for countless centuries, those areas had been naturally fertilized by the inundations of the Nile, now it has become increasingly necessary that the growers resort to purely chemical fertilizers.

By the rules of our satiric fiction, such direct amassing of evidence would be definitely rejected. Thus, as regards the growing need to rely upon chemicals whereas, for countless centuries, the river had annually silted the land with a natural deposit of nutrients (which are now, incidentally, sinking to the bottom of the reservoir behind the dam), by our rules, one way to deal with this problem would be to change the emphasis by having the administrative Vice-Personalist glowingly boast that, despite Russian influence in Egyptian affairs, a U.S. chemical outfit in which Lunar Paradisiacs had large Ad Interim holdings was making considerable inroads into that market. And we might go a step further, as with a hint that many of the environmentalist disorders already manifested on the Volga (which catches fire like rivers over here) or in the regions threatening Lake Baikal, are due to a notable revolutionary fact; namely: there are many Lunar Paradisiacs in the Soviet bureaucracy, secretly working with their opposite numbers in this country to help advance the transcendent cause of pollution and thus hasten the day when The Chosen will yearn to depart for good. Indeed, the improving relationship between Russian officialdom and some of our multinational conglomerates might be so interpreted.


In the same connection, the Vice-Personalist's releases could zestfully refer to the fact that, thanks to wide-spread use of chemical fertilizers in our country, the runoff from farmlands here is polluting the water supply with great efficiency, thus making it a hopeful possibility that nearly all our lakes will soon get bogged down in eutrophication.

I could go on, for the evidence is everywhere, except that you can't find the exact low-down on how much the planes spew forth high up. But my point is this: By what I conceive of as the compromise proper to the rules of our game, we should never let the text become directly "efficient." True, there's a truly grand moment, in Gulliver's Travels, when the giant Brobdingnagian king, after patiently listening to Gulliver explaining things in England, sums up: "By what I have gathered from your own relation, and the answers I have with much pains wringed and extorted from you, I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth." But the truly satiric twist here is in what follows, when Gulliver continues:

Yet this much I may be allowed to say in my own vindication, that I artfully eluded many of his questions, and gave to every point a more favorable turn by many degrees than the strictness of truth would allow. For I have always borne that laudable partiality to my country which Dionysius Hallicarnassus with so much justice recommends to an historian: I would hide the frailties and deformities of my political mother, and place her virtues and beauties in the most advantageous light. This was my sincere endeavor in those many discourses I had with that mighty monarch, although it unfortunately failed of success.

Conceivably, I might swing in somewhere like that. Yet the satire is not in the "indictment," but in the twist whereby Gulliver so gullibly speaks in his " defense." The nearest I can come to a somewhat similar turn in this piece is by a kind of Ciceronian praeteritio, in saying what I won't say. But in the satire itself, I fear, such a resource would be denied me. For there my best hope is to amplify my thesis by watering it down.

The pattern as a whole might be summed up in these seven steps:

  1. The growing evidence of pollution as the fatal cost of technology had first caused The Master, the Personalist Supreme, to lose his faith in the Whitmanite ideal of conquering a continent by ecstatic, headlong, anticonservationist upheaval.
  2. But The Master turned from the threat of a breakdown to a breakthrough, once he found his principle of transformation, the
    Vision of Division (with its "entelechial" principle, "the worse the better") whereby all could again become confident, forwardlooking, eschatologically ultimate, a perfect road to perfection.
  3. His administrative assistant, the Vice-Personalist, would introduce coarser elements into the Vision; but never for one moment would he lose the Affirmative Spirit of the ultimate ideal, as salvaged by following through with the logic of the distinction between The Chosen and the Regrettably Unfortunate for whom there is no escape from the increasing ecological disasters.
  4. The pattern gets its ultimate refinement in the Ad Interim principle whereby those very persons who are among The Chosen can accelerate the pace of the decay by temporarily investing in the stocks of whatever corporations are secretly contributing to the project with funds derived from enterprises that further the ecological deterioration.
  5. Thereby is fulfilled the development that, in The Education of Henry Adams, is called the "law of the acceleration of history," as per what is now called an "exponential curve" (involving a machine ecology as distinct from a biological ecology).
  6. Having attained an Apocalyptic understanding of dialectical principles in their role as The Chosen who are to transcend conditions here on Earth, the Lunar Paradisiacs can smile (not maliciously, but hopefully) at the evidences that, if but technology continues to proliferate as it is now doing, things can end, not in a reactionary rejection of technology (which is the essence of human rationality), but in a super-technology that can rise out of the very decay it is producing.
  7. To back their thesis that, human nature being what it is, the entelechial lure of technology has already developed to the point where it is irreversible, they cite as an authority the views of that blithe Dymaxion spirit, Buckminster Fuller, though he might with some justice object to their interpretation of his views, as Whitman, if he were still among us, might object to my discussing certain poems of his in terms of vatic real estate promotion.

A friend suggested that I should add a proper measure of porno; but I demurred on the grounds that, by the nature of the subject, we already have pollution enough, though I will say that porno recycles better than technology.


(Effusions of The Master)

Since I happen to have called the Helhaven project a "Vision," it was only a question of time until I realized that, behind it, implicit in it, should be the figure, however in shadow, of a Visionary. Inasmuch as there could be accommodations for but a comparatively Chosen Few in Helhaven, the Visionary Master saw that the farthest conceivable perfection of the dialectical design envisioning an ideal future would attain fulfillment in an ultimate state of absolute eschatological divisiveness, as the nature of man's unimpeded progress towards maximum technological pollution would make both necessary and possible. Also, it stands to reason, the most spirited members of mankind will be satisfied with nothing less than unimpeded freedom and progress in the grandeurs of technological advance, which would be hardly better than a state of bondage if, at every turn, inventiveness were constrained by enslaving admonitions, and each new power that was developed by the genius of applied science were in effect but a further reason for us to tell ourselves, "Watch out! Here's one more cause for worry!" as though every single new positive technologic promise were but one more negative prophecy of gloom-and-doom.

By a lucky accident, I happen to have chanced upon two self-styled "effusions" of The Master, the Personalist Supreme. While obviously written under the influence of his Master, Walt Whitman, even to the extent of outright borrowing, and sometimes transforming, lines from Leaves of Grass, they are conceived in the light of subsequent developments which Walt's ecstatic salesmanship, for all its stress upon the future, could not foresee, quite as Karl Marx, approaching technologic enterprise from another angle, did not foresee conditions now when the rationality of technics has so greatly progressed that, everywhere you turn, it raises problems (thus in effect transforming our greatest hope for the salvation of mankind, rationality, into major incentives making for cults of the irrational). But we must grant that Whitman hit upon a gladsome way of helping out: "It is provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary." And The Master had gone on from there.

As with much of Whitman's verse, these two "effusions" of the Prime-Personalist responsible for Helhaven as a technologically transcending

ultimate Vision may be too doctrinaire to pass as the best of poetry. I say so in an age, nay more, in a very environment, of schoolteachers who, doubtless for good reasons, strongly distrust the didactic element in verse. Yet the pieces do serve, I think, to sum up both the hopes and the poignancy of the Lunar Paradisiac Vision. And, I dare trust, you'll agree with me that, by adding the design from Revelations (I prefer the popular plural), The Master transformed Walt's over-idealistically easy-going promises for all into a more realistically apocalyptic Vision of Division.

(And since there's so little time left before the end, please let me hurriedly interject a parting thought to the effect that Helhaven is not just a fantasy poor by the tests of science fiction. As I was saying, insofar as you use an airport without having to live nearby, or insofar as you don't drink the local swill typical of many towns and cities in our country, but buy springwater, to that extent you are in principle already among The Chosen. Let's hope that you and your friends and your descendants can enjoy such discriminations for good, come Helhaven.)

But back to our wind-up, with regard to the two culminating versifyings. There'll be a reference to a "handing-down/along with man-woman germ." The lines refer to an ambiguity whereby Whitman could speak of tools as "weapons," or we may speak both of swords beaten into plowshares and of beating plowshares into swords. Though I can't speak on this point with authority, I assume that The Master here had in mind the ambiguous potentialities of the hand, capable of use either for warm handclasp or for clenching to make a fist.

Where The Master refers to woman as the compensatory inventor of the needle, though I doubt whether he knew or knows of Freud (I'm not even sure that he is still among us), he apparently was working on the edges of what some of our feminists would call "male chauvinism." I mean: Indications are that, when referring to the needle as he does, he vaguely had in mind the needle's masculine connotations by reason of its ability to pierce, even while he recognized that sewing is as closely associated with woman's work as the distaff.

And finally, in keeping with my claim that this presentation has two great moments, I should point out the fact that The Master's two-line flash in his call to Helhaven springs even from Beyond Helhaven.

But many people are not at home in poetry. And I have found that, even among those who are, there are candidates (explicit or implicit) for the Martian Promotion or Seabottom Meadows sort of things, or that damfool Venus project (doubtless a psychotic fantasy). And there are the

many more hoi polloi who are fated to be left behind here, among the Seven Vast Oceanic Sewers. So, regrettably, by the law of averages, it stands to reason that many of you will not be able to recognize the charmisma of The Master at his most charismatic.

In any case, we turn now to his bequeathings.

The first of the poems stresses the exhilaration of the Vision's promise (for The Chosen):


O Sons of Sons of Sons etc. of Pioneers,
have you your super pistols and your super sharp-edged axes?
Singing the Song of Occupations, are you?
You—and the one-time natives' land is now your native land.
O Sons etc., even the desert you have now redeemed
even there you have transformed nature into real estate.
Already I say to you what later I will say to you.
Hitch your new kind of covered wagon to among the stars.
We love our Redman Brothers.
"Come, Comrades," we said, "shake hands with us,
make treaties with us, believe in us, love us as we love you.
And forgive us if we break those treaties.
For we were right. The Highest Court in our land says we were right, still are, and will be.
Fighting to the last in sternest realism.
"How otherwise could we have despoiled you?
How otherwise be best fitted to despoil the land
of which we were destined to despoil you?"
And yet we cannot tarry here, O Sons etc.
Wemustmarch,mydarlings,we must bear the brunt of danger,
as though youthful, as though sinewy races.
The driver sitting on his whatever,
singing a song of occupations.
He drives his car the while
the traffic drives the driver.

Long lines in long array where they wind betwixt
a parched-green median.
Hark to the not so mystical clank—
steam-power, the great express lines, gas, petroleum,
those triumphs of times then, and sung
in a song of the exposition.
Every sire, every dam; every he, every Ms,
all Sons and Sons and Sons etc. of which
there are no races younger or elder.
All in all they stem from prehistoric prime,
then when females, handed down successively, increasingly
the germ, nurturing it through the centuries,
along with man-woman germ, nursing, handing down
the germ of war-and-work, of handclasp-and-fist,
man making the fist stronger with a clenched stone, thus man while in charmed envy
from the first, woman—and always woman—
to counterbalance her deprival,
brought forth the piercing needle,
thus at the start, the songs of occupations by diverging
could join with one another.
And no past left behind, but always still there, always pushing as predestined.
Till now we get the big words.
O Sons etc., let us love the big words, too,
words like epigenesis, and psychogenic, and diethylstilbestrol,
and,aboveall,thelittlebig-words—like biosphere and ecology, and technological pollution.
No word is an island. In all words is every word. Come, little big-words,
Come Biosphere, come Ecology, come Technological Pollution,
come let us sing and dance together the song
of our predestinated end.
And dance together, little big-words, towards the day
when all the seven seas will be vast industry-infested cesspools,
thus preparing us not to tarry, but to leave these shores and inlands
for a man-made Paradise elsewhere,

a Realm transcendent,
free of our long headlong terrestrial despoiling.
We primeval forests felling, we the rivers stemming, vexing we
and piercing deep the mines within—and strip-mining, yes—we the
virgin soil upheaving, we—it—an epic rape.
Allons! Here is the efflux of the soul.
To the Army Corps of Engineers give thanks who held back
rivers where rivers flowed like freedom,
and gouged out straight channels where streams had wanted to meander
and promoters could sell lots on what had been floodland
and lo! it becomes an act of God when things flow into flood
while a continent goes down the drain
here rises the fluid and attaching character
down the drain at a rate how possible but by great technologic progress
Allons! we must not stop anywhere.
Colorado, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri—everywhere
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southerns and the Northerns.
You who would become my follower, put your lips upon mine.
All driving to wards agrand conglomerate muddle of realestate,
A breast aching with tender love for all,
We today's procession heading, we the route for travel clearing,
O Sons of Sons of Sons etc. of Pioneers.
The more traffic, the more roads;
the more roads, the more traffic,
and the greater grows our joyous thirst to leave
and with clasping of hands we together sing
the Song of the Open, checked-by-radar, open four-land Road
towards—for the likes of us among The Chosen—
towards home in (hail! Heaven!) in helhaven, home!
The second of the poems stresses the regrettable division inherent in the Vision:
"Far, far off the Daybreak Call!"
(Night Thoughts of The Master)

It will not be without guilt
to millions and millions it will be as though you cried out to them
"I love you, I who could have made us comrades
for us to have fared forth together
towards the primal garden, towards first things in last things."
It will not be without exceptional regret
to millions and millions it will be as if you had snarled at them,
"Into the sewers with you, into the filth of your own amassing willy-nilly,
until each cell of your body is soaked in it,
you like a sponge soppy with your own degradation
in the swill of man's own man-made undoing."
It will not be without cruelty
to millions upon millions it be as if you promulged to them.
"I leave you to your damnedness, as were you the rottenest of transgressors,
Yet you will have done no evil, in your decay there was no malice
nor aim to harm among your many wondrous doings
and your obedience to those who by their genius taught you
to do their wondrous doings until all went loathsome.
Not for doing evil are you to be undone."
It will not be without loathing
yet to millions and millions it will be as if you saw in them
the thick of the Despised and Destitute, as if you said to them,
"As we look down upon you wretches gasping, you surviving gasping
as we The Chosen, in our Lunar Culture-Bubble safe and sound and snug
of helhaven, of The Chosen our Paradisiac home,
it is as though, as were you each it is,
a localized collection of thick opaque, usually yellowish
white fluid matter formed in connection with
an inflammation due to the invasion of the body
by an infective microorganism (as a bacterium)
and composed of fluid exudate containing
degenerating leukocytes, tissue debris, and living or dead
microorganisms (see SUPPURATION).

Each of you, alas in brief, the Left Behind,
is to us as an abscess
from which we shall have permanently departed."
Give me the pleasant silent sun as Adam early in the morning …
towards home in (hail! Heaven!) in helhaven, home
may I hie me now to hide
in restrospective prospect
a Future, quintessential of the Past,
Eden and The Tower in one,
O dithyrambic moment, Levitation,
than which how much the more can there be like!
Onwards, Outwards—and UP!


This essay originally appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review 13 (winter 1974): 307–37 (The Keniston Lecture at the University of Michigan, 1974).

1. I have contended that the present essay has two great sentences. Clearly, this is the first. The second will be uttered in a grand finale by The Master.


5. Realisms, Occidental Style


Kenneth Burke prepared this paper for a conference on the use of literary works as a reliable source of documentary evidence about their "contexts of situation" (the scene-act-agent ratio). The basic distinction Burke makes here is between realism, which is a literary style, and reality, which is not a style at all, but a brute fact. Realism is but one of many possible styles in Western literature. Is realism any more real than other kinds of styles—say, romanticism, neoclassicism, modernism, impressionism? No, it is not (though it may seem so), because everything in a literary work has been stylized in the very act of writing. Trying to read the real scene (or agent) out of a literary act with any kind of accuracy and reliability is a nearly hopeless task because there are so many nonverifiable variables. And realism as a style is simply one perspective from among many available to a writer; and whether one style is better able to depict reality than another is only a matter of degree. The most fantastic work—say, Swift's Gulliver's Travels— can be very realistic; and the most realistic work—say, James Gould Cozzens's Castaway—can be completely fantastic and densely symbolic.

In his usual fashion, Burke takes oversimplified responses to this topic and complicates them. See, for example, his ten-point summary at the end of this essay. His famous "it is more complicated than that" is the operative analytic technique he uses to promote a fuller, more adequate conception of the problems inherent in the topic. He does not necessarily always resolve these problems because he is much more interested in raising the questions and then just dumping them on the readers in such a way that there is no returning to simple, often simple-minded, ways of dealing with the topic. He regards this procedure as a dialectical exercise every thinker (critic) should go through with every topic and text.

After making his points about "realisms, occidental style," Burke then cautions us about trying to use any literary text from any culture or time period as a reliable source of documentary evidence about the sociopolitical scene out of which it came, or even about the agent-author. Writers are notorious "liars" (fiction makers), and their view of things is as mundane and biased as everyone else's. It has become fashionable these days to "derive" William Faulkner's fictions from his life, and the other way around, Faulkner's symbolic autobiography from his novels. A third procedure is also often practiced, which is to draw an "accurate" portrait of the South from the novels. Either way, we have a kind of absurdity that Burke cautions us against, which results from a basic misconception of fiction, and how it transforms and relates back to the real world. Faulkner had a rich and varied imaginative life and a rather ordinary real life. He was obviously a genius with words. Even his most realistic novels (for example, As I Lay Dying) were technical wonders that made their connection to the

real world problematical. He clearly lead a fictional life that was separate from his real life, so much so that people who knew him in Oxford, Missisippi, did not believe he wrote his novels. The topic this conference addressed is relevant here. Do Faulkner's novels tell us something reliable about the real world and life in it? Burke's answer to this question is, "Yes and No." No, if we are too literal minded, and Yes, if we know how to read and discount words and fictions. A novel is, after all, nothing but words no matter its style. The reality of a novel derives as much from the imagination and words as it does from the real world. A novel does not really depict the real world so much as it creates verisimilitude and convinces us to "believe" it. Faulkner never fought in the trenches in World War I, knew little about France and the French, especially about the French army military law. He made it all up. Unless we learn how to read this novel in accordance with the style in which it is written (certainly not a form of realism—but a style you write a fable in) and adapt to the dazzling (if dense) technical virtuosities Faulkner uses in the novel, we have no way to read it adequately. Probably the last thing it is really about is World War I as an historical event or Faulkner himself. The novel is a perfect example of Burke's main point: We must approach a novel in its own terms and not demand of it things it was never meant to do. Its own terms are words and prose fiction.

Burke liked to point out that once you make use of the resources of language you enter a realm of "freedom" and you can, quite literally, say or write anything about anyone or anything or any place that you like. It is all just a matter of rhetoric. How, then, do we avoid relativism and how do we know what is reliable and true? That is the question this essay addresses as it applies to literature. As we know from current critical practices, every possible approach to every possible text by every possible kind of critic is fair game, with all of them insisting on the "corrective" function of their approach and the reliability, truthfulness, correctness of their findings. The end result of this critical and cultural diversity has been the creation of a bewildering body of critical texts that tend to contradict one another and sometimes even cancel one another out. One yearns again for the old days when it still seemed possible to have a "pure" experience of literary text, one that derived its impetus and direction from the internalities of the text rather than from some external theory laid over the text like a grid. What defense do we have against this seemingly unchecked proliferation of critical approaches? None, really, since the proliferation will continue—but we can stop reading most criticism and try to free Faulkner's novels from the loving attention and feeding frenzy of his multitude of critics.

Burke does not recommend this decisive action; he was a great theorizer himself and mined texts for some mighty strange gold, reminding us way back in Philosophy of Literary Form (1941) that we should use all that there is to use in the analysis of literary texts. And he did, as his dramatistic poetics make clear. At the end of this essay, in a typical Burkean admonition, he reminds us, in his ten summarizing points, of some basic truths about the use of literary texts as social documentation; or, perhaps more inclusively, about the nature of literature itself, and what you should and should not (can and cannot?) do to and with it.



I should begin with the problem of beginnings, and say why.

The main problem in discussing what literature has to tell us as documentary evidence about the general conditions of its origin involves what we might call the choice of terms for describing a given work's background. For instance, unless I remember incorrectly, in neoclassic French tragedy, though there is much talk of death, there is no mention of pistols. However, this omission is not documentary evidence that there were no pistols, in the way that the featuring of gunplay in our contemporary TV programs clearly reflects the fact that the aristocratic sword has gone out of fashion and that we are in a time when all who are concerned with law and order—except those of our politicians who stress "law and order" as one of their favorite selling points—worry, about such chummy pieces as "Saturday night specials."

In discussing the use of literature as documentary evidence, this is a prime consideration with which we have to deal. French neoclassic tragedy was in many obvious respects documentary evidence of the circumstances during which the dramas of Corneille and Racine were written and first produced. There is even an historically authenticated case where Corneille's Cinna was given a totally pragmatic application. A figure whose name escapes me was accused of plotting against the king. The subtitle of Cinna is The Clemency of Augustus, since the play ingeniously involves a chain of events, with a correspondingly fitting set of relationships among the characters, whereby the king is moved to respond with the grandeur of the fictive emperor and pardon the conspirator. His ministers worked hard to undo the effects that the fiction had upon him. In the end their efforts, and not Corneille's drama, won, and the conspirator was duly executed.

My point is this: Surely there was never an art that more clearly reflected the courtly influences contemporary with its ceremonious postures—and that influence is documentary indication of the conditions characterizing the theater of the times, as reflected in the neoclassic dramaturgy. However, the fact that there was no mention of pistols is documentary evidence not that there were no pistols then about, but that the mention of so low-grade a weapon would violate the stylistic proprieties of the medium. (If you find a mention of pistols in Corneille or Racine, please don't tell me. And in any case, even if you did find such a passage, surely I have made my point in principle.)

In any case, I have now decided on my beginning, which illustrates a

major problem besetting our attempts to use works of literature as documentary evidence about their "contexts of situation." A book such as Jack Kerouac's On the Road (1957), for example, which refers to driving about America "like crazy," is at least a fairly reliable indication that it was a civilization, not of stagecoaches, canals and riverboats (though many canals and riverboats are still with us), but of motor cars "run rampant." (I say that American civilization was such. Just what important changes, if any, result from the "energy crisis" still remains to be seen. Up to now, the cars still race by our place in the country, just about as roaringly and empty-beer-can droppingly as ever.)

My first introductory example will deal with a few pages from Claude Lévi-Strauss's The Story of Asdiwal (1949). It will be but a brief summary of some pages that were themselves a summary, so I cannot do justice to the full statement. I use only as much as applies to this particular problem.

On the basis of what Lévi-Strauss can adduce from other sources, he notes that certain important aspects of the myth (my equivalent of what I shall call "context" or "realism" in a quite loose use of the term) do not have "anything to do with the reality of the structure of Tsimshian society, but rather with its inherent possibilities and its latent potentialities." Thus he proceeds: "Such speculations [the myth's speculations about types of residence to do with distinctions between patrilocality and matrilocality] in the last analysis do not seek to depict what is real, but to justify the shortcomings of reality, since the extreme positions are only imagined in order to show that they are untenable." This step, which is fitting for mythical thought, implies an admission (but in the veiled language of the myth) that the social facts when thus examined are marred by an insurmountable contradiction—a contradiction which, like the hero of the myth, Tsimshian society cannot understand and prefers to forget.

From this aspect of the myth as he interprets it, Lévi-Strauss concluded:

This conception of the relation of the myth to reality no doubt limits our use of the former as a documentary source. But it opens the way for other possibilities; for in abandoning the search for a constantly accurate picture of ethnographic reality in the myth, we gain, on occasions, a means of reaching unconscious categories.

Obviously, in so far as these are such "unconscious categories," the myth would be documentary evidence of them. But it is not the kind of evidence we generally associate with the specifically social conditions

which sociologists, anthropologists or historians would interpret the myth as reflecting. And when he concludes "that for these natives the only positive form of existence is a negation of nonexistence," it is not our problem now to decide whether or not we agree with this statement of the case (if only because my greatly truncated report of Lévi-Strauss's characteristically ingenious speculations does not provide even remotely enough information for us to take a stand on the issue). My purpose here is simply to indicate that, to sum up the ultimate nature of the myth along Lévi-Strauss's line, the kind of terms we should need would not be anthropological, sociological, or historical, but in terms of neo-Hegelian dialectic—a formalistic description in itself as nontemporal as the multiplication table.

My other introductory example, a favorite with me, is Euripides' tragedy, or tragic lamentation, perhaps what Aristotle would have called a pathetiké (Poetics, xviii): The Trojan Women. To quote from the edition of The Complete Greek Drama (edited by Whitney J. Oates and Eugene O'Neill, Jr., 1938):

The play, produced in the spring of 415 BC, followed closely upon the siege and capture of the island of Melos by the Athenians. In a spirit of coldblooded and brutal imperialism, Athens had taken the island, massacred the adult male population, and sold the women and children as slaves. Melos' only crime had been that she wished to remain neutral. The whole episode is treated brilliantly by Thucydides, who is unmitigated in his condemnation of the crime. It is not surprising, therefore, that Euripides' illusion of a great and just democratic Athens crumbled into nothing. Even at the very moment when the play appeared, the same military faction which had determined the action against Melos was still in power and was gathering its forces to embark upon the ill-fated expedition against Sicily.

In one notable respect, this statement of the editors is quite misleading. The play by Euripides is ostensibly concerned not with policies and incidents for which the war party of Athens at the time of Euripides was responsible, but with brutalities suffered by women victimized in the Trojan War that was the subject of The Iliad. Here the pathos attains its height in episodes relating to the Greeks' hurling of the princely child Astyanax to his death lest, if he survived, he might someday avenge the sacking of the city.

This is quite an important point. Had Euripides written a tragedy called The Sack of Melos, there would have been a riot. It would have polarized the audience. But, as the story got told in his terms, members of the peace party and members of the war party could weep in unison,

at the fiction of an analogous situation ascribed to the epic (hence, mystically idealized) past. In fact, another playwright, whose work is lost, did write a tragedy that dealt explicitly with the subject of Melos, and he fell into considerable trouble for his pains.

Here we might cite an amusing contrast with Euripides' play (which, while using mythic lore, was professionally far from the kind of rambling tribal myth discussed by Lévi-Strauss). It is worth noticing how at the time of the First World War, one Broadway hack job dealt with the susceptibilities of audiences. It was a war play designed for popular consumption in wartime. It therefore used the most obvious kind of dramatic personae—all the good guys being on the side of the Allies, all the bad guys on the side of the Central Powers. However, the play was supposedly written by a "neutral" observer of the situation, namely a Dane. But the drama critic George Jean Nathan discovered otherwise. Actually, the play was also running in the theaters of the "enemy," the one major difference being that the New York version had reversed the roles of good guys and bad guys. Since at that time a favorite sentimental song was Carrie Chapman Bond's "The End of a Perfect Day," Nathan entitled his article springing the news about this delicate tribute to American wartime sensibilities "The End of a Perfect Dane."

All told, as viewed from the standpoint of our problem, what considerations do we confront when comparing and contrasting these two cases?

The Broadway play, like its original inverted counterpart, was factional in the simplest sense. The conditions of nationalistic war readily provide a market for works that embody a crude antithesis between attitudes towards friends and enemies, an antithesis equally exemplified in both versions of the play, despite the cynically disingenuous feat of "translation."

But the play by Euripides was designed to meet a much more complex challenge. As I would size up the dramaturgic tactfulness of what the editors call his "tragic pageant," it was concerned with subtleties of this sort:

  1. Classical Greek tragedy being a civic ceremony, it would attain maximum cathartic effect to the extent that, whatever the disputes that plagued the city, the audience (which was composed of all conflicting classes among the citizenry) could be infused with a unified attitude. This would be the case if all members of the audience, despite the conflicting interests in their daily
    relationships with one another, could be brought to weep in unison at the pathos of an intensely dramatic fiction.
  2. In his personal role as a member of the peace party, Euripides had deeply felt the pathos of the indignities done to the small island of Melos by the champions of Athenian democratic imperialism.
  3. It was indeed a "timely topic," vibrant with opportunities for the purgative function of pity. As I have explained elsewhere, I take it that the most cathartic public relationship would be one of universal love. To love everyone would be identical with being totally "cleansed." However, such love would have to possess an intensity far greater than what characterizes a merely philanthropic attitude of goodwill. I interpret an audience's sense of pity as being on the slope of love, and thus the dramatic response that comes nearest to the intensity needed for catharsis. (Incidentally, I also interpret it as a civic surrogate for the primitive Dionysian orgy out of which the political nature of Greek drama developed. A weeping in unison would be the analogue of any sexual promiscuity that might have been ritually associated with such rites. Here, adapting patterns of Freudian psychology, I would interpret sympathetic weeping as a communal surrogate for sexual orgasm.)
  4. But such a "timely topic" had to be treated via the "pathos of distance." For as thus treated in "mythic" terms of the Trojan War (the Greeks' "essential" war, as established by the traditional Homeric epic), the subject could be presented in ways whereby members of both the peace party and the war party could weep together, regardless of their views about the disgraceful bullying done by Athens upon little Melos, thanks to the Athenian democratic imperialists of the war party. (One should read Thucydides on the ensuing campaigns in Sicily, to see what, because of the powers of the war party, was to happen next in the history of Athenian democratic imperialism.)
  5. The most telling touch (and I believe that thoughts about it bring us close to a generating principle in the greatness of Greek tragedy) is the dramaturgic device whereby the Greek, who brings to the young prince's mother the news that her child is to be hurled to death from atop Troy's battlements, is himself unhappy about the decision of which he is the herald. Essentially
    the distinction I would bring out is of this sort: In the hack pattern, the drama was simply a matter of Us against Them. In the grand tragic pattern of Euripides, the partisan issue was both expressed and transcended. Incidentally, I would analyze the appeal of Sophocles' Antigone from the same point of view. Since Creon had relented, and retracted his harsh decrees, before the bad news began coming in, and since his decrees in the first place represented the judgments of an unfortunately mistaken, but conscientious, administrator, we feel sorry not only for Antigone, but also for him. He too has suffered grievously for having started a sequence of events that he could not stop.

To be sure, a timely topic lurks poignantly in the background with regard to circumstances that we learn from Thucydides (who provides the documents nowhere to be found in Euripides' play, ostensibly about "Troy"). Yet the ultimate motivation involving the play's appeal is grounded not in local conditions but in ingeniously diplomatic dramaturgy. It is in its own way "timeless," in the sense that such modes of appeal will have their force so long as our ways with symbol-systems persist—and I assume that they will persist as long as we are physiologically, hence "mentally," the kind of animal we have been ever since we became our kind of animal.

However, I am not trying to make a special plea for Greek tragedy as "eternal." I am only trying to bring out this admonitory proposition: The study of literature as social document can lead to an overemphasis upon motives that are merely local in some given historical period; whereas a literary work's appeal does not depend upon motivational ingredients that appear and disappear with the duration of that particular period. For instance, a work may possess, among other things, the appeal of unity, or internal consistency may be more exacting than in others; its formal appeal is not local in the sense that some particular doctrine or assumption might appeal in an era marked by the hegemony of such a doctrine or assumption, itself having in effect the appeal local to some "timely topic" at a time when it was timely.

On the other hand, we should devoutly subscribe to Benedetto Croce's concept of what he calls a "palimpsest" (namely, places in a work that are misread simply because readers who only know the text may lack the historical knowledge needed to grasp the full implication of some particular passage or style). That consideration could in itself merit many pages of discussion. But for our purposes it is enough to

think of places where a critic assumes that some particular word in an earlier work meant what it means now whereas, had the critic but consulted the history of the word as recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary, he would know that a usage current in an earlier century was involved. Yet, alas! even scholarly caution may not solve the case beyond all doubt—for the author may have been recollecting a still earlier usage, or anticipating a later one.


Our nature as the typically word-using animal makes for a kind of doubling, whereby things and situations do not seem wholly to exist for us until or unless we have words for them. The cycle of the seasons must be matched by a lore of the seasons, ranging from ancient myths of skygods to strictly scientific descriptions and measurements of cosmic processes. Spring calls for a spring-song; mating attains symbolic fulfillment in a love-song; marriage gets its ceremony. For our physical or mental discomforts we aim to list a syndrome of symptoms. And even death is not as complete as it could be unless it attains a culminative counterpart in some formal leave-taking, for which one sociologist (Thomas D. Elliott) has proposed the somewhat unfeeling, but resonant, title "Ritual of Riddance."

Though many contemporary writers may quarrel with attempts merely to repeat such traditional duplications, they are by no means rejecting the principle. Indeed, they are but striving to carry on the same process, except under new conditions. Indeed, their quarrels with words center in their efforts to make words serve better than the traditional doublings could as counterparts for experience as they know it now.

We thus confront the concept of "context" in two senses. There is the strictly literary context, as when an aggrieved author complains that an opponent has misrepresented him by quoting a contested passage "out of context." There is also what the anthropologist Malinowski called "context of situation," the largely nonverbal cluster of circumstances out of which any strictly verbal context arises, and to which it is necessarily related in some way or other. Somehow, directly or indirectly, it "reflects" the historical conditions that prevailed at the time of its creation. (In this regard I would feel justified in examining an historical novel, among other things, for traces of the circumstances under which it was written.)

As for the title of this paper, I am using the term "realism" in a quite

loose sense, referring simply to the literary work considered as itself a context. My use of the term " reality" would, on the other hand, correspond to the "context of situation" out of which that purely literary context comes to be. In my sense of the term "realism" (as distinguished from its application to a particular literary school, be it Flaubert's kind of realism or the kind that some authoritative officeholders would demand of "socialist realism"), even an out-and-out fantasy could be examined for its traces of realism, insofar as its context bears upon " reality" (its corresponding "context of situation") in some way. Thereby, insofar as it succeeds, it possesses a "verisimilitude" of some sort or other, even if the author, whatever his intentions, is in effect "realistically" saying: "In my depictions of ‘Reality’ I'm crazy." Obviously, our specifications as to what is required to meet the tests of "realism" are not overexacting as viewed in terms of the "doubling" I spoke of (the need of the symbol-using animal to round things out by translating its "context of situation" into sheer context). By "realism" is meant whatever sheerly symbolic reality is designed somehow or other to reflect, or refract, or duplicate the nonsymbolic reality out of which it somehow emerged, whether such context of situation is represented "objectively" or "subjectively."

Here would be a test case: The imitation of victimization in a classical Greek tragedy would obviously be classified as "realism," though its highly ritualistic nature radically differentiates it from the realistic imitation of suffering in a play such as Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. But victimization in a Roman gladiatorial arena would not be "realism." Such a happening was a direct brutal fact of "reality" itself. To understand the purely symbolic ingredient in that motivational recipe, we would have to concern ourselves with the nature of vicarious sacrifice in general. For even those poor devils who were not just "realistically" but really killed were also symbolic victims; the Roman public needed them; the cry for bread and circuses (panem et circenses) was not just local to the times. In principle (if in such matters we may speak of "principle") it is a universal cry—for tragically high among the resources of symbol systems is the principle of substitution.

Owing to my fixations about the problems of what I would call either " technologism" or the "technological psychosis," I gave much thought in thinking of this subject to the fantasies of science fiction and what, as social documents, they might tell future generations about conditions now.

However, having in mind that our immediate concern is with the understanding

of culture as perceived via literary texts, I may tentatively list the following:

  1. There is technology as the mad scientist.
  2. There is technology as the beneficent magician.

I have also been tinkering around the edges of a third possibility, namely, the use of science fiction as an opportunity for satire. Hence, above all, with regard to the subject of my attempt to build a criticism of our contemporary reality around a lowly kind of science fiction, a project for imagining a Culture-Bubble on the Moon, an ingenious technological reduplication of what we have here on Earth already, except for technology's side effects, pollution … but why try finishing that sentence?

Basically, I have in mind the thought that, when man now looks in the mirror, he confronts as his counterpart the technological duplication of himself. He is by sheer definition the "rational animal." There can be nothing more rational than a rationally designed contrivance by which, if you put in the proper things, you get out exactly what the machine— as built, in keeping with the rationality with which you built it—will deliver according to what you asked for.

Only humans are "rational" enough to construct such perfectly rational replicas of implemented rationality as our mechanisms are. If the accumulated clutter of them and their unwanted by-products (or "side effects") add up to a clutter of problems that is not rational at all, that is just too bad. But in any case, with regard to literature as social document, in our day at least we know for sure that all such fantasies testify to the contemporary hegemony of technological implements, with their corresponding clutter and problems.

In sum, I personally take it all to be saying: once human rationality attains its ideal perfection in the accumulation of fantastically numerous machines (each one of which is rationally designed) by such sheer implementations of rationality—in their multitude and the vexing problems due to the corruption caused by their unwanted by-products or side effects —the ideals of rationality, as embodied in the products of applied science, are transformed into a veritable traffic jam of problems. Mankind is in trouble indeed when its best principle of guidance, reason, becomes so major a source of social disturbance. But whatever the realism of science fiction might tell the future about the nature of reality as we experience it, I am puzzled because I cannot imagine our agreeing on

what the nature of reality now actually is. The only thing we can know for sure is that there are all kinds of reality now. I wonder whether that is not always the case. The ultimate question would presumably be: "Whose kind of reality now is the type truly representative of our times?"

But let us turn to our main problem: Namely, a listing, in one-twothree order, of some of the major problems we confront in the attempt to use the realisms of literary contexts as documentary insight into the realities to be found in contexts of situation.

First, there is the deceptive tendency to overstress the sheer context of literary work, any formal considerations being dismissed as mere "formalism," as a purely literary matter. The tragedy by Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, provides an interesting instance of this sort. Shelley was an enthusiastic admirer of this play, which he took at face value, as the heroicizing of Prometheus, challenge to Zeus. But it was the first of a trilogy, and only a few scattered fragments of the second and third plays survive. However, in his book Aeschylus and Athens, the British scholar and critic George Thomson offers good grounds to interpret the surviving play not at its face value but in the light of its place in the trilogy. When it is approached thus formally, he interprets this first play as the portrayal of excesses on the part of both Prometheus and Zeus, excesses that, by the end of the third play, had mellowed into moderation. In keeping with this interpretation (which fits perfectly with the dramaturgic tactics of the Oresteia, the one Aeschylus trilogy that does survive) the furiously challenging heroics of the first play were, one might say, being put up to get knocked down; but Shelley idealistically took it all at face value.

There is thus a sense in which formalist considerations might properly figure, even when one's interests are wholly concerned with the interpretation of texts as social documents. It is a point that will turn up whenever the demands of artistic effectiveness do not coincide with the demands of strictly literal factuality. In particular, this is the case with regard to the question of proportion. It is much easier to show, by the examination of literary texts, that a certain motive or situation was present at a given time than it is to specify the exact proportion of that element in the cultural context of a situation as a whole. For, owing to the entertainment value of saliency, literary works are designed to spotlight their themes.

Whereas the needs of drama favor the choice and featuring of characters that are in some notable respects excessive, the dramatist changes

this technical advantage into a kind of cautionary tale. He does so since the outcome of the characters' excesses can be interpreted as a moral admonition against precisely those same excesses which, like the villain in melodrama (or a great example, Iago in Shakespeare's Othello), keep providing the motives that in turn generate the turns in the plot.

Ironically enough, the entertainment value of news (supposedly on the reality side of our pair) leads to a variant of this same difficulty, with regard to the proportions of the ingredients in an age's motivational recipe. For the headline is the newsman's ideal. I made up this analogy, though I will not vouch for its authenticity as natural history: Just as a woodpecker, if he does not bang his head several hours a day, gets a headache, so newsmen are only happy when reporting disasters of one sort or another. Since our ideas of the world we live in are formed to an overwhelming degree not by our immediate experience but by the greater clutter of information and misinformation which we receive secondhand, what we know directly—through our immediate experience—is comparatively minute.

Thus, all told, when using the fictions of realism as evidence for the study of reality, we are liable to get caught in a kind of circularity. It is somewhat similar to intelligence tests. One may argue whether intelligence tests adequately score human intelligence. But at least there is no denying that, by and large, they adequately score people's relative ability to pass intelligence tests. In the same sense, though one may argue whether stories that feature crime and violence attest to a corresponding prevalence of crime and violence in human relations, or whether such fictions serve to stimulate more crime and violence, in any case, their sheer popularity is on its face evidence that there is a big market for stories of crime and violence.

The entertainment value of news is like the entertainment value of gossip—and the kinds of topics which the news features are likely to coincide somewhat with the kinds of gossip which literature features, except that literature can develop in detail a range of pornography that the news can but hint at. On the other hand, the news has one advantage with regard to the curative value of victimization. For in literary realism, the scapegoats who suffer on behalf of our entertainment are but fictive, whereas the news, like the ancient Roman gladiatorial contests and the Spanish bullfight, gives us real victims. Television broadcasts of grueling athletic events, particularly prizefights, round things out by having the reality of the occasion presented dramatically as news in the making.

At this point an issue arises which I can but mention in passing. Coleridge

laid much stress upon a distinction between an "imitation" and a "copy." Only an "imitation" would meet his requirements for an act of the poetic "imagination." A "copy" would be as dead as the mere waxwork realistic representation of some historic figure, clothed in a costume exactly proper to the times. The more I ponder over that distinction, the more convinced I become that the developments of photography since Coleridge's time introduce the need for some such intermediate term as "record," as with modern "documentaries."

For instance, suppose I happened to have my camera trained in exactly the position to record a murder that suddenly took place exactly there. If I showed it to you, you would be witnessing a literal record of the occasion. On the other hand, if I did not have such a record, but a realistic picturizing of that event were called for in a fiction, to the best of my ability I would try to simulate the conditions in so lifelike a way that there would be no notable difference between the documentary record and the artificially lifelike reenactment. As a matter of fact, if I knew exactly where the event had taken place, and if the surrounding scene were still in the same condition as when the event did take place, I could combine an exact documentary record of the scene with a simulated act that would look exactly as it would have, had I actually photographed the real thing.

When I was young, if I had been a good boy for the week, I was given money on Saturday to attend a blood-and-thunder melodrama in a local run-down theater. What gore! I still remember to this day the lawless Biddle Boys' escape from prison, how they shot down a guard, and how it took him at least five minutes of agonized orating before he died. When the curtain for that act came down, everybody was so enthusiastic because he had died so well that we demanded that he take several curtain calls. And I still remember how in The Count of Monte Cristo the enormous rocks of the dungeon swayed, to an off-stage breeze that was not called for in the script. Realism, you say? Yes, but realism with a difference. Not the realism of the record—so documentarily exact that you are witnessing something no different as a simulation from what it would be as the real thing.

People justify our filmed representation of violence on the grounds that so many of Shakespeare's plays are rife with violence. No mention is made of the difference that the violence there is embedded in great poetry, whereas the modern filmed versions of such violence are given in lifelike versions wholly devoid of poetry, and without its stylistic artifices. Now, everything is done by machinery. I am not sure just how to

gauge such things. But is it not possible that there is a fundamental difference of some sort between realism of poetic imitation and realism of the record?

In any case, when trying to discern the reality that is explicitly or implicitly represented by literature's various brands of realism, we have one major, purely literary, concern to deal with, namely, literary works are not designed for purely documentary purposes. Their primary source of appeal is not truth but verisimilitude. The mere fact that something actually happened is no assurance that the reader will go along with your use of it in a fiction, however accurate the details. Yet sheer fantasies can somehow "ring true," though the story never actually happened, and never will happen.

Thus, before we even begin, we can know that our enterprise is to be complicated by a terministic situation of this sort: Something may be there because it is "true" of the situation. It may be there because, although not true, it seems true. It may be there primarily because it belongs to the particular literary tradition of which it is a part, and that is the sort of thing its public expects. Even if something is not obviously there, it may be implicitly there, given the particular terministic screen, or perspective, you would employ when trying to see what it is doing.

A related thought is that a given work may be representative not of things as they prevalently were at the time, but of an emergent development. Hence, at the time it could have been at most representative of a minority consciousness or situation.

Also, for finding the nature of our times variously anticipated in earlier times, the resources of analogy are ever present. The tremendous amount of organization in a Wagnerian opera, for instance, when at fortissimo moments it blares and blasts and pounds as on a battlefield in obedience to the commands of an authoritarian "leader," is enough in itself to give me the feel at times that the Hitlerite Blitzkrieg was but the transference of the same powers from one set of terms to another (a feeling which Hitler himself seems to have shared).

Another difficulty with regard to literature as document involves the nostalgic element in art's appeal. Thus, there is still quite a public for Westerns in the United States. But no matter how accurate the details of the fictive scenes (and in the movies the scenes shot "on location" can have the factual accuracy of photographic records), the true cultural reality to which they bear witness is their temperamental appeal to readers whose actual way of life is wholly different. That is the idealized nostalgic motive now they implicitly represent, while at their face value they

tell us of a fictive past, the dream of which is in some way or other medicinal for their public now.

In brief, the "realism" of nostalgic literature, in its nature as document, may be explicitly referring to a "reality" which is now a lie. But if we could dig deeply enough, being always on the look-out to "discount" any sheer surface (and particularly if we had extraneous historical material to aid us in the task) we might be able to crack the code that reveals the documentary aspect of this literature. I pause, in passing, to stress the thought of the aid that historical information might contribute to the documentary use of specifically literary works—for when both literary and nonliterary kinds of materials are available, the ideal practice would be to work with both.

But I expect that I shall always keep running across variants of the same problem if our speculations are confined to literary contexts alone, and if we try to derive from them alone our documents attesting to contexts of situation. The work, viewed at its face value, may be but documentary evidence that such work was produced (or that a body of such work was produced at that time—if we might consider the Homeric poems, for instance, as a body of work, for presumably they portrayed not their times, but the mythically idealized version of a prior time).

For where nostalgic literature is concerned, the work may be, not a portrait of the times in which it was produced, but compensatory or antithetic to its actual context of situation. Or there arises a related consideration: The work may be a portrait of its author, but the author himself may not have been representative of his period. The vexing consideration in this case is that, without adequate biographical data, we might not be able to judge whether the work should be taken as consistent with the author's temperament or as antithetical to it.

The philosopher George Santayana made an ironic observation about Walt Whitman regarding what we might call the ambiguities of dating a motive. Whitman's promissory idealizing of the future was constructed around a simple scheme whereby his America was at the turning-point between the dying of feudalism (with all its faults) and the growing promissory triumph of democracy. But seizing on the fact that Whitman saw in the ways of the pioneer the very essence of the new era, Santayana pointed out that the very settling of the nation would mark the end of pioneering—and it would follow that Whitman's own promise of the future was itself in effect a kind of idealized nostalgia. There is also the fact that Whitman's ideas of democratic brotherhood contained personal "nonpolitical" connotations of man-love, a source of embarrassment to

some, including himself, and a cause of great encouragement among others of his followers. (As a matter of fact, in order to ease his embarrassment, he invented the fiction of six illegitimate children.)

The political aspects of his democratic gospel, it seems to me, amounted to the celebrating of such a lifestyle as was made possible by the kind of manufactured commodities that one would find listed in a mail-order catalogue for small farms and on sale in the general stores of towns on the make. The element of expansionist hopefulness derived from the effects of the frontier. White immigrants from Europe and their descendants already in America could introduce a way of life that would gradually take from the natives their traditional means of livelihood, resettling the land in keeping with the new technology and its corresponding small-scale capitalism (small-scale certainly as compared with the kinds of organizations we confront now, such as multinational corporations and national conglomerates, or a mixture of the two). It is obvious that such an interpretation of Whitman's literary work, considered as social document, would owe much to sheerly historical data and theory. Yet poems such as "Song of the Broad-Axe," "Song of the Exposition," "Song of the Redwood-Tree," "A Song for Occupations," and "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" clearly bear witness not only to such a situation, but also, as the historical documents themselves could not, build up the feel of such times. In a sense they "spiritualize" the material conditions of their time, with such accents of celebration and Utopian promise as could readily go with thoughts of a continent rich in resources to be exploited.

Whitman's great stress upon invitation to foreign freedom-seeking immigrants almost automatically deflected him from thinking of such movements as an invasion (the view necessarily forced upon the natives by the fact that the settlers not only brought a new way of life, but by the same token, as I have said, took from the Indian aborigines their traditional means of livelihood).

Surely the most troublesome problem in trying to use literature as social document concerns the problem of "proportion." Whenever I think of this issue I recall a remark by a deceased friend and poet, an odd fellow, John Brooks Wheelwright, concerning the nature of ideas. He said that with people who do not have many ideas, an idea can be like the introduction of rabbits into Australia. Since it has no natural enemies, soon it is nearly everywhere. In evaluating traces of a motive, we must also ask of what cluster it is a part, since its effect is reinforced or constrained by the presence or absence and comparative intensity of other motives. That

is to say, a motive is but one ingredient of a motivational recipe. The other ingredients may modify its implications.

Consider, for example, a work such as Dante's Divine Comedy. Would it not represent a notably different cultural complex if there were but the Inferno, the appeal to fear and vengeance by accounts of eternal suffering without hope, as contrasted with the pity theme in the Purgatorio, and the theme of blessedness in the Paradiso?

One problem of proportion with regard to the nature of our society has to do with the disparity between our powers as physical organisms and our powers as magnified by the resources, both technical and organizational, of applied science. The horrors of an Auschwitz derive from a few instructions given by authorities who never went near the place. An overwhelming amount of the damage done by our ingenious, spendthrift, modern weaponry in Vietnam was made possible by humble, orderly, obedient, peacefully behaving job holders, who raise their families in the quiet suburbs, and perhaps do not even spank their children. One bomb dropped, by the merest twitch of a finger, upon a target so far below as to be unseen, can, without the slightest physical effort, do more damage than could have been done by a whole raging hoard of Genghis Khan's invaders exerting themselves like crazy. In such dissociation which, given the current state of technological development, is all about us, there is a kind of built-in schizophrenia. Its disorders also foment guerrilla movements, and I suspect sheer aimless vandalism among puzzled, spirited youths whose energies would otherwise be unemployed.

If there survive in later times a people who care about such a matter or have the material to inquire into it even if they would, let us hope that they can interpret the literature as documents with more assurance than I can now. All I can see, all about me, are the ever mounting problems of technology and the corresponding need for some kind of "global" order, the nearest approaches to which at present are made by the highly problematic multinational corporations. Our history tells us quite a bit about such situations. I am not wholly sure to what extent, and by what explicit or implicit routes, our literature is telling us the same, or something else.

The problems of proportion, as complicated by the resources of analogy, are to be seen from another angle in the case of psychologists who discern the lineaments of cruelty (or verbal sadism) underlying the ingenious distortions in such fantasies as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Yet the nearest we come to anything even remotely violent in the author's actual life was in the occasional use of

his devices as a way of teasing, even to the extent of vexation, the little girl whom he tried to charm, in as remote and recondite and retiring a kind of courtship as is conceivable. Possibly the implicit motivational tangle manifests itself by another route in his tendencies to stammer— and also glancingly in the fact that, although the pseudonymous authorship of this mathematician's "Alice" books was well known, "Lewis Carroll" invariably insisted that "Mr. Dodgson neither claimed nor ac knowledged any connection with the books not published under his name." (I quote from the Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

At this point I am going to risk some paragraphs which are, I fear, not a little unwieldy. I offer them as but a first rough approximation. The sacrificial motive can attain dramatic completion in ideas and images of the kill. Hemingway exploited the kill end of that spectrum. Orthodox religion stresses the sacrificial. Nietzsche's criticism of morals brought out the deviousness whereby vengeance can be manifested in the name of justice, an accountancy that Dante's rationale of the Inferno employs in its way. It is in keeping with the thought that, since God is just, he will sentence to the eternal tortures of damnation only those who deserve such punishment; since they are receiving the punishment they deserve, they deserve no pity. Thus, Nietzsche quotes from the Thomist Summa Theologica: "And the blessed in Heaven shall look upon the sufferings of the damned, that they may love their blessedness the more." In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare works poignantly with the ambiguities of justice and revenge, when Portia abides so strictly by the letter of Shylock's bond that his cry for justice is turned against him.

Construction involves destruction.

In the sense that the building of any order involves the undoing of some previous order, and even a marble used for sculpture must be deprived of the form it had in nature, dialectically these two opposing terms "construction" and "destruction" are so interrelated that we might explicitly feature but one, and leave the other to be only implied. Freud would say in effect that the stress upon the constructive member of the pair involves a "sublimation" of the "aggressively" destructive. In the March 1975 issue of Polish Perspectives, a monthly magazine that I follow with great interest, there is an essay on a contemporary Polish author, director, and designer, Jozef Szajna, whose concerns seem to bear quite radically upon these motivational puzzles. We are told:

The whole of his work is very much of a piece in style, the same themes and obsessions recurring compulsively. The most powerful of these obsessions is the horror of the concentration camp which Szajna experienced at first

hand. As a 17-year-old he passed through the inferno of Auschwitz, being saved only by chance from a group of prisoners being taken to their death. Auschwitz has left its imprint on his whole life and work. In his productions it has grown into a parable of modern times: the apocalypse of civilization, chaos, cleavage and terror. In it he searches for truth, hope and faith in man.

In the article there are two places that particularly engross me with regard to the tangle I am now confronting. With reference to his grim drama Replika, built around the theme of the Auschwitz horrors, it is said of the title that it has two meanings: " ‘Rejoinder’—the answer of an artist who suffered this hell himself—and ‘duplicate’—a reproduction of that world of extermination, art's rendering of justice to the victims and executioners. It is a requiem—of apotheosis for the one and rage for the other." The second passage I would cite is:

Szajna's supreme accomplishment so far is Dante. Here he set out to quarry from The Divine Comedy all that is of contemporary relevance, to build a bridge—as regards style as well as content—between a medieval masterpiece and the present day. In a dramatic pictorial vision, in a frenzy of images of veritably infernal expression, he shows us a true theatre of cruelty, a world which has been turned into a hell, a man who has descended into the pit, who is torn between crime and sanctity, between agony and joy, between the will to create and to destroy.

The playwright's testimony in Replika seems to involve the author's compulsive need to find a symbolic duplication of his intensely traumatic experience as a youth along with a symbolic righting of the balance sheet in terms of justice, some compensatory, some retaliatory. In the Dante, the state of being "torn" between creative and destructive motives seems to derive its generating tension from ways of dramatizing in this way the interrelationship between these contrasting motivational slopes. The moment of confusion between the two, therefore, is itself made the explicit personalized center of what might be otherwise but an impersonally conceived intermediate moment in a dialectical design.

What I was trying to suggest, in those unwieldy paragraphs, was the sheerly terministic problem involved in the thought that the implications of a motive (and thus one might even say the nature of a motive) will vary with the wider motivational complex of which it is a part. Thinking along these lines, I have noted that there is no violence in Faulkner, there are no bullfights in Hemingway. Or an equally available mode of expression would be to say, for instance, that the same intensity of "aggression" is needed to concentrate on a poem in praise of peace as on a poem in praise

of war, or in actual pacific and militaristic enterprises (" reality" itself).

There is also the troublesome fact that a perspective dealing with the motivational implications of a literary work necessarily involves the implicit or explicit choice of a terministic screen. That in turn involves its own peculiar assumptions about the extraliterary motivational " reality" that is the work's "context of situation "either in terms of broad historical trends or in biographical, psychological, personalistic terms for the characterizing of authorship as major causal factor.

We can avoid these problems somewhat by building methodically around the fact that every literary work has its own set of "equations," its explicit and/or implicit ways of saying what equals what. One can establish these by direct reference to the work itself. But even so there is quite a range to choose from. For instance, Marxists could delight in Balzac's novelistically realistic depictions of capitalist " reality," despite his Royalist leanings. And we often hear tell of how heroic the Satan of Paradise Lost became. Or the text itself shows us how a work that started out to satirize Don Quixote could end as an idealization of the motivational principles implied in his nature as a person.

But by and large, there is an ultimate problem: Is it not true that a work tries to be as thoroughly or "efficiently" itself as possible? For over half a century, having in mind Matthew Arnold's plea for literature that would "see life steadily and see it whole," I have been wondering whether, given the conditions of competition as we know it, a work of literature can possibly gain the attention of the market unless it can somehow see life unsteadily and in a partial way saliently its own, though fads may be such that whole herds of artists may swerve in that direction for a time. Modern conditions of production are necessarily unstable in response to the instability due to the still highly partitive and innovative nature of modern technological expansion and inventiveness. Under these circumstances, perhaps the nearest we can come to stability and wholeness is in historical, biographical, and critical "surveys" of the literary field.

Yet beyond all question, within that considerable clutter, our literature is already telling us more than the fact that we are in such a clutter. Already the future is being incipiently symbolized—if we but knew for sure how to interpret it as social document, regarding conditions now, the nostalgically idealized past, the willingly superseded past, and the feared or hoped for future. But above all (and here is how literature now may come closest to "seeing life steadily and seeing it whole"), implicit in all literature

are the traces of what it always has been and always will be to be the kind of animal we shall always be prone to being, so long as our physiology and corresponding ways with symbol-systems remain a constant.

In the enterprises that have to do with trying to spy upon ourselves through the medium of our literature, each of us must be at least two people; one a tentative believer in our speculations, the other an almost total skeptic. So we go on. At least we can know for sure that literature is vatic, that it is, however roundabout, always in fictive ways telling us the truth about ourselves, if we but knew all it is saying about the relation between realism and reality. Given the opportunity, unless we obliterate ourselves, we shall continue to ponder on such matters. We shall do so not only with fear and trembling at the thought of our many errors (the liability to which the great resources of modern technology drastically intensify), but also with pious admiration for the lore of man's collective greatness, as made possible by his aptitude for symbolsystems. What more humane an evidence can we have of such an aptitude than the works, even the lowliest, of our literature?

That would be an advisable place to end, but perhaps it would be best, for purposes of clarity, to sum up by reviewing my main points, with regard to the use of literature as social document:

  1. A given work may be consistent with the author's character or antithetical to it. For instance, I know an author who specializes in gore, yet personally winces at the thought that any person, or any animal, should suffer.
  2. Even if a work does give a fairly consistent portrait of an author, the author may not be representative of his times.
  3. Works may represent not their times, but the idealistically nostalgic.
  4. Works may represent not the typical conditions of their times but the emergent aspect of later times.
  5. There are risks of too temporal an interpretation, since works draw on universal motives too.
  6. The latitudinal nature of analogy makes it possible to make quite different times seem alike, since analogy can feature some one element they have in common.
  7. A work changes its appearance in response to the particular perspective, or frame of reference, in terms of which one views it.

  8. 118
  9. The neglect of formal considerations can lead to false interpretations.
  10. Though the realism of literature does give us the feel of reality, as nonliterary documents cannot, it can provide no assurance that the verisimilitude of a fiction is the same as the truth.
  11. This last point leads into the most important and most elusive problems of all: the extent to which a given work adequately represents the proportion of a given motive, as modified by the proportions of other reinforcing or corrective motives in the context of situation behind the work's literary context. Not only is this the most important problem in our attempt to go from the work's realism to its corresponding reality, but the very nature of literature as a bid for the readers' attention invites kinds of emphasis that are analogous to the function of headlines in the news.

Thus, even a work that managed to meet Matthew Arnold's specification completely, to "see life steadily and see it whole," would but be one more fiction, more representative of itself as a literary triumph than of the overall situation out of which it arose.


This essay originally appeared in Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities, ed. Guy Amirthanagam (London: Macmillan, 1982), 26–47. Reproduced with permission of Palgrave.


2. Logology


6. Archetype and Entelechy


This essay is the second of two lectures delivered by Kenneth Burke at Clark University in 1971 as the Heinz Warner lecturer. Entelechy is an old friend in Burke, going back, as it does, to the early fifties and his work on the dramatistic poetics and the original Symbolic of Motives. Burke borrowed the term from Aristotle and modified it to apply to literary texts, especially tragedy. Later, he expanded its application so that it applied to all symbolic action and became one of the prime functions of language and central concepts of logology. Language, or, perhaps, just the human mind, seeks perfection, is compelled to go to the "end of the line" in its many endeavors. Burke calls this the "entelechial motive" and studies it in text after text. One of the main arguments of his dramatistic poetics is that literature goes to the "end of the line" more often than other kinds of verbal acts and hence is a valuable source of knowledge for the study of humans, the symbol-using animals.

The main argument of this essay is that archetypes are genetic and hence ahistorical. They occur over and over again everywhere in the human world without any evidence anywhere that they have been transmitted from one culture to another. But entelechy, or the entelechial motive, is a function of language and is rooted in history, in a verbal action by a human agent in a specific sociopolitical scene. The entelechial motive is one of the most purely human motives in Burke. In his definition of man, Burke says that we humans are "rotten with perfection." It is language—symbolic action—that makes this motive available to us because the human mind and imagination can freely explore possibilities in the verbal realm that are impossible to explore in the physical realm. This is also true of other forms of symbolic activity—painting, films, music, sculpture, TV, drama— in which reality is transformed into art to create something that never was, which is free of the constraints of brute reality—the laws of physics, of matter, of the time-space continuum.

To put it differently, language is an archetype that makes entelechy possible. We do not know whether language developed simultaneously in different parts of the globe or whether once developed, it was always transmitted and modified as humans colonized the globe. What we do know, and what Burke makes a big point of stressing, is that all normal humans are born with the capacity to learn a language and do learn the language of their tribe in a fabulous feat of memory, which is even more fabulous if they also learn reading and writing. Once humans have language they have entelechy and what goes with it as part of their inheritance.

This germinal, seminal essay provides Burke with many of the key terms and concepts that make up his final, logological body of work.


The previous talk attempted to survey some aspects of my "dramatistic" perspective in general, the particular selection being intended to serve as introduction to a quite different kind of summarization, in the sense that both "archetype" and "entelechy" in themselves designate summarizing principles.[1]

The logic (or logologic) underlying the first talk was this: Nomenclatures are formative, or creative, in the sense that they affect the nature of our observations, by turning our attention in this direction rather than that, and by having implicit in them ways of dividing up a field of inquiry. In this respect, one can in effect "prophesy after the event" by "generating" the nature of the observations from the nature of the terms by which those observations were guided.

On the assumption that Aristotle's nomenclature is highly dramatistic in its essence, there was an earlier draft of the first talk which became overly involved in the minutiae of a dramatistic attempt to "generate" the nomenclature of Aristotle's Poetics. So I excised a lot, though leaving enough (let's hope) to at least illustrate the proposition that, however empirical Aristotle's study of literary specimens had been, his nomenclature had equipped him in advance to "meet them halfway"—and in this sense the nature of his observations could in effect be deduced from the implications of his dramatistic terminology in general.

But, as dramatistic as Aristotle's nomenclature is, it doesn't exhaust the field (surely no human perspective ever will!). Suggestions from such varied sources as Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, and a book by the anthropologist George Thomson, throwing further light on the concept of "catharsis," added unruly considerations that involve ultimately the distinction between "body" and "mind" (or rather, in the dramatistic analogue, the realms of sheer physical motion and symbolic action). Then followed a survey of some methodological statements that I view as basic to the study of a text. And this summarization led to the thought, along somewhat Spinozistic lines, that one could assume absolute determinism in the realm of physical or biological motion, while looking for the ground of "freedom" in the realm of "symbolic action."[2]

I might revert to one other point as regards the first talk, and develop it a bit further. We had considered the "autonomy" of the specialized sciences. What, then, of the " interdisciplinary"? At a time when I happened to be working on precisely that subject, I attended a conference at which one speaker proposed that a certain kind of material should be

treated by combining insights derived from the sciences of anthropology, psychology, and sociology. But which anthropology, which psychology, which sociology? For instance, the speaker recommended borrowings from Freud and Jung, as though they were quite the same thing, and without reference to the fact that often you would have to choose between them. Since each of these three special sciences is marked by much internal controversy among specialists within that field, on what methodological grounds can someone outside any such particular field justify his choice among rival experts within the field?

Usually, the problem is "solved" by not even being considered. You pick from different fields items that you like, as though interdisciplinary decisions were not much different from shopping at a department store—and that's about what it amounts to, so far as the methodology of your choice is concerned.

I say this quite tentatively, but here is the only methodological approach that a dramatistic perspective (with its strongly logological emphasis) would deem possible, when confronting this problem of the interdisciplinary: One thing common to all the specialized sciences is the fact that each specialist uses some kind of terminology. If, then, you specifically subscribe to some one overall nomenclature, or theory of terminology in general, any choice you make from among competing specialists outside your field can be methodologically justified in terms of your particular overall terministic perspective.

True, an opponent may not subscribe to the particular model in terms of which the given decision is rationalized. But at least, specific methodological grounds for that decision have been offered. And if he would reject it by proper methodological procedure, then let him propound or subscribe to some other perspective, and justify his decision in terms of that. Only thus, so far as I can see, is it possible to justify one interdisciplinary combination rather than another on a methodological basis.

On the other hand, as regards the "generating" of a choice, if one does have an overall nomenclature, and if one justifies picking a certain aspect of Freud rather than Jung, or vice versa, the choice is in effect as though one's particular perspective had "generated" that observation which one actually owes to someone else, but which in principle is "derived" from the perspective on the grounds of which the borrowing took place.

The thought may help clarify what I mean by the self-appointed task of prophesying after the event," or in principle "generating" a text, as with my article "The First Three Chapters of Genesis" (reprinted in The

Rhetoric of Religion [1961]), where in effect I "derive" the text dramatistically from a "Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of ‘Order.’ "

These were afterthoughts concerned with the previous talk. But let's turn now to the topic scheduled for this evening, "Archetype and Entelechy."

Jumping into the very middle of the issue, let us consider the matter of the "entelechy" with reference to the "archetype" or "prototype" of the "primal crime" which Freud associates with his concept of the Oedipus complex.

Recall in the Poetics the passage where Aristotle is discussing the kinds of situation best suited to serve as a theme for tragedy. The tragic calamity, he says, should involve conflicts among intimates. For instance, "When brother kills brother, or a son kills his father, or a mother her son, or a son his mother—either kills, or intends to kill."

It is hard to find an exact translation of the word I have translated as "intimates." Butcher's version is "someone near and dear." The Loeb edition uses "friends." The word is etymologically of the same root as the word for "love" in the Rhetoric, though all the examples there given happen to concern intimacy among males.

Regrettably, Freud never (to my knowledge) commented on the passage I have quoted with regard to Aristotle's variations on the theme of tragic killing. Also, with relation to the great emphasis Freud placed upon one of Aristotle's situations (in which son kills father), it is interesting to note that Aristotle omitted from his list the theme of father killing son. Yet the very tragedies he was dealing with were especially partial to myths deriving from the curse on the house of Atreus, a kind of dynastic "original sin" descending from a ruse whereby a father unknowingly ("unconsciously"?) ate the hearts of his two sons. For all Freud's emphasis on the fatherkill, it's worth remembering that the prime instance of the sacrificial motive in the Old Testament is the story of Abraham's pious willingness to sacrifice Isaac. And the entire logic of the New Testament is built about the story of a divine father who deliberately sent his son on a mission to be crucified.

To this extent, whereas the basic lines of Western thought come to a focus in variations on the theme of son, rather than father, as prime sacrificial figure, out of the several combinations that Aristotle mentions as ideal conditions for tragic victimage Freud's stress upon one Sophoclean tragedy, Oedipus Rex (to which Aristotle also was highly partial, though for quite different reasons) deflected our attention from both the sheer poetics of the case and the infanticidal implications in other tragic recipes.


In The Rhetoric of Religion I consider reasons why the sacrificial principle itself is integral to the social order. Thus where Aristotle had asked what would be the perfect kinds of character for tragedy as a literary mode, one might rephrase the question by asking, "What would be the ‘perfect imitated victim’?" The distinction between the tragic imitation of victimage as a source of poetic pleasure and the engrossment with actual victimage would be the difference between the Athenian theater and the Roman gladiatorial contest. Newspapers and documentary broadcasts appeal in a kind of intermediate realm by a record (thus a symbolizing) of real victimage. The thought suggests why the poetic imitation of imaginary pitiable situations involves in itself a certain degree of "purgation." All told, we encounter here some tangled relationships among the actual, the documentary copy, and the artistic imitation.

Be that as it may, the issue comes to a focus in questions about the recipe for perfect victimage—and by "entelechy" I refer to such use of symbolic resources that potentialities can be said to attain their perfect fulfillment. We shall come upon this notion by various routes. Aristotle's Poetics is a handy benchmark for our survey since it proceeds in this spirit, asking what form of plot would best fulfill the tragic telos, what kind of situation, what kind of characters and what kind of style. Whereupon, by comparison and contrast (and here at last I'm jumping in medias res!) I would quote a passage from my "Definition of Man" (reprinted in Language as Symbolic Action, 1966):

In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (near the end of Chapter 5) Freud explicitly calls upon us "to abandon our belief that in man there dwells an impulse towards perfection, which has brought him to his present heights of intellectual prowess and sublimation." Yet a few sentences later in that same closing paragraph, we find him saying, "The repressive instinct never ceases to strive after its complete satisfaction." But are not these two sentences mutually contradictory? For what could more clearly represent an "impulse to perfection" than a "striving" after "complete satisfaction"? (17)

The alternative that Freud offers is his concept of the "repetition compulsion," which he also calls a "destiny compulsion." It is decidedly not within my competence to dispute Freud's concept itself, as designation for a psychopathic tendency to relive some prior traumatic situation by so confronting a totally different set of later circumstances that they are interpreted by the sufferer in terms of the original painfully formative situation. I am far from disputing the likelihood of such a tendency. I am but proposing to consider how it looks, as viewed in the light of an "entelechial" principle having wider functions than the manifestations

with which Freud is here concerned. If I may give myself another chance to make my point, please let me quote this further statement of the case:

Is not the sufferer exerting almost superhuman efforts in the attempt to give his life a certain form, so shaping his relations to people in later years that they will conform perfectly to an emotional or psychological pattern already established in some earlier formative situation? What more thorough illustration could one want, of a drive to make one's life "perfect," despite the fact that such efforts at perfection might cause the unconscious striver great suffering?

Without casting the slightest doubt upon Freud's concept of a psychopathic tendency, or temptation, to endow wholly different people with imputed roles corresponding to the actual roles that other persons had played in the original inflicting of the psychic wound, we could view such a compulsion as an "entelechial" or "perfectionist" motive if we but "widen the concept of perfection to the point where we can also use the term ironically, as when we speak of a ‘perfect fool’ or a ‘perfect villain.’ " Thus: "The Nazi version of the Jew, as developed in Hitler's Mein Kampf, is the most thorough-going instance of such ironic ‘perfection’ in recent times, though strongly similar trends keep manifesting themselves in current controversies between ‘East’ and ‘West.’ "

By adopting a general logological approach to a "compulsive" situation which Freud confronts from his specifically psychoanalytic point of view, one would add considerations of this sort: A traumatic experience can, as it were, endow a person with a key terminology, in terms of which he frames his attitude towards life—and the terminology can shape what he comes to expect of people in keeping with the tenor of that attitude. Simplest example: An overly trusting person who was rudely betrayed, and who (in line with the proverb, "once burned, twice shy") might thenceforth so expect betrayal as in effect to invite betrayal. And such an attitude can also function as a kind of "generating principle," in the sense that a dramatist, when organizing a play designed to embody such an attitude, would develop a cast of characters so related to one another that, as these relationships unfolded in the development of the plot, one particular character who came close to standing for the author himself could end in the attitude of embitterment which I have called a "generating principle" behind the relationships among such a cast of characters. And all the main characters would be what we could call "key terms" involved in the forming of the summational attitude.

Turn now to a corresponding situation in real life. The cast of characters, in their nature as "key terms," would act as a "repetition compulsion"

insofar as the sufferer experienced his embittered attitude in terms of precisely such figures (which had originally worked together so "perfectly" towards the traumatic forming of the attitude). One necessarily forms one's experience and expectations in terms of something or other, even if one is not working formally or deliberately with such structures of interrelated terms as is the case with philosophers, dramatists, and the like. A traumatic experience can serve to select such a set of key terms, which will then act as a basic nomenclature, with implications corresponding to their roles in connection with the original (and originating) traumatic experience involved in their selection as key terms.

A "repetition compulsion" would be manifest in any subsequent tendency to view new circumstances and persons in terms of the original dramatic personae (hence assigning roles whereby the sufferer unconsciously so imagines or interprets wholly different people as to make them fit the pattern of his original and originating distress). The same process would be "entelechial" or "perfectionist" in the ironic sense of the term, insofar as the sufferer was in effect striving to impose a "perfect" form by using the key terms of his formative wound as a paradigm.

Exactly how, then, would the entelechial principle figure here, with regard to the Freudian archetype of the "primal crime"? You are, let us say, trying to sum up the nature of the monogamistic, patriarchal family as you conceive of it. If you are a Freud your summational paradigm will be formed in terms of the tensions that you consider intrinsic to the family structure. These tensions would strike you as being of such a nature that they would attain perfect representative fruition in a kind of development and fulfillment whereby the sons joined forces, murdered their father, and took possession of the women.

Freud would be the first to recognize that so perfect a pattern of family outbursts was never found in any single one of his cases. But if you viewed family tensions in principle, this is the kind of culmination that would be the perfect representative expression of the tensions he viewed as intrinsic to the family structure.

This entelechial, summational, culminative, or paradigmatic version of what is ultimately implied in the nature of family tensions is not viewed as a state to be fulfilled in time. There is no attempt to postulate that so thoroughgoing an outcome will actually happen to families.

On the contrary, the culminative principle represented in the hypothesis of the fatherkill is transferred to the prehistoric past, along with subsequent corrective ambiguities whereby one is left a bit uncertain as to whether such a convulsion in the "primal horde" actually did take place,

thereby leaving "indestructible traces upon the history of human descent." For when anthropologists objected that they found no evidence of such an event, the formulation of this design, perfect in its simplicity, was defended by Freud as a "hypothesis" which might still be deemed "creditable" insofar as it "proves able to bring coherence and understanding into more and more new regions."

In this respect "archetypes" or "prototypes" can be mythic ways of formulating entelechial implications (or possible summings-up in principle) by translating them into terms of a vaguely hypothetical past.

Entelechially, you might say, "Given such-and-such a family structure, you can expect to find such-and-such tensions. And these tensions would so add up that, if they were perfectly expressed in all simplicity, they would culminate in the outburst which Freud epitomizes in his archetype of the ‘primal crime.’ " Thus, what was really not temporal at all, but was the idealizing or the imaginative and conceptual perfecting of a situation that, in its actual temporal variants as recorded and analyzed in case histories, fell far short of such paradigmatic clarity, got vaguely attributed to the prehistoric past. Here was an area where nineteenth-century evolutionary historicism led to quasi-scientific derivations that were in form much like primitive creation myths, as when a tribe derives its present nature from some primal, mythic ancestral past.

This is a process that in my Grammar of Motives (1945) I call the "temporizing of essence." But my fullest treatment of it is in The Rhetoric of Religion, the section entitled "The First Three Chapters of Genesis," where the process operates along these lines: By the very fact of setting up an order, you make men potentially transgressors. For you give orders only to the kind of being who might possibly disobey them. Thus, order makes man in principle subject to temptation. (Otherwise put: Saint Paul said that the law made sin, Jeremy Bentham said that the law makes crime.) Myth (story) translates statements about principles into archetypal, quasi-temporal terms, quite as the Latin and Greek words principium and arché, respectively, mean "beginning" in the sense of both temporal priority and logical priority (or "first principles"). Hence, the mythic or narrative or archetypally quasi-historical ways of saying that "the setting up of an order makes man in principle subject to temptation" is to tell how the first man said no to the first thou-shalt-not imposed upon him by the first and foremost authority.

This process gets things reversed, as Marx says about "ideology." Thus, mythically, "Romulus" was the eponymous founder of "Rome," whereas etymologically the derivation was exactly the reverse.


This quasi-temporal nature of "archetypes" is to be seen in a halfway stage as regards the Platonic doctrine of "anamnesis." Many primitive languages arose, flourished, and died without ever being formally reduced to such principles of grammar and syntax as we expect not only in studies of classical idioms like Latin and Greek, but even of tribal tongues that anthropologists codify though the natives themselves have no such compilations. In actual practice, a missionary or explorer or fieldworker who formulates such a structure begins with the language as he hears it spoken, then gradually codifies the grammatical and syntactical rules that are implicit in the conventions of its usage. However, once he has built up such paradigms, there is a sense in which they are formally "prior" to their application in particular cases. For they are at a level of generalization, or abstraction, whereby each such principle can first be formulated as a title or class name under which endless individual examples, some actually recorded, others possible, could be included.

Along those lines, one can readily imagine a Platonic dialogue in which Socrates, by adept questioning, proves that no matter how naive a member of the tribe might be, in but properly abiding by the conventions of his given dialect he is at heart an expert grammarian without knowing it. Insofar as the verbs of his language were reducible to several conjugations, for instance, and the speaker spontaneously exemplified the rules to which a grammarian has reduced all such conjugations, mere questioning could establish the fact that the speaker knew by which paradigm, or set of rules, a given verb was to be conjugated, how its forms should end if active, if passive, how it should be modified if changed from past to future, or from first person to second person, and so on.

Where, then, did this "innate" knowledge of such grammatical "archetypes" come from? If such principles are logically "prior" in the sense that any such classification of rules can be viewed grammatically as "preceding" all possible examples of usages classifiable under that given head, and if this purely technical kind of "priority" is stated in temporal terms, then it follows that this unconscious grammarian, who knew more than he knew he knew, must have experienced such "pure" forms (or archetypes) in a stage of temporally prior existence. And by adroit questioning, Socrates is helping him to "remember" when he had experienced them in their "pure" state (which any particular examples partake of "imperfectly").

As a current instance of how readily an uncritical use of the archetypal can get things backwards, consider this dialectical distortion in Norman

O. Brown's book, Loves Body (1966): Dialectics involves the two principles of composition and division (unity and plurality, generalization and specification). An instance of division would be terms for distinguishing between the sexes, or a distinction between earth and sky viewed as distinct motivational realms. But here's how quickly Brown can twist that normal resource of terminology into quasi-vatic nonsense:

Division, duality, two sexes. … Dual organization is sexual organization. … The prototype of all opposition or contrariety is sex. The prototype of the division into two sexes is the separation of earth and sky, Mother Earth and Father Sky, the primal parents.

"Prototype" here does the trick. Go along with such maneuvers, and you let yourself in for total obfuscation. To say that "sex is dialectical" would pass well enough, in the sense that an act of copulation in effect "unifies" the duality of the sexual partners. But give Brown his way with the archetypes (or prototypes, he uses both words), and things get reversed whereby dialectics is sexual; specifically, "Every sentence is dialectics, an act of love." Thus in effect a quite viable proposition, "sex is dialectical" gets archetypally transformed into "dialectics is sexual." And whereas it would be reasonable enough to say that sex relations can be discussed in terms of unity and division, Brown's ideological reversal gives us what would amount to saying that the principles of unity and division (applications of which are available to all language systems) are but special cases of sex, earth, and sky.

A related temptation is to be seen in Freud's comments on "condensation" and "displacement" as exemplified in the symbolism of dreams. Freud shows clearly enough how such operations take place in dreamsymbols. Yet such resources of substitution are by no means confined to the language of dreams or neurosis. There is a kind of displacement if I use a symbol for an equation in mathematics, or translate a German sentence into French. And any step to a higher level of generalization involves a kind of condensation, as "siblings" includes both "brother" and "sister," and "parents" condenses "mother" and "father." There are times when such "normal" resources of symbolization can raise trouble. But we'd get things backwards if we derived displacement and condensation from dreams, rather than seeing in dream-symbols special applications of these wider symbolic resources.

If you ever run across the winter 1971 issue of Salmagundi, a little magazine published under the aegis of Skidmore College, please take a glance at my article, "Doing and Saying," concerned with a process of

"mythic doubling." It begins with a hypothetical distinction between one man who is going through the material operations of harvesting a crop, and another who, being an expert in the ways of symbolic action, provides a ritual counterpart by singing a harvest song, with appropriate choreography.

In one sense we are all myth-men, insofar as no important incident in our lives seems quite complete (that is, entelechially perfected) unless some expert in the resources of mythopoeia has rounded things out with a mythic counterpart. There we see the rudiments of what I mean by the entelechial principle. The important consideration is not where such mythic completions come from geographically, but what they add up to symbolically.

True, since any given ritual has developed through time, an account of its historical development is a wholly proper inquiry. Thus Aristotle's early chapters in his Poetics are concerned with the incunabula of tragedy prior to the era when it attained its "finished" form, as defined in Chapter 6, where he gives his definition, and thereafter in effect "derives" his analysis by working out the kind of observations that were implicit in that definition. Similarly, along with the possible history of a ritual's development, we might generate it " nontemporally," in principle, from the dramatistic analysis of mythopoeia itself, viewed as a species of symbolic action.

For instance, any recurrent ritual is a narrative prephilosophic mode of classification, insofar as it in effect includes many different temporal events under the same head. And it becomes entelechial, or perfectionist, as in the case of a ceremony that, in effect classifying a whole group of initiates under the same head, thereby transcends their nature as individuals. By the ceremony they are "perfected" in the sense that, regardless of what they variously might be, they are being considered from the standpoint of one particular absolute principle, namely, their identity and corresponding reidentification, as initiates. In all likelihood this entelechial aspect of the case will show up in terms of a myth relating the incident to some imputed primal past.

Perhaps it should also be pointed out that the culminative aspect of the entelechial principle is not confined to symbolic structures that have the quality of summaries and paradigms. It can also come to a focus in the symbolizing of an attitude, since attitudes possess a summarizing quality. Similarly an attitude towards a situation can be developed in terms of a narrative that sums up a situation not by discussing the situation as such, but by depicting a thoroughgoing response to it. One can discern this element by thinking of the contrast between a discussion of

family tensions as such and Freud's dramatic anecdote about the "primal crime" that he proposed as the archetype of family tension.

Surely the purely formal, entelechial principle is an important motivational ingredient in system-building types of insanity. The person who has built up an elaborate structure of persecution has a kind of psychic treasure which could not be renounced without a sense of great impoverishment, despite the suffering that may be connected with it. I know of one case where an almost "air-tight" fantasy of deception, involving many members of a family, had been worked out. But one person whom the sufferer still inclined to trust broke the perfect symmetry. Then, lo! this person died—and immediately the sufferer began putting new light on certain things that had been said, remarks that came to be interpreted as a kind of deathbed confession about the suspected plottings of all the others. I told the ardent system-builder: "In the first place, I am sure that your whole scheme is all wrong. In the second place, on the basis of what I know about the deceased I think you must be misremembering—for I believe that, even if all this were true, the deceased is not the kind of person who would have told you. However, you have built up such a case, I realize how empty the world would seem if you abandoned it. So don't abandon it. And since you are a writer, write it up. Make all the characters involved even more egregiously a set of monsters than you now think them to be. Modify the details in a fiction that deliberately perfects the conspiracy." I won't flatter myself with the assumption that my advice was taken—but there is a vast amount of writing that gets done exactly thus. And my claim is, of course, that Freud's dramatic "archetypal" fulfillment of family tensions in terms of a quasi-prehistoric criminal outburst is so to be entelechially understood.

In one draft of these talks, I began by an ironic exemplifying of the entelechial principle before the principle itself had been discussed. Borrowing the title of William Ernest Henley's "Invictus" (the poem that rings out so challengingly, "I am the master of my fate, / The captain of my soul") I proposed to give such thoughts of invincibility this turn:

If things are bad, and I can't make them better,
then all the more I'll be mine own begetter.
Adversity shall be my universe,
making me free to act to make things worse.

In this regard, satire can exemplify a strongly entelechial bent. Whereas certain ills that beset our society can become so depressing that we would gladly close our minds to them, satire as a stylistic strategy can so turn

things around that we get a smiling variant of the essentially grotesque perversity embodied in my "Invictus" lines. That is, whereas we might, without a twist, write a catalogue of our society's ills (and the more thorough it was, the more depressed we'd be, so that our only choice would be between welcoming despair and seeking distraction), satire can so change the rules that we have a quite different out. The satirist can set up a situation whereby his text can ironically advocate the very ills that are depressing us—nay more, he can "perfect" his presentation by a fantastic rationale that calls for still more of the maladjustments now besetting us. For satire can find ways of making reductions to absurdity look like logical conclusions, surely an entelechial pursuit, and of a sort that allows for the sheer accent of "accentuating the positive" atop implications quite negative. Later I shall say a few more words on this point. Meanwhile, let us consider a different, but related, mode of summarization.

As regards the ultimate philosophic problems imposed upon us by the high development of technology, they seem now to culminate in some kind of confrontation between "Humanism" and "Technologism." At various times in the history of Western thought, "Humanism" has been defined by a close relation to different adversaries or partners. Some brands of Humanism, for instance, have been antithetical to Supernaturalism, others have contended that human personality must be grounded in a transcendent principle of personality. Or there was the Humanism of Neoclassicism, grounded in ancient Greek and Latin texts. Marxist Humanism is integrally associated with secular socialism. Today, it seems to me, our quandaries sum up as the need for a kind of Humanism that would be defined as antithetical to "Technologism."

"Technologism" itself would be a term provided by its Humanistic opponent. As distinct from mere technology, "Technologism" would be built upon the assumption that the remedy for the problems arising from technology is to be sought in the development of ever more and more technology. That blithe spirit, Buckminster Fuller, would be one of its high priests. Land developers whose prowess as promoters is a national disaster where considerations of ecology are concerned would be on the dismal end of such a hierarchy. It would seem that, until quite recently, the Army Corps of Engineers has been desolatingly Technologistic in its policies and practices—but things are changing somewhat. For instance, after having done much havoc as regards the Tocks Island project on the Delaware, it is now apparently considering an adverse report by an authority that it itself had appointed.

Humanism, as so conceived, would look especially askance at the typical

promoter's ideal of a constant rapid increase in the consumption of "energy" (though perhaps it is a trend that the whole "logic" of investment comes close to making imperative). And an anti-Technologistic Humanism would be "animalistic" in the sense that, far from boasting of some privileged human status, it would never disregard our humble, and maybe even humiliating, place in the totality of the natural order.

But I spoke of "entelechies" in the satiric sense. In the winter 1971 issue of The Sewanee Review I tried an exercise of that sort. And the idea started from the subject of "energy." On one of the all-night radio programs with which I sometimes while away insomniac hours, I heard an ardent proponent of Technologism (an anima naturaliter Technologistica) ridiculing reactionary idealists who kept asking whether it might be possible to clear up the pollution in Lake Erie. They should look forward, not back, he said—and rather than trying to clean up Lake Erie, they should pollute it ten times as much, then find a way to extract from its wastes a new kind of energy.

Hehadtheangle. Invictus! "Adversity shall be my universe, making me free to act to make things worse." We now have the resources to let loose and freely pollute the entire world, while building a Perfectly Air-Conditioned Culture-Bubble on the Moon. An ideal Womb-Heaven (I called it "Helhaven"), made possible by man's momentous advances in technology—hence,the Ultimate Culmination,Edenand the Towerinone.

And I had my ending, too. You recall William Jennings Bryan's famous speech in behalf of free silver, where he ended on a posture befitting his final, perorating words: "Crucified on a Cross of Gold." I saw a way of ending my exercise (which I also used in a public talk) on not just one posture, but a succession of three, as with my "finalizing" lines:

Let there be no turning back of the clock. Or no turning inward. Our Vice-President has rightly cautioned: No negativism. We want AFFIRMATION—TOWARDS HELHAVEN.



To guard against a possible misunderstanding, I might point out: Both Aristotle's concept of the entelechy and its modified role in Leibnizian "monadology" use the term in ways that could be applied to any being or "substance," such as an amoeba or a tree, or even some one particular pebble viewed as being moved to fulfill the potentialities peculiar to its kind.

In these pages no such universal metaphysical application of the term is considered. We are concerned solely with a "logological" tendency intrinsic to the resources of symbolic action. If it does figure in the realm of sheer motion, the discussion of it in that respect would require quite different modes of observation and analysis.

Also, whatever may be our objections to an uncritical use of the term "archetype," it is in its way as dramatistic as the term "entelechy." The terms are allies, in their antithetical relation to behavioristic reductionism; and in this respect the areas they cover greatly overlap.

And as we must be on guard lest the "temporizing of essence" in the term "archetype" gets tied up with notions of a quasi-historical past, so there are risks that the concept of the entelechy may take on quasifuturistic assumptions, by reason of the fact that the potentialities of a perfected symbol-system can be made to seem too "clearly" like the proclaiming of a predestined era still to come.

Such "millenarian" possibilities are exploited rhetorically in the burlesqued, élitist Utopianism of the Helhaven project, which alas! comes close to being technologically feasible; and it is already with us "in principle" whenever promoters, by projects that are disastrous to some aspect of the world's ecological balance, can buy themselves an estate in an area not yet thus ravaged.


The dialectical design underlying the entelechial principle (in our strictly "logological" sense of the term) can be summed up thus:

  1. There is the thing, bread.
  2. There is the corresponding word, "bread."
  3. Language being such as it is, with no trouble at all I can make up the expression, "perfect bread."
  4. We may disagree as to which bread could properly be called "perfect."
  5. A mean man, or a dyspeptic, or a philosopher might even deny that in this world there can be such a thing as "perfect bread."
  6. Nevertheless, theologians can speak of God as the ens perfectissimum, and the expression "perfect bread" is a secular counterpart of such dialectical resources.

  7. 136
  8. Nay more. Even if there is no such thing as perfect bread in actuality, I can consider bread from the standpoint of perfect bread "in principle."

Whereupon I confront these quite different alternatives:

  1. "Here is some perfect bread"; or
  2. "As compared with perfect bread, this bread I am offering you is a dismal substitute"; or
  3. "I can assure you that, humble as it is, this bread represents perfect bread in principle." (It "stands for the spirit of perfect bread.")

In effect, Freud's "Just-So Story" of the primalkill combines clauses 6 and 10. It is the ideally culminative exemplar of the monogamistic situation he would analyze (or in terms of which he would analyze his patients). But he would consider any particular case as but a partial instance of such a pattern, or paradigm.


We might throw further light on the subject by considering how the issue looks, as regards Joseph Fontenrose's book Python, a Study of Delphic Myth and its Origins (1959). In an essay, "Myth, Poetry, and Philosophy" (reprinted in Language as Symbolic Action), I use this book as a point of departure for several lines of speculation not directly germane to our present concerns. But it might be mentioned here because of its concern with the "origins" of what the author called the "combat myth." For the discussion obviously involves two quite different kinds of origin: (1) the possible transformations of the myth in the course of time, along with the likely steps of its geographic diffusion; (2) a paradigm summarizing the main themes of the combat myth, in its nature as a story with beginning, middle, and end.

My essay was designed to show how this second kind of origin has nothing to do with temporal succession, but is essentially concerned with such purely formal principles as the first of these two talks discussed with reference to Aristotle's Poetics. In effect the paradigm which Fontenrose sets up, and which all the many versions of the myth are said to exemplify somewhat but not totally, is like Aristotle's definition of tragedy. For it considers all cases in the summarizing terms of a "perfect"

combat myth which must be conceptualized, or idealized, with corresponding rules, regardless of the fact that no one "perfect" instance of the pattern need be offered as justification for all the clauses and subdivisions (amounting to forty-three in all) that are included in Fontenrose's all-inclusive list. However, a paradigm of this sort is obviously at a much lower level of generalization than the definition of tragedy in the Poetics.

Also, besides observations analogous to Aristotle's concern with the perfection of tragedy as a form, a somewhat adventitious scenic (or "environmentalist") test of "perfection" had to be introduced when we consider the fact that the champion of the combat is said to have "instituted cult, ritual, festival, and built a temple for himself." In this regard, as distinct from asking just what might be the principles of a "perfect" combat myth (in the sense that Fontenrose's paradigm embodies Aristotle's preference for a "complex" plot with peripety), I felt the need to introduce a kind of Darwinian speculation, by asking exactly how a combat myth, whatever its origins, might happen to be a "perfect" candidate for survival in connection with a cult. We'd here confront the difference between the combat myth's "perfection" sheerly as a form of story, and its nature as a contribution to the sanctioning of the offices performed by the specific priesthood with which one version or another of the myth happened to be identified. For instance, a myth might have special survival value if it was associated with a cult which had perfected rituals for, as it were, "causing" spring to return in the springtime, summer in the summertime, and so on. That is, the best conditions for establishing the authority of a priesthood's magic would be those involving the regularities rather than the uncertainties of nature. And such conditions would be fulfilled insofar as a cult and its corresponding myth became associated with sky-gods, and thus with the annually repeated cycle of the seasons, and the gradually accumulating lore about the recurrent configurations of the heavens. A myth could be perfectly formed as regards poetic tests of perfection, without having this added "Darwinian" kind of aptitude that happened to endow it with summationally cosmic connotations of authority.


This essay originally appeared in Dramatism and Development (Barr, Mass: Clark University Press, 1972), 33–62.

1. Dramatism and Development consists of two essays. The title of the first

is "Biology, Psychology, Words." The essay reprinted here is the second of the two.

2. In the Journal of Social Issues for October 1962 there is an article, "The Image of Man," by Isidor Chein, which led to a controversy ideal for our purposes. Dr. Chein's overurgent aim to celebrate the dignity of Man as an "active" being tricks him into using but half a dialectic, thereby totally overlooking the states of passivity to which this "active" being is prone (as per the many pages "On Human Bondage" in Spinoza's Ethics). The subject is summed up in my Language as Symbolic Action (1966), 58–62.


7. (Nonsymbolic) Motion / (Symbolic) Action


The dualism of this title provides Kenneth Burke with the main opposition that organizes many of his later essays. But the dualism is not so simple nor so stark as it might seem from the title. People act; things move. We can have body without mind (language); but no mind without body. All symbolic action originates in a body and must carry traces of that body in whatever form it is preserved— say, in a printed text. It is by means of human action that we transform nature or pure "motion" and the world of things. But conversely, the body powerfully affects the mind as does nature and things, and vice versa. So we have a powerful dualism but not a separation, and never a monism. Many primitive people carried this dualism into all of their relationships with the nonhuman world. Animals, trees, places had spirit as well as matter.

Burke has insisted on an absolute distinction between these two realms because he wants to place such a heavy burden upon language and the realm of symbolic action. He even argues in reverse that things are inspirited with language and that there is no such thing as an unmediated (by language) experience of things and nature. To name something, which we have done to everything so far discovered on earth and in those parts of the cosmos which we can "see" or photograph, is to transform it into a term and insert it into the logological realm where it can be manipulated according to the logological principles everywhere at work in the realm of symbolic action. Burke's prime example of this is his "bread" illustration. Starting with actual bread, he reviews what we can do to this material object once it has become the term "bread," or the word for the thing. It finally enters the entelechial realm as "perfect bread"—a pure symbolic realm that can never be defined because it does not exist, and there could be thousands, perhaps millions of "perfect" breads. This is the realm of subjectivity and relativism—both real problems for Burke. Imagine trying to decide on the "perfect text" or the "perfect place" or the "perfect mate" or the "perfect steak." It is easy enough to establish a hierarchy within any of these categories, but unless one is talking about God, there seems to be nowhere to stop. Perfection is a moveable feast with no upper limit or an opposite bottom limit. Only the hierarchy remains.

Are there degrees of perfection? Maybe, but they would change with the observer, and unless one posits an absolute timeless realm, as in Plato, or an absolute, eternal, all powerful realm, as in Christianity, there seems to be no stopping point for entelechial speculations, just more analyses of symbolic action. As Burke points out many times, no two things are exactly alike. This provides him with a neat concept of individualization, individuality, and uniqueness, but

it terrorizes the entelechial principle, making the application of it always fraught with irony, ambiguity, enigma, further complications within further complications.


This is the basic polarity (like the traditional pair res and verba, things and the words for things).

It's at the root of such distinctions as mind-body, spirit-matter, superstructure-substructure, and Descartes' dualism, thought and extension.

I say "at the root of such distinctions" though no such terms quite match the motion-action pair.

Thus we can begin by logologically secularizing the theological (Thomist) view of "matter" as the "principle of individuation."

The human body, in its nature as a sheerly physiological organism, would thus be in the realm of matter, for which our term is "motion."

In that respect it would be like a fish or a tree or one of B. F. Skinner's operationally conditioned pigeons.

But the use of such resources as a tribal language would be in the realm of "action."

Action, as so defined, would involve modes of behavior made possible by the acquiring of a conventional, arbitrary symbol system, a definition that would apply to modes of symbolicity as different as primitive speech, styles of music, painting, sculpture, dance, highly developed mathematical nomenclatures, traffic signals, road maps, or mere dreams (insofar as a dream is interpretable as "symbolic" of the dreamer's "psyche," or whatever such term a psychologist might prefer to work with).

Thus this present use of language is an example of symbolic action in which we variously participate by means of a "conventional, arbitrary symbol system"—this particular brand of English.

Since the overall topic of the conference at which the substance of this talk was originally given was "Self and Culture," I take it that "Self" is meant to designate in some sense what has here been referred to as the "principle of individuation."


I take it that, even if the "Self" were thought to merge into the "Culture" as a whole, each member of the "Culture" would be thought of as having in some way a "Self" different from each and every other member.

It would be grounded in the realm of nonsymbolic motion and would mature into what one would call a "person" in the realm of symbolic action.

So far as is known at present, the only typically symbol-using animal existing on Earth is the human organism.

The intuitive signaling systems in such social creatures as bees and ants would not be classed as examples of symbolic action.

They are not conventional, arbitrary symbol systems such as human speech, which is not inborn but has to be learned depending upon where the child happens to be "thrown," an accident of birth that determines whether the child learns Chinese, or French, or whatever idiom may prevail in the given locality.

Symbol systems of that sort also differ from intuitive signaling systems in that they have a second-level (or "reflexive") aspect.

That is to say: they can talk about themselves.

Cicero could both orate and write a treatise on oratory. A dog can bark but he can't bark a tract on barking.

If all typically symbol-using animals (that is, humans) were suddenly obliterated, their realm of symbolic action would be correspondingly obliterated.

The Earth would be but a realm of planetary, geologic, meteorological motion, including the motions of whatever nonhuman biologic organisms happened to survive.

The realm of nonsymbolic motion needs no realm of symbolic action; but there could be no symbolic action unless grounded in the realm of motion, the realm of motion having preceded the emergence of our symbol-using ancestors; and doubtless the time will come when motions go on after all our breed will have vanished.

With regard to the theory of evolution, obviously critical conditions for the emergence of Culture arose at that stage in the prehistoric past when our anthropoid ancestors underwent a momentous mutation.


In their bodies (as physiological organisms in the realm of motion) there developed the ability to learn the kind of tribal idiom that is here meant by "symbolic action."

And thereby emerged what we might call a "mechanism" for the steps from nonsymbolic motion to symbolic action.

Descartes, in his speculations on a possible bridge between his polar realms of "thought" and "extension," proposed the possibility that a small gland in the brain, the pineal gland, might provide the medium.

But with regard to the materials for an intermediate step between the realms of "motion" and "action" we need not look for so recondite a locus.

The necessary materials are implicit in the physiological nature of sensation.

In his early essay on "Nature," Emerson described the process transcendentally, tender-mindedly thus:

Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history; the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation. Every word which is used to express a moral or intellectual fact, if traced to its root, is found to be borrowed from some material appearance. Right means straight; wrong means twisted; Spirit primarily means wind; transgression the crossing of a line; supercilious, the raising of the eyebrow. We say the heart to express emotion, the head to denote thought; and thought and emotion are words borrowed from sensible things, and now appropriated to spiritual nature.

Jeremy Bentham would deal with considerations of this sort, perhaps not tough-mindedly but at least matter-of-factly thus:

All our psychological ideas are derived from physical ones—all mental from corporeal ones. In no other manner can they be spoken of. … In the case where to the object thus spoken of, existence is actually an object of one of the five senses, and in particular of the sense of touch or feeling … here there is no fiction—as this man, this beast, this bird. … The object spoken of may be a real entity.

On the other hand in the case in which the object is not a tangible one, the object, the existence of which is thus asserted, not being a real existing one, the object, if it must be termed an entity—as on pain of universal and perpetual non-intercourse between man and man, it must be—it may, for distinction's sake, be termed a fictitious entity.


To every word that has an immaterial import there belongs, or at least did belong, a material one. In a word, our ideas coming, all of them, from our senses,… from what other source can our language come?

Thus, if we say that a given object leans at an inclination of thirty degrees, in Bentham's sense we should not be applying a fiction. But a fictitious expression enters when we say that a person has an "inclination" to do such-and-such.

Or a "corporeal" reference, such as "this object is so many feet distant from that object" would differ from a "fictitious" reference to the "great distance" between A's position and B's.

And "corporeal" ideas such as "hot" or "cold" as terms for physical sensations become "fictitiously" extended in words like "hothead" and "cold-blooded" as terms for personal traits.

Bentham's position was quite in line with the scholastic formula, "There is nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses (nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu)."

To which Leibniz had added, "Except the intellect itself (nisi intellectus ipse)."

Thereupon, logologically shortcutting metaphysical issues, considering the matter purely from the standpoint of nomenclature (symbolic action), we could equate intellectus ipse with the elements of grammar and syntax that are intrinsic to any given language and are not directly reducible to the issue stressed in the quotes from Bentham and Emerson.

Though the mutation that makes speech possible is itself inherited in our nature as physical bodies (in the realm of motion), the formation of a nomenclature referring to sensory experiences is on the side of symbolic action.

All such developments constitute a medium that provides motives intrinsic to itself.

With the wider use of physicalist terms as necessary "fictions" for reference to supposed nonphysical entities or processes, the realm of specifically symbolic action is strongly involved, and is completed with the formally stylistic use of metaphor, or equivocation generally.

The nature of language is such that it could not possibly be confined to strictly literal, univocal usage.


If words did not admit of loose application, you couldn't apply the same terms to a variety of objects, processes, circumstances.

For in its details, every situation is unique.

In his book entitled Poetic Diction: A Study in Meanings (London, 1928),Owen Barfield would want to deny that the step from terms for sensation to their use in referring to nonsensory "entities" is metaphorical.

He would hold that the material objects (to which such terms had literally referred) themselves contain such a range of what Emerson would call "supernatural" connotations.

To meet the minimum conditions of what is meant here by "symbolic action" all that is necessary is the inability of words to "stay put," as when even a proper name like "Caesar," referring to one particular person in history, gives birth to such words as "Kaiser" and "Czar."

The purely physiological aspect of the Self (its grounding in the realm of motion) is characterized by the centrality of the nervous system.

Its sensations are immediately its own, not thus felt by any other organism.

Like organisms presumably have similar pleasures and pains, but these are immediately experienced only within the centrality of each one particular organism's nervous system, as individuated at parturition.

The Self as a "person," member of a community (Culture) characterized by motives in the realm of symbolic action, is not thus differentiated.

In this respect the Self becomes a product of the Culture.

Whatever may be the genetic traits differentiating one individual from another, and whatever the distinct histories of individuals, the nature of symbolic action shapes the Self largely in modes of role, of sociality.

Here figure the individual's relations to family, to groups, to ever widening and partially conflicting organizations such as church, business, political party, nation, "global" tentatives.

Here, in contrast with the immediacies of the body, we confront for our overall "reality" an indeterminately interwoven complexity of symbols, reports about local, national, and international affairs, about history, psychology, geology, astronomy, expectations true or false, promissory or forbidding, and so forth.

Though "reality" (the "world") as thus symbolically conceived, embraces

a potential "universe of discourse" far beyond the realm of physiological sensation, the opportunities for such exercising (via resources in the realm of "symbolic action") depend wholly on the realm of physiological motion (the basic conditions that determine whether the individual organism lives or dies).

In sum, when to the principle of individuation (involving the underlying physiology of sheer motion) there is added an organism's ability to parallel the realm of sensations by learning to use words for them, the concept of Self must necessarily be defined in terms of polarity.

In terms of nonsymbolic motion, the Self is a physiological organism, separated from all others of its kind at the moment of parturition.

In terms of symbolic action, it becomes a person by learning the language of its tribe, with corresponding identity and roles (beginning with the equivalent of a proper name and expanding variously in keeping with the currently available resources of symbolism and the institutional structures reciprocally made possible by them), the three corresponding Dramatistic axioms being:

There can be motion without action (as the sea can go on thrashing about whether or not there are animals that have a word for it).

There can be no action without motion (as we animals could not have words for anything except for the motions of our nervous systems and the vibrations that carry our words from one of us to another through the air or that make words visible on the page).

But (and this is the primary axiom that differentiates Dramatism from Behaviorism) symbolic action is not reducible to terms of sheer motion. (Symbolicity involves not just a difference of degree, but a motivational difference in kind.)

Yet this difference in kind amounts to a primary duplication.

This is due to the fact that the nomenclature of symbolic placement is borrowed from the materials of sensory motion.

And the terms are of such a nature that they are "fictions" or analogical extensions of their beginning in reference to physical processes and objects.

A Culture's symbolically conceived "world," or "universe of discourse," is thus built figuratively of terms originally grounded in reference to the nonsymbolic realm of motion.


Otherwise put: The realm of what is usually called "ideas" is constructed of symbolic material usually called sensory "images."

The Self, like its corresponding Culture, thus has two sources of reference for its symbolic identity: its nature as a physiological organism, and its nature as a symbol-using animal responsive to the potentialities of symbolicity that have a nature of their own not reducible to a sheerly physiological dimension.

Symbolicity itself being of a nature that can rise to higher levels of generalization until all is headed in some all-inclusive title, we can readily understand why psychologists like Jung are moved to talk of an overall oneness, an Unus Mundus.

Yet in the light of the critical Dramatistic distinction between the motives of a psychological organism as such and the motives of such a Self as personalized by participation in its particular Culture's modes of literal (univocal), equivocal, and analogical symbol-using, we can at least glimpse why Jung could be exercised by such a symbolically engendered "idea" or "ideal" of Ultimate Unity.

And by the same token we should see why the motion-action "polarity" is unbridgeable in the sense that, although, in every tribal idiom however rudimentary, there is a wholly reliable basic correspondence between a thing and its name; never the twain shall meet.

That might seem quite obvious, as regards the kind of "polarity" that prevails with the correspondence between a tree and the word "tree."

But look how far afield from such obviousness you get when the distinction shifts from the realm of sheer motion (as with the physicality of a tree) to the corresponding word (which is in the realm of symbolic action) and you confront what Dramatism would view as inaccurate equivalents, such as "matter" and "spirit," "matter" and "mind," or even "brain" and "mind."

There could be no total unity between the realms except along the lines of orthodox religion's promise to the faithful that their bodies will be restored to them in heaven.

An unchartable complexity of behavings among the cells of the body may add up, for instance, to an overall "unitary" sense of well-being; but no sheer term for an ideal unity (such as Jung's expression, Unus Mundus) can match that purely physiological kind of "attitude."

Keats, dying, modified a passage in Shakespeare to state it thus, "Banish

money—Banish sofas—Banish Wine—Banish Music; but right Jack Health, honest Jack Health, true Jack Health—Banish Health and banish all the world."

Though any attitude, even in purely theoretic matters, has a summarizing, unifying aspect, it must prevail only insofar as in some way it is grounded in purely physiological behavior (as per William James's charming and often quoted statement that we're sad because we cry).

In his chapter on "Attitudes" (The Principles of Literary Criticism [London, 1924]), I. A. Richards was presumably speculating on a behavioristic parallelism of this sort when he wrote:

Every perception probably includes a response in the form of incipient action. We constantly overlook the extent to which all the while we are making preliminary adjustments, getting ready to act in one way or another. Reading Captain Slocum's account of the centipede which bit him on the head when alone in the middle of the Atlantic, the writer has been caused to leap right out of his chair by a leaf which fell upon his face from, a tree.

Whatever the implications of an attitude, as a kind of incipient or future action, it must be by some means grounded in the set of the body now; and thus, though an attitude of kindness may be but the preparation for the doing of a kind act (a subsequent mode of behavior), it is already "behaving" physiologically in ways of its own (as a dog's implicit way of "conjugating the verb ‘to eat’ " is to begin by salivating, a bodily motion that in effect implies the future tense, "I will eat"; the present tense of the verb being bodily conjugated by eating, and "I have eaten" is also in its way a now, as the dog curls up for a comfortable, satisfied snooze).

But whatever the correspondence between purely symbolic attitudinizing and the kind of immediacy that poor Keats, with his dying body, confronted, his very efforts to endow his poetic attitudes with sensuous immediacy made him all the more cruelly aware of the respects in which the poet's modes of symbolic action were comparatively (to use his own word for his own poetry) "abstract."

His "Ode on a Grecian Urn" symbolically enacts the "transcending" of the body.

But that letter he wrote to Fanny Brawne while nearing death was concerned with a situation in which the sheer nonsymbolic realm of motion (the plight of his diseased body) was taking over; for such in

essence is the unbridgeable "polarity" between the social realm of symbolic action and motion's "principle of individuation" whereby the symptoms of his disease were the immediate sensations of himself and none other.

All told, in our Selves sheerly as physiological organisms, our world is made of what George Santayana would describe as but a single line drawn through an infinity of possible "essences."

But all of them are experienced immediately, as yours and no one else's, though you doubtless rightly assume that others of your kind experience similar immediate sensations.

Beyond that, in polar distinction, is the vast symbolic realm of tribal sociality, or orientation, as shaped by the influences that you encounter by reason of your being a symbol-using animal, whose "reality," at every stage, is determined by such terms.

In Santayana's Realms of Being, his Realms of Matter would correspond to what is here called the realm of nonsymbolic motion (for which his word is sometimes "flux," sometimes "action," though I must here employ a different usage).

His passionate Realm of Spirit would be much what I mean by "symbolic action."

And his Realm of Essence would deal with "sensation" as the bridge between the realms of "matter" and "spirit," though his term "intuitions" here would ambivalently include both bodily sensations (such as color) and purely symbolic fictions (such as the character of Hamlet).

The Self as a "person," beyond the individual's identity as a strictly physiological organism, confronts with varying degrees of comprehensiveness and profoundness the interrelationships among the manifold details of "reality" (whatever that "orientation" may be) as known and interpreted in terms of the symbolic lore current in the Culture of that time.

Necessarily, any individual's formal or informal version of such lore is selective, in keeping with the limitations and engrossments besetting that individual (as both person and physiological organism).

The interrelationships among such a conglomerate will be related consistently (this therefore that), antithetically (this however that), adventitiously (this and that).


When such an aggregate is felt to fall together "holistically," the gratification of such a purely symbolic symmetry rise to an ecstasy of conviction that we call "mystical."

The fall from such a state (whereby the fullness, pleroma, of purely symbolic exercising gives way to a sense of its underlying emptiness as tested by a similarly structured physiological counterpart) is called "accidie," acedia, sloth, torpor, drought.

Or the sense of such a confluence among motives can also have the allness of a pandemonium, a Pandora's box let loose, a Walpurgis Night, a jangling conflict of all the pieces with one another, the very fullness being felt as a drought.

In the state of contemporary Culture, I take it, the corresponding Self is likely to manifest "in principle" fragmentary aspects of all three such symbolically engendered "fulfillments."

The fragmentary delight is in putting anything together. The drought is usually met by purchasing some form of entertainment.

The variant of pandemoniac entanglement can even be attenuatively transformed into a bit of research on the problem itself.

Hart Crane is a notably pathetic example of a poet whose mode of mysticism terminated in a corresponding drought.

While he was writing portions of The Bridge there were times when everything seemed to fall ecstatically into place, its many disjunctions inspirited by one transcendent principle of unity.

But the very strength of his hopes for the work as a wholly organic solution for his problems as a personal Self set the conditions for the drought that was necessarily implicit in his reliance upon symbolicity alone.

There may be drought, not as a comedown from the mystic exaltation of "holistic" symbolizing, but as a kind of sloth implicit in the sheer failure to take delight in the wonders of purely symbolistic enterprise.

For such a condition there are direct (nonsymbolic) resources available to the Self—and they are widely resorted to.

I refer to the many drugs that act directly upon the Self as a physiological organism (in the realm of motion), though there are attendant difficulties due to the fact that each such physical means of gratifying the organism also happens to tax the health of that organism; and even if it didn't, there is the problem that the very directness and efficiency

of its appeal to the body robs the individual Self of the human gratifications resulting from engrossment with the manifold manifestations of purely symbolistic enterprise.

But surely, above all, in confronting the tangle of "global" problems that beset the current state of affairs, we should pay wan appreciative tribute to the remarkable symbolic resources whereby "pandemonium" can become "attenuatively transformed."

All about us there are our various Selves, each to varying degrees tracking down the implications of his particular nomenclature.

For I take it that, just as each good poet speaks an idiom of his own, so it is with each symbol-using animal—and there is a kind of reciprocating relationship whereby the Self selects its key words, and they in turn become formative, to shape further developments of the Self, along with countless such unchartable interactions, including reactions back upon the behavior of the Self's sheer physiology.

The reference to physiology enters here in connection with the concept of "psychogenic illness," which refers to a reverse relationship whereby, just as drugs can produce physical effects recorded as a corresponding "attitude" or "state of mind," so such attitudes or states of mind can function suggestively to induce corresponding physiological behavior (in the sense that, if you received some information you believed in, and the information was highly disturbing, it would affect your bodily behavior, your blood pressure, respiration, heartbeat and the like quite as though the situation were actually so, though the information happened to be in error).

In this sense there is the "polar" relationship whereby an individual's mode of symbolic action (his investment in a particular kind of literary style, for instance) might attain an organic replica in a kind of physical behavior that happened to be a kind of disease.

In cases of that sort there could be a mutually reinforcing relationship (a "feedback"?) between the author's symbolic prowess and corresponding processes of his body whereby the development of his skill at his particular mode of symbolic action would be making him sick and keeping him sick, as his symbolic exercising was reinforced by the effects of his physiological "misbehavior."

Our attitudes toward past or future (remembrances or expectations) are products of our symbolicity.


But their behavioral counterparts in the realm of physiological motion must be in the immediate present.

For the only way a body can possibly behave is from one present moment to the next.

In the realm of symbolicity, there are two totally different notions of sequence the temporally prior (yesterday/today/tomorrow) and the logically (nontemporally) prior (as with the syllogism, first premise/second premise/conclusion).

Myth, being narrative, features the modes of temporal priority (as discussed in the section on "The First Three Chapters of Genesis," in my Rhetoric of Religion [Boston, 1961; reprinted Berkeley, 1970]).

The same work deals "logologically" with respects in which even temporal terms can be treated as in nontemporal relationships to one another (as per my "Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of ‘Order’ ").

The strategic intermediate term here is implications.

Thus the terms "order" and "disorder" are nontemporally related in the sense that, being "polar," each implies the other, regardless of whether we go from the idea of "order" to the idea of "disorder," or vice versa.

But narrative (myth) can set up a temporal sequence whereby the story goes irreversibly "from" one "to" the other.

Insofar as implications all fall harmoniously into place, any given exercise in symbolic action approaches the feel of mystic unity.

Insofar as they add up to a jangle (and though "polar" terms such as "order" and "disorder" imply each other without strife, they imply much conflict when reduced to terms of irreversible story, the implications are under the sign of pandemonium.

Insofar as, of a sudden, all such symbolic enterprise seems vacuous in comparison with the immediacies of physiological sensation (in the realm of motion), we are on the slope of sloth, of drought, for which the alternative "remedies" are either physical "dissipation" (as with direct recourse to drugs) or further study (as thus fittingly when on the subject of sloth, Dante sums up for us the entire rationale of the Purgatorio, in this very canto where we are assured that, though rational [danimo] love may err, "the natural" [lo natural] is always senza errore).

Gershom Scholem's engrossing studies of the kabbalists enable us to

glimpse a further marvel with regard to the vibrancy of implications among terms.

We see hermeneutic ways whereby, though the teacher would not so much as modify a single letter of the Torah, while honoring the text as the very signature of JHVH Himself, and considering the Law so basic to Creation that it was propounded before Creation(theres a"priority"for you), the disciple was taught modes of transformation that enabled him to see all such literalnesses double, in terms of esoteric implications.

And thus some of us goyim can glimpse how Saint Paul was doing exactly that, long before the kabbalists, when scrupulously leaving the Old Testament letter of the Law intact, he but introduced New Testament interpretations (as with the shift from a strictly physiological behavior of circumcision, which obviously had its symbolic aspects, he improvised a new symbolism, "circumcision of the heart").

Much of our engrossment with all such interpretations and reinterpretations (as exemplified, for instance, in the various schools of psychoanalysis) stems from the vibrancy of interrelated implications that thus suggest themselves for the spinning.

And "case histories" are, as it were, the translation of such logically, doctrinally interrelated terms into the corresponding parables of narrative (the "mythic" parallel).

Thus the catalogues, or "inventories," of Whitman's poetry are unfoldings of terms that imply one another, their associative interrelationship being revealed in a succession of tiny plots.

Since the principle of duplication begins in the polarity of our dual nature as symbol-using animals, the split across the two realms of nonsymbolic motion and symbolic action will necessarily manifest itself in endless variations on the theme of duplication.

For it is the combination of bodily sensation with symbolic counterparts and corresponding analogical extensions that "keeps body and soul together" until the last time.

And neither realm can be complete without the other, nor can they be identical.

Thus ultimately, when properly discounted along "logological" lines (whereby his "archetypes" are seen as quasi-temporal terms for terms logically prior), Plato's version of imitation, as a species of duplication, will be seen to go much deeper than Aristotle's.

Aristotle's is good common sense, inasmuch as there is a notable difference between real victimage (as with a Roman gladiatorial contest) and the mere imitation of suffering (as with the pathos of a Greek tragedy).

But Plato was digging into the implication that once we turn from the realm of motion to the realm of symbolicity and try to envision everything in terms of that ideal symbolic universe, then all actual things in nature become in effect but partial exemplars of what they are in essence, as no single object can fit the exact description of the countless other and different objects classifiable under that same head.

Possibly the motion-action distinction, as conceptualized in this statement, implies that the line of demarcation between "conscious" and "unconscious" should be moved farther to the side of sheer motion.

That is, dreams would not be on the side of the "unconscious" insofar as dreams, like the most mature works of science, philosophy, literature, or the arts generally, admit of analysis as modes of symbolicity.

The "unconscious" would be relegated to such processes as digestion, metabolism, the healing of a wound, even if we study the physiology of such behavior.

Thus in my chapter on "Varieties of Unconscious" (Language as Symbolic Action [Berkeley, 1966], pp. 67–72), I begin with "the unconscious aspect of sheerly bodily processes," which would be in the realm of nonsymbolic motion.

From there I proceed to aspects of the "unconscious" in the realm of symbolicity, with Freud as my point of departure.

Much of this could be treated as variants on the term "implication," as used in this paper.

Similarly, if we locate the principle of individuation in the body as a physiological organism (as per our logological adaptation of a Thomist theological principle) it would seem to follow that Claude Lévi-Strauss draws the line between "Nature" and "Culture" at the wrong place.

For both "Nature" and "Culture" would be on the symbolism side of the line.

Thus, in effect, the case for the relation between biology and symbolism would be overanthropologized, as both "Nature" and "Culture" would be stages of "Culture," whereas "Nature" is the precultural state out of which the human infant develops in acquiring the Culture of its tribe, however primitive.


Whatever the possible range of incidental readjustments, duplication is so basic to the relation between motion and symbolicity, nothing of moment seems quite complete unless we have rounded things out by translation into symbols of some sort, either scientific or aesthetic, practical or ritualistic.

Sex is not complete without love lyrics, porn, and tracts on sexology. The nonsymbolic motions of springtime are completed in the symbolic action of a spring song.

The realms of nonsymbolic motion and symbolicity (with its vast range of implications) are so related that the acquiring of skill with symbol-systems is analogous to a kind of "fall" into a technical state of "grace" that "perfects" Nature.


WILLEFORD: The historical trends that Jung rejected in Freud's thought can be summed up under the names mechanism—seen, for example, in Freud's use of the expression ‘psychic apparatus'—and positivism, the belief extolled by A. Comte, H. Spencer and others, that culture was destined to pass through an evolutionary development from magic through religion to science. Although Jung was profoundly committed to the values of empirical science, he regarded the positivistic program as an illusion, because the religious impulse was for him a permanent reality of the human mind, not a stage of culture that would yield to Progress" ["Jung's Polaristic Thought," Analytische Psychologie 6 (1975): 218–39].

COMMENT: Obviously the Dramatistic Perspective would be on Jung's side insofar as terms like "psychic apparatus" implied a reduction of "symbolic action" to "nonsymbolic motion." But as compared with Behavioristic psychologies, Freud is far from any such reductionism.

In the Dramatistic ("logological") Perspective represented by the present article on the motion-action pair, regardless of the truth or falsity of religion, Martin Buber's "I-Thou" relation is here viewed as in its way the "perfect" expression of the form basic to the sentence: speaker/speech/spoken-to. One here directly addresses the most distinguished audience conceivable; and in prayer (petition, in effect saying, "Please") there is most grandly enacted the attitude of submissiveness to an all-powerful magistrate. Magic by comparison "commands." Applied

science does neither, it but "contrives" (hence, fittingly, our word "mechanism" is etymologically related to Greek words for means, expedients, contrivances, remedy.

WILLEFORD: I will focus upon Jung's tendency to conceive the world as basically consisting of polarities of various kinds. Day and night, sun and moon, heaven and earth, right and left, such mythical twins as the Dioscuri (born of a single egg) and Romulus and Remus, the doubleheaded Janus, such ornaments and cult objects as the double spiral, twining snakes, the double-headed axe, the double-headed eagle, pairs of horns; the wealth, antiquity and wide distribution of such symbols suggest an archetypal basis. I will be concerned not with these but with the attempts of certain thinkers to give their subjective sense of polarity a philosophical form.

COMMENT: Though language does talk a lot, the very essence of its genius is in its nature as abbreviation. A sentence such as "The man walks down the street" is in effect a kind of title that sums up an unchartable complexity of details involved in any particular situation to which such words might be applied. (This issue is discussed at some length in my essay "What Are the Signs of What? A Theory of ‘Entitlement," reprinted in my Language as Symbolic Action.) And what more "perfect" abbreviations are possible than the replies "Yes" and "No"? In fact, the choice is ideally so perfect, except with the kind of questions artificially set up for examination papers, we usually have to settle for a mere Maybe as the answer. Most voting says Yes or No to a decision that is at best a Maybe. All antitheses embodied in polarities of the sort listed by Willeford are by comparison but weak attenuations of this "ideal" form. (An aspect of "logological" theory is the stress upon what it calls an "entelechial" principle underlying the trends intrinsic to the nature of symbolicity as a realm of motives considered in its own right. Any strictly psychological manifestation would be classed as but a special case of such symbolic resources in general.)

But prior to such polarities of antithesis within the nature of symbolicity, there is the incentive to duplication inherent in the unresolvable polar relationship between symbolicity and the nonsymbolic realm of motion.

WILLEFORD: For Jung "consciousness is always subject to the unconscious background; and the ego, no matter what pride it takes in its powers, is always subordinate to the self, the purposes of which the ego cannot appropriate except by the difficult way of individuation."


COMMENT: To quote the presumably persuasive TV commercial on the principle of individuation's grounding in the strictly physiological (the realm of motion), it's "my" acid indigestion, and "my" gas, for which I (my ego) take this medical material. But my ego is an aspect of my Self, which is developed through modes of sociality (Culture) made possible by the resources of symbolism. I shall reserve until later a discussion of the "logological" equivalents for the relation between "consciousness" and the "unconscious."

WILLEFORD: Polaristic thinking is even present in Kant, whom Goethe (in a letter to Schweigger in 1814) acknowledged as the authority for his own tendency to think in polarities. … In the Farbenlehre (The Theory of Colors) he says that, no matter how one tries to think about a phenomenon, one cannot escape seeing that it implies an original division capable of unity, or of an original unity capable of division, and he claims that to divide what is united, to unite what is divided, is the life of nature.

COMMENT: Yes, here is a basic correspondence between the realms of motion and action. We can put things together and take things apart. And as Socrates says in the Phaedrus, the dialectician is skilled in the use of words that can perform similarly in the realm of ideas. Henri Louis Bergson has astutely shown how this very nature of words leads to "pseudoproblems," as theorists speculate on how to "resolve" antitheses in nature that were already "resolved" because they didn't exist in the first place and were but the result of symbolism's failure to formally recognize its limitations as a medium for the discussion of wholly nonsymbolic processes (in the realm of motion). Psychologically, we encounter naivetés of this sort: according to primitive belief, there were ceremonies in which a sacred animal could be torn into bits, with each member of the tribe eating a portion. Here certainly was the principle of division, separation (in early Greek ceremonies called sparagmos). But it was matched by a principle of merger inasmuch as all members of the tribe were felt to be made consubstantial by eating of this same numinous substance. The difference between a "logological" treatment of such matters and the views too closely wedded to mythological origins of human thinking resides in the fact that stress upon the mythic would tend to derive the sheerly dialectical principles from their operation in such primitive rites, whereas Logology would view the primitive rites as a special case of the more general dialectical principles. A similar risk is to be seen in some Freudian thinking, with regard to the processes of "condensation" and "displacement" in the symbolism of dreams. Symbolism in its most general sense permits of these two processes, which thus are not derivable from such manifestations of them

in dreams, and are but special cases of symbolicity's resources. I bring up this point to illustrate what I have in mind when saying that Logology can go along wholly with psychology insofar as psychology is viewed as a subdivision of symbolic processes, rather than as the revelation of their source. True, there is a sense in which the human ability to talk at all could be analyzed as a kind of "built-in alienation," separating us from our "natural condition" as an earthworm presumably is not. But considerations of that sort involve philosophic ironies not strictly reducible to psychological terms, though such quandaries obviously would have profound psychological implications (there's that word again!).

WILLEFORD: These examples from Nietzsche, Jung, Goethe, and Schiller illustrate a tendency, extremely pronounced in the early part of the nineteenth century, to conceive difference as the result of division, which is finally the expression of universal antagonistic principles. The antagonism of these principles, and a contrary tendency to resolve it give rise to the forms and energies of nature (Goethe), of the human mind (Hegel, Fichte, Schelling), of art generally (Schelling), and of poetry specifically (Schiller). Indeed, the influence of this polaristic thinking is strongly present in all of the major forms of depth psychology, but it is in some ways especially pronounced in Jung.

COMMENT: Add Heraclitus (as Willeford does later) and the list would have its perfect top. Apparently in his scheme, all was strife; and the strife added up to perfect harmony. The theory of the U.S. Constitution viewed a conflict of powers as a balance of powers.

WILLEFORD: The first source of this polaristic thinking is the nature of the human mind. … Polaristic thought has an archetypal basis in that the human mind is disposed to structure its experience by making distinctions between what something is and what it is not, between a thing of one kind and a thing of another. This may be seen in the binomial properties of language—the tendency to pair words and concepts in various ways.

COMMENT: Logologically, the stress would be not upon "the human mind" but upon the nature of symbolism. High among my reasons for this statement of the case is my belief that we should not take on more obligations than necessary. Why haggle with Behaviorists when you don't need to? They can't deny that our kind of animal behaves by a lot of verbalizing. So let's account for as much as we can in such terms. To my way of thinking, in carrying out the implications of that one shift of locus, we completely invalidate Skinner's attacks upon the concept of what he calls "autonomous man" (which I interpret as his own addition of a straw man).


WILLEFORD: The individuation process described by Jung is governed by the self which is a principle of unity and purpose in the unfolding of the personality.

COMMENT: Though I have already "translated" Jung's nomenclature into "logologese" on this point, one further qualification is here suggested. In the realm of sheer motion, the individual organism is motivated by such obvious "purposes" as the need for food. But once you turn from the need for food to the ways of buying food with money, you're in a realm where "purpose" involves modes of authority, enterprise, and the like not even remotely reducible to the sheerly physiological needs of living. And, incidentally, the concern with a principle of individuation is itself a notable step in the right direction. Since, in the last analysis, each thing is but a part of everything, there is far too much tendency to overstress this principle of merger at the expense of concerns with a principium individuationis (such as the centrality of the nervous system so obviously supplies).

WILLEFORD: The "Panlogism" of Heraclitus, the idea that all things partake of the logos, which reconciles the opposites. …

COMMENT: Logologically, all things partake of the Word in the sense that all discussion of them is by the same token in the "universe of discourse" (the Greek word logos encompassing a range of meanings, such as "basic principle," that favor such an extension). We have already noted the modes of stylization whereby competition can be a form of cooperation (as competing teams on the ball field in effect cooperate to make a good expert game).

WILLEFORD: Schelling was influenced by Boehme's idea of the Ungrund as part of God.

COMMENT: Ultimate "polarity" in symbolism is made possible by the fact that any term of highest generalization, such as "ground" or "being," can have the grammatical addition of a negative, as "un-ground" or "non-being," for such are the resources "natural" to dialectic. Thus, in Kant's dialectic (explicitly so named) his overall term for the phenomenal, empirical world of the "conditioned" sets up the purely terministic condition for the term "unconditioned" as applied to the noumenal "ground" of this world's conditions. Whether it means anything or not, any synonym for "everything" can still have verbally as its ultimate "context," some synonym for "nothing." Hegel was quite clear on that point.


WILLEFORD: The first stage, then, in the development of mythology is [according to Schelling] one of relative "monotheism," a monotheism that includes the possibility of polytheistic development.

COMMENT: In my essay "Myth, Poetry, and Philosophy" (Language as Symbolic Action, pp. 406–9) I discuss the sheerly terministic aspects of this question. Suffice it here to say that any concepts of priority with regard to mythic thinking center in an ambiguity whereby the "logically prior" becomes confused with the "temporally prior," since myth is by its nature a vocabulary that states theoretic "principles" in narrative terms. Thus the issue becomes somewhat like trying to decide whether the "divinity" of godhead in general is "prior" to some one god's nature as a particular "person." One even encounters paradoxes whereby a monotheistic religion can become "a-theistic" in comparison with polytheism. For instance, many institutions that monotheism treats in purely secular terms (such as Finance or Agriculture) would merit in primitive paganism special temples to their corresponding deities. Logology holds that, regardless of whether one believes or disbelieves in religious nomenclature, one should study theology for the light that "words about God" throw upon "words about words."

WILLEFORD: Jung came to regard the archetype as "psychoid," as transcending the psyche, and as occupying an indeterminate position between Geist and Stoff, between spirit and matter.

COMMENT: That would be translated into "logologese" thus: Since the archetypes all have a notable imagistic feature, they relate to the role that sensation plays in providing the material for symbolic action's nomenclatures. And by the same token they are in an "intermediate position" between the realms of "matter" (nonsymbolic motion) and "spirit" (symbolicity in its full development, via the fictions of analogical extension). Their "psychoid" identity would reside in the fact that their role as an aspect of nomenclature could not be treated as encompassing the full development of a human being in response to those manifold resources and influences of sociality we sum up as Culture.

WILLEFORD: Jung's attempt to solve the problem of the opposites is concerned with the archetype of the unus mundus, the unity of the cosmos. … Jung writes that "While the concept of the unus mundus is a metaphysical speculation, the unconscious can be indirectly experienced via its manifestation. …The contents of the unconscious … are mutually contaminated to such a degree that they cannot be distinguished from one another and can therefore easily take one another's place, as can be seen

most in dreams. The indistinguishableness of its contents gives one the impression that everything is connected with everything else, and therefore, despite their multifarious modes of manifestation, that they are at bottom a unity. … The psychoid nature of the archetype contains very much more than can be included in a psychological explanation. It points to the sphere of the unus mundus, towards which the psychologist and the atomic physicist are converging along separate paths, producing independently of one another, certain analogous auxiliary concepts." The concept of the unus mundus is then, at the furthest reaches of Jung's thought. And though he has tried to remove the concept from the realm of metaphysics to that of empirical science, we should not overlook the analogy between Jung's unus mundus, which he sometimes treats as equivalent to the self, and Schelling's absolute monotheism.

COMMENT: Unus isn't so clearly an "archetypal" term as "images" can be. It figures thus among the transcendentals, terms or properties which the mediaeval scholastics said go with all things of whatever sort: Res, Ens, Verum, Bonum, Aliquid, Unum. In that sense anything we look at is a one. And the obviously summarizing nature of a title is implicit in Jung's usage, as with our wishful title, "United States." And quite as "God" is the overall title of titles in theology, so Logology looks upon any expression like Unus Mundus as high up in the scale of "god-terms," if but in the technical sense of what Alfred Korzybski would have called a high level of generalization. For think of how vastly much is encompassed by your title "One World" if, when you say, "I am talking about everything," you feel that you really are talking about everything.

Since Jung equates the One World with the Self, he is in effect trying to deny by idealistic fiat the polarityof Geist and Stoff tha the begins with.

The concept of the "collective unconscious" would seem logologically to involve these possible sources: our responses to the sheer physiology of our bodies, in their metabolistic processes wholly outside our awareness except for the sensations, pleasures, pains that we experience as kinds of summarizing titles for such going on within us, and many of which function as signs that help us find our way about (thereby to that extent becoming "conscious"); the vast social lore that becomes part of us, though most of it does not explicitly engage our attention; the portions of this which, although they explicitly engage us, involve many implications not tracked down as when we do develop thought and conduct in some particular channel; the implications even here, when they but begin to emerge and exercise us greatly until we have brought them into order; the irresolutions involving each of us differently by reason of

his own particular history; and above and behind and within all, the goads to duplication that are intrinsic to the unbridgeable polarity between the realms of motion and action embedded in the physiological developments whereby the physical organism became genetically endowed with ways to build this unbridgeable gulf.

Through Freud's stress upon the formative effects of the individual's early history (the period when the physiological organism is but beginning to acquire the symbolic rudiments of a Self), we are introduced to a different aspect of the duplication principle; namely, the paradox whereby the process of temporal progression can by the same token set the conditions for a later corresponding kind of regression. Logologically, the situation would be characterized thus: Since words are a major factor in sharpening the nature of attention, the very paucity of a child's emergent vocabulary causes many experiences to escape the clarity that makes for the kind of observation most conducive to explicit remembrance. Nevertheless, the child's experiences with intimate family relationships serve in effect to surround it with a "cast of characters" and corresponding "plot." These roles (by reason of their temporal priority in the individual's history) become as it were "essential," and thus "dramatically creative" in setting up a pattern of relationships which the individual later duplicates by unknowingly imputing similar roles in situations that, as a matter of fact, are but remotely analogical.

But essentially Jung's difficulties with the problem of polarity involve a complication of this sort:

  1. There is a sense in which everything merges out of and back into the universal context; and each of us as an individual is but part of that whole, as a single ripple is but a moment on the water and quickly merges back into it.
  2. The very nature of language is such that we can have generalizing titular terms (like Jung's Unus Mundus) for such ideas of overall consubstantiality, thereby being quite handy for summing up an attitude of sorts, though not reducible to a particular.
  3. There is a kind of "collective unconscious" we share in the sense that a common language spoken by similar kind of organisms contains a clutter of implications which its users vaguely share parts of, though we manage to make some of it explicit and can go along with much that others of us track down, making other aspects of these implications explicit.

  4. 162
  5. Though our bodies are like other bodies of our species, hence could be expected to share variously in this corresponding linguistic realm of implications (to be called a "collective unconscious"), there is also the principle of individuation whereby the immediacy of sensuous experiences, pleasures and pains (demarcated by the centrality of the nervous system), cannot be shared in its immediacy.
  6. Accordingly the polarity between the two realms remains unbridgeable, and we are thus composite creatures, of a nature that can be called either a privilege or a privation, or a mixture of both.


At another meeting of the conference at which I originally presented the substance of the foregoing material there was a paper by Norman Holland, who, in developing a thesis concerning three stages of psychoanalysis (first a stress upon the unconscious, next the ego, and now an "identity phase"), was especially ingenious in subjecting the same poem to the three modes of approach. The poem he chose was Wordsworth's two "Lucy" quatrains beginning "A slumber did my spirit seal" to illustrate the changes of approach.

The choice was a most happy one for my purposes, since it was almost as though deliberately designed to illustrate my notions about the "polar" relationship between the realms of (nonsymbolic) motion and (symbolic) action. I have situated the principle of individuation, with regard to the Self-Culture pair, in the physiological realm of motion, as circumscribed by the "centrality of the nervous system" (whereby the given human individual, as a biological organism, "immediately" experiences only its own sensations, as distinct from the sensations that any other organism, each in its way, immediately and exclusively experiences). The realm of symbolic action, in contrast, is characterized by kinds of behavior (with corresponding modes of identification) that are made possible, for example, by social relations highly dependent on "arbitrary, conventional" symbol systems, of which a tribal language would be the prime specimen.

I have said that the only transcending of the permanent "split between the two realms (of symbol and nonsymbol) would be as in some ultimate condition like that which orthodox Western religions imagine, in promising

that the virtuous dead will regain their "purified" bodies in heaven. Wordsworth's poem suggests a different "solution," as per the second quatrain:

No motion has she now, no force;
She neither hears nor sees
Rolled round in earth's diurnal course,
With rocks, and stones, and trees.

Lucy now has "no motion" in the sense of her motions as an individual biologic organism. She has "transcended" this divisive state by merging wholly with the motions of rocks and stones and trees as they move in Earth's diurnal course. And the merger with "symbolic action" is embedded in the very constitution of the poetic medium that celebrates her oneness with nature as the ground of all physiologic bodies. I mean: Though she has been reduced to terms of wordless motion, her transformation is being performed in terms of poetry; hence all is as verbal as with God's creative word in Genesis.

Our art-heavens such as Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantium" bridge the gap by aesthetic conceits, each in its way inviting the realm of symbolic action to take over, in terms of images that stand for things (materials) themselves symbolic. Thus, Yeats:

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake …

And Keats's urn is a viaticum, with its transcendent destiny already imaged in its nature as a symbol-saturated object.

In sum, in his nature as the typically symbol-using animal, man would make an Unus Mundus by making everything symbolic, as with Baudelaire's great sonnet Correspondences, celebrating Nature as a "temple" where man passes "a travers des forets de symboles." The special poignancy of Yeats's poem is his (essentially hysterical?) gallantry in affirming his aesthetic "solution" in the very midst of recognizing the tyranny of sheerly physiological dimension: "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick, unless / Soul clap its hands and sing."

In his "Intimations of Immortality" Wordsworth seems to "solve" the problem by interpreting his confused wonder-tinged memories of presymbolic infancy as remembrances of a still further past (a principle

I have called the "temporizing of essence" whereby the narrative way of trying to say how things truly are is to say how they originally were). This symbolic pressure explains why Freud felt it necessary to postulate a placement for his "Oedipus complex" in "prehistory," whatever that is.

To sum up: The dialectical relationship between Self and Culture centers in a nonsymbolic principle of individuation or rudimentary physiological identity which becomes matched (or countered, or extended) in the full (social) sense by symbolic identifications with both personal and impersonal aspects of the Non-Self.

An obvious example of personal identification would be the relationships involved in primitive kinship systems, membership in secular or religious social bodies, citizenship, occupational status, and the like. The clearest example of impersonal sources would be terminologies developed as per the "inborn psychology" of the individual body's responses to physical processes, conditions, objects, locations by the analogical use of words like "sunny" and "stormy," or "distant" and "intimate," as "fictions" for referring not to climate or extensio (Descartes's term) but to a "person" (a word that itself originally referred to a thing, the material mask worn by an actor). In this sense, as Bentham and Emerson agreed, despite their widely different ways of getting there, all terms for "psychological" or "ethical" subject matter (quite like the believer's words for the realm of heaven) can be traced back etymologically to an origin in sheerly physicalist reference.

There is a kind of "synchronic" relationship between the realm of symbolic action and its grounding in the sensations made possible by the physiology of nonsymbolic motion. Such would seem to be at the roots of Jung's concern (almost nostalgic concern?) with the "polar" problem inherent in his ideal of an overall nomenclature to be formed in the name of Unus Mundus.

Freud's concern with the temporally prior would be on the "diachronic" side, having to do with the fact that the human animal develops from speechlessness (nonsymbolic infancy) through successive stages in the ways of symbolicity (plus corresponding difficulties in the acquisition of such aptitudes, difficulties that cannot be wholly surmounted, if only because the problems do not lend themselves to a wholly adequate solution in symbolic terms, since our empirical problems of life and death are ultimately grounded in physiology, not symbolism).

In any case, both of such concerns (Jung's and Freud's) require us to track down the ultimate implications of what it is to be the kind of animal

whose relation between its Self (as an individual) and its Culture (its society) is infused ("inspirited") with the genius (for better or worse) of its symbol systems, which it learns to manipulate and by which it gets correspondingly manipulated.

But this particular paper should end on at least a paragraph or two listing if only at random some of the many cultural forms which, whatever their nature in their own right, can be glimpsed as responding (in various and even quite contradictory ways) to the principle of DUPLICATION implicit in the motion-action alignment:

Most obvious are the traditional metaphysical or theological distinctions between body and mind (matter and spirit). Others: the microcosm-macrocosm pair, "eternal recurrence," variations on a theme, double plot, cults of the body (attempts to will that all be reduced to the immediacy of physiological sensation), transcendence (attempts like Jung's to have the "polarity" encompassed by an ideal unity), theories of "imitation" (such as Plato's and Aristotle's), bisymmetry, delegation of authority, antecedent and consequent in musical phrasing, identification by association, ritual (which symbolically reenacts some supposedly literal event). In a case of psychogenic illness, is not the body behaving (misbehaving?) in problematical ways of a collateral nature? Are not the symptoms that characterize its illness contriving in spontaneously uncharted ways to duplicate in terms of physiologic motion certain distresses imposed upon an individual socialized self that happens to be entangled in unresolved symbolically engendered vexations? And is not the physical disease in effect a disastrously "literal" translation of the victim's predicament? Indeed, may not the symptoms be so radical a physical counterpart that they in effect serve to reinforce the symbolic burden to which they were originally but a response?

I dare but ask that. However, I would for sure end on this family of DUPLICATIONS:

Quid pro quo, lex talionis, Golden Rule, categorical imperative, guilty suspicion (whereby, if Mr. A has malicious designs on Mr. B, he will suspect Mr. B of having malicious designs on him). In brief, projection. And over all, justice, propriety. If you're to be wholly human, no springtime (motion) is wholly complete without the (symbolic) action of a spring song. Even if we don't know a thing's name, it exists for us only as we think of it as potentially nameable.

But some readers may feel that the Behaviorist aspect of these matters needs further treatment, so I shall end on that.



The sights and sounds of a motion picture are, in themselves, wholly in the realm of motion. But as interpreted by the audience they become a drama, in the realm of symbolic action. These sights and sounds reach the eyes and ears of the audience through the medium of motion. And the audience hears, sees, and interprets them through the motions of the bodily behavior under the control of the nervous structure without which we could not see the sights, hear the sounds, or interpret them as a "story." Recall our first two Dramatistic axioms. There can be motion without action. (If the film were being played in an empty house, there would be no drama, that is, no symbolic action.) There can be no action without motion. (An audience could not see, hear, and interpret it as a "symbol system" without the aid of the nervous system and its physiological motions.)

But such purely physiological behavior on the part of the audience can figure in a totally different kind of "communication." For instance consider the operations of air-conditioning equipment in a movie house. I have read that if a thriller is being played, this mechanism must work much harder than if the plot is of a milder sort because of the effects which the excitement of the audience has upon the conditions of the atmosphere in the theatre. Such bodily responses as increased warmth and accelerated respiration place a greater burden upon the air-conditioning device, which is equipped with mechanical "sensors" that register the change in conditions and "behave" accordingly.

Obviously, its "sensitivity" is not to the motions on the screen as a drama (hence a process in the realm of symbolic action) but purely to physical conditions produced by the sheer bodies of the audience in their responses to the motions of the film as a drama (hence in the realm of symbolic action, for which the classic word in this connection would be "imitation").

Obviously, the air-conditioning equipment is not concerned at all with the drama as a form of symbolic act, an "imitation." Rather it is responding to a situation purely in the realm of motion, the state of the atmosphere produced by the physiological motions of the audience. Its motions would proceed in the same way even if there were no drama or audience at all but there were some other such condition in the realm of motion that was "communicated" to it by its "sensors."

I stress this distinction because it so clearly indicates two different realms of "behavior" here, the one involving the interpretation of the

film as a symbolic act, the other wholly in the realm of nonsymbolic motion (the human bodies being "composite" entities that "behave" in both ways, whereas the film sheerly as visible shapes and sounds and the airconditioning system with its mechanical "sensors" behave in but one).

The audience possesses such duality by meeting these two conditions: first, its members are biological organisms; second, they are endowed with the ability (and corresponding need, by our tests) to learn an arbitrary conventional symbol system, such as a tribal language, which also has the ability to discuss itself.

There is an admirable article much to our purposes, though we may apply it somewhat differently than the author intended: "Explanation, Teleology, and Operant Behaviorism," by Jon D. Ringen (Philosophy of Science 43 [1976]). I would like to mention it in connection with the paragraph by I. A. Richards that I previously quoted on the subject of "attitudes." When Richards was reading of a man being bitten by a centipede, a leaf fell against his face, causing him "to leap right out of his chair." Richards cites the incident as an indication that "every perception probably includes a response in the form of incipient action. We constantly overlook the extent to which all the while we are making preliminary adjustments, getting ready to act in one way or another." Recall that in connection with Ringen's discussion of the difference between "respondent" behavior and Skinner's ingenious experiments with "operant" behavior. In a typical experiment of Pavlov's, the experimental animal responds by salivating when you give it a sniff of meat. Its response is checked quantitatively by a device that can measure the flow of saliva. Then begin ringing a bell at the same time as you give the sniff of meat. And after having by repetition established the association between the sniff of meat and the ringing of a bell, ring the bell without the sniff of meat, and check on the amount of salivation as a response thus conditioned.

Skinner's "operant" conditioning proceeds quite differently. He gives his animal a goal by setting up some condition whereby, if it pecks at a certain form (or color) or presses a lever, it operates a mechanism that releases a bit of food. Having been systematically starved to about fourfifths of its normal weight, it does whatever it can in its need for food. The laboratory conditions are so set up that there are few things it can do. As the result of its random motions, it learns to repeat the pressing or pecking operation that is both congruent with its "natural endowment" and releases the food. By gradually complicating the conditions Skinner can get his pigeon to make a much more agile series of discriminations than

he could perform, without benefit of training inside his Skinner box. The animal is thus induced not merely to "respond" to a stimulus but to learn a set of operations that have a "purpose," as per the term "teleology" in Ringen's title.

But note that Richards's anecdote is more in line with the earlier Behaviorism that stressed "response." And as I interpret it, his reference to "a response in the form of incipient action" concerns a bodily state that is collateral with what I would call the "symbolic action" of his reading.

The situation is made still clearer by Ringen's reference to a distinction between "molar" behavior and "molecular" behavior. Skinner's experimental animals would be studied for their "molar" behavior (as, for instance, when they learn the order of key-pecks or lever-presses needed to procure them their food). I would say that Pavlov's measuring of salivation was rather on the side of the animal's "molecular" behavior, as was Richards' behavior when the leaf startled him. Obviously, in that sense, laughter, tears, or prurient responses would be on the slope of the "molecular," along with the suggestion, as Richards' anecdote indicates, that there are many subtler such responses in the body of the reader who is "symbolically reenacting" a text.

Such is my reply to Behavioristic monism. No arguments about "mentalism" need figure. The test is the purely empirical distinction between behavior via symbol systems and the behavior of animals not characterized by human ways with "symbolicity."

That'sit, but let me end with as ection which sums it up and adds abit.


The great improvement that Skinner's concern with "operant" behavior has over the earlier dispensation's study of "respondent" behavior deflects attention from the sheer physiology of an individual organism's response to a stimulus. My earlier reference to Richards indicates at a glance the different kind of observation that gets lost when the emphasis is upon "operant" conditioning. The pigeons' conduct is described in sociological terms, not in terms of sheer motion. My Dramatistic position rebukes Operant Behaviorism for not being behavioristic enough. Through confusing action and motion, it deflects attention from the study of the physiological motions involved in the behavior of conditioned subject. It's too "molar," thereby neglecting the "molecular" aspects of a physiological organism's behavior. Ironically, the "molar" as so conceived in effect makes Operant Behaviorism far too "spiritual."

Pavlov's study of salivation reduced behavior to quantifiable physical description (the realm of physiological motion). Skinner in effect is a puritan who gives his pigeons a job. Richards' anecdote gives glimpses into the ways whereby even so symbolically active a performance as reading a book is somehow undergoing collateral operations in the realm of sheer physiological motion. And the instance he gives suggests pretty clearly why there would be physiological correlatives of what, "mentalistically," is called an "attitude."

Before reading Ringen's excellent essay, I had approached the matter from a different angle; namely, my conviction that "symbolic acts" can be performed differently in the realm of motion. Some people's "symbolicity" makes their bodies feel good; others will turn up with peptic ulcers, high blood pressure, secretions of adrenalin, and so forth. (Along those lines, I incline to assume that Marx's writing of Das Kapital helped give him liver trouble.) If "psychogenic illness" isn't a "molecular" aspect of some people's "verbal behavior," then what is it? True, one can experimentally drive animals crazy. But not with "ideas!" I must work on the assumption that there is a fundamental difference between a device that removes food from a hungry animal each time (in keeping with its "genetic endowment") it reaches for the food and the plight of a symbol-using animal who, if he gets drunk, always says exactly what he knows he shouldn't say. Also, the symbol-using animal has many "gradations" of response. For instance, if he is a writer and is so inclined, he might write a book in which he "idealizes" his own waywardness, and turns out a best-seller.

By "gradations" the sort of thing I have in mind is dealt with in the middle paragraph, page 187, of my article "Towards Looking Back" (Journal of General Education [fall 1976]). I refer to the fact that, given the resources of "symbolicity," our kind of animal can make a living by other ways than by solving the problem. He can play variations on the theme of trying to solve the problem. In brief, by dancing various attitudes. If such were not the case, where would pedagogy be? And art? (Tragedy can entertain us by transforming the theme of suffering into a marketable source of pleasure.) The behaviorist's animal either solves the problem or doesn't. But the realm of purely symbolic action allows for a graded series of attitudes such that we can communicate with one another by a deflective variety of ways in which we touch upon the need for a solution. Then, conversely, often our ways of talking about it can involve correlative modes of physiological ("molecular") motion that culminate in trick ailments.


Skinner's simple psychology of operant conditioning deflects attention from the possible distinctions between bodily motion and symbolic action. His concerns are with "molar" (public?) behavior. It's a quite legitimate field of inquiry, and he has done well by it. But it accidentally obscures the true import of the distinction between "verbal behavior" (symbolic action) and "bodily behavior" (physiological motion).

If a physicist sets up an experiment by noting how rays behave when refracted through a prism, there is a qualitative difference between the behavior of those rays and the behavior of the physicist who planned, set up, and interprets the experiment. The physicist would persuade his colleagues. If he tried to argue with his rays, you'd know he's crazy.

Thus my Dramatistic question is: Is Operational Behaviorism physiological enough? Has it not confined itself to observations that are but analogues of sociology?

But if one treats the physiological organism as the principle of individuation, then one has the conditions for a distinction between motion and some such term as "personality" or Self in its role as a social product, developed via the human experience with the resources of symbol systems, along with the corresponding vast, complicated structure of identifications which constitute "reality" (including the lore of the sciences, history, mathematics, human relations, even "gossip," a motivational realm that must be different not just in degree but in kind from that of nonhuman animals).

As I would read and apply the Ringen essay, it confirms and sharpens my position. The distinctions between "operant" and "respondent," coupled with the distinctions between "molar" and "molecular," help greatly to clarify my claim that there is a basic distinction between verbal behavior (which I call "symbolic action") and nonverbal processes (which I call "nonsymbolic motion"). The terms are not important, but the distinction is, whatever be the terms one chooses. The bodily behavior correlative to the "speech act" is quite different from the way "words behave," with a corresponding need that one accentuate the difference rather than obliterate it, as is in effect the case when experiments in the operant conditioning of "dumb" animals are interpreted as adequately representative of matters to do with inducement in the specific realm of human relations. The ironically paradoxical fact is Skinner is able to set up so essentially "rational" a problem ("push that lever, peck that key, or starve") that his animals can in effect behave much more "rationally" than is the case in most human situations having to do with welfare,

complicated as they are by a vast tangle of symbolically, culturally engendered "reality" above or beyond our experiences as hungry animals confronting a device for getting food. The very directness of the issue as so set up is in itself enough to make it unrepresentative of the indirectness that is typical of human discriminations.


This essay originally appeared in Critical Inquiry 4 (summer 1978): 809–38. Reprinted with permission of the University of Chicago Press.


8. Theology and Logology


The main purpose of this long essay is to define, illustrate, apply, and defend logology —pretty much against all comers. Theology is used as a comparison and contrast to logology and is the central concern of the essay, as it was, say, in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961). This essay is probably the most complete on the subject of logology, how it works, what its basic assumptions are, and why it should be taken seriously as a way of dealing with words (symbolic action) and the human condition (which includes the realm of motion). It is a summing-up essay, which means that there is quite a lot of repetition of material that appears in other essays before and after this one. Burke had finished this essay by the fall of 1977 when he came to Chicago for talks at the National Humanities Institute at the University of Chicago, where I was a fellow. The institute typed the essay for him, and he had made all of his corrections by the spring of 1978, when he returned to Chicago to give a series of talks at Northwestern University that was arranged by Lee Griffin, and featured Burke's latest definition of humans as "bodies that learn language."

Nothing is more basic to late (post 1970) logology than this definition, which replaces his old one, "symbol-using animals." As Burke liked to say, you can "spin" everything else from it, and he did. A distinctive human trait now becomes the intrinsic inherited species trait: the ability to learn a language, any language from the thousands that are spoken worldwide. All "normal" human beings have this ability to understand and speak a language, and, with training, to read and write it. One learns the language of the tribe more or less automatically if one is socialized and grows up where the language is spoken. No other living species that we know of has this ability, perhaps because no others have a neural network complex enough to accomplish the feats of memory required to learn, and learn how to use, thousands upon thousand of words in hearing, speaking, reading, and writing. Prodigious feats of memory are characteristic of humans in their relationship to language.

Burke is not really so interested in these feats of memory as he is in the fact that the ability to learn and use a language is ubiquitous in humans and that language (symbolic action) has a logic (logologic?) of its own that affects every part of our lives, the more so since the advent of the age of print technology and, later, of radio, television, and computers. Logology is the study of words, and words about words. Burke likes to point out that even "reality" is not real, rather than, say, nature or some other nonverbal subject until it has been turned into words, and major events (spring, love, marriage) are not complete until we have a song or poem to go with them. We literally see with words and name everything we see to incorporate it into the verbal realm so that we can refer to it when it is not present and make appropriate use of it. The "illiterate" Indians of the Amazon jungle have named and learned how to use hundreds of natural substances for

medicinal and other purposes. The Eskimos have a huge number of words for every kind of snow. The Plains Indians had a language more complex than Greek. Print technology gave us the world of books, which many of us still inhabit. We may yearn for an unmediated experience of the natural world (Burke's realm of motion) but it is impossible, no matter what the ecocritics and ecologists tell us. We have no images that are not tainted with words. Dogs may smell their way through the world, but we talk our way through it—and beyond it.

In these matters, Burke is absolutely correct in his relentless insistence that the way to knowledge and understanding of what it means to be human is through words, in all of their many forms and permutations. In and through words; beyond words he once wrote. But beyond words there is nothing. God after all is nothing but a word in logology. It is hard to imagine what could be beyond words in logology, except nothing. Maybe a pure, powerful musical experience, such as Beethoven's last piano concerto might give us an experience beyond words, though the second music critics or conductors or players begin to discuss it, they have brought it into the realm of words because they have no other way to get it out of the pure musical state it is in when we hear it.

I seem to be far afield, but I'm not. Burke's example of the air conditioner in the movie theater is meant to illustrate how mind affects body, or what the rhetorical properties of a film can do. The body that learns language is also the body that suffers from it—what you see in the theater is nothing but images; what you hear is nothing but words and whatever sound effects and music are part of the movie. There is nothing real about it except that it is happening to you as you internalize what is on the screen and what is coming from the speakers. As Burke points out, no one is really being killed, tortured, burned, buried alive, raped, or having an orgasm up there. There are no real bullfights in Hemingway's novels, nor is there any actual violence in Faulkner's novels. However, the power of words (and of images on the screen) is so great, and the connection between words outside the head and words inside the head is so extensive and the neural network is so complex that the whole body is affected by what it sees and hears. In spite of the fact that we know it is not real, what we read and see on the screen can make us shout, weep, laugh, close our eyes, even leave the theater or TV to avoid any more of that experience. This interactive relationship is the field of logology: the nature of words (symbolic action), what words can do to us, how words behave, what we can do to and with words as bodies that learn language. "No mind without body," Burke says over and over again in discussing the realm of symbolic action. Even inside the head, language is an embodiment and the brain is a clutter of words. There may be 50,000 to 100,000 in there. The only escape seems to occur when we dream, which is often wordless.

This is Burke's realm. If I go on, I'll get lost in it, lost in words about words, lost in the logological trap. Once in there (say, in a text) how can you ever get back out except by using more words about words? Artists painted abstract pictures and left them untitled to escape the tyranny of words. But even to call it "Untitled" is to rely on words again.



There is the possibility of confusion, in connection with my use of the term "logology." Though I shall constantly be encountering occasions where theology (as "words about God") and logology (as "words about words") overlap, particularly as when logology was taken literally to mean "the Doctrine of the Logos" (the reference to Christ as the Word in the Gospel of John), in my discussion I shall be stressing the secular meaning of the term.

Technically, each term could treat the other as of narrower scope. For logology in the secular sense could class all sorts of "isms" and "ologies" and many other kinds of utterance, including itself, as modes of "verbal behavior." And theology would certainly look upon any such theorizing as far less comprehensive in scope than theology's concern with the relations between the human, word-using animal and the realm of the supernatural.

Professor J. Hillis Miller, most notably in his essay on "The Linguistic Moment in ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’ " (The New Criticism and After, edited by Thomas Daniel Young [Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976], pp. 47–60), has expertly discussed Hopkins's way of fusing a fascination with words in general and a devotion to Christ as the creative Logos. And when elsewhere he refers to "the peculiarly precarious Feuerbachian pose which says, in effect, ‘All the affirmations of Christianity are true, but not as the believers believe,’ " I thought of the kabbalists who said that biblical references to God as though he had a human body are not figurative; they are literal. But only God knows how to interpret their literal meaning—and the nearest we can come is by understanding them as figures of speech.

Our bodies are gestated and born in wordlessness—and out of such a state grows the doctrinal (that is, the verbal, the scriptural even). Themselves speechless, they help us learn to speak.


We have heard much talk of a "birth trauma," the shock of a fetus in being exiled from an Edenic realm in which it had flourished but which its own stage of growth had begun to transform from a circle of protection into a circle of confinement. With its first outcry after parturition it is started on its pilgrimage as a separate organism, its sensations, its feelings of pleasure and pain, being immediately its own and none other's.


We assume that such immediate experiences of a particular physiological organism are like the experiences of similar other organisms. But at least they are far from identical in the sense that your pleasures and pains are exclusively yours, and no one else's.

Whether or not the organism's radical change of condition at birth is a "trauma," a wound that leaves a deep scar, we do know that under ordinary favorable conditions the organism begins to flourish, and even so much so that in later life the vague memories of its early years can assume an Edenic quality, presumably the material out of which myths about a primal Golden Age can take form. And this is the stage of life during which the infant (that is, literally the "speechless" human organism) learns the rudiments of an aptitude which, to our knowledge, distinguishes us from all other earthly beings: namely, language (or, more broadly, familiarity with arbitrary, conventional symbol-systems in general—insofar as traditions of dance, music, sculpture, painting, and so on are also modes of such "symbolic action").

But the kind of arbitrary conventional symbol-system that infants acquire in learning a tribal language differs from the other media in at least this notable respect: It is the one best equipped to talk about itself, about other media, and even about the vast world of motion that is wholly outside all symbol-systems, that was going on long before our particular kind of symbol-using animal ever came into existence, that is the necessary ground of our animal existence, and that can go on eternally without us.

Rousseau tells us that our kind was born free. But that formula can be misleading in its implications. Every infant emerges from organic infancy (speechlessness) into language during a period of total subjection—subjection to the ministrations of "higher powers," the familial adults with whom it comes to be in what Martin Buber would call an "I-Thou" relationship. Under favorable conditions these powers are benign; sometimes they are malign; or there is an ambiguous area, inasmuch as ministrations that the powers conceive of as well-intentioned may be interpreted otherwise by the maturing infant, since its condition does not enable it to clearly recognize the limitations imposed upon the higher powers which the infant conceives of as all-powerful.

The first cry of the infant had been a purely reflex action. But as the aptitude for symbolic action develops, the child acquires a way of transforming this purely reflex response into the rudiments of communication. In effect, the cry becomes a call, a way of summoning the higher powers by supplication. In out-and-out language, it becomes a way of

saying "Please." There we see emerging the profound relationship between religion and prayer. The Wailing Wall is not a cry of despair. The Wailing Wall is a cry of hope. It is not the cry of Hell, as with Dante's line, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." The cries of Hell are eternally hopeless. But the prayers of religion are in their essence as with the infant's cries, which had become transformed from a condition of sheerly reflex expression into a plea, the very essence of prayer.

I would consider these paragraphs a logological observation about the "cradle" of theology. Theology is words about God; logology is words about words. Logology can't talk about God. It can only talk about words for "God." Logology can make no statement at all about the "afterlife" and the related concept of the "supernatural." Logology can't either affirm or deny the existence of God. Atheism is as far from the realm of logology as is the most orthodox of fundamentalist religions. All logology is equipped to do is discuss human relations in terms of our nature as the typically symbol-using animal. In that regard, without pronouncing about either the truth or falsity of theological doctrine, logology does lay great emphasis upon the thought that theology, in purely formal respects, serves as a kind of verbal "grace" that "perfects" nature. It "rounds things out," even if such fulfillment happened to be but the verbal or doctrinal completing of the pattern that the infant "naturally" experiences when first learning language, and its modes of supplication in an "I-Thou" (familial) relationship with "higher powers."

Logology involves only empirical considerations about our nature as the symbol-using animal. But for that very reason it is fascinated by the genius of theology; and all the more so because, through so much of our past, theologians have been among the profoundest of our inventors in the ways of symbolic action. Also, everywhere logology turns, it finds more evidences of the close connection between speech and theologic doctrine. Saint Paul tells us, for instance, that "faith comes from hearing [ex auditu]," which in the last analysis amounts to saying that theology is exactly what it calls itself etymologically, an "ology." The story of Creation in Genesis is an account of successive verbal fiats ("and God said"). And in the New Testament the Gospel of John tells us that in the beginning was the Logos.

But these issues don't stop with such obvious cases as that. In my essay on "Terministic Screens" (Language as Symbolic Action [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973], pp. 44–47), after having noted how the nature of our terms affects the nature of our observations, by directing our attention in one way rather than another (hence "many of the ‘observations'

are but implications of the particular terminology in terms of which the observations are made" [46]), I turned to the formula which Anselm had developed at great length from Isaiah 7:9 (nisi credideritis, non intelligetis): "Believe, that you may understand" (crede, ut intelligas).

It is my claim that the injunction "Believe, that you may understand," has a fundamental application to the purely secular problem of "terministic screens."

The "logological," or "terministic" counterpart of "Believe" in the formula would be: "Pick some particular nomenclature, some one terministic screen." And for "That you may understand," the counterpart would be: "That you may proceed to track down the kinds of observation implicit in the terminology you have chosen, whether your choice of terms was deliberate or spontaneous." (47)

Or, in my The Rhetoric of Religion ("On Words and the Word: Sixth Analogy" [1961; reprint edition, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1970], pp. 29ff) I have tried to show how "the relation between the name and the thing named would be the Power (equals the Father); the name would be the Wisdom (equals the Son, which the Father "generates" in the sense that the thing named calls for its name); and the two together "spirate" Love (equals the Holy Spirit, in the sense that there is the perfect correspondence between the thing and its name, and the perfect term for such correspondence or "communion" between the terms would be Love).

And as for "Perfection" itself, the theological idea of God as the ens perfectissimum has a striking logological analogue in the astoundingly many ways in which terminologies set up particular conditions for the tracking down of implications. The whole Marxist dialectic, for instance, is so designed as to foretell fulfillment in what logology would class as a Utopian perfection, a dialectic so "perfect" that it is to inevitably culminate in the abolition of itself (with the "withering away of the state," a state of the political state that may be quite dubious, but that can make claims to inevitability if we substitute for the state of the body politic the analogous state of the human body).

In more restricted ways, the tracking down of implications towards various perfections manifests itself in our many technological nomenclatures, each of which suggests to its particular votaries further steps in that same direction. Such expansionist ambitions are near-infinite in their purely visionary scope; but though they have no inner principle of self-limitation, their range of ideal development is restricted by the ways in which they interfere with one another, including academic

problems to do with the allocation of funds among the various departments.

This logological principle of perfection (which I would call "entelechial," restricting the Aristotelian concept of the "entelechy" to the realm of nomenclature, "symbolicity") can also be seen to operate in areas which we do not ordinarily associate with the idea of perfection, except in such loose usages as "perfect fool" or "perfect villain." But its powers along that line are terrifying. It showed up repeatedly in theological charges of heresy, in which the heretics were nearly always saddled with the same list of hateful vices. And in our day the Nazis did the most outrageous job with "perfection" in that sense by the thoroughness of their charges against the Jew. It takes very little inducement for us to begin "perfecting" the characters of our opponents by the gratuitous imputation of unseemly motives. Thus, all told, in my logological definition of humankind, I put a high rating on my clause "rotten with perfection." Satan was as perfect an entelechy in one sense as Christ was in another. Doubtless Machiavelli was thinking along those lines when he told his prince that, whereas one should be wary of hiring mercenaries, the way to get the best fighters is make the war a holy war.

Language is one vast menagerie of implications—and with each channel of such there are the makings of a corresponding fulfillment proper to its kind, a perfection in germ. For the logological study of dialectic teaches us that there are two quite different ways of introducing the "entelechial principle of perfection," thus:

  1. There is the thing, bread.
  2. There is the corresponding word, "bread."
  3. Language being such as it is, with no trouble at all I can make up the expression, "perfect bread."
  4. We may disagree as to which bread could properly be called "perfect."
  5. A mean man, or a dyspeptic, or a philosopher might even deny that in this world there can be such a thing as "perfect bread."
  6. Nevertheless, theologians can speak of God as the ens perfectissimum—and the expression "perfect bread" is a secular counterpart of such dialectical resources.
  7. Nay more. Even if there is no such thing as perfect bread in actuality, I can consider bread from the standpoint of perfect bread "in principle."

  8. 179
  9. "Here is some perfect bread"; or
  10. "As compared with perfect bread, this bread I am offering you is a dismal substitute"; or
  11. "I can assure you that, humble as it is, this bread represents perfect bread in principle." (It "stands for the spirit of perfect bread.") (Kenneth Burke, Dramatism and Development [Barre, Massachusetts: Clark University Press, 1972], p. 59; appendix to essay on "Archetype and Entelechy.")

But the question of the relation between logology and theology also requires that we look in another direction, namely, the question of the relation between logology and behaviorism. A handy way to introduce this issue is by reference to a passage in my review of Denis Donoghue's recently published admirable collection of essays, The Sovereign Ghost: Studies in Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976):

On going back over Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, I ran across a footnote in which with regard to the "desynonymizing" of the terms "imagination" and "fancy," he says: insofar as any such distinctions become accepted, "language itself does as it were think for us." It is a chance remark which the structuralists would make much more of than would either Coleridge or Donoghue. ("The Sovereign Ghost by Denis Donoghue," The New Republic 177 [September 10, 1977]: 30–31)

In effect Coleridge is saying that words are doing what the theologian would say that the "mind" is doing, an interesting twist inasmuch as Coleridge, in his day, was known much better for works like his theological Aids to Reflexion than as a literary critic, though his works generally had a theological cast. Yet in passing, Coleridge there hit upon a quite strategic substitution, since the immediate context of situation in which words are learned is the realm of nonsymbolic motion, whereas "mind" is more readily associated with an ultimate supernatural ground beyond the realm of physical and physiological motion.

Logology here is in an intermediate position between theology and behaviorism (which monistically acknowledges no qualitative difference between a human organism's verbal and nonverbal behavior). Logology is as dualistic in its way as theology is, since the logological distinction between symbolic action and nonsymbolic motion is as "polar" as theology's distinctions between mind and body, or spirit and matter. Logology holds that "persons" act, whereas "things" but move, or are moved. And "personality" in the human sense depends upon the ability

and opportunity to acquire an arbitrary, conventional symbol-system such as a tribal, familial language.

However, logology need not be driven to a "mentalist" position when in controversy with a behaviorist. Indeed, seizing upon a behaviorist term, logology needs but point to the empirical distinction between verbal behavior (which logology would call "symbolic action") and "molecular" behavior (which logology would call "nonsymbolic physiologic motion").

To adapt some comments from Western Speech (summer 1968), I read somewhere that, when thrillers are shown in movie houses, the airconditioning plant must be accelerated, owing to the audience's increased rate of respiration, and so forth, in response to the excitement of the fiction. The fiction is in the realm of "symbolic action," with which the air-conditioning plant has no relation whatever. The air conditioners "behavior" is in the realm of nonsymbolic motion, which relates directly to the physical conditions produced in the theater by the body's nonsymbolic molecular motions correlative with the symbol-using organism's responses to the story (which as a story is wholly in the realm of symbolism, though the sights and sounds of the story, in their role as mere uninterpreted vibrations, are but in the realm of motion). For in the empirical realm, no symbolic action is possible without a grounding in motion, as words on the screen can't even be words unless they can be seen or heard.

But logology would hold that their symbolic dimension cannot be monistically reduced to the order of physical motion alone. Whatever the mutation whereby our prehistoric ancestors acquired their aptitude with symbolicity, from then on the human animal was a composite organism, be the duality conceived in theological terms of mind and body, or in logological terms of symbolic action and nonsymbolic physiological motion. The principle of individuation was in the body, with the immediacy of its sensations. The realm of symbolism, with its many modes of identification (family relationships, geology, history, politics, religious doctrine, and so on), shaped the public aspects of human awareness and personality.


With Coleridge's passing remark that, if a new distinction becomes generally established, in effect the corresponding words think for us, we are at the very center of logological inquiry: the close but indeterminate relationship

between substitution and duplication. There is obvious duplication in the very fact that we have verbal parallels for nonverbal things, processes, and relationships. There is substitution inasmuch as, given the thing bread and the word "bread," the person who asked for bread with the proper symbol (the word for bread in that particular language) might be given instead another symbol, the money with which to buy it. One could spend a lifetime doing nothing more than tracking down the intricately interwoven manifestations of these two principles, which are perhaps more accurately discussed not just as aspects, but as the very essence, of language. For present purposes, let us cite a few such aspects at random:

First, there are the extensions of language by analogy, what Jeremy Bentham called "fictions," a term that itself is probably a metaphorical extension of the expression "legal fictions." Terms that have a quite literal meaning as applied to physical conditions can be adapted figuratively to subject matter that does not admit of such usage. For instance, if we speak of one object as being at a certain "distance" from another, our statement can be strictly literal, capable of verification by measuring the distance. But if we speak of one person's views as being "distant" from another's, we are employing a "fiction" which admits of no such literal physical test. Or, in saying that a certain leaning object has an "inclination" of thirty degrees, we are using the term literally, in contrast with the statement that a person has an "inclination" to do such-andsuch. In this connection Bentham observes that our entire vocabularies of psychology and ethics are made up of such "fictive" duplicates, without which we could not talk about such matters at all. Go to the etymological origins of all such terms, and you will spot the literal images implicit in such ideas.

The relation between our sensory experience as individual speechless physical organisms and the vast public context of symbolicity we acquire as social beings sets up the endlessly complex conditions for such duplication as is revealed in the spontaneous use of terms for the weather as a nomenclature for "states of mind," or "attitudes." And one can glimpse how a whole magic world of human relations might develop from that mode of duplication whereby, as one pious person fearsomely plants a crop, another (an expert in the lore of mythic counterparts) "collaborates" by contributing his skill to the process, in scrupulously performing the "necessary" attendant ritual of a planting song ("necessary" because, man being the symbol-using animal, the realm of nonsymbolic natural motion is not completely humanized until reduced to terms of

symbolicity; hence spring calls for a spring song, harvest for a harvest song; marriage, death, changes of status, and so on similarly attain their "completion" when thus ritually paralleled).

The resources of duplication and substitution are revealed most clearly of all in such mathematical operations as the use of the symbol p, instead of 3.1416, or the internal relationships whereby 2 plus 2 can be the same as 4 times 1. And surely mathematics began with that primal substitution whereby, in making three marks to stand for three apples, one also had a sign that would stand for three of anything, whereupon one's symbol had advanced to a "higher level of generalization" whereby the number itself could be operated on in its own right, without reference to any particular numbered things.

On inspecting more closely this aspect of what we might call the "duplication-substitution complex," we come upon a similar usage that, at first glance, might seem of a quite different sort. Insofar as some particular ritual is ceremonially repeated in identical fashion on different occasions (which would also include annual seasonal occurrences, since no two situations are identical) in effect the ritual acts as a mode of classification that abstracts from any particular occasion, just as numbers become abstracted from any one particular instance of their use. Thus, a marriage rite is an institution whereby all sorts of couples are "processed" in identical fashion. It is not like a situation where John and Mary are consulting a marriage counselor about their particular problems. Rather, it is individualized only insofar as there is a blank space to be filled with whatever proper names are to be included under that head this time.

The ubiquitous resources of substitution probably attain their profoundest theological embodiment in the doctrines and rites of vicarious sacrifice. I plan to discuss later the distinctions between theological and logological concerns with the principle of sacrifice. But let us now consider the astounding thoroughness (even to the edge of paradox) with which Christian theology developed the logological principle of substitution. Of all victims that were ever offered as redemption for the guilt of others, surely Christ was conceived as the most perfect such substitute, even to the extent of being perfectly abhorrent, as bearer of the world's sinfulness. Thus Luther said:

All the prophets saw that Christ would be the greatest brigand of all, the greatest adulterer, thief, profaner of temples, blasphemer, and so on, that there would never be a greater in all the world. … God sent his only begotten Son into the world, and laid all sins upon him, saying: "You are to

be Peter the denier, Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and wild beast, David the adulterer, you are to be the sinner who ate the apple in the Garden of Eden, you are to be the crucified thief, you are to be the person who commits all the sins in the world." (I translate from Leon Chestov, Kierkegaard et la philosophie existentielle [Paris: Vrin, 1948].)

Thus, in terms of the specifically "Christian logology," the most perfect divine Logos also became the perfect fiend, in serving as the substitute vessel for the guilt of all.

With regard to the vexing issue of the relation between words and "mind" (whereby some nomenclatures would substitute "words" for "mind," as per the tangential remark we have cited from Coleridge), before moving on too the raspects of our subject we should consider J.Hillis Miller'singenious and penetrating essay"The Linguistic Moment in' The Wreck of the Deutschland.’ " This essay is particularly relevant since Hopkins's exceptional involvement in strictly logological concerns is so strikingly interwoven with the most poignant of theological devotions. Miller here notes "three apparently incompatible theories of poetry … each brilliantly worked out in theory and exemplified in practice":

Poetry may be the representation of the interlocked chiming of created things in their relation to the Creation. This chiming makes the pied beauty of nature. Poetry may explore or express the solitary adventures of the self in its wrestles with God or in its fall into the abyss outside God. Poetry may explore the intricate relationships among words. These three seemingly diverse theories of poetry are harmonized by the application to them all of a linguistic model. This model is based on the idea that all words rhyme because they are ultimately derived from the same Logos. Nature is "words, expression, news of God" (Sermons, 129), and God has inscribed himself in nature. The structure of nature in its relation to God is like the structure of language in relation to the Logos, the divine Word; and Christ is the Logos of nature, as of words. (47–48)

Coleridge, when commenting on how words can think for us, and noting that the two words "imagination" and "fancy" (the one from the Latin, the other from the Greek) were often used synonymously, proposed to "desynonymize" them, so that they would have different meanings. But Hopkins proceeded in the other direction; he let the word "Logos" think for him by refusing to distinguish between its secular meaning as a word for "word" and its meaning in Christian theology, where the New Testament word for Christ was the "Word." Hopkins's thinking could not possibly have been as it was had those early sectaries, the "Alogians," succeeded in their attempts to exclude the Gospel of John and

Revelations from the Christian canon because in both texts Christ was referred to as the Logos.

Saint Augustine had in effect desynonymized the two usages by explicitly referring to his conversion from his career as a pagan rhetorician (a "peddler of words," venditor verborum) to a preacher of the Christian Word. But he had also Christianized the very beginning of the Old Testament by noting that God's successive acts of Creation had been done through the Word (when he had said, "Let there be …")—and thus in effect the Creation was done by the Father's Word, which was the Son.

Miller begins his essay: "By linguistic moment I mean the moment when language as such, the means of representation in literature, becomes a matter to be interrogated, explored, thematized in itself" (47). While his engrossing study of what B. F. Skinner might call Hopkins's "verbal behavior" is essentially logological, the very fact of Hopkins's refusal to "desynonymize" the two usages keeps the study of the "linguistic moment" constantly infused with the theological implications of Hopkins's poetics.

As might be expected, variations on the theme of "duplication" and "repetition" are plentiful; even talk of a "primal bifurcation" is a signal to look for ways of tying the issue in with the distinction between speechless nonsymbolic physiological motion (analogous to the traditional terms, "matter" or "body") and the publicly infused realm of symbolic action (analogous to the traditional terms, "spirit" or "mind"). In this connection Miller has a footnote which succinctly bears upon "polar" aspects of the human being as a dualistic, "composite" individual, in contrast with the monistic assumptions of behaviorism, which denies any qualitative distinction between verbal behavior and nonverbal behavior (in brief, it "thinks" by refusing to "desynonymize" the term "behavior"). Referring to an "admirable passage in Hopkins's commentary on The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius," Miller quotes:

And this [my isolation] is much more true when we consider the mind; when I consider my selfbeing, my consciousness and feeling of myself, that taste of myself, of I and me above and in all things, which is more distinctive than the taste of ale or alum, more distinctive than the smell of walnutleaf or camphor, and is incommunicable by any means to another man. (47)

In my view of logological dualism (which Hopkins comes close to replacing with a monism exactly the reverse of the behaviorists', insofar as Hopkins would reduce everything to terms of the universal Logos) the

"linguistic moment" proclaimed by that resonant sentence implicitly pronounces the principle of "inscape" in what are essentially "problematical" terms. The "selfhood" of a Catholic priest must obviously be grounded in Catholic doctrine, which is necessarily "spiritual," on the side of what logology would call public "symbolicity." But he expresses the sense of his separate identity in terms of immediate sensation, which is in the realm of the individual's sheer physiology.

True, poets have traditionally used the terminology of sensation to give the feel of the internal immediacy that Hopkins aims to suggest. And there is no good reason for denying poets such a time-honored rhetorical device. I am but pointing out that the essential polarity or duality of the human condition is not actually bridged (it can't be) but is stylistically denied. The mode of expression is thus in effect a "linguistic element" that represses an explicit statement of the case. Whereupon the "return of the repressed" reveals itself in the person of Hopkins himself as the "wreck" with which the poem starts out (significant timing!) by being explicitly and exclusively concerned.

The first five stanzas are in the form of an "I-Thou" prayer. Forty lines in all, there are nineteen cognates of the first-person pronoun, fourteen of the second. The second half of the first part is transitional, in that the pronouns move farther off (first-person plural and third-person singular). The second part, two-thirds of the poem, is built explicitly around the wreck of the Deutschland, a "pied" name if there ever was one ("O Deutschland, double a desperate name!"—as the home of both the nun Gertrude, "Christ's lily," and the "beast," Luther). With regard to the poem as a structure, we could say that it transforms the "pied" nature of the poet's personal problems into the grander interwoven ambivalences of sinking and salvation.

At the end of the essay Miller adds a footnote:

Kenneth Burke, in remarks about this paper after its presentation at the Ransom Symposium at Kenyon College in April of 1975, argued that I should add something about the multiple meaning of the word wreck in the title. The poem, he said, is about Hopkins's wreck. This was a powerful plea to relate the linguistic complexities, or tensions, back to their subjective counterparts. Much is at stake here. That the poem is a deeply personal document there can be no doubt. Its linguistic tensions are "lived," not mere "verbal play" in the negative sense. … In "The Wreck of the Deutschland" Hopkins is speaking of his own wreck. … The danger in Burke's suggestion, however, is, as always, the possibility of a psychologizing reduction, the making of literature into no more than a reflection or representation of something psychic which precedes it and which could exist without it. …

Subjectivity, I am arguing, with all its intensities, is more a result than an origin. To set it first, to make an explanatory principle of it, is, as Nietzsche says, a metalepsis, putting late before early, effect before cause. (59–60n)

I wrote Miller, calling attention to the closing paragraph of an essay by me concerning Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" ("Symbolic Action in a Poem by Keats," A Grammar of Motives [1945; reprint edition, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969], pp. 447–63). In that essay I had noted respects in which traces of the symptoms of the disease he was to die of manifested themselves. But I added this qualification:

We may contrast this discussion with explanations such as a materialist of the Kretschmer school might offer. I refer to accounts of motivation that might treat disease as cause and poem as effect. In such accounts, the disease would not be "passive," but wholly active; and what we have called the mental action would be wholly passive, hardly more than an epiphenomenon, a mere symptom of the disease quite as are the fever and the chill themselves. Such accounts would give us no conception of the essential matter here, the intense linguistic activity. (462–68)

In that last paragraph, I wrote Miller, "At least I say Im not doing exactly what you say I am doing." Then I added: "However, I'll meet you halfway. I think the relation between the physiology of disease and the symbolic action of poetry can be of the ‘vicious circle’ sort. One's poetizing, in the very act of transcending hints got from the body's passions, can roundabout reinforce the ravages of such sufferings." I had in mind here such a "reflexive" process (I guess current cant would call it "feedback") as the role of "psychogenic" asthma in Proust's search for essence by the "remembrance of things past."[1]


Let us now list some cases the discussion of which might most directly help us inquire, by comparison and contrast, into words about the divine, the supernatural (theology), and words about words (logology), including words for the divine and supernatural, whether or not there be such a realm, which theologies have words for.

Since theology in our tradition is so clearly grounded in the relation between the Old Testament and the New, let's begin logologically from there. The formula of the Christian theologians was stated thus: Novum Testamentum in Vetere latet, Vetus in Novo patet. How translate it exactly? "The New Testament was latent in the Old Testament. The Old

Testament becomes patent in the New Testament." Or "The implications of the Old Testament became explicitly manifest in the New Testament." It was a way of both letting the Jews in and keeping them out, unless they became converted or, like an old Testament patriarch, each had been an anima naturaliter Christiana; I forget whether Socrates was adjudged such, but his association with the symbolic action of Platonism might well include him, for his Hellenic contribution to the cult of Logos that the early Alogian Christians wanted to rule out.

In any case, the Christian theology, with regard to the relation between Old Testament and New Testament, would see in the Old Testament many stories about characters that were conceived as what they were only insofar as they were "types of Christ." Indeed, the Jewish tribe itself, in its Exodus from Egypt, was but a type of Christ. Thus its Jewish identity was, in effect (in principle), being viewed not as that of a tribe in its own right, but as an emergent stage of the Christian future.

Exactly, then, what does logology, as a purely secular cult of the Logos, do with that particular localization of dialectical resources? Obviously, the Old Testament story of Abraham and Isaac (telling of how the father, in obedience to God's Law, would consent to sacrifice even his most beloved person, hisson) can be conceived of asincipiently, prophetically a type of the New Testament story of an all-powerful Father, the very soul of justice, who actually does fulfill the pattern, in completing the sacrifice of his most precious person, his only begotten Son. And logology looks upon both stories as variations on the theme of sacrifice.

In my early scattered readings among mediaeval texts, I found a sentence that fascinated me. It was probably a rule of some monastic order, I don't know which. And though I have lost track of the original, I still incline to go on repeating my translation, which is as resonant as I could make it: "If any one have any thing of which he is especially fond, let it be taken from him." There is even the ironic possibility that I got the Latin somewhere from Remy de Gourmont, a nonbeliever if there ever was one; and he taught me to appreciate, in a kind of twisted nostalgia, the forlorn fragmentary beauty of such accents. The fantastically "materialistic" George Santayana's gallant Realm of Spirit is also in that groove.

But the main consideration, from the standpoint of logology, is the fact that, however variously theologians may treat of the relation between the Old Testament and the New Testament, they have in common the theological stress upon the principle of sacrifice. As viewed from the standpoint of logology, even the most primitive offering of animals on

the altar can be equated with the Crucifixion of Christ insofar as any and all such rites embody the principle of sacrifice (which, given the ubiquitous logological resources of substitution, turns out to be synonymous with vicarious sacrifice).

As viewed logologically, the theological story of the Creation and the Fall (in the opening chapter of Genesis) would be summed up thus:

The story of Creation, in representing the principle of Order, necessarily introduced a principle of Division, classifying some things as distinct from other things. In this purely technical sense, Creation itself was a kind of "Fall," inasmuch as it divided the principle of Unity into parts, each of which has a nature of its own, regardless of how they might in principle be "unified." (As seen from this point of view, even a project for "unification" implies a grammatical gerundive, a "to-be-unified.") Thus, viewed from the other side, the orderly principle of Division isseen to contain implicitly the possibility of Divisiveness.

The possibility of Divisiveness calls for a Law against Divisiveness. (In a world set up by the creative word, how keep Division from becoming Divisive except by a word, a Law, that says, "Dont do whatever would disrupt the Order"?) So the story includes a "don't" that, stories of that sort being what they are, stands for the sheer principle of Law, as the negative aspect of Order. But implicit in the idea of "Don't" there is the possibility of Disobedience. One says, "Do" or "Don't" only to such kinds of entities as can be able to respond (that is, can have the responsibility) by in effect saying, "Yes" or "No" (that is, being obedient or disobedient).

But Saint Paul's theology was quite in keeping with logology when he said that the Law made sin, as Bentham was to say that the Law makes crime. However, note that, in introducing, via Law, the possibility of Disobedience, one has by implication introduced the principle of Temptation (the incentive, however originating, to fall afoul of the Law). Where, then, locate the "origin" of that Temptation, as befits the nature of narrative (story, myth)?

At this point, the implications of terms for Law and Order surface by translation into terms of role. These are two kinds of "priority." There is logical priority in the sense of first premise, second premise, conclusion. Or in the sense that the name for a class of particulars is "prior" to any particular included under that head, quite as the term "table" already "anticipates" the inclusion of countless particular objects that don't even yet exist. Or there is temporal priority in the sequence yesterday-today-tomorrow.


As a result of this doubling, one can state matters of principle (that is, firsts or beginnings) in terms of either logical or temporal priority. (Hence in my Rhetoric of Religion I put major emphasis upon the etymological fact that both the Greek and Latin words for "principle" [arché and principium] refer to priority in both the logical and temporal senses of the term.) I said somewhere (I think in my Grammar of Motives, but I can't locate it) that a Spinozistic translation of the first words in the Vulgate Bible, "In principio Deus creavit," would be not "in the beginning God created," but "in principle God created" For his basic equation, Deus sive Natura, amounts exactly to that, since he would never associate the words "God" and " nature" in terms of a temporal priority whereby God "came first" in time. Though such equating of God and nature was pantheistic, hence anathema, in its sheer design it resembled the thinking of those Orthodox Christians who attacked Arianism by insisting that the "priority" of Father to Son was not in any sense temporal. We here confront a purely logological kind of "priority," as we might well say that the number 1 is "prior" to any other number, but only "in principle"; for no number in time is "prior" to any other, since an internal relationship among numbers is nontemporal. "Before numbers were," 3 was less than 4 and more than 2, though we can "go from" one such to another. And logologically we confront an analogous situation with regard to the narrative or "mythic" translation of "nontemporal" implications among terms into terms of story, as with the narrative ways of stating the principles of Order in the first three chapters of Genesis, under "primal" conditions involving an audience for whom the poetic ways of story came first; however, such expressions were later to be sophisticated by the "traumatic" step from poetry and mythology to criticism and critically mature theology.

The Old Testament begins in its way quite as the New Testament Gospel of John begins in its, with pronouncements that overlap upon these two kinds of priority. Genesis "tells the story" of the divine word's informative power. John tells the story of the Logos, a Hellenistic stress upon the word that a "Judaizing" sect among the emergent Christian doctrinarians had unsuccessfully attempted to exclude from the canon. Hence, though the term in English seems to have begun by reference to the Logos in the Gospel of John (a usage that is ambiguously implicit in these present shuttlings between theology and logology), both the Book of Genesis and the Gospel of John present their cases in terms of story. And we now take on from there.

Logologically, we confront the fact that, given the fluid relation between

logical and temporal priority, the logical "firstness" of principles, when stated in the ways of story (mythos), as with the opening chapters of Genesis, calls for translation into terms of temporal priority. Thus the narrative way of saying what Saint Paul had in mind when saying that the Law made sin and Bentham when he said that the Law made crime was to say that the first human being sinned against the first Law decreed by the first and foremost Law-giver.

The principle of the Law, implicit in the principle of Order, is identical with an astounding seiendes Unding that human language has added to nature, the negative (a purely linguistic invention unknown to the world of sheer wordless motion, which can be but what it positively is). Thus, implicit in the legal negative, the "thou shalt not" of the Law (which, the story of Beginnings tell us, was born with the creation of worldly order) is the possibility that its negativity can be extended to the negating of negativity. There is thus the "responsibility" of being able to say no to a thou-shalt-not.

But the tactics of narrative personalizing (in effect a kind of substitution that represents a principle in terms of a prince) raise a problem local to that particular mode of representation itself. If this kind of "first" is to represent the possibility of disobedience that is implicit in the decreeing of a Law, where did the "temptation" to disobedience "come from"? Up to this point, we have been trying to show that a logological analysis of the case would coincide with a theological presentation, in that theology has said implicitly what logology says explicitly; namely, the conditions of the Fall were inherent in the conditions of the Creation, since the Divisiveness of Order was reinforced by the divisive possibility of saying either Yes or No to the primal Law of that Order.

However, the sheer psychology of personality is such that an act of disobedience is but the culminating stage of an inclination to disobey, a guilty disobedient attitude. And where did that prior step, the emergent temptation to disobey, originate? Here theology's concern with the sources of such an attitude introduces a causal chain that turns out to involve a quite different provenance.

Eve was the immediate temptress. But she had been tempted by the serpent. But the serpent was not "entelechially perfect" enough to be the starting place for so comprehensive, so universal (so "catholic") a theological summation. The principle of substitution gets "perfect" embodiment here in that the serpent becomes in turn the surrogate for Satan, the supernatural tempter beyond which no further personal source of temptation need be imagined, since his personality and his role as ultimate

tempter were identical, in such total consistency that this supreme "light-bearing" angel was the most thorough victim of his own vocation.


In his epic, Paradise Lost, Milton turns that story into a further story. Beginning with theology's search for the grandest personalized source of temptation, Milton reverses the mode of derivation as we have traced it logologically. Thus, whereas logologically the story of the revolt in Heaven would be derived from motivational ambiguities whereby the eventuality of the Fall was implicit in the conditions of the Creation, Milton's theological route would proceed from the revolt in Heaven to the Fall, and consequent expulsion from the Garden.

Although there are many respects in which logology and theology are analogous (respects in which the two usages, words about words and words about the Logos, can go along in parallel) there are also the many occasions when, as we have here been noting, they will unfold a series of interrelated terms in exactly the reverse order. A good example is a creation myth that I learned of from Malinowski (compare Language as Symbolic Action, pp. 364–65n).

According to this myth, the tribe is descended from a race of supernatural ancestors (in this case, subterranean ancestors, since their original ancestors were thought to have lived underground). These mythic ancestors had a social order identical with the social order of the tribe now. When they came to the surface, they preserved the same social order, which has been handed down from then to now. In this case, obviously, whereas conditions now are mythologically "derived" from imputed primal conditions "then," logologically the mythic imputing of such primal conditions "then" would be derived from the nature of conditions now. (I hope later to discuss respects in which we might distinguish between mythology and theology; but in a case of this sort they are analogous with regard to their difference from logological derivation. And they have the advantage of providing much simpler examples, at least as usually reported. Also, their polytheistic aspect makes them much easier to "rationalize" than the ways of the single all-powerful personal God of monotheistic theology, who tolerates so much that seems to us intolerable. Since logology makes no judgment at all about the truth or falsity of theologic doctrine, its only task is to study how, given the nature of symbolism, such modes of placement are logologically derivable from the nature of "symbolic action.")

Logologically considered, the issue may be reduced to the matter of

the negative, another aspect of the condition that arose in the story of the Creation when God introduced the "thou shalt not" of the Law. Implicit in the negative is the possibility of polar terms which bear a timeless relationship to each other. This relationship is "timeless" in the sense that although, with polar terms like "order" and "disorder," each implies the other, their relationship doesn't involve a temporal step from one to the other. But the supernatural realm of eternity is timeless. And Heaven was the realm of timeless perfect order. But inasmuch as the genius of the negative makes such terms as "order" and "perfection" polar, so far as such terms were concerned they contained the timeless implication of their contrasting term. Also, there are two kinds of polar negative: the propositional ("is, isn't"), the hortatory ("do, don't"). And they tend to lose their initial distinctness.

Myth, story, narrative makes it possible to transform this timeless relation between polar terms into a temporal sequence. That is, myth can tell of a step from either one to the other. Thus, with regard to the perfection of Heaven outside of time, the resources of narrative made it possible to carry out the implications of polar terms such as "order" and "perfection" by such stories as the revolt of Lucifer in Heaven. And the timeless nature of such polarity is maintained eternally in the unending establishment of Heaven and Hell, the one all Yes, the other all No.

Polytheistic myths didn't have the acute problems with this terministic situation that monistic theology has. Joseph Fontenrose's volume Python: A Study of Delphic Myth and Its Origins (New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1959; which I use as the basis of my essay "Myth, Poetry, and Philosophy," reprinted in my Language as Symbolic Action), takes as its point of departure the myth of the combat between Apollo and Python, then extends the discussion to two main types in general. There is a late type, concerning a struggle between an "older" god and a "new" god, with the new god triumphing and founding a cult. But this is said to be derived from an earlier type, concerning a struggle between a dragon and a sky-god, with the sky-god triumphing.

In such cases, the principle of negation in polar terms can accommodate itself easily to such stories of personal combat. Also, the timeless nature of the negative in such terms can be preserved, since the vanquished combatant, though "slain," is yet somehow still surviving, like Typhon buried by Zeus beneath Sicily and fuming through Aetna, with the constant threat that he may again rise in revolt. Or the two may reign in succession, the vanquished principle taking over periodically, for a season. Or under certain conditions the opposition can be translated into terms

more like cooperation, with both powers or principles being necessary to make a world, whereby the principle becomes itself a species of order, too. Even the kingdom of Darkness is not just a rebellion against Light, but has its own modes of organization. Polytheistic mythology could thus readily accommodate temples to rival gods, for there was general agreement that all such powers should be propitiated. And the meaner they were, the more reason there was to appease them with cult.

In transforming these resources of polytheistic myth, monistic theology encounters many serious embarrassments. And some years back, when I happened to be dealing with some of my logological speculations in a seminar at Drew University, William Empson's polemical volume Miltons God (London: Chatto & Windus, 1965) came along. Obviously, Empson had decided to play the role of a very bad boy. But what interested me in the book was the fact that its quarrels with Milton's theology would serve so well to help point up my "neutral" concerns with logology.

As judged from the logological point of view, there is no "combat" among terms. In my Rhetoric of Religion, the "Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of ‘Order’ " is a set of mutually interrelated terms which simply imply one another. Though terms can confront each other as antithetically as "reward" and "punishment," nothing "happens" until they are given functions in an irreversible, personalized narrative. Terms like "disorder," "temptation," "disobedience" come to life when Adam is assigned the role of personally representing the principle of sin, and Satan is assigned the role of ultimate tempter. God has the role of setting up the Order and giving the critical negative order, so terministically necessary before a Fall can even be possible.

There is no one strict way to select the "cycle of terms" for such a chart. In general, the ones I suggest are quite characteristic of the theological tradition for the discussion of which I am offering a pragmatically designed pattern (with, behind it or within it, thoughts on the strategic interwoven difference between temporal priority and logical priority, the distinction itself being logological).

The interesting twist involves the way in which "supernatural" timelessness parallels logological timelessness, with both becoming "mythologized" (that is, translated into terms of a temporally irreversible story, along with an ambiguity whereby history can be viewed as both in time and in principle, for instance when Christ's Crucifixion is both said to have happened historically once, and to be going on still, in principle). Thus, quite as Orthodox Christian theology would condemn Arianism because it treated the Son's coming after the Father in a temporal sequence,

whereas the Father's priority was but such in principle, so logology would point out that there can be no temporal priority between two such terms. The very relationship that makes a son a son is, by the same token, the relationship that makes a father a father. Thus, in effect, the Father can but "generate" the Son in principle.

Looking upon both mythology and theology as involved in the problem of translating supernatural "timeless" relationships into terms of temporal sequence, logology tentatively views monotheism as in various ways struggling to "perfect" the simpler rationales of polytheism while still deeply involved in the same ultimate motivational quandaries. But logology approaches the matter this way: If you talk about local or tribal divinities, you are on the slope of polytheism. If, instead, you talk about "the divine" in general, lo! you are on the slope of monotheism. (On pp. 406–9 of my Language as Symbolic Action, in the article I have mentioned on "Myth, Poetry, and Philosophy," I list several ways in which polytheism "verbally behaved" in this situation. And I do think that on page 408, with regard to my point about "the divine," I stumbled into a real surprise, though my inadequacies as a scholar make me fear that something may have gone wrong with my Greek.)

In any case, logology quotes this passage from a letter of Saint Ambrose:

The devil had reduced the human race to a perpetual captivity, a cruel usury laid on a guilty inheritance whose debt-burdened progenitor had transmitted it to his posterity by a succession drained by usury. The Lord Jesus came; He offered His own death as a ransom for the death of all; He shed His own Blood for the blood of all. (Drawn up by His Eminence Peter Cardinal Gasparri, The Catholic Catechism, translated by Reverend Hugh Pope [New York: P. J. Kennedy & Sons], p. 291)

Logology tends to see in such statements vestiges of the transitional stage from polytheism to monotheism when the pagan gods were viewed not as mere figments of the imagination but as actually existent demons. You pay such high ransom only to someone who has terrific power over you, not to someone to whom you needed but to say, "Be gone for good," and he'd be gone for good. Logology leaves it for the scruples of theology to work out exactly why that damned nuisance has to be put up with, by an all-powerful Ordainer of all Order. Logology's only contribution to the cause is the reminder that, to our knowledge, the Law, be it Saint Paul's kind or Bentham's, is the flowering of that humanly, humanely, humanistically, and brutally inhumanely ingenious addition to wordless nature, the negative, without which a figure like Satan would

be logologically impossible, as also it would be impossible to put next to a live wire a sign saying: "Danger, don't touch." Could even Heaven be possible, if not defined by reference to its polar contradictory, Hell? I have quoted from Fritz Mauthner's Wörterbuch der Philosophie: "Die Bejahung ist erst die Verneinung einer Verneinung"(Language as Symbolic Action, "A Dramatistic View of the Origins of Language and Postscripts on the Negative," p. 419). On the same page, from Dictionnaire des Sciences Philosophiques: "Le néant nest quun mot," but think what it has looked like, with "being" grounded in "non-being."

But let's sample a few of the problems that turn up with Milton's theological treatment of some logological situations:

Praise is a basic "freedom of speech." There is great exhilaration in being able to praise, since praise is on the same slope as love. But what of God, as the august recipient of praise? Is He to be a veritable glutton for flattery, with jealous signs of a Jehovah complex?

However, the principle of hierarchy so intrinsic to Order, and formally perfected in the orders of Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers, could work well in one notable respect. For thus Satan's revolt could be treated as motivation for the obedient revolt of the angels immediately under him. They were loyal to their local leader.

If God in His omnipotence lets the battle rage indecisively for quite some time whereas He could have stopped it the moment it began, there arises the question whether He is as powerful as He is supposed to be, or is cruel. Yet if Milton disposed of the problem from the start, where would the epic be? Under the conditions of polytheism the fight can go on; Fontenrose codifies the stages that can be protracted ad libitum; for both combatants are mighty powers in conflict. But under monotheism there is but one power whose word is power in the absolute, except for the one logological embarrassment that, implicit in polar terms, there is a timeless principle of negativity which not only warns against the wiles of Satan, but creates the need for Satan. The dragging out of the battle is not a theological matter. As The Iliad shows, that's the only way you can write an epic.

Empson seizes upon the notion of the "Fortunate Fall" as a way of indicting the Father on the ground that it proves Adam's Fall to have been in the cards from the start and thus to have involved the collusion of God. But as regards the logology of the case, Adam's fall was in the cards from the start in the sense that his task, as the "first" man, was to represent the principle of disobedience that was implicit in the possibility of saying no to the first "thou shalt not." The only way for the story aspect

of theology to say that the Law made sin is by translating the statement of such "principles" into temporal terms. Theologically, as a private person, Adam didn't have to sin. But logologically, if he hadn't, the whole rationale of the Bible would have been in ruins. By the logologic of the case, he had a task to perform that only the first man could be "principled" enough to perform. Eve couldn't do it. She could but serve as a temptress. For it was a patriarchal culture, and such original sin could only be established through the male line.

There was a Patripassian heresy that thought of the one God as offering himself for the redemption of mankind. But the Trinitarian relation between Father and Son allows for a divine self-sacrifice without Patripassianism. Empson considers the same grammar without benefit of logology but in his bad-boy method thus: "What Milton is thinking has to be: ‘God couldn't have been satisfied by torturing himself to death, not if I know God; you could never have bought him off with that money; he could only have been satisfied by torturing someone else to death.’ "

There is quite abit more of such discussion in the pages "Words Anent Logology" I sent to the members of the class by way of a post mortem on our seminar, later published in Perspectives in Literary Symbolism, edited by Joseph Strelka (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1968, pp. 72–82). But this should be enough to indicate the relation between theology and logology as revealed by Empson's somewhat naively nonlogological treatment of Milton's theological narrative.


A somewhat oversimplified pattern might serve best to indicate the drift of these speculations. Ideally postulate a tribe of pronouncedly homogeneous nature. Its cultural identity has developed under relatively autonomous conditions. That is, its contacts with other tribes have been minimal, so that its institutions have taken shape predominantly in response to the local material circumstances on which it depends for its livelihood.

The tribe's poetry and myths would thus emerge out of situations with which the members of the tribe had become familiar in their gradual transformation from wholly dependent speechless organisms, through successive institutionally influenced stages along the way to maturity and death, a major aspect of such institutions being the role of the tribal language in shaping the sense of individual and group identity. In this connection I would place great stress upon the notion that, though the tribe's

language and myths were largely the work of adult experiences, usages, and imaginings, they retained the vestiges of their "magical" origins. Important among these would be the child's experiences as living among "higher powers." The proportion of child to adult would thus be mythologically duplicated in the proportion of adult to "supernatural" beings, in a realm also associated with the idea of death (a frequent synonym for which, thanks to the genius of the negative, is "immortality").

The closeness of the relation between poetry and mythology is clearly attested by the long tradition of Western "literary" interest in myths of the Greeks. Myths are grounded in beliefs. And beliefs are "myths" to whoever doesn't believe them. And the step from poetry to criticism takes over to the extent that the conditions under which our hypothetical tribe's body of poetry and mythology took form have become notably altered.

One can imagine various such inducements. The tribe's internal development may have introduced new problems (as with the heightening of social inequities). Climatic changes or invasion may cause migration. The tribe may become much more closely associated with some other tribe (by becoming a colony of some imperial power, for instance, or by becoming an imperial power itself). And insofar as the voice of criticism replaces the era of poetry, there is a corresponding step from mythology to theology. At least such is the obvious case with regard to both Jewish and Christian theology, which developed controversially (as monotheism versus pagan polytheism), and with tense involvement in problems of empire that radically modified the possibilities of purely internal "tribal" development. But theology as I would place it still does tie in closely with the aspect of mythology that shared the poetic sense of origins in the experiences of childhood, even to the stage when the speechless human organism was but getting the first inklings of the ways with verbal utterance.

Also, it's quite likely that a development purely internal to the medium can favor a great stress upon criticism. The incentives to criticism increase with the invention of writing, and it's doubtful whether criticism could ever realize its fullest potentialities without the acutely anatomical kind of observation that the written version of a work makes possible. At least, after our long reliance on the written or printed text, our reliance on the record has probably hobbled our memory to the point that, whereas a grounding in primitive illiteracy is in all likelihood the best condition for poetry, criticism must write things down, the better to check on all the subtleties of interrelationships among the parts of a text. Yet, although in

that respect logology is always much more at home with a text than not, it must constantly admonish itself regarding the limitations of a text as the adequate presentation of a symbolic act, and as instructions for the reader to reenact it. In comparison with a well-edited musical score, for instance, the literary text when considered as instructions for performance is seen to be quite deficient. And think how impoverished the text of a drama is, when viewed as instructions for the reader to reenact it in his imagination.

But what then, in sum, is "logology," in relation to poetry, criticism, mythology, theology, and the possible relation that they all have to the realm of nonsymbolic motion in which all such forms of symbolic action are empirically grounded? (That is to say, regard less of whether theology is right or wrong, it is propounded by biological organisms that can themselves propound anything only so long as they are physically alive, hence capable of motion.) Whatever a theologian may be in some supernatural realm, empirically he can't be a theologian except insofar as his symbolizings are enacted through the medium of a body—and logology begins (and also necessarily ends) with questions about his nature thus.

Logology relates to all "ologies" in asking, as its first question, "What all is going on, when someone says or reads a sentence?" There are some things going on, with relation to the specific subject matter of the sentence. And behind or beyond or within that, there are the kinds of processes and relationships that are involved in the saying or understanding of any sentence. That approach to the subject in general sets up logology's first question, which necessarily puts the logologer on the uncomfortable fringes of all the answers to all specific questions. It must start from the fact that logology's first question is a variant of the prime Socratic question, the questioning of itself, and of its relation to nature (whereby it becomes the purely technical analogue of the theologians' "grace" that "perfects" but does not "abolish" the realm of nature's speechlessness).

Even at the risk of resorting somewhat to the mythical, let's end by surveying the field thus, as it looks in terms of logology:

First, although in many respects the speculations of logology bring us much closer to behaviorism than is "naturally" the case with inquiries into the nature of the word, there is one total, unyielding opposition. Behaviorism is essentially monistic, in assuming that the difference between verbal behavior and nonverbal behavior (logology would call it a distinction between symbolic action and nonsymbolic motion) is but a manner of degree. But logology is dualistically vowed to the assumption that we here confront a difference in kind. Hence, it puts primary stress upon

DUPLICATION, POLARITY, NEGATION (and countless variations of such) as the very soul of logological inquiry.

And where do such modes of duplication come from? In our nature as sheerly physiological organisms there is the bisymmetry of the body, there are the modes of reciprocating motion (systole and diastole of the heart, the rhythm of respiration, the alternations and compensatory balances of walking). And in a vague way the gist of what Newton summed up in his third Law of motion, "To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction," is experienced to the extent that an organism must sense the difference in alterity between pushing a reed and colliding with a stone.

But a whole further realm of duplication arises from the nature of discourse as a "reflection" of the nonlinguistic situations in which the human organism's prowess with language is acquired. This is the kind of duplication that shows up most obviously in the critical difference between a physical thing and its corresponding name.

Further, by the nature of language such parallels ("completed" in the relation between spring and a spring song, or between the physical process of planting and a ritual designed to accompany such a process) inevitably give rise to a vast realm of duplication due to the fact that analogy is implicit in the application of the same terms when referring to different situations—and all actual situations are different insofar as no two such situations are identical in their details. Such "idealization," at the very roots of the classifying function intrinsic to the repeated application of the same terms to different conditions (a property of speech without which no natural language could take form or be learned), itself involves an endlessly repeatable act of duplication.

This analogical aspect of language thus sets up possibilities of further development in its own right, making for the fictive range of identifications and implications and substitutions which add up to the vast complexities of the world as we know it. It becomes a realm in its own right and essentially anthropocentric, in being verbally amplified by our "isms" and "ologies" and mathematical reductions (all instances parexcellence of specifically human inventions in the real mofsymbolicaction).

Such resources can become so highly developed out of themselves, by analogical extension and the duplication of such analogies in corresponding material implements and techniques, that the process of duplication can become paradoxically reversed, as in Plato's theory of "imitation." By this twist things are said to "imitate" the "ideas" (logology would call them the "class names") which we apply to them, hence in

terms of which we can be said to conceive of them. Here stating thoughts of "essence" in terms of quasi-temporal priority, Platonism concluded that the "ideas" or "forms" (that is, the class names) for the particular existent things of our empirical, everyday world must have been experienced in a supernatural realm prior to their "imperfect imitation" that we see all about us.

As viewed logologically, such "forms" are "prior" in the sense that the name for any class of objects can be viewed as "logically prior" to the particulars classed under that head. And any particular can be called an "imperfect" instance of that class name, because such a word (and its "idea") is not a thing, but a blank to be filled out by a definition, which wouldn't be a thing in that sense. Yet no particular thing could perfectly represent the definition. To take Plato's example: There is not one bed which you could point to and say, "That's bed." Nor could any of the countless other beds, variously different in their particulars from one another, and many of them not even made yet, be selected as the bed. You could say, "That's a bed, " but not just "bed" or "the bed." Incidentally, though you could thus use an indefinite article, Plato couldn't; for there is no such grammatical particle in his Greek.

That impinges upon another realm of speculation in which logology is properly much interested. Consider the scholastic formula Nihil in intellectu quod non prius in sensu. There is nothing in the realm of understanding which did not begin in the realm of the senses. Obviously, we are there involved in the ambiguous relation between "images" and "ideas" which directly bears upon the analogical factor operating in the modes of duplication.

To that formula, Leibniz added, nisi intellectus ipse, "except the understanding itself." The strictly logological equivalent of that addition would be a concern with respects in which the given structure of a language (such as its particular grammar, or even such sheer accidental affinities as similarity in sound between particular words in a given idiom) sets up conditions intrinsic to the medium whereby we don't just think with a language, but the language can in effect think for us. Much has already been done along those lines, and much can still be done. Basically, I take it, the study of words as words in context asks us to ask how they equate with one another, how they imply one another, and how they become transformed.

There are contexts in the sense that a whole text is the context for any part of the text. There are contexts in the sense of whatever "background," historical, geographical, personal, local, or universal, might be

conceived of as the scene to which the symbolic act of the author as agent explicitly or implicitly refers, over and above the nature of the text's sheerly internal relationships.

But now let us consider again the behaviorist angle. On the issue which I am to discuss here, don't fail to consult a truly admirable article, "Explanation, Teleology, and Operant Behaviorism: A Study of the Experimental Analysis of Purposive Behavior," by Jon D. Ringen, Philosophy of Science, 43 (1976): 223–53. Though I doubt whether I quite use it the way it was intended, it is so methodologically scrupulous a performance, its accuracy speaks for itself.

There is "operant" conditioning and there is "respondent" conditioning.Pavlov's(or Watson's) was of decided lya"respondent"sort. The experimental animal responds by salivating when you give it asniff of meat. Test its response quantitatively by checking its flow of saliva. Then, after having by repetition established the association between the sniff of meat and the ringing of a bell, ring the bell without the sniff of meat, and check on the amount of salivation as a response thus conditioned.

B. F. Skinner experimented with an additional test. Give an animal a goal, set up some simple condition whereby, if it pecks at a certain form (or color) or presses a lever, it operates a mechanism that releases a bit of food. Having been systematically starved to about four-fifths of its natural weight, it does whatever it can in the need for food. The laboratory conditions are so set up that there are few things it can do. As the result of its random motions, it learns to repeat the pressing or pecking operation that is most congruent with its "natural endowment." And conditions are so set up that this operation procures it food. The kind of instrumental "purpose" it thus acquires is called an instance of "molar" behavior. And such methods of "control" can be employed by the experimenter to teach the animal quite specialized modes of behavior, as compared with its natural "repertoire" for getting food. At the same time, of course, there is a kind of "molecular" behavior going on in the animal, the purely physiological correlates of bodily motion such as Pavlov was studying in his technique for measuring the degree of salivation with which his dogs responded to his respondent mode of conditioning.

It is my notion that logology's interest in questions of human "molar" responses would primarily involve considerations of rhetoric and legislation (as with matters of penal law and taxation). But whereas humanistic studies usually show little interest in questions of "molecular" behavior, logology must stress this subject since it bears so directly upon the possible correlations between physiological nonsymbolic motion and

symbolic action along the lines we touched upon in our reference to the air-conditioning plant that had to use proportionately more energy when a more exciting motion picture was being shown (which is to say, when the audiovisual motions of the film were being interpreted by the audience in terms of symbolic actions for which the correlative nonsymbolic motions of their bodies put a proportionately greater burden upon the air-conditioning mechanism, which could have no direct response to the film itself as a sequence of motions, but which its "sensors" were designed to register, as translated from the film's motions by the audience's actions, which were in turn reflected as correlative bodily motions). I have deliberately left that sentence in its present unwieldy condition, the better to suggest the underlying problematics of such logological concerns, though it is obvious that modern technology is developing at a high rate the resources for such clinical inquiries into the "molecular" bodily motions that accompany our ways with symbolic action (apparently including even inquiries into corresponding routines of self-control).

When considering such mythic figures as the Worm Ouroboros, the Amphisbaena, or the world conceived as a mighty Hermaphrodite, one might plausibly derive them from designs purely internal to the resources of symbolicity. For instance, even the range of meanings in the Greek preposition amphi is enough to suggest how the thought of such aroundness and aboutness might be "mythologized" (made narrative) in the image of a creature that went both forwards and backwards. The mutuality of ways in which terms imply one another might well suggest the circular analogy of a creature with its own tail in its mouth (the design here, long before there were dictionaries, suggesting what does characterize the nature of a dictionary, as a wholly self-contained universe of discourse, a kind of "circularity" in the way all the terms "circle back upon" one another). And when the principle of polarity becomes localized in terms of the sexes, it follows as a standard resource of dialectic that such a quasi-antithesis can be "resolved" by the most obvious corresponding term for synthesis.

Logology does tentatively entertain the likelihood that such imaginings may have a grounding in physiologically still existent vestiges of our "ancestral" evolutionary past. However, even if there may happen to be such survivals from our preverbal past, and should they still be manifesting traces of themselves in some of the verbalizing animal's most eschatological myths, logology builds on the assumption that the differentiating modes of sensation as immediately experienced by us animals

now contribute most to the imagery out of which a complex texture of concepts and ideals can be developed by the resources of analogy intrinsic to the nature of terms.

By the adjective "intrinsic" here is not necessarily meant a "power" of language. The same property can as accurately be called a mere limitation of language, a limitation due to the fact that we cannot apply the same expression to two situations without to some extent introducing the principle of analogy, metaphor, "fiction" as a "creative" resource in its own right.

Logology tentatively assumes that, quite as physically grounded "hermaphroditic" tendencies are clearly indicated in many actual instances of such "synthesis," so such mythic figures as the primal worm feeding on itself may be a response to physiological conditions (prior even to our uterine stage) still vestigially within us, and acting as a source of imagery. Though one may doubt whether such possibilities may ever yield much in the way of further discoveries, I mention them simply to indicate the range of inquiry which would be involved in the study of the human animal's nonsymbolic "molecular" behavior underlying the field of symbolic action.

A more rewarding kind of inquiry along these lines might concern the possibility that the socially morbid featuring of criminality, violence, sadism, terror, and the like (many aspects of which show up in folk tales for children) may have a double origin. As a social phenomenon (thus wholly in the realm of symbolic action) the astoundingly large number of mercenaries (writers, actors, and the various kinds of experts employed in the purely technological aspects of such behavior) are obviously producing commodities that are designed to attract ideally a maximum number of viewers as a means of establishing as large a marketplace as possible where the experts in sales promotion can best recommend their clients' products.

The social morbidity of such "art" is greatly aggravated by the nature of current TV realism, in which there is no appreciable difference between a merely simulated act of violence and a real one (which would be the equivalent of saying that there is no appreciable difference between the artistic imitation of suffering in Greek tragedy and the actual brutalities witnessed by the mobs who attended the gladiatorial contests in decadent Rome).

Apologists for the profitable selling of such wares will point to the high degree of violence in, say, the greatest plays of Shakespeare. They make no mention of the fact that the quality of the diction introduces a

notably different dimension. And as a matter of fact, writers for the current market operate in a field which, by the very nature of contemporary realism (or naturalism) as addressed to both eye and ear, wholly obliterates the distinction between real and simulated happenings, a confusion so "natural" to the medium that strictly scientific depictions of moon-shots and the like must specifically keep admonishing their public when they are not recording an instrument in motion but are merely simulating such.

If one must be so scrupulously specific in keeping that distinction clear, what then of a child who watches quasi-real killings time after time, with no warnings that the simulations appeal to a child's imaginativeness in a way whereby, after a few years of such fare, that child has "been through" all those experiences. The incidents have become "moral" in the most etymologically accurate sense of the term, that is, "customary." In that medium, such modes of conduct have become established as "the norm," and the child has been "educated" to think of human relations in such terms.

Recall the case of the lawyer who recently tried to get his young defendant declared innocent because the boy had been greatly influenced by the depictions of violence on the tube. I doubt whether even a Clarence Darrow could have used that defense successfully, if only because there is such a vast investment in the depiction of violence. Yet I personally go along with those who believe that "entertainment," as so conceived, does function as a morbid kind of education. But the pressures of the market are such that the suppliers of commodities for that market must sacrifice a lot when cutting down on violence and hoppedup sex, either of which can be a substitute for the other except when attacks are directed with equal insistence against both. For any radical elimination of them both would leave a void that other forms of symbolic action are not equipped to fill.

But how far should we go when asking what is the source of such appeal in these modes of substitution, depicting "criminal Christs" whose "mission" it is to take on the burden of our guilt, suffer their imitated passions in our behalf (as is also the case of "real victims," offered for the entertainment, fascination even, I mean for that inferior species of the "tragic pleasure" we get from digesting the literal news of each day's crime and disaster)?

Might not the search for such sources of appeal lead us back to a kind of purely physiological frustration? I do not refer to ways whereby imaginary

substitutes help us "compensate" by fantasies that fulfill our wishes for dominance, sexual gratification, or vengeance, and like wishes that are both stimulated and repressed by factors in the social order. I have in mind a more paradoxical kind of frustration; namely, if human bodies have been selectively disciplined through countless years of prehistory to endure certain purely physical kinds of strain, might the conditions of civilization frustrate the direct expression of such aptitudes as get developed by, and inherited from, the conditions that prevailed prior to the conditions of civilization?

To illustrate by an oversimplified anecdote, a spirited youth, living almost aimlessly in a modern slum, encounters kinds of frustration that a young healthy Eskimo, at a time before Western civilization had contributed so greatly to the deterioration of his tribal culture, could not have had the slightest notion of. The physicality of his purposes would have been clear. They would have been developed by traditions that also developed his ability to undergo the kinds of effort and corresponding strain indigenous to such a mode of livelihood. The conditions of his situation would also have selectively developed the physical and attitudinal resources consistent with the purposes that the needs for survival under those conditions called for.

Insofar as such an endowment was developed in answer to the "challenge" that the conditions themselves helped define, is there not a frustration of the aptitudes that are, as it were, "inborn" in the very "genetic endowment" of a species thus selectively trained, their bodies thus having had "bred into" them whatever abilities to perform are by the same token needs to so perform? After all, I am but saying that "inbred" in birds there is the ability to fly; and insofar as that ability is not given expression, they are frustrated, in their very nature "repressed."

Viewed thus, the spirited youth who becomes a "delinquent," might more accurately be thought of as seeking the "moral equivalent of war." But wars are largely social constructs, thus motivated by disorders in the realm of symbolicity; and we are here asking about a possible reduction to the realm of sheer nonsymbolic, physiological motion. The kinds of strain or conflict that are being assumed here, and that the organism's "genetic endowment" needs to "express" if it is not to be "frustrated," would be wholly in the realm of motion. One gets glimpses of such a motive in athletic efforts (now invariably corrupted from the very start by their tie-in with modes of decadent symbolicity known as professional sports). They are grounded in an asceticism of training, training

to undergo (and thus express) the potentialities of the physiological organism to endure strain, potentialities that would otherwise be denied expression.

In an early book (1935; Permanence and Change, second revised edition [Los Altos, California: Hermes Publications, 1954]), I exercised considerably about a corresponding moral conflict that characterized Nietzsche's cult of tragedy, and that I related also to a salient aspect of his style, its restless hankering after "perspectives by incongruity," in the service of an Umwerthung aller Werthe. In summing things up some four decades later, I find that related speculations should be recalled. Recalling them, I might sum up the whole "logological" situation thus:

There is (1) the principle of polarity with regard to the qualitative distinction between symbolic action and nonsymbolic motion. This is the prime source of duplication, insofar as the experiences of bodily sensation shape the materials which language draws upon as the source of its "fictions," in the realm of symbolicity. Within the realm of symbolicity itself there is (2) the kind of polarity that the negative adds to nonsymbolic nature. It itself splits into the propositional (is-is not) pair and the hortatory (do-do not) pair. In the realm of the body as a sheerly nonsymbolic physical organism there is (3) the polarity of the distinction between the need for struggle (in the effort to attain the means of livelihood) and the rewards of relaxation (when a hunger has been sated). In a highly complex social structure the resources of symbolicity are such that the sheer physiology of such a distinction becomes greatly confused by symbolic factors (property relationships, for instance). But we have tried to indicate why we assume that it can function quite paradoxically as a motive. (Leisure, for instance, can function as a mode of psychological unemployment, with twists whereby people can "make work" for themselves by "inventing" confused purposes and relationships.)

Formal symbolic structures might be reduced to three terministic relationships: equations (identifications), implications, transformations. For instance, if some particular "ism" or "ology" or personality type or location or whatever is explicitly or implicitly presented as desirable or undesirable, it would be identified with corresponding "values"—and such would be "equations." "Implications" would figure insofar as one term explicitly or implicitly involved a cycle or family of terms, as the idea of "order" implies a companion-term, "disorder," or implicit in the idea of an "act" is the idea of an "agent" who performs the act. By "transformations" would be meant what would be the "from-what," "through-what," "to-what" developments in a symbolic structure. Such

unfoldings (from potentiality to actualization via a "peripety" of some sort) can be either narrative or purely conceptual or both. The question of "transformations" necessarily impinges upon the shifting choices between temporal, narrative priority (yesterday/today/tomorrow) and logical priority (the syllogistic first premise/second premise/conclusion design—or the dialectical notion of a class name as "prior" to any particulars that can be classed under that head).

In this connection, the route from logology to theology is via a logological criticism of Plato's mythology because it assigns to his ideal forms a realm narratively prior to their mode of classification as in effect general names for worldly particulars included under those various "ideal" heads. Such a procedure would be called the "temporizing of essence," in that it does "mythologize" (that is, translate into terms of story) a verbal resource of classification that has no temporal dimension.

Since "eternity" is also a kind of nontemporality, the conditions are present whereby the "timelessness" of the supernatural realm after death (by extension involving a realm prior to all wordly existence) ambiguously overlaps upon the purely technical sense of timelessness in the logological sense of polar terms timelessly implying each other. And inasmuch as theology necessarily uses narrative terms with regard to the emergence of time out of timelessness, logology's business is to discuss such embarrassments that survive, even after theology has critically gone beyond mythology.

But looking in the other direction, whereas logology is vowed by sheer definition to be much concerned with the "molecular behavior" of the body (thereby going along radically with behaviorist inquiries), logology must insist categorically upon a polar distinction between verbal and nonverbal behavior, in contrast with the behaviorists' notion that they are there concerned with but a difference of degree. Logology's distinction between the symbolic and nonsymbolic realms is at least as absolute as any distinction between "mind" and "body," though it has a notably different way of getting there. In fact, the distinction is as basic as that between bread and the word "bread." Or as the distinction between the sea as a "mother symbol" and the sea as the physical body of saltwater it is, vastly a sloshing-around.

With regard to the logological distinction between symbolic action and nonsymbolic motion, it makes no difference whether the human animal "thinks with language," or "thought" and "symbolicity" are identical. In either case, insofar as the speechless human organism acquires familiarity with a tribal language there arises a duality of motivational

realms whereby the human animal's way with symbols is not reducible to terms of its correlative molecular behavior.

But when I read of hermeneutic experts who congratulate themselves that the traditional Cartesian split between subject and object, thought and extension, is being avoided, I would note that there are two quite different ways of considering any such development. If Descartes's dualism is attacked as a "psychology of consciousness," it is in trouble. But we should not let any reservations regarding the Cartesian formulation of the dualism serve as a device by implication to discredit the dualistic principle itself. For if we do so, we are in effect implying monism either by smuggling in undeclared vestiges of idealism, or by willy-nilly subscribing to the "materialistic" oversimplification of behaviorism. But logology's "dramatistic" (or dialectical) view of language as symbolic action is in its very essence realistic—and such a view is necessarily dualistic, since man is the typically symbol-using animal, and the linguistic invention of the negative is enough in itself to build a dualism, even beyond the other two polarities we also included in our summation.

At least as a tentative working principle, logology holds to the notion that the relations between poetry and mythology (and thence via criticism and writing to theology, plus wholly secular offshoots or disrelated growths, if there are such) must in all likelihood embody "imaginative" traces intrinsic to any symbolic (that is, human) medium in its own right, along with traces of the formative experiences undergone while the human animal is gradually acquiring familiarity with the medium (such as its initiation in the ways of a tribal language). And such traces of the inceptive are all the more likely to be still with us since experiences of that sort are not a matter merely of a human organism's infantile past, but are ever born anew. For language is innately innovative. No one could go on making his words mean the same, even if he expended his best efforts to make them stay put.


This essay was first published in The Kenyon Review 1 (winter 1979): 151–85.

1. Any such possible relationship between personal tensions and their use as material for intense linguistic activity (to be analyzed and admired in its own terms) might figure thus. But there are special, purely logological, incentives for such a relationship between poetic activity and psychological passion. On various occasions (particularly the essay, "The First Three Chapters of Genesis," in my Rhetoric of Religion [1961]) I have discussed the process whereby the effort to characterize conditions now turns into a "story" of "origins" then, often a

purely "mythic" past. This endeavor can come to tie in with purely psychological motives in such cases as, for instance, a poet's inclination to dwell "regressively" on thoughts of early years actual or imaginary vestigial memories of infancy. Thus Wallace Stevens's puzzlements about the "first idea" seem to me an attempt, by an act of the "imagination," to recover a sense of what things must have seemed like to a child before things became codified by names, or even colored by the assumption that anything unnamed was potentially namable.

Incidentally, with regard to Keats's ode (which I take to envision a kind of "art-heaven," a theological heaven romantically aestheticized), by my interpretation, the transforming of his disease's bodily symptoms (fever and chill) into imaginal counterparts within the conditions of the fiction would be a poetic embodiment of the orthodox religious promise that the true believers would regain their "purified" bodies in heaven. That is, the symptoms would have their "transcendent" counterparts in poetic diction as indicated in my analysis.

I review these various considerations because the discussion of them offers a good opportunity to at least indicate "humanistic" concern (the admonition to "know ourselves") that I take to be involved in the logological distinction between the human organism's realm of nonsymbolic motion and the kind of "self" it "naturally" acquires through its protracted, informative traffic with the (learned) public modes of symbolic action.


9. Symbolism as a Realistic Mode

"De-Psychoanalyzing" Logologized


The main interest of this essay is in Kenneth Burke's recapitulation of the place of entelechy in his work from Philosophy of Literary Form (1941) through Dramatism and Development (1972) in the "Addendum." Other points of interest are his various definitions of what he means by "logological realism" and his often-repeated distinction between archetype and entelechy. The subtitle describes the logologizing process that Burke kept performing in so many of these late essays, translating the work of other thinkers (Plato, Marx, Freud, Jung, Saint Augustine) into logological terms. There is a certain amount of repetition in these late essays because Burke likes to use the same examples over and over again, and the logologizing process is itself somewhat repetitive because the main logological coordinates and assertions about language do not change.

The distinction Burke makes between "timeless" and historically "uncaused" recurrent archetypes and Burkean "entelechy" is crucial for logology and, going back a ways, for his dramatistic poetics. Entelechy, as Burke uses it, is a function of language; it is the ability, or the possibility, of developing a terministic set to the end of the line, or "to perfection." God is one example, but so is the devil. Tragedy, for example, is the perfect cathartic form of drama because it has the most perfect tragic protagonists and victims. At a more mundane level, we can linguistically arrive at the idea of "perfect" bread or the "perfect storm," or the "mother of all battles." Though none of these "perfections" could possibly exist. Burke's specialty is verbal texts. One of his best examples of "entelechial" analysis and thinking can be found in his essay "The First Three Chapters of Genesis" in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), especially in the section devoted to the "cycle of terms implicit in the Idea of ‘Order’ " (see the chart on page 184).

Burke was always an extremely careful and accurate entitler. Symbolism is a realistic mode because language (which is what symbolism means here) is used to describe and discuss real events and things in the real world. Even a text is realistically what it is: a verbal structure in which the words are facts that can be empirically studied. A text, as such, is as realistic as any other physical thing or object. The subtitle " ‘De-Psychoanalyzing’ Logologized" is a little more complicated. Burke tended to argue with a great many major thinkers in his defense of logology. These included Freud, Jung, B. F. Skinner, N. O. Brown, Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, René Wellek, Fredric Jameson, J. Hillis Miller, Cleanth Brooks, Wayne Booth, and many others. In "De-Psychoanalyzing" psychoanalysis, which Burke considers too idealistic, he translates it into terms of logological realism. Psychoanalysis, in whichever specific form it is practiced, is always bound to an idealized cycle of terms, a nomenclature. Burke wants a theory of the mind and body (of the self) that is more materialistic and realistic than

the idealized view of the self found in most psychoanalysis. "Psychoanalytic approaches to symbolic activity are clearly a form of idealistic social science" (3). "Logological realism" is the key term here, which Burke defines in a variety of ways throughout the essay.

This is the last of the four logology essays in this group. However, many other essays in this collection also deal extensively with Burke's logological views and, especially, with the connections he works out between logology and technology. See, for example, "Why Satire, With a Plan for Writing One," "Towards Looking Back," and especially "Variations on ‘Providence.’ " Burke also discusses logology at some length in the interview "Counter-Gridlock."


On reading the very suggestive article by Anthony Burton in your fall 1978 issue, "Beauty and the Beast: A Critique of Psychoanalytic Approaches to the Fairy Tale," I was moved to make some comments which, I hope, might in turn call forth further comments. We should probably begin with the term "symbolism."

In my "dramatistic" view of "language as symbolic action," the most general meaning of the term "symbolism" is "communication in terms of a symbol-system." That is, in the United States we speak an "American" brand of English—and my particular application of that langue in this article is an instance of symbolic action. But Freud uses the term "symbolic action" in a more specialized sense, as synonymous with "symptomatic action." The "symbols" of a dream are "symptomatic" of psychological perturbations in the "psyche" of the dreamer. Aristotle's term "imitation," as applied to tragedy, would involve another aspect of the "symbolic" in the sense that an Athenian tragedy was but a symbolic enactment of suffering, in contrast with the use of "real" victims in the gladiatorial contests of the Roman theater. Any Marxist theory of the distinction between "bourgeois cosmopolitanism" and "socialist realism" would also exemplify a concern with particular dialects of symbolism within the realm of symbolism in general. And so on, including for instance the "four-fold" scheme of mediaeval hermeneutics.

When we are dealing with psychoanalytic modes of interpretation such as Freud's and Jung's, the overall "logological" fact is that we are necessarily involved in theories of analogy. The manifest content of some symbolic expression is the analogue of a latent content, the nature of which is defined in accordance with the particular theories of motivation and interpretation propounded by the given psychological nomenclature.

On page 255, on the subject of "archetypes," Burton quotes Jung's quite relevant comment to this effect: "We are concerned first and foremost to establish certain analogies, and no more than that; the existence of such analogies does not entitle us to conclude that the connection is already proven. … The existing analogies, however, are significant enough in themselves to warrant the prominence we have given them." And he quotes a later statement, saying that the archetypes "are without known origin; and they reproduce themselves at any time or in any part of the world—even where transmission by direct descent or ‘cross-fertilization’ must be ruled out."

Then, in reference to a work by Joseph L. Henderson, a Jungian psychologist who has written on "Beauty and the Beast," Burton says:

Initiation, he claims, is an archetype. But he applies the term broadly throughout his book, Thresholds of Initiation, to trials of strength, rites of vision, and many other cultural activities. …He brings the Hopi snake youth myth, the Beauty and the Beast tale, and the Dionysius cult together with many other events as examples of one subcategory of this one archetype. Treated ahistorically in this way, the construct is too vague to be useful. These are little more than resemblances. Marriage is also claimed to be an archetype, and includes motherhood. But marriage takes many forms. … What is to be made archetypally of polyandry, polygyny, kibbutzim, communal and single mother arrangements, or of the situation in which the mother's brother normally acts as the cultural father? To subsume all these under one archetype does not seem realistic. Henderson seems oblivious to the problem. (255–56)

Accordingly, Burton asks: "When is an archetype not an archetype?" I can't promise to "solve" that problem. But it might serve as a good point of departure in the direction of questions about the relation between symbolism in general ("logology") and the role of analogy in the psychoanalytic study of mythology.


First, the resources of analogy being what they are, we could say "ahistorically" that any such terms as "archetype" or "initiation" are at a high level of generalization. Any pronounced transformation from one state to another could be conceivably classifiable under the head of "initiation," particularly if there were some rite that formally commemorated the development or event as a change of social status. Burton complains that such laxity with "archetypes" is not "realistic." But though I

grant that Jung is far out on the slope of idealism, his references to analogy with regard to archetypes would strike me as a quite realistic observation about such terms. Surely, archetypes are not "things" with definable edges, like tables or chairs (which, as terms, by the way, quickly take on analogical usage, as per "water table" or "cathedral"). They are titles for some kind of "principle." And their embodiment in story ("myth") quite spontaneously destroys borders. (For instance, some particular archetypal ceremony for marriage might incorporate imagery of plowing a field for planting. Or a magical imagery of planting might well help things out by incorporating connotations of a story ["myth"] in which a woman is being impregnated.) Jung came quite close to getting this matter straight. But he couldn't get it wholly straight because of the terministic pressure whereby, though the "methodology of logology" requires us to go from concerns with "symbolism in general" to the technical analysis of psychoanalytic nomenclature, the pressure of the wonders that were by psychoanalysis revealed kept even Jung from making the step from implicit psychological idealism to explicit logological realism. But in those passages I have quoted, he was obviously quite close.

Let's see how things look if, using the same most helpfully accurate essay as our point of departure, we proceed with the help of quotations from Burton's able statement of the case.

The final pages of his paper sharpen the issue perfectly. There, on the subject of "Psychoanalysis and Materialism," he makes it quite clear how mere matters of nomenclature ("Logological" considerations) line up, if we accept the rules that are implicit in reduction to a choice between idealism and materialism (each of which, after its own fashion, calls for the adjective "dialectical").

Burton does a neat job presenting these two terministic operations. Hegel's idealistic version dug so deep that even Lenin, on going back over the whole subject, advised Marxists to study Hegel, as a useful step along the way. And in early books, Marx was classed as a "neo-Hegelian." The difference, as Burton's trim analysis makes clear (hence, since I am referring to it, I can make further cuts), is reducible to two theories of origin. Namely:

In Hegel, Nature and History are the unfolding of the Absolute Idea through time. This is a metaphysical analogue of the theological view of a Divine Spirit made incarnate. And "ideas" are conceived as derived by that distinguished descent, being made manifest in the logic of history, which develops as a series of responses to their influence.

In Marx the provenance gets reversed, and ideas arise as a reflection

of economic conditions. "That is, one could try to explain sociocultural phenomena and their workings by considering the largely environmental mental mechanisms of settlement, work, demographic trends, technology, as prime factors, and relate forms of social organization and ideology (i.e., myth, ritual, language, beliefs, etc.) to such ‘earthly’ mechanisms" (Burton, 257). In keeping with these options:

Psychoanalytic approaches to symbolic activity are clearly a form of idealistic social science. … Symbols are pan-human and universal through time and space. They are not seriously modified by cultural factors, and began somewhere in archaic time. They function in the psyche according to principles that are intended to hold for people everywhere—Oedipal conflict or archetype, in the two cases given here. Such systems of explanation are idealist in that they are sets of ideas. Symbols, Archaic Time, the Psyche, the Unconscious, Oedipality, Arche types, are all mental constructs. … Their most substantial claim to value is that they have ameliorative effects when used with patients. (257)

But is our only choice that between idealism and materialism? Might there be room for a brand of realism that doesn't quite go along with either of those opposing metaphysical nomenclatures, yet finds much of great value in both? Let's see what might be said along those lines.


In a supplement to C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards's book, The Meaning of Meaning, the anthropologist Malinowski applies the term "symbolic action" to a quite realistic situation. A group of illiterate natives are engaged in a cooperative act of catching fish. As part of the process they use language, in calling back and forth to one another—and whatever may be their involvement in "myths," their group coordination by the use of symbolism in this enterprise is about as realistic an enterprise as you could ask for. Every utterance is related to the problem at hand, the mutual interchange of instructions for carrying out an act which could have only been performed much less efficiently, if at all, without the aid of symbolism; that is, the vocabulary of their tribal idiom.

Any such symbolic resources are necessarily learned in "contexts of situation" that are themselves outside the realm of symbolism as such. Malinowski also touches upon symbolic structures of a quite different nature (books, for instance, in which the internal relationships among the terms do not have any such direct bearing upon the "context of situation"

in which they are being used. In fact, a book is itself a "context" for any subdivision of the book as a text.

Even Saint Augustine, who, of course, believed that we are born in the image of God, offered purely realistic speculations as to how, as an infant, he learned language by hearing words spoken in nonverbal contexts of situation, though that wasn't his name for them. Adam and Eve were the only human parents who began with linguistic competence (and in the lingua Adamica even, for the development of which Adam was given a major assignment in taxonomy). Similarly, though Jeremy Bentham says that our "fictions" for psychological and ethical terms are borrowed analogically from the strictly material realm, Emerson agrees with him, plus a transcendental twist whereby God puts nature here as a kind of raw material for us to work from when etymologically perfecting our terminology of Spirit.

But in any case, we must guard against a "genetic fallacy," a "fallacy of origins," when considering the role of "language as a mode of symbolic action." Regardless of whether it is a reflection of Hegel's "Absolute Idea," also called the "World Spirit" (his idealistically metaphysical analogues of "God") or but an etymological development from words for sensations extended analogically in accordance with Bentham's theory of fictions, in either case, once arisen, it has a nature of its own, with corresponding powers.

There is a passage in Burton's article stating that technology could be viewed either along Hegelian lines as "from heaven to earth," or along Marxist lines as "from earth to heaven" (257), though Marxists might complain unless you put it more strictly: from substructure to superstructure. But the kind of "logological realism" that I am trying to put in a word for would be "ahistorical" in the sense that, whether "ideas" (or language in general) be derived from an idealistic metaphysical background or from a materialistic one, there are many notable realistic observations that we can make about the resourcefulness of symbolsystems, as innovative or "creative" forces, in their own right.

We should also remember that, although orthodox theology's view of Adam as created in God's image embodies the provenance "from heaven to earth," the account of the Creation is intrinsically interwoven with the story of the Fall; hence expulsion from the Garden sets up ample conditions for quite "tough-minded" vocabularies of human motivation. (La Rochefoucauld's Maxims, for instance, or John Mandeville's "Fable of the Bees" could fit perfectly with theological views, as portraits of human

relations in a society that is turned away from God—and Moliere's portrait of Tartuffe was defended as an attack not against the faith but against religious hypocrisy, a corrupting of the faith.)

However, a purely secular, realistic analysis of motives should be "neutral," rather than embodying a "materialistic debunking" of "idealistic" pretensions. Marxism is fluctuant in this regard, owing to the fact that the rationale of the Marxist dialectic allows for a shifting point of view whereby, for instance, the bourgeoisie can be hailed as "emancipators" in the struggles against feudalism, yet can also be subjected to ingenious scorn as foes of socialism—and often these attacks can profit rhetorically by quasi-theological accents. In The Communist Manifesto, for instance (a text to match with the Sermon on the Mount as a rock-bottom "theory of history"), there are some sizzling passages which seem to "structure" the topics of persuasion thus: The bourgeois period destroyed the highly "personal" aspect of the terms for group relationships under feudalism. "In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation."

The several following paragraphs that "amplify" this statement are, beyond all question, a rhetorical marvel. First (thanks to the persuasive elements that are implicit in the Marxist dialectic, so well designed for "pointing the arrows" of our expectations), it gives credit to capitalism for having so effectively introduced the revolutionary policies which Marxist socialism is but continuing. (Incidentally, much of the "revolutionary," or "radically innovative" motivation that the manifesto attributes to the bourgeoisie's tie-in with technology may be largely due to the nature of technology itself, whatever kind of political system may, after its fashion, be aiming to profit by the advantages of technology with a hoped-for minimum of its troublous "side effects.")

In any case, to the extent that the idea of a socialist "revolution" was in bad repute among the bourgeoisie, the Marxist dialectic could give the bourgeoisie "credit" for introducing the revolutionary principle. For there certainly was no need that the Marxist text run counter to bourgeois usage, in view of standard references to our "revolution," the French, and the term "Industrial Revolution."

The ingenious rhetorical twist is that the manifesto contrived paradoxically to excoriate the bourgeois as a kind of relentless personality in the very act of eliminating personal relations (such as the feudal rationale had clung to). In effect, whatever credit might go to the bourgeoisie for unmasking the element of illusion that Marxism attributed to feudalism's personalistic view of economic relationships was, at this point,

played down, and the theme of depersonalization was played up (in terms of "naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation"). It had been the bourgeois theorists who introduced a "godless" explanation of economic hardships.

Also, the flat distinction between idealism and materialism gets modified by the official cult of "socialist realism," which in effect proclaims itself to be as personalistic as the religiously infused (hence by Marxist tests, "illusory") rationale of feudalism had been. And understandably a realism of this sort can be so attuned as to become the propagandistic handmaiden of dialectical materialism's party politics, in contrast with the outright materialistic debunking of politics outside the party.


Whereupon it is now time for us to make clear what we mean by "logological realism." The most direct way into the subject, as here approached through Burton's essay, is on page 255: "When is an archetype not an archetype?"

I couldn't offer a blanket answer to that question; but with regard to Freud's Oedipal "archetype," logological realism would answer promptly, "An archetype is not an archetype when it's an entelechy."

This would involve a distinction between Platonic archetypes as idealistic and Aristotelian entelechies as realistic. Since my Grammar of Motives (1945), I have touched on this matter in many ways—particularly in my essay on "The First Three Chapters of Genesis" (reprinted in my Rhetoric of Religion, 1961) and in "Archetype and Entelechy" (the second of two talks printed in a volume, Dramatism and Development, 1972). Here I must try merely to give the gist of my position.

There are two kinds of priority: logical (as per the syllogistic design: first premise/second premise/conclusion) and temporal (yesterday/ today/tomorrow). We can also say that the term for a class of objects is "logically prior" to any and all of the particulars classifiable under that head. In both Greek and Latin, the same words mean "beginning" in both senses. Thus, in Latin, the word principium means "principle" as in the expression "the first principles of science." But with regard to the opening words of Genesis, "In the beginning," the Latin is in principio. Similarly, the plural of the Greek word arché matches the Latin when referring to "the first principles of a science." The Gospel of John begins en arché—and the temporal meaning shows clearly in such words as "archives" or "archaeology."


"Essence" is a word for what something is. In my Grammar of Motives, my expression "the temporizing of essence" refers to ways whereby the view of what something is gets presented in terms of the thing's origin, what it was or came from. There is a vulgar usage that reveals the process most clearly. If A considers B an essentially loathsome fellow, he can spontaneously say so in quasi-narrative terms by calling B a bastard or a son of a bitch. In effect, A defines B's nature now in terms of his provenance. Fundamentalists resented Darwinian evolutionism because, by their style, the theory of our "descent" from apes was equivalent to calling us apes—and at times Darwin became so emphatic in distinguishing simply between the "natural" and the "supernatural" that the important logological distinction between "dumb" animals and the human prowess with "symbol systems" got obscured. Logology here would introduce reference to the "fallacy of origins."

Genesis, as a book of beginnings, features the tactics of temporal priority. Narrative (story, mythos) being a more primitive form of discourse than philosophy, the Bible doesn't begin with (say) a logological analysis of the proposition that "implicit in the idea of a social order there is the idea of possible disobedience to that order." But that's the gist of what it says, in its particular narrative way. It shows God making a creature in his image, in the most perfect surroundings imaginable. It adds a Law, whereby disobedience is made possible. And this law, propounded by the first and foremost authority, is sinned against by our first ancestor. So, all told, the Fall was implicit in the Creation, and proneness to temptation is of our very essence, since we "inherited" such "original sin" from the "first" man "in time." By the Law we are "tempted in principle," since the Law made temptation possible. One gets glimpses of this exquisite ambiguity in the Lord's Prayer, where "Lead us not into temptation" means rather, "Put us not to the test." And so on.

Plato's archetypes, viewed in terms of logological realism, are derived thus: The word for a class of objects can be treated as "prior" to any particulars classified under that head. There is a sense in which it can even be temporally prior. For instance, if you consult the definition of the word "table," you'll note that it encompasses a class of objects countless numbers of which have not even yet been produced. Also, there is no one particular table which you could point to and say, "That is ‘table.’ " For any particular table will have details that distinguish it from every other table. But each table would in its way be an "imitation" of the "ideal form" as stated in the definition, which would be the "archetype" that was "prior" to the lot, many instances of which are not even yet in existence. The

word contains the root arché. Where then was this "pure form" experienced? Actually, as analyzed in terms of logological realism, there is no "archaic" or "temporally prior" situation involved. It is a purely grammatical matter of classification, translated into terms of story.


And now to the Freudian "archetype" of the "primal crime" committed in "prehistory," and so essentially "originating" that the results of it still survive, bequeathed to us in the tensions of the modern family. Anthropologists complained that they found no evidence of any such event. But Freud felt that he needed it as a postulate for his theory.

Logological realism could have shown him how his problem could have been "solved" by the simple expedient of turning from thoughts of Platonic archetypes to thoughts of Aristotelian entelechies. Aristotle uses the term "entelechy" to designate the efforts of each thing to fulfill the potentialities of its kind—a fish aiming to be perfectly or thoroughly a fish, a tree to evolve in keeping with its nature as a tree.

Logological realism would restrict this notion to an incentive in language; namely, "the tracking down of implications." The nomenclature of physics, for instance, suggests certain possibilities of further development. The nomenclature of psychology suggests possibilities in another direction, economics in another, politics in another. Henry James's prefaces often tell of some likely turn he proceeded to develop, by going from step to step. I call this an "entelechial" aspect of symbolic motivation. It involves all sorts of strivings after "perfection," whereas Freud had denied "perfection" as a motive.

Cutting many corners, saying here only enough to convey the gist, I'd have Freud say:

Thinking of representative family tensions in the light of the entelechial principle (replacing psychological idealism by concepts of logological realism), I'd state the situation thus: The representative tensions of the family as I have studied it would come to a "perfect fulfillment" if the young males banded together against the father, slew him, and took over the women, with corresponding psychological results such-and-such.

As so considered, the psychoanalytic nomenclature has no need to postulate that such a "culmination" ever did happen or ever will happen. It is simply an instance of "carrying things to the end of the line," "tracking down implications to the point where we don't need to distinguish

too scrupulously between ‘logical conclusion’ and ‘reduction to absurdity,’ and all the more so since we're in a field where things get quite unsettled, almost as a matter of course."

Freud's view of human relations is in its very essence highly "dramatistic." He was in effect conceiving of the "perfect family drama" to express the tensions as he sized them up. But owing to the ever recurrent ambiguity whereby statements of "essence" can get phrased in terms of an "archaic" (mythic) past, despite his great symbolic shrewdness, he hypothesized an actual event where no actuality of any sort (nothing but symbolism) was needed.


Perhaps the handiest way into my proposed adaptation of Aristotle's term "entelechy" (to name a generative principle that is usually classed under the head of "archetype") is by some references in my Philosophy of Literary Form (1941) where I hadn't yet quite got to it. I had been working with the two notions of self-expression and communication, and I ran into the need for a third term, thus:

He would change the rules, and burn out temptation by efficient excess of it. He would start … on an uncompromising journey "to the end of the line." (38n)

Books that take us to the end of the line … that would seek Nirvana by burning something out. (70)

Note a "serial" quality in the "to the end of the line" mode—a kind of "withinness of withinness."… One may get the pattern in Coleridge's line, "Snow-drop on a tuft of snow." And in Moby Dick there is an especially "efficient" passage of this sort, prophetically announcing the quality of Ishmael's voyage: after walking through "blocks of blackness," he enters a door where he stumbles over an ash box; going on, he finds that he is in a Negro church, and "the preacher's text was about the blackness of darkness." (88)

There are related references on pages 3, 86, 118, 161, 166.

In my Grammar of Motives (430–40), the notion is further developed, though without reference to either "archetype" or "entelechy." There, with regard to "the temporizing of essence," I specifically criticize Freud's hypothesis of a primal "horde ruled over despotically by a powerful male." And my criticism is built around my point about the ambiguous relation between terms for logical and temporal priority whereby statements about how something essentially is can be phrased narratively

in terms of derivation from how it originally was (a device all the more "natural" to an age so Darwinian in its thinking).

Though anthropologists said that they found no evidence of any such prehistoric situation, Freud still clung to it, albeit apologetically: "I think it is creditable to such a hypothesis if it proves able to bring coherence and understanding into more and more new regions." He "needed" the story only because he was spontaneously characterizing the essence of a situation now in terms of temporal priority. And if the "essence" of family tensions now must be stated in such quasi-evolutionary terms (of an analogically imputed prehistoric past) then "whatever doubts one might cast upon the pattern of the primal horde as an existent, he needed the concept as a term in his description of the family essence."

I was getting close to the out-and-out distinction between archetype and entelechy when, in the next paragraph I referred to Plato's Meno in which the principles of knowledge are presented as innate in us, and "remembered from a past existence." The section next develops at some length an analysis of Ibsen's Peer Gynt as a narrative form in which essential motives are properly presented in terms of temporal priority (as, I could have added, is similarly the case with Proust's Remembrance of Things Past).

My Rhetoric of Motives (1961) moves things farther along by closing on a summarizing reference to

the rhetorical and dialectic symmetry of the Aristotelian metaphysics whereby all classes of beings are hierarchally arranged in a chain or ladder or pyramid of mounting worth, each kind striving toward the perfection of its kind, and so towards the kind next above it, while the strivings of the entire series head in God as the beloved cynosure and sinecure, the end of all desire.

As "logologically" adapted, "God" becomes the overall title of titles for any system (as "dialectical materialism" might be deemed the "godterm" of Marxist atheism).

And "perfection" undergoes a transformation of this sort: By "perfection" is meant the way in which the unfoldings of a terminology are in effect the "strivings" to the end of the line. Thus, I could include in my definition of the human, symbol-using animal the clause "rotten with perfection," having in mind the thought that there can be "perfect" fools and "perfect" stinkers, and so on—as with Hitler's "vision of perfection" whereby he "idealized" the Jew, imputing to his chosen victim every vice connected with the problem at hand, or more grandly, every vice (and in particular whatever vices his followers might suspect in one another, were

it not that they could "give their faults the name of the good quality most like it," while "perfectly" reversing the procedure when looking for the meanest way of characterizing any motive of the enemy).

To revise is, in one sense or another, to be aiming at perfection. And to reject revision is to fear lest a "primal" perfection already there in essence will get lost. I also touched upon the fact that, given the dramatizing possibilities of language, a statement such as "I don't like you" could be "perfected" by translation into a statement such as "I could kill you." And a dream might thus "perfect" the judgment by dreaming of you as dead. (But I am here developing further the statement in the text.)

In my Rhetoric of Religion the issues so come together that I can here but indicate the angles. My essay on "The First Three Chapters of Genesis" is designed to show how, in terms of story (narrative, temporal priority) the account of the integral relation between the Creation and the Fall is a "mythic" way of saying that the principle of disobedience is implicit in the nature of Order, which comes to a focus in the need for Law, and the Law "makes sin possible." (Hence the "first" man could say No to the first thou-shalt-not. And you must admit that that is a wholly temporal way of showing how the principle of negation presents the possibility of being negated.)

On page 312 I discuss the "principle of perfection" in the idea of Hell.

In my Sixth Analogy (25 ff), on the subject of the Trinity. I discuss the ambiguities of the difference between logical and temporal priority by noting how, though the Father is "first," then the Son, it was deemed a heresy to conceive of such succession in terms of temporal sequence.

On page 184, I offer a "Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of Order." The terms as such imply one another without any temporal dimension. That is, the term "Order" implies the term "Disorder," and vice versa. But in narrative accounts, the story can go from a state of Order to a state of Disorder, or vice versa. The term "Order" implies such terms as "Obedience" or "Disobedience" to the Order. But in the corresponding story, they are related in a temporally irreversible sequence, as the First Authority sets up the Order, then gives the Negative Command that makes Disobedience possible, and so on.

An explicit reference to "entelechy" and the "logic of perfection" is on page 300.

The head-on discussion is the article on "Archetype and Entelechy," the second of two talks published under the title of Dramatism and Development

(1972). I there build around the passage in the Poetics where Aristotle says that in tragedy the calamity should involve conflicts among intimates (or, in Butcher's translation, "someone near and dear") "when brother kills brother, or a son kills his father, or a mother her son, or a son his mother—either kills or intends to kill." I have never seen evidence that Freud ever read this passage, which doesn't at all single out the one "Oedipal" crime as Freud does. And the curse on the House of Atreus involved a situation in which a father unknowingly (unconsciously?) ate the hearts of his sons at a banquet supposedly celebrating a reconciliation between brothers. I further note:

For all Freud's emphasis on the fatherkill, it's worth remembering that the prime instance of the sacrificial motive in the Old Testament is the story of Abraham's pious willingness to sacrifice Isaac. And the entire logic of the New Testament is built about the story of a divine father who deliberately sent his son on a mission to be crucified.

I take it that Aristotle is giving us "the recipe for perfect victimage," or rather the "perfect imitated victim"—"and by ‘entelechy’ I refer to such use of symbolic resources that the potentialities can be said to attain their perfect fulfillment." Though he does discuss the earlier forms out of which tragedy developed, his emphasis is upon not its origins but on its modes of completion.

But Freud (in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, 1922) had called upon us "to abandon our belief that in man there dwells an impulse towards perfection, which has brought him to his present heights of intellectual prowess and sublimation." And a little later he said, "The repressive instinct never ceases to strive after its complete satisfaction." I argue that these two sentences are mutually contradictory. For what could more clearly represent an "impulse to perfection" than "striving" after "complete satisfaction"?

Freud proposes to substitute what he calls a "repetition compulsion," or "destiny compulsion," designations for a psychopathic tendency to relive some prior traumatic situation by so confronting a totally different set of later circumstance that they are interpreted by the sufferer in terms of the original painfully formative situation. While not disputing the likelihood of such a tendency, I proposed "to consider how it looks, as viewed in the light of an ‘entelechial’ principle having wider functions than the manifestations with which Freud is here concerned." And I stated the case thus:


Is not the sufferer exerting almost superhuman efforts in the attempt to give his life a certain form, so shaping his relations to people in later years that they will conform perfectly to an emotional or psychological pattern already established in some earlier formative situation? What more thorough illustration could one want of a drive to make one's life "perfect," despite the fact that such efforts at perfection might cause the unconscious striver great suffering?

I but proposed to widen the concept of perfection as I have already explained. And I develop the notion that an early "traumatic" experience might lead one to see life in those terms. Accordingly one might so interpret a later situation that it was like the older situation over again. And this process "would be ‘entelechial’ or ‘perfectionist’ in the ironic sense of the term, insofar as the sufferer was in effect striving to impose a ‘perfect’ form by using the key terms of his formative wound as a paradigm."

I then discuss in effect how Freud psychiatrically reversed this process by imagining the kind of outbursts that would "perfectly" express family tensions as he sees them. But owing to the ambiguities whereby essential situations can be expressed in terms of quasitemporal priority, he presents this entelechial symbolizing of fulfillment as the derivative of an archetypal situation that actually happened in the "archaic" past.

I discuss several other aspects of the case, all involving the notion that the "entelechial" motive, the goad to try "perfecting" symbolic structures by "tracking down implications to the end of the line," is a kind of formal compulsion intrinsic to mankind's involvement in the resources of symbolic action. And often by the "temporizing of essence," an overstress upon the term "archetype" leads to talk of the "archaic" or "primordial" where the real issue, as viewed "logologically," involves but an "entelechial" perfecting of symbol-systems.

Incidentally, the entelechial principle itself can lead to a temporizing in the other direction. For instance, consider two "theories of history" such as The Sermon on the Mount and The Communist Manifesto. Both are perfect patterns of fulfillment, so far as matters of sheer logological analysis are concerned. Both are so essentially entelechial in their structure that both are stories of a perfecting process.

Though my book Language as Symbolic Action (1966) has very many passages that fall under the head of entelechy or perfection, there are no such entries in the index. Here are a few: 19–27, 54–55, 69–74, 145, 153–56, 160–62, 361, 384–85. The pages on Poe deal with the

"perfection" of death. And his account of how he "derived" The Raven is an interesting instance of the shifts between logical and temporal priority.


This essay originally appeared in the Psychocultural Review 3 (winter 1979): 25–37.


3. Theory


10. A Theory of Terminology


The topic for the symposium at which Kenneth Burke delivered this talk in 1966 at Drew University was "Metaphor, Symbol, Image, and Meaning." His opening about the five dogs dates back to 1959 where Burke used it, in a shortened form as the conclusion to another talk, "Mind, Body, and the Unconscious" (Language as Symbolic Action, 73 ff). The most notable part of this talk is not the five dogs, though they do bear thinking on and are typically Burkean in their view of how words behave. The most notable part comes later in the essay where, using material from the essential Genesis essay in The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), Burke takes up and expands upon his ideas about cycles of terms and logical and temporal priority. Burke lists three main cycles: action, order, and power. A great many more could be listed. Later in the essay Burke adds Freud's "unconscious repression" as a major cycle. Burke also points out that every book has its own cycle of terms intrinsic to it and can be analyzed to show the extent to which this is true. What Burke has in mind here with his cycles are the different ways in which we organize (or our lives are organized for us or a writer organizes a book) by these cycles of terms. Start with the primary term (action, order, power) in any given scenes (say, America and Japan; America and India) and you can generate (or, as per Burke, "derive") all the other related terms from it. Start with action in Burke, and you get its opposite motion; start with order (the law) and you get its opposites, disorder and obey/disobey; start with power and you will probably get the sources of it—say, money, politics— and its opposite, gradations of, limited amounts of power down to the powerlessness: abject poverty; repressed women; political disenfranchisement. There is no pure antonym to power; one can go in many directions from it, especially into governance, and eventually back to action, order, and certainly "unconscious repression."

This is a very stimulating essay and one that asks to be applied, in and out of literature, in and out of Burke's verbal worlds of discourse—say, to films, to real politics, to real events in real time.

Burke ends his essay with his usual cautionary, admonitory remarks that everything is more complicated than we think and that we must be careful not to simplify our account of the human condition.



I shall start with a most difficult matter, a report of five dogs.

First, there is the "primal" dog, the dog that one usually encounters in a "primal scene" of childhood. He has a strong, unmistakably Freudian strain in his makeup. And he is crossed with what Malinowski would call "context of situation." That is, he merges into the background (benign or malign) of which he was an integral part when the child originally learned to distinguish him. Though both he and his context may have been forgotten in their particulars, the quality of the experiences associated with him may stay with us throughout our lives, figuring subtly ("subliminally" would be the word now) in our attitude towards dogs. And under the influence of drugs, hypnosis, or psychoanalytic couch-work many particular details about him and his context of situation may be recovered. The main point for our purposes is that he is not properly defined in terms of his own peculiar nature alone. He is "symbolic"in the sense that anessential part of his "meaning"(both forgotten and unerringly remembered from out of the recesses of our past) resides in his role among a complex of conditions not specifically dog like.

Next, there is the "jingle" dog. Whereas the "primal" dog would be associated with many nonverbal circumstances, the "jingle" dog would involve his relation to the particulars of speech (such as the fact that in English the word "dog" rhymes with words that the corresponding Hund or chien would not rhyme with; and by a tonal accident that engaged the poet e.e. cummings, he is "God" spelled backwards). Here also would belong his proper name, plus the punlike relationship to identical or similar names, including those of people or places. One might even extend the range of the "jingle" dog to cover the logically dissociated linguistic situation that unites dog and tree (since each, in its way, has an association with the word "bark").

But though the "primal" dog and the "jingle" dog can tug dangerously at the leash of reason, all is quite different with the "lexical" dog, the kind defined in the dictionary per genus et differentiam. Viewed by the tests of either poetry or neurosis, he is an exceptionally uninteresting dog. But without him and his kind, the world of wholesome common sense as we know it would collapse into gibberish. In our civilization, to indicate what the word "means," you wouldn't even need a verbal definition, or the corresponding word in some other language. A mere picture of the "lexical" dog would suffice to indicate what was meant, even in a language that we did not know. Yet note, for later reference in this chapter: It's impossible

to make a picture just of "dog," in the specifically lexical sense. For there are all sorts of dogs, dogs of many sizes, breeds, shapes, colors, postures, and so on. But your picture would require you to draw some particular kind of dog, while at the same time your illustration must be interpreted as indicating what is meant by the word "dog" in general. And as a matter of fact, the picture in an alien dictionary might have been not of "dog" in general, but of a fox terrier. Also, within this narrower orbit, the same sort of problem would prevail. For even the picture of a fox terrier requires you to use specific traits for general purposes, since all fox terriers differ from one another. Here's a problem to which we must certainly revert, as regards questions that have to do with a Theory of Terms.

Fourth, adapting from Aristotle, we'd distinguish an "entelechial" dog, the "complete" dog towards which all doggery variously aspires, to the extent that dogs fulfill their nature as dogs. We here confront the terministic principle involved in an expression such as "perfect" dog, to designate the natural fulfillment of dog qua dog. Obviously it's much easier for a dog to be wholly a dog (to exemplify the very dogginess of dog) than it is for a human being to exemplify in all fullness the humanity of his nature as a human being. I hope later to make clear how this formalistic principle figures in our thoughts on the functions of terms. But for the present, we must merely introduce the notion.

Finally, there is the "tautological" dog. You get him by crossing the "primal" dog with the "lexical" dog, though this experiment works only if you continue to select among the offspring, not all of which breed true. He should reveal the "primal" strain only in the sense that, like the primal dog, he merges with his context. But he does so in a way typically "lexical." For instance, it would be a "tautological" step if we went from "dog" to "kennel," or to "dog food," or to "dog license," or to "master," or to "cats," "hunt," "game," "subservience," "loyalty," "running in packs," "doggedness." When approached thus, from "dog" as point of departure, all such related details become "tautological" in the sense that they are all infused with the "spirit" of the term in terms of which they are mutually related (somewhat as though "dog" were at the center of a circle, and all the other terms were distributed along the circumference, as radii generated from this center).

In some early pages entitled "Examination of a Case Described by Rivers,"[1] I first ran into a simpler form of the distinction I am trying to make here. It involved a speculation of this sort: A child who had been frightened by a dog in a passageway from which that child could not escape might be traumatically affected by the situation of being confined

in a passageway without an exit at a time when a danger sign was present, thus responding to this whole gestalt as fearsome motive, rather than more specifically to the dog in particular as danger sign. And if the child's attention had been formed along those lines, the resultant "affect" in an adult might show up rather as claustrophobia (fear of closed places) than as fear of dogs. The situational aspect of the case could manifest itself particularly (as with the war phobias that W.H.R. Rivers was treating) when the sufferer had to enter a dugout under circumstances marked by the nearness of the enemy. For he "unreasoningly" feared the only part of the situation that might bring him some comfort: namely, the opportunity to "dig in" and thus to be less of a target for the enemy's bullets.

But note that, as regards either the "tautological" dog, or the "primal" dog, their definition involves their contextual or situational nature, their meaning as part of a scene. This is the important consideration for our next step. But before we move on, let's briefly review our list:

  1. Primal dog. Associated with submerged memories of a "first" dog, in case the experience was in some way formative, or "traumatic." Inseparable from his context of situation.
  2. Jingle dog. Involves sheerly tonal associations, most of which are accidental to one particular tribal idiom.
  3. Lexical dog. The wholesome, common-sense, dictionary meaning—and if the world had only that, we'd all die of boredom, or perhaps fare forth imperialistically to interest ourselves by making other people suffer for our fear of boredom.
  4. Entelechial dog. Becomes of major importance in works of art. For instance: ideally, a character who is to be sacrificed must be the perfect victim for the given situation. The person who is to exact the sacrifice must be, in his way, a perfect fit for his role as victimizer, and so on—at least insofar as classical norms of artistic excellence are concerned. And perhaps those who spoke in tongues (we read about them in various passages of the New Testament) were intermingling jingle utterance with entelechial meaning. If a situation in adult life were capable of being summed up by some analogy (as with the relationship between an anecdote and its moral in a fable by Aesop) the representation would be "entelechial" by reason of its summarizing nature. However, it might be translated into terms of a merely imaginary incident falsely "remembered" from one's infantile past. The entelechial principle
    is a purely formal, nontemporal kind of fulfillment. But it can be represented in narrative terms, that is, terms for temporal priority. One can confront a situation now by entelechially imagining the kind of "primal scene" that would "account for" things as they now seem to be. In this sense, the imagined scene would be entelechial, a condensed, formal way of fulfilling in principle what is to be "unfolded." Freud's concept of a "repetition-compulsion" would also fit in here. For such a motive contains "entelechial" ingredients insofar as the sufferer, or subject, almost as though by deliberate design, "perfects" different situations by imposing upon them the same essential relationships.[2]
  5. Tautological dog. Such associations as one might build up by inert answers to a questionnaire. You'd ask people what they thought of when you said "dog," and you'd weed out the meanings that seemed idiosyncratic. For your main interest would involve the most representative associations of ideas. Even brilliant stylistic innovators build their figures of speech by not venturing far from such standard channels of affinity, though often (as I tried to show in Permanence and Change (1935) when discussing "perspective by incongruity") underlying properties of correlation may be contrived by perspectival leaps, as in Friedrich Nietzsche's style, with its modes of abrupt reclassification, basically a method he could have learned from Spengler or Ezra Pound, had he had the opportunity.[3]


I discovered the need for these several dogs when trying to settle on a hard-and-fast distinction between signs and symbols. The distinction is clear enough at its extremes. For instance, smoke is a sign of fire, and fire may be the sign of a short circuit. But smoke may be the symbol of a communication between "upper" and "nether" realms. And fire may be the symbol of sexual agitation, or of cleansing (as in purgatory), or of hellish punishment. (Or, for that matter, it may be the symbol of all such implications, indeterminately interwoven. Surely much of the lure in images derives from the ease with which they can contain motives that, if reduced to equivalent terms logically explicit, are found to be violently at odds with one another.)

But not only is there a vexing area of overlap between symbol and

sign. The distinction does not seem useful enough to me even at its best, except in extreme cases, as when we assume that, although bees apparently have a quite complicated and exact signaling system, the present state of the evidence would not allow us to class them with man, as capable of "symbolic action" in the full sense of that term. They are presumably born with a signal system, whereas man must learn his symbol systems. And we must put bees into a different classification from man at least until some investigator can prove by his experiments and observations that bees' ways of signaling to one another are not innate, but the bees must go to school and take courses in Bee! Apparently birds perfect their songs by imitation, but sing somewhat even without training. And in any case, I submit that "symbolic action" in the full reflexive sense prevails only with man, an animal that can apply conventional symbol systems to the discussion of conventional symbol systems.

But before proceeding further, I must amend my references to the "tautological" dog. The tautological relationship among terms is most profitably studied if we work with specimens at a much higher level of generalization than such a concrete word as "dog." There are at least two grand instances: (1) The Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of "Action"; (2) The Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of "Order." I tracked down the "Action" set in my Grammar of Motives,[4] though without wholly knowing what I was doing. The "Order" set I worked out with methodological awareness, in my Rhetoric of Religion.[5] I submit that these two terministic dynasties have reigned conjointly through much of our civilization, maybe through all civilizations (or "cultures," if you want to add Spengler's distinction between "civilization" and "culture").

You might well choose to build a third cycle around "Power." I once made a beginning when, in connection with Richard Wright's novel Native Son I tentatively offered this lineup for the Power family:

It is composed of many members: social power, sexual, physical, political, military, commercial, monetary, mental, moral, stylistic (powers of grace, grandeur, vituperation, precision)—powers of emancipation, liberalization, separation ("loosing"), powers of fascination and fascization ("binding," as in Mann's "Mario and the Magician")—and powers of wisdom, understanding, knowledge. There are ways whereby, owing to the nature of synechdoche, any member of this family may come to do vicarious service for any other member, or for the family as a whole—so that one may marry or rape by politics, wage war in argument, be mentally superior by the insignia of social privilege, bind or loose by knowledge, show one's muscle or enhance one's stature by financial income, etc., in whatever permutations

and combinations one cares to contrive. In particular, in Native Son, I should have liked to discuss the author's treatment of the interrelationships among the powers: physical, sexual, social, and monetary—with at the end a transcendence into the powers of understanding.[6]

Freud's nomenclature suggests a related strand, a Cycle of Terms Implicit in the Idea of "Unconscious Repression." In fact, every book can be studied as a family of terms thus implicating one another in some analogous fashion. Here, for instance, is a relevant passage concerning a book by John Dewey, Liberalism and Social Action, built about the persuasive force of terministic interrelationships:

About the topic of liberalism, the author groups the cultural values he most admires. His book is written to show with what important and desirable traits liberalism can be identified. He goes through a cycle of virtues, such as peace, liberation, "the development of the inherent capacities of individuals made possible through liberty," tolerance, reintegration, science, rationality, education, charity, courage, and hope—and he pleads that liberalism, as he conceives it, can be included in this cycle.

And I analyzed Hitler's Mein Kampf as a vicious use of this same principle, there contrived by pitting a conglomerate batch of "Aryan" virtues against a correspondingly indiscriminate batch of self-contradictory vices that might be found in varying degrees everywhere, but that Hitler attributed exclusively to his chosen Jewish scapegoat. (Both of these examples are reprinted in my Philosophy of Literary Form.)[7]

We have already considered a kind of terministic generation closely linked with the "entelechial" principle. For a further development here, consider the relationships among the cast of characters in a drama. Thus, if a certain kind of effect is to be produced, then a certain group of persons must be chosen for their function in bringing about that effect, and their relationships to one another must be so designed that all the dramatic personae can make their particular contributions to the necessary development of the plot, in the necessary order. Here, too, is a kind of terministic cycle, with the characters functioning as key terms, their nature as simulated personalities residing somewhere between the grand generalized cycles and the realm of our concrete "dog," but also involving appropriate imagery as an auxiliary resource to the ends of individuation and actualization.

I should feel uneasy if I had to keep these various kinds of terministic cycles trimly related to one another, so that I might make a composite photograph of the lot. Rather, I would turn that whole subject around,

and call attention to the fact that much of the freedom in man's capacity for symbolic action resides precisely in the range of improvising here even when working with a public idiom, a medium of expression collectively shared by all the members of his tribe. A cycle of terms is like a cluster of stars. The sky, as viewed from any one of such positions, will show a corresponding difference in the distribution of the other positions, though they all ultimately form but one single set of interrelationships. And it is in this way that a man defies total prediction until he is finished. Indeed, prediction is in effect the application to living man of parameters derived from the realm of death; that is, the possibilities of the future are reduced to terms derived from the past.

But implicit in a range of terms, each of which can provide a different perspective, there is by the same token the possibility of improvisation, involving a quite different distribution of terms. And this is true every time until the last time. A new incident, for instance, can prod us to see "good" implications in a term that heretofore we had used pejoratively; whereupon a corresponding revision of related terms might ensue; and here are the makings of a "conversion." In sum, the very range and shiftiness of the terministic cycles we have been considering contain ingredients that link the powers of symbolic action with the possibilities of innovation. Hence, in the hopes that I have established this point at least well enough to free me from the need for a single overall pattern here, let me refer to still another way of cutting up the realm of terms.

It has to do with some thoughts I once had on Alfred North Whitehead's statement that "philosophy is the product of wonder." At the time when I first ran across this good formula, I was also much exercised by Veblen's term, "idle curiosity," to designate the ultimate motive behind philosophic and scientific speculation. On asking, "How do these terms relate to each other?" I saw, or at least thought I saw, the possibility of a graded series here. Toning things down step by step from "wonder," I figured that we might get successively: interest, curiosity, "idle curiosity," and play. That is, philosophy might be called "the product" of any such motive, on that scale of graduated attenuations. Or, proceeding in the other direction, one might go gradatim et paulatim from wonder to reverence, thence to awe, and so on to fear, dread, terror—whereat, striking out at an angle, we might call philosophy a mode of defense, or of cowardice, or of courage. (This graded series was discussed in my Permanence and Change.)

For the moment, I would like to point out that, to some degree, terms are thus modified continually. Usually what happens is that, as Jeremy

Bentham schematized in his "Table of the Springs of Action," the same motive can be presented in either friendly or unfriendly guise (his words are "eulogistic" and "dyslogistic"). Thus frequently, on a smaller scale, you may find an author recommending under a favorable label much the same principle or process he had dismissed elsewhere under an unfavorable one.

So much for a general statement about the resources of persuasive terministic exercising. Though you might gladly settle for less "freedom," in the hopes of making things better stay put, I submit that such liquidity is intrinsic to the nature of symbolic action. In any case now, with our five dogs and our variously constituted cycles of terms at least waveringly in mind, let's worry through a third major aspect of terminology.


To approach this problem, note first that the Power family of terms comes to a fearful focus in the realm of motion. That is, in the last analysis, you cannot be "powerful" unless you move something. An orator might prove himself powerful by goading his audience to battle. But the ultimate test is still stricter: namely, can those who were thus goaded to battle ultimately succeed in so throwing their weight around (by their sheer powers of motion, as enhanced by the motions of their fighting machines) that they physically undo the enemy?

In this sense, I'd say that our concern with the Power family centers in problems to do with the relation between "action" and "motion." Many terministic schemes that prevail today are essentially concerned with the modalities of motion. This proposition applies to all the physical sciences. The scientists themselves, in working out their terminologies, are decidedly in the realm of symbolic action. But the terminologies are primarily concerned with the realm of motion. Similarly, if one designs a thermonuclear bomb, or devices in the realm of chemical or biological warfare, he is acting. But the devices that he designs exert their power purely in the realm of motion (except, of course, insofar as their mere existence may serve to strike terror in the enemy, and thus can also be a kind of sheer imagery that "acts" as a deterrent to an opponent's policies).

So, I dare think that in our way we are fully recognizing the very essence of the Power family when we build a theory of symbolic action around the frank recognition of the conditions imposed upon us by the requirements of sheer motion. Indeed, one cannot even so much as think

a thought (or internally say a word!) except insofar as there are certain neural motions in his brain primarily, and perhaps secondarily throughout all his body.

But though there cannot be any "act" of "thought" (or whatever you want to call it, "verbalization," for instance) without corresponding bodily motions, symbolic action is not reducible to terms of motion. In brief, the man who designs and programs a computer is acting; his computer is nothing but a set of motions—and one cannot legitimately reduce the designer to terms of his design. To give the most obvious instance of the error involved in the attempt to define human action in terms of a computer's motions, bear it in mind that, at the very least, man is a biological organism, whereas a computer is an artifact. And how can a device that does not undergo the motives of pleasure and pain possibly serve as an adequate model for the motives of any animal, even one much "lower" in the scale than man? I put "lower" in quotation marks, because many of man's typical vices, such as one people's bullying of another people, do not make me unduly proud of our specifically human prowess.

But basically, it all gets down to this: Destroy all animals that are endowed with our characteristic kind of "symbolicity"—and there would still remain such motions as the rotation of the Earth on its axis, the revolutions of the Earth about the sun, and the periodic surging of the oceans in response to the influence of the moon primarily, and of the sun somewhat. In brief, there would still be the irreducible realm of sheer motion. But if we take, as part of the given, man and his special powers of "symbolicity," we confront a formula of this sort: Persons act; in the process of acting, they must move; things can but move.

But here a problem enters. It concerns, of all things, the relation between the literal and the analogical. We seem somehow to have got so turned around that, if you treat man as a sheer machine, you are thought to be literal, whereas if you draw a distinction between a machine's motions and the machine maker's actions, you are more likely to be called figurative because you don't call a man a machine (if not a machine oldstyle, then the new type, of which the electronic computer is the model). So we must ask: Just what is "literal," and what "analogical"?

In one sense, the nature of language is such that every use of a word is "analogical." For if I apply the same word to two situations, I can't escape being involved at least in a kind of "proto-analogy." For every situation, in its clutter of details, is unique. Hence, if I apply the same term to two situations, I am necessarily stressing an element they have in common, as distinct from their differences (and in his Rhetoric Aristotle

makes it quite clear that analogy is involved when a speaker defines a current situation by treating it in terms of some past situation).

Surely, when we talk about situations, this ambiguity is obvious. We know that no two historical situations are exactly alike. But how about our words for things? Let's approach the matter by a slightly new start.

A friend who teaches drama had written me celebrating the "dramatic metaphor." He was referring to the grand terminology that centers in words for active, passive, and reflexive, terms that also tie in with the distinguished "Stance" family, connecting "essence" and "sub-stance." Nor should we overlook their analogues in current terminologies of motion: effectors, or output; receptors, or input; and feedback (terms that I would have us look upon as fragments of a dramatistic perspective).

But, whereas some years ago, I would have settled on the notion that we here had to do simply with a metaphor, I most decidedly do so no longer. Things do but move, and persons do act, though persons can also let themselves get pushed into the role of mere automata, little better than things in motion, as when they respond unthinkingly to the goads of a spellbinder, and fall to thinking it is their patriotic duty merely to do as they are told.

Drama would figure here only secondarily, in the sense that, by using drama as a model, we can get good cues as to what range of terms is implicit in the idea of an act (a range that even includes, as with tragedy, the concept of cure by vicarious victimage).

My friend answered: "All language is metaphorical." And since there is a sense in which he is correct, let's see what we should do next. First, we can note that even if all language is metaphorical, or analogical, there is obviously a difference between calling the moon "moon" and calling it, say, "wandering daughter of the night." So, at the very least, there are metaphors and metaphors—and one of these expressions is clearly much more figurative than the other.

Yet, on closer inspection, even our literal term dissolves into etymologic origins that take us far from a literal one-to-one correspondence between a "thing" and its "name." Thus "moon" merges into "month" ("mooneth," as we get "warmth" from "warmeth," if we may follow Horne Tooke in these matters), and both apparently dissolve into a root me or ma, meaning to "measure," from which there also is derived our word "meditate."

Hence, to size up this terministic situation adequately, we are required to recall the instance of the "primal" dog, which could not have existed alone, but was necessarily part of a "primal scene." We are here involved

in the line of thought, essentially Spinozistic, that reminds us: No "substance" can exist all by itself, except "everything." If the object that we literally designate as the moon were all by itself, no poet would ever have written a poem about it, and no spaceman could ever hope to reach it; or, for that matter, we could not even know of its existence.

The particular items of our experience can exist at all only because each is part of a wider context. We are usually misled here by the nature of the "lexical" dog, a drawing of which can be shown without a background (except, of course, the page itself, which is rightly ignored as part of the definition).

To grasp the essential nature of language, we must not think of speech as essentially a process of "naming" things or situations. Rather, since every thing or every situation is in some respects unique, insofar as we apply the same word to more than one thing or one situation, we are in a sense "analogizing." (Hence my reference to a kind of "proto-analogy," as distinct from analogy in the explicit, formal sense.)

If one cries "Help" in three totally different situations (say, when in danger of drowning, in danger of falling, in danger of being struck), he has in effect "classified" all three different sets of circumstances under the same general heading, as "help-situations." Or, otherwise put: He has in effect given all three situations the same "title," because of some important element they have in common, despite their great differences as regards particulars. And I submit that we should think similarly of outright "names" or "nouns" ("substantives"). Our words for individual "things" do not involve a mere one-to-one correspondence between symbol and symbolized (word and thing). Rather, they are a kind of abbreviation (Horne Tooke's suggestive term) that can serve to entitle a situation by featuring whatever part of that situation happens at the time to be of primary interest.

Thus, every time I encounter a dog in real life, the dog is in a somewhat different situation. But all of these situations could be entitled "dog-situations" insofar as that aspect of all the many different actual or possible situations is what particularly engages the center of my attention. All of these situations doubtless have more things than the dog in common. For instance, all of them will necessarily be situations that have in common the same laws of nature. But we don't think of these when referring to a dog-situation under the title of "dog," though we immediately become conscious of such a situational ingredient if we are making plans for sending a dog up in a satellite.

If you adopt this contextual or situational approach even to terms for

specific acts or concrete objects, you see that they are, in effect, titles for complex situations, much as the word Hamlet sums up, in terms of the name for the most significant role, the vast complexity of details subsumed under that title. The title, though applied literally to one particular drama, is "proto-analogical" in the sense that it can be applied to performances differing greatly from one another. And it becomes outright analogy when we apply it to some person, real or imaginary whose situation in life might lead us to call him "a Hamlet."[8]

All told, although in my earlier book, Permanence and Change, I primarily stressed the metaphorical or figurative aspects of language, and treated philosophical "perspective" as a kind of "analogical extension," I would now want to shift the emphasis, contending that, first of all, we have to do not just with metaphors, but with terms, and relationships among terms. On this basis, it is literal to say that "persons act, and things but move." And it is figurative to say that people are like their own machines, or that their computers can be taken as an adequate model of their motivational structure.

True, man is prone to the temptations of automatism, and he cannot act without moving—but to say as much is not by any means the same as saying that he is "nothing but" a bundle of sheer motions. Observations concerning the rules of a game are not identical with the sheer distribution of forces that one would necessarily perceive if he were not able to infer that the event under observation was a game being played purposively by persons, and if he could analyze the game not in terms of players trying to score in accordance with a rule book, but only as things in motion, with a near-infinity of relationships involved in their sheerly physical behavior and in the measuring of stress and position with regard to one another. Imagine trying to figure out what is going on in a ballgame, if you were being strictly "extrasymbolic," hence could not even know what is meant by strikes, and balls, and hits, and runs, and errors, and innings, but could work your way to the rule book only by correlating various weights in motion on a field. Then, if you were caught in all that nightmare entanglement of terms for sheer motion and position, imagine what a lifting-up it would be, if all of a sudden you were allowed to read the rules of the game (which is to say, if you were told what principles of action inform the game), and could deduce the game's nearinfinity of motions in terms of this principled realm as motivational source rather than reducing the game solely to terms of such motions.

I don't know why I picked on moon for my example. And surely I could have got a better metaphor than "wandering daughter of the

night," though there is our spacemen's ambition to make a "soft landing" on (shall we say?) "Cynthia." In any case, I hope I have made it clear that, be they literal or metaphorical, we are in the realm of terms. Even the sheer sensations of the body report to us in terms of sight, sound, smell, and so on. And thus, too, to match "proto-analogy," there is a kind of sheerly physiological "pre-nomenclature" (in the realm of sheer motion) which reduces all sorts of particular situations to terms of one or another sensory channel.


Along with thoughts on the range of terms, including the special energeia of metaphor and image, we might comment on the particular nature of the printed page, and its similarity to a musical score. Either might happen to be handsome. But regardless of how either might look when judged sheerly as calligraphy, as visual design, its major function resides in its nature as instructions for performance. When we see a musical score, regardless of whether or not we are musicians, we realize at a glance that it is a set of instructions. We do not ask that it itself have music's peculiar sensory quality as appeal to the ear. For we assume without question that this test is not met until the work is performed by an expert. But because we have all learned how to talk and to read, we don't usually stop to consider the implications of that fact that, in a notable respect, print on a page is exactly like musical notation. That is to say, the reader is like a performer, who may or may not be able to carry out the printed instructions adequately.

True, there is a sense in which even a painting or a piece of sculpture must be "performed" by the observer. It cannot come to life for him unless he "empathizes" with it. In this sense, a painting or sculpture, in its nature as a symbolic act, cannot be any "better" than the observer's ability symbolically to "re-enact" it. Hence, in this respect, examples of graphic and plastic art are also but "instructions for performance." Yet they differ from the printed page or the musical score to the extent that they are already finished performances done by experts, whereas the printed page or the musical score are not "final performances" in that sense. The music is yet to be played (either for us or by us, or in the imagination of those comparatively few persons who are skilled enough at reading a score to judge the sounds internally without the need to hear them, as with Beethoven who was deaf). And we do not usually stop to remind ourselves that the instructions on a printed page are not a performance

(in the way that a painting is a performance) until the text is read, either to us by an expert reader, or to ourselves as performers more or less capable of imagining how it sounds, even if read in silence.

See where we are then, in trying to understand the nature of symbolic action. All works involving symbol systems depend for their effect upon our willingness and ability to collaborate by responding properly to them. Within these conditions, we can distinguish between the kinds of works that are already a final performance (such as drawings, paintings, sculpture, singing, recitation, the playing of musical instruments, dancing, acting) and texts that are instructions for a final performance (such as musical notation and words on a page). One should keep this distinction in mind when speculating on the "sensory" nature of different media.

Yet, a further distinction is necessary here. All music must be appreciated in terms of its sensory nature (that is, we must first of all love the rhythmically related sounds as such before we can ever "transcend" this sensory experience and hear unheard melodies, by advancing from the realm of sensory appreciation to an intuition of the principles involved in such an experience). But in contrast with musical notation, there are many kinds of verbal utterance that have no value whatever, as regards the tests of tonality and rhythm.

Understandably, amateurs or analysts concerned with the wonders of poetry or prose as spoken (as glimpsed through and beyond the written words) are scandalized at the very thought of "speed-reading." For insofar as a text is adapted to the pace of the voice, an approach to it by speed-reading is at best vulgar.

Yet much information that comes to us through words has no specifically verbal value. Someone might wisecrack with the contents of a phone book, and bring out funny resonances. But usually even that same enterpriser, who might find there material for an entertaining tour de force, ordinarily consults that batch of names simply as a convenient way of getting a number. And, in contrast with the norms of poetic or rhetorical pacing, the ideal here would be an invention that fed into you, as into an indifferent computer, that whole condensed mass of information without a single concern for anything other than its ready availability.

Insofar as education involves, among other things, the acquiring of much purely factual data, we would be best off if we could take in such material, not just at the sluggish pace of speed-reading, but rather with a computer's lightninglike capacity to "scan" and "remember" the vast clutter of information that flashes before it. And the situation would be

best of all if, like a computer, we didn't have to exert ourselves consciously in such a process of storage, but could have the data somehow communicated to (or stuffed into) our brains electronically, while we played or slept or concerned ourselves with other matters.

We might well keep such thoughts in mind, when comparing the symbolic action of written or printed words with the symbolic action of other artistic media, including the poetry or rhetoric of the spoken word. Otherwise, we might ask the wrong thing of the written or printed word, which cannot be wholly "tactile" until spoken.

True, there can be direct visual appeal, as with calligraphy or fine printing—but in this sense the appeal is not specifically verbal at all, since it is purely the appeal of design. I would by no means underrate the value of such appeal. I merely want to bring out the fact that the sheerly verbal nature of words is not concerned with visual design except insofar as the design of a poem on the page can also help indicate how the text should be recited (or should be heard in the imagination). As compared with the pace of the voice, the eye tends always to be somewhat of a "speed-reader." And placement on the page may serve, though inadequately, as a poet's equivalent of a musician's instructions for performance (such as largo, moderato, adagio, and the like, or as a musicologist's indicating of the basic beat in terms of metronome, with signs for acceleration or retarding, and for changes in volume).

But we should keep in mind that the page itself is not the performance in the sense that a painting is a performance. It is like a scantily edited musical score, which leaves much to the judgment of the reader as "performer."


We have said nothing yet of the relation between dialectical "transcendence" and dramatic "catharsis" (between the Upward Way and victimage). Nor have we considered a possible third logological step (from self-expression and communication to "consummation," the sheer "tracking down of terministic possibilities" because one sees them, or thinks one does, implicit in a given terminology, and one cannot rest until such potentialities are actualized). However, you "get the idea." And surely, of especial moment among "tautological" correlations there is the "thinking of the body," the translation of motivational attitudes into terms of corporeal analogues. Another name for these might be the "metonymic principle."


But by way of concluding, let us dwell on a simpler thought, of this sort:

In the world as we know it, there are many kinds of conferences, consultations, symposia, and the like, dealing with words and meanings. Usually, somewhere in the course of them, participants fall to bewailing the inadequacies of speech. Yet, but for speech, any such enterprises would be almost impossible, even as regards meetings of experts in other forms of symbolic action.

For a parting sunshine thought, let us look at the matter thus:

Think how happy each one of us is, whenever he chances to say something, even if it be but a single sentence, that someone else agrees with. And if we are outright praised for our offering, we swell with pride (though usually hastening to adopt a measure of what Marianne Moore has astutely called judicious modesty").

Just think, then: What if, far beyond the presenting of our tiny inventions, we had invented the realm of words itself. How we would love ourselves!

The thought might help remind us how greatly we do prize that miraculous medium, The Word. And if I may quote from a former dear friend of mine, whom I also necessarily broke with (for how could one but break with someone to whom one had been so close?):

There is peace in the sequence of changes fittingly ordered: vegetation is at peace in marching with the season; and there is peace in slowly adding to the structure of our understanding. With each life the rising of a new certitude, the physical blossoming free of hesitancy, the unanswerable dogmatism of growth. Who would not call all men to him—though he felt compelled to dismiss them when they came, communion residing solely in the summons.[9]


This essay originally appeared in Interpretation: The Poetry of Meaning, ed. Stanley Romaine Hopper and David L. Miller (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1967), 83–102. Copyright © 1967 by Drew University; reprinted by permission of Harcourt, Inc.

1. Kenneth Burke, Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (New York: New Republic, Inc., 1935), 136–42.

2. Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, authorized trans. from the second German edition by C. J. M. Hubback (London: The International Psychoanalytical Press, 1922).

3. Burke, Permanence and Change, 90.

4. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1945, 227–74.

5. Boston: Beacon Press, 1961, 183ff.


6. Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form (rev. ed. abridged by the author; New York: Vintage Books, 1957), x.

7. Ibid., 309,164–89.

8. For a fuller development of this position see my article, "What Are the Signs of What? A Theory of ‘Entitlement,’ " Anthropological Linguistics 4 (June 1962): 1–23.

9. The lines are from a novel of mine, Towards a Better Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1932), which was published over thirty years ago and was reissued in 1966.


11. Towards Looking Back


In this essay, Kenneth Burke's bicentennial lecture at the University of Michigan, he pursues at much greater length the main theme of "On ‘Creativity’—A Partial Retraction" (1970). That theme is the astounding genius of technological invention; or, innovation in the physical sciences which has produced atom bombs, organ transplants, gene splicing, cloning, amazing machines, equally amazing medical procedures, TV, MRIs, CAT scans, computers, the World Wide Web, and more. Some of these inventions seem truly miraculous, especially when we consider what can be made with modern technology—say, a computer that can download the whole of the Encyclopedia Britannica in minutes (or is it seconds?). But it was the grosser products of modern technology that concerned Burke. He had very little to say about computers, but lots to say about industrial pollution and the defiling of the environment, the various chemicals that have been "added" to our food and water, and the colossal waste necessitated by our democratic, capitalistic way of life.

In typical fashion (at least in these late essays), Burke takes a long, roundabout and somewhat eccentric route to his main points about America in the past and in the future. For his approach, he uses an anthology of writings by and about Americans (The Native Muse) compiled by Richard Ruland, and he uses Walt Whitman and Henry Adams for his conclusions. The final paragraph contains one of the most succinct statements Burke wrote in these late essays about the link between language, rationality, technology (the perfection of rationality), and the future of America.

We need to remember that Burke was always of his time: that it was the depression in America that set Burke off in the early thirties and led to the writing of Permanence and Change (1935); it was World War II that partly set him off in the early forties to write A Grammar of Motives (1945), about "The Purification of War"; and it was the cold war that figures so prominently in A Rhetoric of Motives (1950). Moral/ethical problems (drama, tragedy, victimage, catharsis) in society in general dominate his work of the early fifties when he was still working out his dramatistic poetics, and still much concerned with the universal hierarchic psychosis and his own socioanagogic criticism. By The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), Burke has shifted from dramatism to logology, a shift that is evident in Language as Symbolic Action (1966), which is divided between the final works of dramatistic analysis and the early works of logology—much more of the first than the second. Language as Symbolic Action (1966) is a summing up collection, though some of the essays look forward to Burke's central concerns in his logological studies, as they are represented in the essays collected in On Human Nature. During this last productive period (1967–84), Burke shifted his focus away from the cold war and the threat of nuclear holocaust to the

language-technology-counter-nature connection so prominent in these last essays. Burke was an astute student of his own society (America) and of the overall historical scene. From the aestheticism of the twenties, to the collapse of capitalism in the early thirties, through World War II and the cold war, and finally to the ascent of technology in the sixties and seventies, Burke's eyes were always watching (not God) but his own time and place.

The groundwork for all future logological analysis is laid in The Rhetoric of Religion, especially in "The First Three Chapters of Genesis." "Prologue: Epilogue in Heaven" is a throwback to the central vision of dramatism, the conjunction of language and the social hierarchy, which is a product of language (just as technology is). It is in the essays of the late sixties, seventies, and early eighties that we get all of the applications of and apologies for logology. Many of the essays we have not included here (and there are quite a few) are defenses of logology against all comers. This is not the place to summarize the main tenets of logology; they are everywhere in these essays, over and over again, in a variety of contexts. Burke assures us many times that logology is a "comic" approach to the technological tragedy taking place all around the world. It is never clear whether this comic criticism is going to provide us with any uplift, any solutions, any course of action—or anything, for that matter, beyond the consolation of knowledge and irony.

Many times while making plans for this talk I tinkered with two versions of an alternative title: "We Are What?" or "What Is Our Adjective?" Ever since early adolescence, when I was an ardent Esperantist, I have been somewhat uneasy at the thought that our nation has no quite satisfactory adjective. "Usono" is the Esperanto noun for "United States of North America"; the corresponding adjective would be "Usona." We can't say "United Statesan," or "United-Statesish," or "United-Statesly." When dealing with international news, journalists often use the initials "U.S." as an adjective, a practice that goes well enough with such expressions as "U.S. policy on this matter"—though one often hears it rebuked. And a patriot would feel little better than a traitor if he referred to the "American flag" as the "U.S. flag."

So "American" it is. We are the "Americans," despite the many other countries of North America, Central America, South America and nearby islands that have as much title to the term as we. And by the same token we are "America," or in verse sometimes "Columbia," for who would think of singing, "O United States, the gem of the ocean"? And alas! the term "ugly American" refers exclusively to certain U.S. citizens abroad.

A few years ago Professor Richard Ruland of Washington University published a volume, The Native Muse (New York: Dutton, 1942), which

helps us consider many further implications of this issue. (It has since been republished by the same firm in a book entitled Our Storied Land, which pursues the subject through later years.) Ruland has assembled in one place many disparate writings, from as early as 1630, concerned with "theoretical and practical advice on how Americans—as Americans—should write: in what diction, with what form, on what subjects, for what audience, after what models, to what purpose?" Thus he has "tried to focus on answers that have been offered to the question, How can our literature be made unmistakably American?"

It's an engrossing assemblage to browse around in. But for present purposes I must be content to deal with a few salient aspects of those exhibits involved in "America's self-conscious effort to develop a native aesthetic sensibility." However, in the earlier entries the emphasis is (as with this statement in the preface to the Bay Psalm Book, 1640) upon "Conscience rather than Elegance, fidelity rather than poetry, in translating the Hebrew words into English language, and David's poetry into English meter." In these early entries there is no direct concern with the "American" theme as such. But, looking back, we can clearly see it emerging in this remark of Thomas Hooker's (1648) on the subject of church discipline: "That the discourse comes forth in such a homely dresse and course habit, the Reader must be desired to consider, It comes out of the wildernesse, where curiosity is not studied. Planters if they can provide cloth to go warm, they leave the cutts and lace to those that study to go fine."

In that reference to "wildernesse" there is implicit a turn from a theological motive for the "plain" style of diction to a quite secular justification, the economic severities in the New England colony. And as Ruland points out, with the weakening of strictly religious fervor the question of style would come to involve a different basis of reference, which centered in comparisons between the state of letters in the New World and the Old. Thus, with regard to the problem of our adjective, considerations of stylistic propriety turned from "insistence on the purity of colonial autonomy" to the high degree of "provincialism which was to obsess literary theorists in the nineteenth century." Since the Pilgrims had brought with them their identity as dissenters, in their resistance to the styles of court and high church they would be referring to the values of the Old World as a kind of model-in-reverse. But with that reference weakened, the emphasis shifted to the difference between Old World and New World works of literature in general.

Benjamin Franklin describes how he deliberately went about it to use

the Spectator as a model for his style (which, like Washington Irving's, was admired for its fidelity to English canons of taste). And Ruland quotes one local poet (Mather Byles, 1744) who eagerly proclaimed that whatever value his verses might have would be due to Pope:

‘Tis Pope, my Friend, that guilds our gloomy Night,
And if I shine ‘tis his reflected Light …
Pope's are the Rules which you, my Friend, receive,
From him I gather what to you I give. …
So Pope, thro’ me, shines full upon your Muse;
So cold my Breast; and so your Bosom glows. …

It would be a task in itself just to list the various permutations and combinations of topics involved in the wavering line of battle between pleas to imitate the English as models and calls to throw off the servilities of imitation. Sidney Smith, writing in The Edinburgh Review, 1820, and detailing all the great cultural things Americans had not done "during the thirty or forty years of their independence," rounds things out by asking, "Under which of the old tyrannical governments of Europe is every sixth man a Slave, whom his fellow-creatures may buy and sell and torture?" But nine years later, in the same magazine, William Hazlitt thanks Cooper because "he does not take everything from us, and therefore we can learn something from him." Other articles in The Edinburgh Review took Americans to task for sins against the purity of English. However, Noah Webster, 1789, had judged: "The Scotch writers now stand almost the first for erudition, but perhaps no man can write a foreign language with genuine purity."

Here might be the place to point up what might be called the burden of this talk. The first texts reflect the identity of the colonists in their role as churchmen. Their adjective is not "American," but "Puritan." They are religious dissenters living in a new colony under the sovereignty and protection of the British crown. In this situation the documents that Ruland selects gravitate about the stylistics of worship. But Thomas Hooker's reference to the "wildernesse" as a motive behind the "plain" style introduced a motif that would come to play a big part in critical discussions about the domestic literature as "American." If any such "American" writers were to be properly placed with reference to religious affiliations, their adjectives, to be adequate, would have to be hyphenated: but not as with "German-American," rather as with "Lutheran-American" or "Irish Catholic-American."

I should like to argue in behalf of a rudimentary development

whereby our ways of looking back at the rise of "Americanism" as a literary criterion turn out, paradoxically, to reveal a process that eventually calls for the dissolution (or at least the radical modification) of a specifically "American" identity. Obviously, a dialectical design of that sort would be nothing unusual. In fact, it would be quite standard, a mere special case of the paradox whereby any organic growth contains the seeds of its undoing (a humble example of which we first encountered back in the days of Prohibition, when so many of our citizens in mild lawlessness made their own wine, and it became apparent that the process of fermentation basic to the production of the wine's alcoholic content would develop to the point where the alcohol killed the yeast that would have generated a higher alcoholic content). In our present case, I have suggested that when the "plain" style was justified not directly as the mode of expression most fitting for man's humble relationship to God, but as the mode of stylistic severity best fitted for the severities of the material conditions under which the colonists were living (in a "wildernesse"), the situation was thereby so set up terministically that critical discussion regarding literary style involved materialistic considerations not directly religious. And the adjective for such a relationship between the nature of literary output and the material circumstances out of which it arose was "American."

Accordingly it is my job to attempt showing why, if we but extend our observations about the material "context of situation" under which speculations about the nature and fitness of "American" coordinates were adequate to the cultural conditions prevailing when the concept of "Americanism" as the fitting cultural norm was developed, now by the same token further developments in the same direction are no longer adequate. And I must try to show why the very things that "America" did with its "wildernesse" now require our groping for some other adjective, requiring us again to collectively ask, "We are what?"

Uneasily I admit: My discussion thereby encounters considerations that, while relevant to this year's Bicentennial festivities, yet are not suited to such an attitude of national self-congratulation as would most felicitously fit the occasion.

We are what? Since before the middle of the last century, Marx's dialectical materialism, with its stress upon the material underpinnings of any cultural superstructure, has been telling us in effect that "Americanism" is a brand of bourgeois nationalism. And being in design a sophisticated variant of Hegelian dialectic, it has a recondite way of saying that whatever goes up must come down. Or, more accurately, whatever has

developed to a certain stage must develop still further, at least until the last time—and then, just as the fermenting yeast generates the alcohol that kills it, so there occurs the development whereby (Engels said) without man's beginnings in slavery there could be no socialist fulfillment, but eventually the dialectic of class struggle abolishes itself. In contrast, the dialectic of the Christian ultimate, as foretold in the last book of the New Testament and made monumental in Dante's Divine Comedy, retains the Yes-No polarity of elect and reprobate for ever, in the eternity of Paradise and Hell, perpetual bliss and perpetual anguish. Our enterprise must somehow pick its way between these two different and more radical logics.

Meanwhile, with regard to a Behaviorist theory, such as B. F. Skinner's conclusions about human responses as inferred from his "operant" conditioning of dumb animals, we can note its contrast with various individual or social psychologies which make no attempt to be "American" (even when, as with William James, their work does have a notably "American" tone), but all of which the Behaviorists would discount as examples of "mentalism." At times, having watched the northern lights, and speculating that, despite the glorious spread of such a spectacle, they exert less power than the weakest of pudgy infantile fists, I have thought that the Behaviorists' charges against "mentalism" could at least be expressed gallantly by likening the so-called mind to the glow of such a wonder. And I would contend that the human skill in the acquiring and manipulating of a complex, arbitrary symbol-system such as a tribal language is per se enough to justify us in imputing to human organisms a dimension of motivation not reducible to the principles of behavior manifested by animals not dependent, as we are, upon the high development of purely symbolic resources. Nor can I understand just how an experiment with a conditioned pigeon could tell us much about peculiarly "American" tests of a literary style, except for the blanket answer that the work employs "contingencies of reinforcement."

In any case, mentalism or no mentalism, the contrast between the early theological tests of stylistic propriety (in the service of worship) and the later increasingly secular tests of "American" writing suggests one interesting paradox. Whereas any theist would take it for granted that his God embraces a motivational circumference infinitely greater than any such geographically local an orbit of reference as "America," technically the situation gets reversed. For the concept of national union, emerging out of a purely political federation among the colonies, involved modes of collective resistance that in effect transcended religious differences. In that sense, if a political union contracts to preserve freedom of religion,

its authority is more comprehensive than that of any sectarian body included within it. The secular guarantee of religious freedom applies to all; the various churches, each with its particular "universal" doctrine, would be local beneficiaries of these politically more comprehensive rights; thus in effect the political state would be to its many churches as a hen to her chicks.

How things do get turned around! I suddenly recall an earlier use I made of that figure, back in the thirties, when reviewing a book by Otto Neurath, Modern Man in the Making (New York: Knopf, 1939). Neurath worked with what he called "silhouettes," designed to so combine quantities as to give an inkling of quality. In trying to indicate verbally his pictorial method for contrasting the status of the church in different eras, I wrote (the review is reprinted in my Philosophy of Literary Form [1941]):

We are shown, for instance, the silhouette of a town in the Middle Ages and in modern times. In each we see a church surrounded by secular buildings. In the Middle Ages, the church overtops a cluster of little buildings, in about the proportion of a hen to her chicks. In his visualization of modern times, we see the same church, now surrounded by skyscrapers, in about the proportion of the hen to a batch of electric refrigerators.

Such reversals are always flitting in and out with regard to speculations of this sort. They just "come natural." Thus Cromwell, addressing the House of Commons (January 22, 1655) expressly and surprisingly tells us of one in the other direction: "Religion was not the thing at first contested for ‘at all’; but God brought it to that issue at last; and gave it to us by way of redundancy; and at last it proved to be that which was most dear to us."

Underlying the concerns of this paper there is the fact that a style (hence the elements of a personality that go with it) must somehow get transformed when it is addressed not to a sectarian religious congregation but to a secular audience responding to literary appeal in general (a motive that is intertwined with appeal to the judgment of critical authorities in particular, though not identical with it). And the emerging tests of style (hence "American" identity) first manifested themselves as aspects of "provincialism," beginning as colonialism, then, after the Revolution, gravitating around attitudes towards literary imitation (usually of English models) viewed sometimes as an exemplary procedure, sometimes as deplorable.

To me the most striking exhibit in Ruland's book is John Pickering's

"Memoir on the Present State of the English Language in the United States of America" (1816). The main steps might be summed up thus:

The subject is "the preservation of the English language in its purity." … We speak and write a dialect of English, but "Americans" who would have their works read by Englishmen must write in a language that the English "can read with facility and pleasure." … Pickering would guard against the day when the works of writers such as Milton, Pope, Swift, Addison would require translation "into a language that is to be called at some future day the American tongue." … The loss would not be so great with scientific works, but "works of taste" always lose by translation. … Beyond the transactions of business, there is the fact that "our religion and our laws are studied in the language of the nation from which we are descended." … Though we don't speak and write English with purity, he would defend us against the charge of a deliberate "design to effect a radical change in the language."… While conceding that "there is greater uniformity of dialect throughout the United Sates" than in England, he says that we have undeniably "departed from the standard of the language."… Not only have we introduced new words and given old words new meanings; we still use words that have become obsolete in England. That last is the one I particularly relish. We must not only retain old usages; we must also keep abreast of when to scrap them. I think of that notion when recalling how pleased we now are to find, in the hills of Appalachia, survivals from way back.

But I may give a false impression. I quite agree with Ruland when he says, "Pickering's insistence on constant vigilance reflects his cultural conservatism, but his picture of language alteration and fluidity indicates a surprisingly modern sense of linguistic development." And is it not true that the highly innovative nature of Western technology (applied science) works strongly against any such modes of linguistic propriety as Pickering "advocated"? (I put the word in quotation marks because he pauses to point out that the use of the word as a verb is "of American origin.")

As with the long retention of Latin in the Roman Catholic Mass, and the hieratic role of Sanskrit in ancient India, in eras when the modes of production remained more stable than under the strikingly innovative force of modern technology, the language of worship could become set apart from the idiom of the congregation through the sheer fact of having institutionally conserved stylistic traditions that secular institutions had gradually evolved away from. While the spoken language of a largely illiterate people did become modified, written texts were intrinsically

conservative—although the powerfully innovative genius of modern technology can also impart to the written (or more accurately, the printed) word many innovative functions, owing to the role of literacy in the changing modes of livelihood that go by the name of the Industrial Revolution (itself a term with inherent reversals since so many of the industrialists whose ways of appropriating and promoting the revolutionary resources of applied science go by the name of "conservative"—a consideration that we shall be uncomfortably involved in when asking what happens to the word "American").

Pickering's ambitions for the preservation of stylistic purity were impossible of fulfillment since language is integrally tied in with the nonlinguistic "context of situation" in which it is acquired. The very nature of the settlers' movement west was changing that context so rapidly and radically, the resultant differences between living conditions on the imperialist island and in our territories expanding across the continent were more than enough to frustrate Pickering ideals of stylistic conformity. In fact, the nature of technological innovation was already modifying in England the conditions needed for the preservation of his norms in the "Mother Country."

We're now ready to consider our ultimate reversal, centering in this question: Might the context of situation that was instrumental in the adoption of the term "American" as a stylistic criterion of our literature also have contained the conditions that require a turn away from such standards?

At this point the text most serviceable for our purposes is The Education of Henry Adams, by an author who also wrote a satiric novel entitled Democracy. We must still further discuss the upbuilding of the word "American" and its association with the word "democracy" eulogistically conceived (requiring us to ask what should ideally be required of a hypothetical author who might arise somehow to meet the specifications for the role of Poeta Americanissimus). But the very thought of such a possible fulfillment introduces a basic problem besetting our search for a national adjective with claims to which the title is unencumbered. The place of Henry Adams in this connection is at once revelatory and relevantly ironical, as we readily realize when considering this complicated situation:

  1. Though a member of a family about as ancestral as any could be in our national history, including two highly creditable presidents, in his Education he took on the literary persona of a technologically lost Telemachus in search of a technologically minded "father" to replace the principle of identity he abandoned when trying to outgrow the eighteenth-century family identity he was born with.
  2. His eighteenth-century family identity coincided with the years when British scientists and inventors were making exceptionally genial advances in the kinds of innovation that he, like Walt Whitman, saw coming to a climax in the nineteenth-century Expositions of Industrial Progress that were literally unexampled in all past time.
  3. In essence, he was asking not what it is to be an "American," but what it is to be what comes next. Or, more specifically, just as the early colonists' identity had developed from specific sectarian communities to a much larger secular "American" community, Henry Adams was in effect coming out the other side. His ironic search for a new "family" identity involved a figurative enrollment in a world of mechanisms that, though produced by persons, added up to a transcending of the personal (albeit by a kind of transcendence downward).

The innovative technology that the white invaders brought with them from Europe led from the personalism of sectarian religion to the overall political personalism that attains fulfillment in the aesthetic criteria of an "American" literature. But the Education leads us to confront complications whereby these same technological resources, both in being further developed and in leading to further developments of the sociopolitical conditions that they helped bring about, now demand of us basic considerations not reducible to terms of "Americanism" old style. Thus there are corresponding quandaries about the criteria of all domestic literature insofar as it is to be so shaped that, in attaining their styles purely as "Americans," our authors will not have met their cultural obligations—except in terms of the now dangerously narrow tests of peculiarly "American" aesthetic identity (bounded on one side by the subdivisiveness of nostalgically poetic regionalism, and on the other by such versions of reality as are indistinguishable from each day's "headline thinking").


Henry Adams, you will recall, built his thesis around the polarized use of the terms "Virgin" and "Dynamo." When looking back towards looking forward, I find in that formula the clear emergence of a problem that is latent, yet vexingly present, throughout all the essays in Ruland's volume. But the half-responsive, half-adversarial "Americanism" that grew out of the "wildernesse" and its despoliation seems, in retrospect, to have reached its poetic fulfillment in Whitman's way of being nationalistically infused by the spirit of Emerson's moralistically pragmatic transcendentalism. There, in the poetic persona of "Walt Whitman, Celebrant" (for such is his best summarizing epithet, his ideal answer to the search for our adjective) we find what he himself has called a "declamatory" kind of verse. And we want to dwell further on his kind of fulfillment. Meanwhile, a bit more should be said about Adams.

While reading The Educations many incidental references to environmental factors ("contexts of situation") that inevitably figure in the critical discussion of concerns for a truly national literature (to match our political independence with a literary counterpart), I find one major consideration persistently presenting itself. "Democracy" and "capitalism" are specifically political terms. Yet tremendously important as they are, I take it that Henry Adams's Virgin-Dynamo polarity better sloganizes the fateful (and maybe even fatal?) turn at the close of our two centuries, which is an interlude between the futuristic, promissory stage of ever expanding technologic ingenuity and quandaries when such a development has been "progressively" raising new exactions.

The natives who were being dispossessed were sorely troubled with regard to their identity. Surviving records of their oratory testify to the dignified eloquence of their many ineffectual appeals. There were always new white men turning up who had no compunctions about breaking the treaties made with the Indians by other white men. In fact, it's doubtful whether they would be overly compunctious about breaking their own word. For though many entries manifest profound respect and sympathy for the natives and their way of life, many of our intruders found it quite natural to look upon the natives as the intruders. Their way of life, insofar as it survived, could do so only by interfering with the way of life that was destined to usurp the continent. The enslaved blacks patched up for themselves a piece of poignantly beautiful illiterate culture by spirituals in which they wept for themselves as honorary biblical Jews. But the whites could in time undo enough of the "wildernesse" for literary critics to debate the all-important problem of being an "American" author.


Along those lines Henry Adams has in effect pointed towards our need for a new adjective. And his "law of the acceleration of history," by which he referred to the geometrically increasing pace of technological innovation and to which he would unresistingly abandon himself since the tide of history was irresistibly flowing in that direction, could do service both as a synonym for what is now usually called an "exponential curve" of society's plunge into the future, and as the analogue of what the "psychology" of a falling object would be if such a thing were involved in a personal rather than a sheerly physical mode of behavior, whereby Adams's law of history's acceleration would be a metaphorical law of falling bodies that are temperamentally jumping to a personal fall like Matthew Arnold's Empedocles into Etna.

Though the monetary rationale played a major role in developing the continent-wide expansion of an economy that was quite alien to the aborigines', in the last analysis it was the technology that made the major difference. I stress the point because, regardless of political systems, it is the adjustments to and through the uses of technology that will continue to define our global context of situation. Adams's reference to a character in his satiric novel brings out the point, at least as he sees it: "She had got to the bottom of this business of democratic government, and found that it was nothing more than government of any other kind." That's a bit excessive. But it does help point up the notion that the problems of engineering, like the science of ballistics, are the same regardless of the politics involved, though different political systems may vary in their ability to cope with such problems. True, The Education was not finished until 1907, and Adams on the law of acceleration is talking about modern trends in general rather than about our country in particular. But we should linger a bit with the statement that his companion book on cathedrals should be subtitled "A Study in Thirteenth-Century Unity" and his Education should be subtitled "A Study in Twentieth-Century Multiplicity."

In the Phaedrus Socrates names unity and plurality as the prime prin ciples of dialectics. The design figures in the very title of our nation. And Emerson saw the poet as exfoliating a unitary creative intuition into a diversity of manifestations. But Adams separates the two principles in time, with one or the other uppermost. Thus, as his biographer Elizabeth Stevenson observes:

He had done justice to the Virgin in the cathedral book. His business now was to do justice to the Dynamo, which, in 1900, seemed his own time's most fitting symbol. If he had lived in 1950, he would have chosen

another symbol, possibly the atomic pile; the meaning would have been the same.

His formulation preceded by not much more than a decade Spengler's Decline of the West.

Peering into Adams's term "multiplicity" (equated with the Dynamo, while "unity" had been equated with the Virgin), we glimpse considerations of this sort: As early as Plato's Republic, the division of labor had already developed in Athens to the extent that, as Plato saw things, it raised important cultural problems for the symbolic resolving of which he worked out some ingenious dialectical blandishments. They were designed to establish an ideal principle of justice (in Greek, a "way") that would transcend all the particular "ways" or "justices" connected with the various modes of livelihood involved in the class distinctions resulting from the division of labor. Compared with the vast multiplicity of techniques made both possible and necessary by the developments of modern Big Technology, such a range of differences among the handicrafts was slight. Yet within the conditions of the times it was great enough to be treated as a fundamental risk to the welfare of the city, since tribal life as such falls into disarray to the extent that its ways depart from the norms of homogeneity.

Implicit in Adams's concern with multiplicity are considerations more global than national. And since the remainder of this discussion is to center on that issue, perhaps before moving on we should cite a passage from an article by William Cullen Bryant (North American Review, 1825), for it sums up (in accents subtly ironic?) the kind of "American" destiny that combined a description of a nation-being-born with incidental references to adjustments by which the economic order of the aborigines would be "naturally" replaced. He is discussing "the rapid and continual growth and improvement of our country," in contrast with the much slower rate of change in Europe:

It does for us in a few short years, what, in Europe, is the work of centuries. The hardy and sagacious native of the eastern states, settles himself in the wilderness by the side of the emigrant from the British isles; the pestilence of the marshes is braved and overcome; the bear, and wolf, and catamount are chased from their haunts; and then you see cornfield, and roads, and towns springing up as if by enchantment. In the meantime pleasant Indian villages, situated on the skirts of their hunting grounds, with their beautiful green plats for dances and martial exercises, are taken into the bosom of our extending population, while new states are settled and cities founded far beyond them. Thus a great deal of history is crowded into a brief space.

Each little hamlet, in a few seasons, has more events and changes to tell of, than a European village can furnish in a course of ages.

Was there not a trace of deliberate irony in that winsome way of detailing how, even under pleasant conditions, the natives' way of life was being undone? For in the next paragraph there is a neat but obviously ironic twist. Throughout Ruland's book are panoramic passages by critics who list the wide variety of subjects that American authors should treat but are neglecting. Others complain that even our virtues militate against good literature, since they make so many of our citizens' lives too mediocre to be worth talking about. Bryant defends our country against this charge on the ground that many of our immigrants from Europe brought their vices with them.

In any case, the reference to the "pleasant Indian villages," surrounded under conditions that must eventually make their traditional way of life impossible, touches on an issue I referred to before. Quite often a treaty that was made in good faith was broken for the simple reason that, even in the capital, there was no one fixed authority to which such matters could be referred. The authoritative function did not reside in any personal office; it was in the pressure of the new technology and the waves of new settlers or promoters that came with it.

But I must guard lest we get turned in the wrong direction. Though the history of America's relations to the aborigines is not a savory one, that is not my point. I am concerned with stylistic criteria in keeping with the processes whereby, as the state of Western technology at one time made relevant the kind of "American" fulfillment represented in so much of Whitman's poetic gospel, so the later developments, confronted by Adams, are leading through his stage to astage that is yet to be considered. A momentous replacement of the sort that Bryant was touching upon was the destruction of the buffalo, which could not survive the settlers' way of farming, yet was the basis of many tribes' livelihood. And I read somewhere in Ruland's book an early lament to this effect: What chance do Americans have of developing a civilization to be proud of when trees are so plentiful that a squirrel could go from Maine to Louisiana by just hopping from branch to branch without ever once having to touch ground?

At this point let's say more about "Walt Whitman, Celebrant," the poet who seems to have done best by the job of giving us a truly "American" song, even in the strictly political sense. In its way it was remotely analogous to what Virgil's Aeneid was in celebrating the Roman hegemony made possible by the destruction of Carthage. In Whitman's case

the stylistics of promissory assertion put the stress not upon the contrast between rival ways of life on this continent (the white man's and the red man's), but upon a contrast between the vestiges of European feudalism and the boisterous development of bourgeois democracy pari passu with the expansion of white settlements. Also interwoven with the unitary nature of Whitman's vision was an implicit problematical dimension whereby his gospel of democratic brotherhood could be for him a purely personal medicine of which many of his compatriots felt no need.

I have already referred to the many passages in Ruland's book listing the varieties of subjects that critics said were available to American authors, yet too often neglected in the attempt to follow English models. These are the critical forerunners of the panoramic surveys or catalogues (in an impatient moment, Emerson called them "inventories") that are so characteristic of Whitman's verse, relying heavily on anaphora as a formal device for tying his lines together. Thus, in "Song of the Broad Axe" the first six lines of the second stanza begin "Welcome are"; then come "Welcome the," "Welcome are," "Welcome the," "Welcome the," "Welcome just as"; then comes "Lands rich," followed by three lines beginning "Lands of." Over half the lines in "Salut au Monde" (twice Poe's ideal length for a lyric) begin "I see" or "I hear." It's a figure that quickly establishes a rhetorical pattern, strongly incantatory. "Sea-Drift" starts with variations such as "Out of," "Over the," "Down from," "Up from," "Out from," "From you," "From under." His poems are in effect like free associations of ideas that imply one another, yet not like catalogues of things but rather like catalogues of plots. (I have in mind Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's Laokoon essay, with its thesis that the nature of the poetic medium, as distinct from sculpture or painting favors a narrative presentation of details.) Whitman gets his broad panoramic effects not merely by listing the wide scenic range encompassed within our borders, but by tiny hit-and-run suggestions of goings-on.

Also, a major aspect of Whitman's appeal was as a gospel of some sort. Recently, when going through several volumes of Pepys's Diaries, I realized the role even of sheer entertainment provided by sermons in the days before secular art began to establish entertainment as a major industry. And much of Whitman's stylistic appeal derives from its implications as a kind of secularized sermonizing. Mark Twain's humorous concern with the schemings of transient mountebanks gives us insights into the lure that such forms of eloquence must have had for the populace. And I would hold that Whitman's verse (as an "American" gospel, although also heralded abroad) was a strong response to this trend, which tied in

with the inspirational eloquence so superbly mastered by the "orator" to whom he owes so much, Emerson. High among the appeals of Whitman's gospel (except for those who loathe it) is the fact that its poetry is written so thoroughly in the spirit of rhetoric. It is not just the song of "One's-Self" he starts out by saying that he sings. It is a form of address, address to a kind of Modern Man who is thus both the recipient and the ideal exemplar of whatever gifts are poetically celebrated as democratically American.

Following a lead suggested by Denis Donaghue in another connection, and viewing Whitman's poetic persona as a resonantly rhetorical construct, at this point I'd refer to Aristotle's Rhetoric, built about three modes of persuasion: by logos, ethos, and pathos. When appealing by logos, the speaker's aim is to make his position seem reasonable. When appealing by pathos, he would enlist the audience's emotions on his side. To appeal by ethos he would recommend his cause by showing that he is trustworthy and means well; he is the sort of person with whom (as we'd put it now) you'd identify.

There is the vexing fact that our nation developed out of two basic embarrassments. First, the European immigrants brought a way of life that could develop only by displacing the natives' way of life. Given the urgencies of the case, no cultural amalgamation was feasible. Second, besides the white influx from Europe (persons who came "of their own volition") there were the blacks brought forcibly from Africa. (I put "of their own volition" in quotes because the European whites, too, came under necessitous pressure of some sort; but it differed strikingly from the kind of constraint placed upon the imported slaves.) And maybe we should also mention the Chinese coolies whose back-breaking labor contributed much to the building of the Western railroads. After a fashion they also came "voluntarily," having been tricked into signing contracts (which our courts upheld) on the basis of what a U.S. dollar would then buy in China; but they were lucky if a dollar that was paid them here even covered so much as the living expenses it took them to earn it. However, since the American contractors found it hard to distinguish one "Chinaman" from another, many succeeded in righting the wrong by simply disappearing into the circumambience. And I remember how, many years later, as a child I hurried past the local Chinese laundry. Whitman's poetic celebration of the logos, pathos, and ethos of American brotherhood was to be a way of transcending all such vexations underlying our upbuilding.

Though Leaves of Grass (first, much smaller edition) appeared in

1855, thus prior to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, many aspects of the democratic ideal had already been implemented. And Whitman's poems of the Civil War, which reached their height in his funeral dirge for Lincoln (surely among the grandest pieces of political oratory in all the world, and with a typically personal touch to its pathos) solidified the equating of freedom, democracy, and American Union. All was seen as a turning point from a tyrannical past to a vibrantly promissory egalitarian future that matched the increasing opportunities for materialistic aggrandizement. The evidences of greed were to be matched by a doctrine of "unseen existences" whereby, if you peered more closely into the signs of crassness, you could discern the emergent possibilities of their eventual spiritualization. Here Emersonian transcendentalism had stood Whitman in good stead.

For his logos thus, his opening "Inscription" is astoundingly compact:

One's-Self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse
I say the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.

The Unity-diversity pair (the U.S. design) is there to begin with, whereby in the first couplet the individual is equitable with the group. (In "Democratic Vistas" Whitman will sloganize the same design as "ensemble-Individuality.") Male and Female are proclaimed equal, as both bodies and minds. Such vigorous life is infused with divinity. And it is here and now around us, in our roles as "Modern Man."

The similarly compact opening for his "Song of Myself" adds an important term to his equations: "I celebrate myself, and sing myself." It pinpoints my grounds for proposing that we entitle him "Walt Whitman, Celebrant." (More later on the fact that the essence of what he is celebrating, in his chosen role as the literary variant of a hot gospeler, is American democracy as a brotherhood.) Meanwhile, note that his role as a "celebrant" implicitly ties the logos of his democratic persuasion to the pathos of his almost promiscuous ideal, his poetic claims to be in sympathy with us all. Doctrinally, he sees in a maximum range of sympathetic

responsiveness the very essence of poetic responsibility. We have already considered the quite tearful pathos of his tribute to Lincoln, as distinct from the severely simple grandeur of his hero's (his ideal slain father's) "Gettysburg Address." And have not our references to both the logos and the pathos of his profoundly oratorical poetry (its ways of being "Celebrant") impinged greatly upon its ways of appealing by ethos, by building itself up as the expression of an appealing personality?

In his poetic role as spokesman for an ideal America dedicated to the hospitable reception of all comers who were the victims of unjust suffering abroad, Whitman also enlisted an ambiguous mythic motive that we can catch glimpses of. I refer to the turn or tropism whereby for regions to the east of us, the daily magic of the setting sun called for the risks of a sea-crossing and whatever might happen next. For many Old World admirers of Whitman, that motivational dimension doubtless also figured somehow, if only, as Crom well might have put it,"by redundancy."

The appeal by ethos attains its ultimate expression in the gospel of democratic brotherhood. And I agree wholly with Ruland's view of "Whitman's entire life and work" as a kind of national "conclusion." In the first of the two pieces Ruland selected ("The Poetry of the Future," 1881), with regard to the opening sentence, "The top-most proof of a race is its own born poetry," Whitman envisions our nation as coming to stand

for fraternity over the whole globe in a vaster, saner, more splendid Comradeship, uniting closer and closer not only the American States, but all nations, and all humanity. That, O poets! is not that a theme worth chanting, striving for? Why not fix your verses henceforth to the gauge of the round globe? the whole race?

Perhaps the most illustrious culmination of the modern may thus prove to be a signal growth of joyous, more exalted bards of adhesiveness, identically one in soul, but contributed by every nation, each after its distinctive kind. …I would inaugurate from America … new formulas— international poems. I have thought that the invisible root out of which the poetry deepest in, and dearest to, humanity grows, is Friendship. I have thought that both in patriotism and song (even amid their grander shows past) we have adhered too long to petty limits, and that the time has come to enfold the world.

Pickering might have asked him in what language this global poem would be written. To be sure, it would not be classed among "works purely scientific" (designed "merely to communicate information without regard to elegance of language or the force and beauty of the sentiments").

Rather, it should embody "excellencies of works of taste" that "cannot be felt even in the best translation."

In the second item ("A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads," 1883), after having said, "I have wish'd to put the complete Union of the States in my songs without any preference or partiality whatever," Whitman proceeds:

From another point of view Leaves of Grass is avowedly the song of Sex and Amativeness, and even Animality—though meanings that do not usually go along with those words are behind it all, and will duly emerge; and all are sought to be lifted into a different light and atmosphere. Of this feature, intentionally palpable in a few lines, I shall only say the espousing principle of those lines so gives breath of life to my whole scheme that the bulk of the pieces might as well have been left unwritten were those lines omitted. Difficult as it will be, it has become, in my opinion, imperative to achieve a shifted attitude from superior men and women towards the thought and fact of sexuality as an element in character, personality, the emotions, and a theme in literature. I am not going to argue the question by itself. The vitality of it is altogether in its relations, bearings, significances— like the clef of a symphony. At last analogy the lines I allude to, and the spirit in which they are spoken, permeate all Leaves of Grass, and the work must stand or fall with them, as the human body and soul must remain as an entirety.

Here, I take it, Whitman is referring to the fact that his gospel of democratic brotherhood, Friendship, and Comradeship is extended to encompass a principle of "adhesiveness," a term he borrowed from phrenological usage to designate the specific "faculty" of man-love, to which many passages in his poems bear witness with astoundingly frank symbolism. The only way I can explain the situation to myself is that, except for those discerning members of his public who were just naturally "in the know" (and in the understandable cause of caution he sometimes sought to throw them off the track), readers interpreted his "amativeness" in less specific a sense. The lines could have suggested a variant of expressions such as references to politicians as being "bedfellows" or "playing footsy" with one another. Or recall how customers at a prizefight indignant that they're not getting their money's worth since the boxers aren't putting up enough of a battle, may start singing, "Let me call you ‘Sweetheart’—I'm in love with you."

In any case, Whitman's own insistence upon the importance of this motive as a generating principle enables us to see how it might serve as a source of unitary elation. Here was a terministic twist whereby a "problematical"

personal proclivity or persuasion could become implicitly identified with ideals at the very roots of popular sanction, with correspondingly medicinal or cathartic effects upon the celebrant Self. Combine the norms of politically democratic "brotherhood" with the implications of "adhesiveness," and each such dimension can complete the other, as it were, "by redundancy." Now we must go back to Adams.

Already in Whitman, we saw the gospel of "American" promise impinging upon the global. ("O poets!… why not fix your verses henceforth to the language of the round globe? the whole race?" For the new comradeship was to unite "not only the American States, but all nations, and all humanity.") Henry Adams points towards a global dimension of quite a different sort.

We have been considering the fact that our speedy expansion across what was to become our national boundaries could take the irresistible form it did only "by reason of" the technology it brought with it. Implicit in Whitman's songs of occupation was a way of life characterized by the kind of commodities (with corresponding sociopolitical relationships) that attained their most strictly verbal counterpart in such publications as American mail-order catalogues, implying modes of "cooperative competition" that eventually got historical placement in the name of social Darwinism. (A recent reproduction of a first-edition catalogue contains a reminder that the same firm sold both opium and opium cures; and owing to some research I once did on problems of drug addiction, my hunch would be that the "cures" merely provided opium under another name.) But in Adams's book, coming about half a century after Leaves of Grass (and at a time when, we now know for sure, the sheer technology of living was developing as an exponential curve, as Adams in his way had said) the global possibilities that Whitman had envisioned in hopefully personal terms of universal "adhesiveness" were showing up instead in terms of impersonal aspects of disunity (despite the fact that all the multiplicitous clutter was comprised of inventions made by persons).

May be at best we're necessarily robbed to this extent: Although we may poetically attitudinize in various local ways, maybe the overall issue does not wholly lend itself to song, as the scatteredness of Pound's Cantos indicates. Or, in contrast, think of Joyce's would-be universal dream-language, its deliberately foggy etymological mayhem committed through a mixture of willfulness and scholarship upon what is in essence an ingeniously, and temperamentally, and multiply contaminated ("sophisticated"?) stock of English. How could there be a wholly adequate

global idiom to do for the orbis terrarum of current conditions what Virgil's Aeneid proposed to do for the militaristic pax Romana of the Roman Empire? And can a "global" parliament such as the United Nations be viable except by reliance upon a kind of bureaucratic headline speech that admits of translation at top speed? Trying to sum up the situation as we need to consider it here, I'd state the issue thus:

With Whitman, when all was going well, everything fell into place. It all added up to the literary equivalent of "mystic unity." His scheme even had a kabbalistic ingredient. For though the kabbalists would not modify so much as a single syllable of a traditional sacred text, they had a hermeneutic twist whereby they could interpret it differently. It's not hard to imagine how, when so approached, even the dullest of passages might be seen to flare up like a nova. Apparently Whitman's way with the relation between "brotherhood" and "adhesiveness" had an inspiriting effect of that sort, solving what was otherwise (to borrow a formula from Richard Chase) a "problem in public relations." A sense of panoramic unity built atop such a resolution, could well be matched by an elation that his devotees might call mystical.

But there are times when the freedom of any sheerly symbolic exercising loses its glow. It almost necessarily does at times, any symbolic structure is hollow as compared with the physiological immediateness of the "Animality" which Whitman's own poetic creed had celebrated. Even a minor bodily illness can transform the gallant gestures of health into a mockery, whereupon drought takes over. If, for whatever cause, the great elation of integrally interrelated symbolic operations abates, the letdown can be almost total. One is then but a body in the most desolate sense, a body such that one dies when it does, robbed of all the entrancing humane fullness (the pleroma) with which one's symbolically engendered sense of reality had been infused. One then has no place in an ideal community of any sort. One is thrown back incommunicado upon the body; one is in solitary.

Most of us need not be tossed back and forth between such wide extremes in which the very intensity of the euphoria sets the conditions for a corresponding intensity of let-down. Within a much narrower range, there are the humbler satisfactions of occasions when things we are at work on fall fairly well into place. Or even by putting the house in order we can get medicine enough for the day. And as for drought, we often stave it off by entertainments of some sort, or maybe even by following the news about other people's troubles.

The thought of Henry Adams suggests a third likelihood that falls

somewhat on the bias across the extremes or attenuations of mystic unity and drought. We might borrow from Paradise Lost the term "Pandemonium," Milton's name for "the high capital of Satan and his peers." By "Pandemonium" I have in mind the excessive version of Henry Adams's "multiplicity," a state of affairs in which all things are aggressively at odds with one another. (Or might it be called "Pandora's plight"?) When confronting Pandemonium, in the attenuated form of technologic multiplicity, our most viable response is to treat cultural quandaries as subjects for further study. Thus, feeding the relevant data into our programmed ersatz brains the computers, analysts recently came up with indications that, whether there be continued growth in the consumption of energy, or a steady state of no growth, or a diminution, the prospects look bleak.

In his Purgatorio the canto concerned with Sloth is the one where Dante has Virgil outline the logic of his work, including a motivational reduction of the poem as a whole. I would interpret this choice of placement as saying, in effect: When we are stopped (in the epic's design, Sloth occupies a midway position, a kind of dead center) we may start anew by pausing to study a situation. Regardless of whether the description and diagnosis of cultural frustrations, akin to the immobilized state of Sloth, help us to develop a practical remedy, the mere contemplation of human predicaments can perform a kind of cathartic function. It can be psychologically medicinal, like literary fictions built about situations now but matters of history (such as the Spanish Inquisition, the witch hunts in colonial New England, the horrors of Hitlerism, or belated "now it can be told" indictments of past military blundering). The puzzles of technology's attenuatedly pandemoniac multiplicity attain a kind of ad interim quasi-resolution via the many works devoted to the discussion of its symptoms, the multiplicity of the situation thus being matched by the multiplicity of the studies that reflect it.

In these circumstances there is a kind of worldwide brotherhood— though only too often fratricidally slanted, and thus suicidally so, for it is quite alien to the promises "promulged" by Whitman in his role as the enigmatically literary analogue of a hot gospeler. We are a brotherhood in the sense that all mankind collectively confronts a platitudinously inescapable situation, emerging with the qualitative step from the quantitative technological multiplicity of Whitman's day to that of Henry Adams's, and now dreadfully obvious in the Era of the Atomic Pile, along with assists from chemical and bacteriological advances in weaponry and the likelihood that applied science (Adams's Dynamo)

will soon have "perfected" the potentialities of harnessing even the weather for genocidal purposes. (Military men have already experimented along those lines.) And even if the marvels of technologic inventiveness don't eventuate in a fratricidal war that will be global in the range of its disasters, besides the problems of depletion and pollution due to the commercial use of technology for temporal or regional or class advantages we confront the astounding new advances in biology. As is now clearly recognized, genetic research has developed to the stage where it risks inadvertently releasing new forms of life that would be major menaces to human well-being and that, once released, are beyond our control.

Technology is so great a coefficient of power that when it makes a mistake the results can be fantastically disproportionate to the intention. Consider, for instance, what comparatively little damage an individual can do who has nothing but his body with which to be violent. Then consider what havoc he can do if he has access to a plane and an atom bomb. True, technology's ability to magnify our disorders may imply equally great abilities to magnify our powers of improvement, and such is indeed the case. But technology (Adams's Dynamo) is so highly innovative that we necessarily lag in learning how best for all of us to live with it, particularly because, in such complicated choices, there are always so many more ways of being wrong than of being right. And even if you are correct in deciding how best to proceed, there will be great differences of opinion (tot homines, quot sententiae) insofar as others will rightly or wrongly refuse to identify your interests with theirs. And the possibilities of "sabotage" (if we may relate this French word to a Luddite term from England) increase proportionately to such a technologic coefficient of power. Ours has become the ideal age of either the hijacker or the guerilla because such roles are the perfect match for our technologic innovators. Quite as any innovator might hit upon a "breakthrough" that shifts the whole productive-distributive system, so protesters can relate to the fantastically mounting and vulnerable accumulation of technologic resources whereby, if you but cut one wire or punch one hole in a gas tank, inconceivably mighty powers can become weaker than an old nag or one sputtering candle.

In the thirties Matthew Josephson wrote a book about the financial analogues of the robber barons who swooped down to attack caravans at the narrows and exact tribute. He wrote of financial finaglers who had their ways of doing so. Then came the Technocrats who were exercised about the "bottle-necks" embedded in the very nature of such "networks."

And now we can begin to glimpse the likelihood that the same principle (principle!) can motivate either an ambition-ridden expert in a great laboratory or a high school student who with a mediocre education in physics or biology can do untold damage. Why try to decide whether anyone is "crazy" or "dedicated"? Innovation is now so necessarily irresponsible that its possible effects can't be distinguished from those of the aimless desolate weakling who arms himself with big guns and shoots people at random from a tower. The main thing is (as it probably always was) to do something for which you get recognized. And who's to say what comes next? There's nothing "morally" wrong with all that when "morals" is a word for "customs," and if customs aren't hurriedly on the make, they had better be.

But though such considerations are part of the pandemoniac multiplicity we have considered under the sign of Adams's Dynamo, we are primarily concerned with the Bicentennial implications of the step from Whitman on American democratic brotherhood to Adams on the later developments of technology.

The essential "rationality" of our inventions is what raises much of the trouble. For mankind is in trouble indeed when the great accomplishments of human rationality raise more problems than can go well with Whitmanlike accents of the promissory. In technology we confront an objective fulfillment, since it is so rational in its essence; yet its very rationality is but a caricature of human reasonableness. When the implementations of rationality multiply our problems, we are conflicting with rationality itself. I would call such vexations the universal puzzle with which the Dynamo now Bicentennially confronts us.


JGE: The Journal of General Education 28 (fall 1976): 167–89. Copyright 1976 by the Pennsylvania State University. Reproduced by permission of the publisher. This paper is a revision of a Joseph Warren Beach Memorial Lecture presented at the University of Michigan, April 1976.


12. Variations on "Providence"


"Variations on ‘Providence’ " continues Kenneth Burke's intense involvement with language, technology, counter-nature, and the future. This important essay consists of sixteen entitled sections which are divided or grouped into nine alternating units devoted first to logology and counter-nature and then to nonlogological variations on Providence. For example, the first three sections (1–3) are about logology, the next three (4–6) are about other than logological views of Providence. The next section (7) returns to logology and the next (8) returns to more variations. This pattern is repeated to the end of the essay: (9) is devoted to logology, (10) to other views of Providence, (11) to logology, and (12–15) to other views. The final section (16) concludes the essay with Burke's thirteen propositions about language, logology, technology, counter-nature, and the future. The final paragraph sums up Burke's main logological theme and presents his somewhat dismal, ironic vision of the future.

Providence: a looking to or preparation for the future; the care or benevolent guidance of God or nature. It is the first of these definitions that applies to the logological part of the essay. The second part applies to many of the variations. Another word for Providence in Burke is entelechy, or perhaps it would be best to say that entelechy is a Providence-like term specific to Burke that has to do with the end of things. This essay deals, primarily, with the entelechy of technology and with technology as the entelechy of human beings, the symbol-using animals. The final section (16) of the essay makes Burke's position on both of these entelechies clear; well, as clear as a great ironist like Burke chooses to be.

Burke has limited logology somewhat by insisting, here, that logology is purely secular and that it can only work with empirical evidence. (See proposition 1 in section 16.) He has also insisted that logology cannot be judgmental and cannot verify or disprove statements about the "supernatural." (See section 13: "But my Logological approach to a text permits me to make no judgment, whatever, about the truth or falsity of Theological teachings. Hence I can discuss such texts only as forms of ‘symbolic action’ that are to be analyzed purely as examples of verbal behavior."} The effect of these self-imposed restrictions is at best very ambiguous; they seem to limit Burke to searching out and conveying knowledge obtained from the analysis of a text, and to delivering admonitions about the present and future based on his reading of the text and observations of his own society. But the knowledge he acquires from a text is hardly neutral, his approach is anything but purely empirical, and his warnings or admonitions are always judgmental. (See the final paragraph of the essay.) Burke had been antitechnology since the thirties (since Permanence and Change [1935]), and more so as he got older, and the development of technology accelerated until it reached exponential speeds with the computer and other components of the electronic revolution.


Burke had a kind of fatalistic view of human history and the future, especially the future created by the genius of technology and dominated by the technological psychosis. This view of human history and the future derives from Burke's idea of entelechy—that things have a built-in, irreversible drive to complete and perfect themselves. In this case, it is human beings' creative genius for technological innovation that is driving onward with ever more sophisticated advances in technology and more and more of our lives dominated by technology. At the end of this long technological journey, Burke envisions a global tragedy in which humans come to the knowledge of what they have done to the environment and themselves with their technology but it is too late to fix what they have destroyed, even with more technology, or free themselves from dependence on their machines, which are counter-natural. This is hardly what Burke could call a "comic vision," but it has ever been thus with Burke, whose vision (certainly since the thirties) has always been a tragi-comic one, as full of fatalistic despair and depression as it is of comic-ironic mind play and discounting.

The problem in this essay is, Who, or what, shall be our guide into the technological future, and how can we prepare for it? In the old days it could have been God or nature. There are no answers to these two questions in the essay beyond the accumulation of knowledge about "verbal behavior," and a growing awareness of what is happening to us, and what is going to happen to us. Certainly, logology is not going to reverse the course of history or get us out of the mess we have created for ourselves. And if we put our faith in computers, as everyone now seems to be doing, we may soon suffer from brain-function atrophy and a steady diminishment of the problem-solving faculty that has gotten humans through so much history thus far.

In a sense, Burke never really developed a final vision beyond defining humans as bodies that learn language, establishing the link between language (symbol systems) and technology, and determining that technology was our entelechy. Logology is not a vision but a methodology for the analysis of verbal texts. Dramatism was really a much more inclusive view of things and led to Burke's many powerful moral/ethical statements about who/what the enemy was/is and what we could do about it. Throughout much of Burke's dramatistic period (the forties and fifties) the main enemies were the hierarchic psychosis and all that went with it, and the cold war. After Language as Symbolic Action (1966), it became clear that technology and the technological psychosis were the main enemies. More and more, Creon became Burke's representative character for the tragic future. No one can deny the good that has come with modern technology, nor, in the case of Creon, that the law was on his side. Burke likes Creon because in acting as he did to have Antigone put to death, he could not foresee the consequences of his "just" action: that his son would die with her, even as Creon tried to undo his decree. How could humans deny the benefits of modern technology or keep from inventing more and more technological innovations, even up to the ability to create (and destroy) life itself, or to clone animals and humans, send a spacecraft to Mars and beyond, build nuclear warheads, develop medical techniques that allowed doctors to replace almost every organ or joint in the human body, including the "irreplaceable" heart?

But I should let Burke speak for himself. Burke was eighty-four when this essay

was published and probably younger when it was written. It is not his final statement on language, technology, counter-nature, and logology; those came later, in the new afterwords in 1984 to Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History, when Burke was in his late eighties. What a span of time he thought and wrote himself through—sixty plus years, eleven books (including Collected Poems), hundreds of essays and reviews. We should remember this and not make the mistake of thinking that we have Burke's entelechy in this one late essay.

Since the time when I began planning to write some "variations on the theme of ‘Providence,’ " there have been some developments which made me decide to say much more by way of introduction than I had originally intended. In particular, Wayne C. Booth's admirable volume, Critical Understanding: The Powers and Limits of Pluralism(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) has been published, and some of his astute comments that bear upon my work have helped me to clarify my position, which comes to a focus methodologically in what I would call a distinction between history and Logology. Happily, the distinction is not "invidious." That is to say, the Logologer could not properly ask anyone to make an Either-Or choice between these two ways of speculating on the subject of "the human condition." And the more information historians have presented in organized form, the better supplied Logology is with the kind of documents and admonitions that are most helpful for its kind of perspectives.


However, Logology would have to propose an invidious distinction between historiography, a noble calling, and historicism, a kind of excess caused by a kind of insufficiency. Historicism would not be content with writing history; it would go further, and hold that we are nothing but the products of the particular age in which we happen to live (or, as Heidegger puts it, to be "thrown"). Logology, on the other hand, would start from a generic definition of our specific nature as human beings. What, then, is the "substrate" of which we are historical manifestations?

The term "Logology" itself has two meanings, one theological, one purely secular. In its theological meaning, as attested in the Oxford English Dictionary, it means "the doctrine of the Logos," of Christ the Word, as narrated in the Gospel of John. In its other meaning, "logological" is synonymous with "philological," referring to "words" in the

wholly secular sense, an empirical position which can make no judgment about either the rightness or wrongness of theological doctrine. Logology, as I thus use the term (meaning etymologically "words about words") starts from a definition that applies physiologically (I am sure you all will agree) to every human being except, as per the Book of Genesis, our first ancestors. Namely, our history and prehistory, viewed logologically, from the standpoint of "words about words," is the written and/or unwritten story of a biological organism that is gestated as a wordless fetus in a maternal body, is born wordless, and develops out of its infancy(that is, its state of wordlessness) while acquiring a verbal medium which, in effect, builds up a set of duplicates for its nonverbal environment (in Spinoza's terms an ordo idearurn to match an ordo rerum, though his "order of things" includes much personalistic content not reducible to terms of the sheerly nonsymbolic).

All told, Logology would classify this necessarily imperfect duplication as a distinction between two realms of nonsymbolic motion and symbolic action (for symbol-systems in the history of culture also include such media of expression and communication as music, painting, sculpture, dance, etc.). The strictly empirical mode of placement here would be analogous to the traditional metaphysical or theological pair: body and mind, matter and spirit, though not identical with them. In this respect Logology's main foes would be the Behaviorists, who monistically reduce any such dualistic distinction between motion and action to but a matter of degree, whereas Logology would be emphatic in viewing the distinction between physiological behavior and verbal behavior as qualitative, a matter of kind.

Logology would also emphasize an empirical analogue of the Thomistic principium individuationis. For the Summa Theologicas word "matter" as the "principle of individuation," Logology's corresponding term would be "nonsymbolic motion." At parturition each human physiological organism becomes a separate being, a biological organism with its own unique sensations, pleasures and pains (local to itself, as focused by the centrality of the nervous system). Each such individual lives and dies as a material thing, like other animals in the realm of motion.

But unlike all other earthly animals (to our knowledge) the human kind is genetically, physiologically, materially endowed with the ability to learn the kind of language which Logology would call "symbolic action," and which monistic reductionists would call "verbal behavior." Thus Logology would not consider experiments on laboratory animals adequate to encompass a study of the human animal.


A few further introductory remarks are needed. For Logological purposes, the metaphysical design of Leibniz's "monadology" can be given sheerly empirical analogues.

Throughout the Universe, in the realm of natural motion, at every instant there is an infinite number of discriminations taking place. An obvious instance: a quantity of H2 O is in the liquid form of water. The temperature drops, and at a "critical point" the liquid "discriminates" by behaving as a solid, ice. Or the temperature rises to a critical point where the liquid becomes a gas, steam. Presumably every cell of our body is making discriminations of some sort, in the processes of metabolism, the realm of material motions, by which the body exists as a physiological organism.

Obviously, we are aware of but few such discriminations. Insofar as we are aware of discriminations, let us call that condition "consciousness." By the "unconscious" would be meant the processes within and about us that we are unaware of, including even our un awareness, our un consciousness, of the ways whereby we are conscious.

I don't see how Behaviorists (and I delight in haggling with them in matters of this sort) could possibly rule out such an obvious discrimination, in their missionary zeal to find no room for "consciousness." But that brings me to my ultimate Logological dispute with the Behaviorists. They would rule out "mind"? Then how about defining "mind" this way: By "mind" is meant "the human being's genetically (that is, physiologically) endowed ability to acquire the special arts of verbal behavior."

One more point, and I think I can round out this introduction by tying our modes of symbolicity in with my opening Logological distinction between history and historicism. I take it that the kind of aptitude for what is called "verbal behavior" (which also includes the acquiring of symbol-systems generally, such as music, painting, sculpture, dance, etc.) can be posited as the differentia that defines us empirically as our specific kind of animal. Such "arbitrary, conventional" symbol-systems have come and gone since the days of prehistory when our kind began developing these aptitudes, the ability to do so being grounded in the body as a physiological organism. This minimum equivalent of what in metaphysics or theology would be called "mind" or "spirit" would involve a social or collective medium. Anthropologists would assign it to the realm of "culture" as distinct from "nature," though in its primitive stages the two realms might not look much different from each other, as adjoining things seen from a distance seem to merge.

As our terms for images, concepts, ideas, properties, attitudes, paradigms,

perspectives, situations, processes, and relationships took form, they became in effect a universe of their own. Also, the media using these purely symbolic devices made possible the kinds of attention and communication that gradually led to the invention and distribution of tools (with corresponding methods and attitudes). And thus we now confront the gradual accumulation of man-made new-things that constitute what we call the institutions of "Technology."


This subject lends itself to so many "radiations," so many "crossroads," as one thing leads to another, that it is advisable for me to foretell from the start where these observations about foretelling plan to end up. By "radiations" I have in mind incidental encounters of this sort: The thought of Providence as prescience, foresight, foreknowledge can comprise manifestations as various as Divine Foreordination (Predestination, eternal damnation as "correlative" to "life eternal"), insurance against risk of loss (a side-road that in turn could lead to modes of investment as different as those treated in a stockbroker's market report and the kind of "hedging" to the ends of eternal salvation conceived of in "Pascal's wager," Pascal's exceptional genius along the lines of the esprit de géometrie having enabled him to work out the mathematics of the odds in the combinations of cards that happened to be in one's hand when gambling) … or the principle of "sacrifice" implicit in all trade, which "sacrifices goods" of one sort for the benefit to be gained by acquiring in exchange "goods" of another sort—whereat another almost glorious side road turns up, as the imitation of sacrifice in classic tragedy is seen to be a grand stylizing of such barter, while the story of the sacrifice in terms of which the Christian church is rationalized conceives of a divine ransom in this regard … and also along the line we encounter Behaviorist projects promising techniques of prediction and control. Or there is belief and there is credit—etc.


Since Technology figures so notably in all the secular "radiations" of our key term, before moving on I would quote some paragraphs which give the gist of my historical speculations in the spirit of Logology. (They were published in the winter 1978 issue of Critical Inquiry):


Let's go to the very center of the issue, namely: the relation between "natural" powers and "technological" power. "Natural" powers can do only what they are doing. If it can rain, it is raining. If all that nature could bring about in a certain region at a certain time is a state of drought, there is the irrefutable evidence, an actual state of drought. When there can be an earthquake, there is an earthquake. Nature "unaided" can manifest only the combination of conditions that add up to exactly what they do add up to in relation to one another.

But introduce the symbol-guided techniques of Technology, and nature can be made to undergo quite startling anthropomorphizing transformations. Unaided nature, under present conditions, couldn't have produced our present vast arsenals of atomic bombs. Such instruments could not have been brought into existence ("created") without the savoirfaire of human prowess, which has thus in effect been sculpting its self-image in the materials of nonhuman nature, in effect leaving signs everywhere announcing, "Kingkill Kilroy was here."

By placing the whole stress upon the flat distinction between supernatural and natural terms for discussing the "descent of man," Darwinism deflected attention from the critical distinction between human animals and other animals, a distinction which, though grounded in the human animal's sheer physiology, made possible the realm of technological counter-nature, which began to take form with the first innovations of instruments and corresponding methods but has developed at a greatly accelerating rate since the start of the Industrial Revolution.


Vico's New Science offers a handy way into this discussion, including the fact that his work has so many radiations when looked back upon in the light of subsequent developments. Logologically considered, his notions of "Providence" are seen to embody theological connotations of such foresight, even while primarily furthering secular variations on the same theme. Also, at the roots of Christian theology (which is ardently monistic atop its Trinitarian aspect) there is what might be called an ambivalently "a-theistic" attitude, or latitude, as compared with polytheistic nomenclatures. (The point is discussed on pages 406–8, in my Language as Symbolic Action.) In pagan polytheism:

Any motive, habitat, natural power, institution, or means of livelihood could by linguistic abstraction become a "god." Often the process was hardly more than the effect we get by capitalizing a word, writing "Thunder" instead of "thunder," plus mythic personifying of such abstractions. Where we might go from "finance" to "Finance," polytheism could readily go a step further, to the personal god, Plutus.


Thus whereas Christian moralists have warned against the evil tendency to "make gods" of our ambitions, the early Greek philosopher Thales piously proclaimed the world "full of gods," and (as Aristotle reports in the De Anima) "he said that the magnet has a soul in it because it moves the iron." In Vico, the notion of Gods will as "Providentially" motivating (foreordaining) the course of history gets a partially de-Christianized slant by introducing a different dimension. In particular Vico's study of Greek and Roman history had led him to a secular theory of cultural cycles in general. And thus, although he did treat of historical development in terms of "Providence," it was a term applied in a theory of similar unfoldings local to different peoples without relation to the all-important redemptive role of the Christian sacrifice in the design.

His religious, heroic, philosophic (scientific) stages, with relapses into barbarism, anticipate the kind of cycles that Spengler was later to develop; it was a pattern that implicitly allowed for Spengler's schematizing of the "contemporaneous" in ways whereby the same stages of different cultural cycles would be analyzed (analogized) as "contemporaneous" with each other. And he introduced this notion: the rulers of each stage themselves bring about conditions that lead to their own undoing, thus giving rise to the next phase. This prime irony was rhetorically relished by the Marxist dialectic.

With regard to the present discussion, I recall a passage which I have referred to elsewhere in words of my own; but I cannot remember exactly where it is in Vico's New Science, hence I cannot cite it as accurately as I wish I could. The design (viewed Logologically) is:

Humans are by nature cruel. Add Foresight, Providence, and their cruelty becomes transformed into the "arts of defense." Humans are by nature greedy. Add Foresight, Providence, and this greed becomes transformed into the "arts of commerce." Humans are by nature vicious [mean? overbearing? arrogant? "ambitious" in a bad sense?—here's where I wish I could verify the wording]. Add Foresight, Providence—and the corresponding transformation is the "arts of statecraft."

I have not yet been able to quote this passage more accurately. But in any case, the account is accurate enough to substantiate my conclusion that Vico's treatment of the relation between Divine Providence and the corresponding enactments in the antics of human society involves a considerable step in the direction of modern social science and away from theological answers to questions about "The Providence of God" as propounded in the two great Thomist texts.



Though Logology qua Logology can make no judgments about the possible truth or falsity of the ological doctrine, it is obvious to Logology that the terms of Vico's perspective, near the beginning of the eighteenth century, do with "Providence" as a qualitative step much the same as Blake's doctrine of imagination (near the end of the century) does, in adding a dimension that distinguishes ideal human motivation (and corresponding "vision") from that of the sheerly "natural." I shall say more about Blake's position (which was impatient with the pious cult of Nature involved in the high value Wordsworth placed upon the role of the imagination). But first I would take this opportunity to cite a case where I was obviously aiming at a variant of the distinction that Vico's usage suggests, though I did not mention it because I did not know of it at the time.

I am referring to a section, "Eliot: Early Poems and ‘Quartets,’ " in my Rhetoric of Motives(1950). Here the equivalent of "Providence," as a term that stands for the introduction of a new generating principle, is the specific turn that is programmatically announced in Eliot's public platform: "An Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature, and a royalist in politics." (In For Lancelot Andrewes, 1928.)

Here is what I was trying to suggest in those pages: The poet's public was expected to interpret his variations on the characteristic "Prufrock" role in the early poems as a dramatic fiction. But the "Quartets" were a devout doctrinal statement of attitude by Mr. Eliot in person, not as an artist depicting an imaginary character for pure literary effect. Rather, they are expected to be read as wholly sincere, poems as direct in their way as the Confessions of Saint Augustine; otherwise the poet would be a hypocrite. Since Eliot's "Prufrock" poem was entitled "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," I might bring out my point most bluntly by proposing, if it were not meant as personally sincere, some such grotesque "literary" title as "Four Devotional Poems, by J. Alfred Prufrock, Esq., Recently Reborn in Christ." It would be a title unfit quite to the point of indecency. Hence, in the light of Vico's formula for "Providence" as generating a motivational leap, what is involved here?

As with Greek myth, or the Psalms of the Old Testament, poetry begins in modes of expression such that religious and artistic motives and styles are inextricably interwoven. We also recognize cultural developments whereby the sacred and the profane, as with much big business in the current entertainment industry, become quite distinct. And there is a notable intermediate area where religious attitudes survive vestigially in

aestheticized form. The traditional use of Greek myth in Western poetry is an obvious example of this turn, which gets impressive lyrical expression in Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." Wordsworth's variant involves verse embodying a literary cult of nature that is conceived as divinely infused. Even so hilarious a medium as Aristophanic comedy has important affinities of this sort, owing to the association of phallic rites with supernatural powers of fertility. There are crude vestiges in soap opera.

Introduce the rationale of religion into any vexatious or exacting situation, and you can notably modify the quality of the motives in terms of which you confront that situation. Thus, in early days when believers assumed that the Second Coming was near at hand, an insomniac could have transformed his burden into a rite of watching and waiting, that is, keeping vigil. And there are at least traces of a different motivational quality if some bore or nuisance of a neighbor is referred to not as a bore or a nuisance, but as one's "cross to bear." Along that line I would say: By his conversion Eliot didn't simply abandon the kind of attitudes, or temperamental habits that he gave formal poetic expression to in the poetry of his early Prufrock days. He retained them, but in a critically reconstituted form. It would be like the difference between dieting because of obesity or indigestion or high blood pressure, and dieting as a matter of principle. For a seeing in ways of our own, we can refer in advance to the place where we consider how, with Saint Augustine, theology's views on Predestination could well accommodate even the sack of Rome. For the design was comprehensively developed over many years under pressure of many varied needs.

"Providentially," one might say in good faith: Implicit in the gesture of the somewhat precious, literarily elegant lament that was embodied in Eliot's way of adopting and adapting the skillful stylistics of Jules Laforgue there were the beginnings of its transfiguration in terms of the outright theological perspective intrinsic to the "Quartets."

Once we stop to consider the two stages in this light, the first stage being not abandoned in the second stage, but transformed(as the analogue of Vico's "Providence" in effect added to the second stage a kind of "grace" that "perfected" rather than "abolished," the "nature" of stage one) we see that Eliot has said as much in his own terms. Consider, for instance, the opening lines:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past,


a design repeated more formulaically in the second poem, "In my beginning is my end," which is also stated in reverse. There are many variants, for instance this repetition of the same term, but with shifted connotations:

The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Or the rock of the parched desert in "The Wasteland" can become the rock of religious fortitude; talk of a rose garden can refer to memories of a secular sort, then take on dimensions of a somewhat mystic unfolding and enfoldment. Or consider the upgrading of "turn," as we turn from its incidence in "Prufrock" (1917) and "Ash Wednesday" (1930), while one might, in the light of hindsight, note the incipiently punning predestinations ("rock" and "pure frock") in the syllables of the poet's early surrogate.


Logology being by definition quite "word-conscious," the subject of "Providence" can readily radiate into speculations about Prometheus, whose name is etymologically a synonym for "foresight." And this heroically enduring Titan, whose sufferings, like those of the Christians' God, marked him as a sacrificial victim in behalf of humankind's welfare, also belongs in our commentaries because of his mythic association with the beginnings of Technology. And there are further grounds for turning next to this figure because we can approach the subject through a highly suggestive book by Denis Donoghue, Thieves of Fire, the printed version of several T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures entitled "The Prometheans," a name he gives to members of a literary tradition with which Eliot was quite programmatically at odds. Denis Donoghue presents the case thus:

It is proper to say of the Promethean intervention in human history that it was a once-for-all affair, as a result of which we know we can't go home again: the intervention is historical and irrevocable, its chief characteristic is that it cannot be deleted. Theft of the divine power of knowledge made reflection possible and therefore necessary; it made men self-aware, self conscious, it made the human race a multitude of reflexive animals. But the gift of consciousness is stolen, it introduces division into consciousness itself, as a mark of guilt. … Consciousness is stolen fruit or stolen fire, in either form the original sin, source of a correspondingly original guilt. Men take the harm out of it by converting some of its energy to a pious end, the

knowledge of God, or its secular form, the knowledge of Nature. But forgiveness is never complete. … The reflexiveness of mind, which is in one sense its glory, is in another a token of its criminality, its transgression at the source … he theft also gave men the power and the habit of self expression by recourse to symbols; it allowed them to mediate between two kinds of experience lately sundered—nature and man, or as we would now say nature and culture. … Above all, Prometheus made possible the imaginative enhancement of experience.

The sometimes quaint book, Mythology, of Thomas Bulfinch (1796–1867) brings out the related set of implications regarding the role of Prometheus: With this gift man was more than a match for all other animals. It enabled him to make weapons wherewith to subdue them; tools with which to cultivate the Earth; to warm his dwelling, so as to be comparatively independent of climate; and finally to introduce the arts and to coin money, the means of trade and commerce.

Grammar being what it is, and myth being nothing if not grammatical, Prometheus had a brother Epimetheus. They were thus related as prologue is to epilogue, as Forethought is to Afterthought. And it was Afterthought to whom Pandora (which means "giver of all" as an epithet applied to Earth, and "all-endowed" as a proper name, and whose box was to raise so much trouble when things got loose) was sent down as the first woman, and was welcomed by After-Thought despite the admonitions of Forethought. Logology needs but put all these pieces together in one bundle in connection with the fact that, as Bulfinch says, when "there escaped a multitude of plagues for hapless man," there was left but one good. But it was a strongly futuristic one, thus at least on the slope of the providential: hope.


I particularly relish that because, though the tinkerings of Technology have been almost fabulously profuse in the proliferation of man-made instruments, methods, and worldwide interrelationships that are constantly getting out of order, at the same time there is always an equal profusion of hopeful assurances that, with but a bit more tinkering, all will be in order. Along with its great multiplication of things, Technology promises us that in time there will be a pill for everything. Logology, I fear, has but what most people would probably consider a dreary substitute for hope; namely, the futuristically slanted methodological engrossment in the tracking down of implications, which may amount to

translating the grand oracular utterance, "Know thyself" into "Spy on thyself."

Myths are more hospitable to several meanings than are the dogmas of theology, the definitions of philosophy, and the mathematically precise measurements of science. Thus besides the relation of Prometheus to fire as a prime material power in the shaping of human destiny, there is the fiery Promethean truculence as depicted in the only tragedy that survives from the trilogy of Aeschylus—and Donoghue takes off from that in selecting the four turbulent geniuses, John Milton, William Blake, Herman Melville, and D. H. Lawrence, whom he selects to discuss as his examples of the type, the epithet being one which Rimbaud applied to "the poet" in general.

I see them as variously responsive to motivational situations which are poignantly responsive to notable changes produced by the increasing pace of technological advance in the state of Counter-Nature that could not have emerged in their times without the accumulated operations of peculiarly human inventions. These developments could be said to have been mythically foretold as a tortured Titan's gift of stolen fire to humankind (thus human nature's prowess in transforming the conditions of nonhuman nature by both intent and accident, that is, the hopes in a new order, along with the hopes of controlling the riot of new disorders that arose as unintended by-products of the innovations). For I would hold that there is an ironic kind of predestination let loose but concealed here, in a tacit assumption.

I would call it the "instrumentalist fallacy," which prevails not by being affirmed but by being overlooked in particular cases, although whenever it is mentioned people are quite likely to agree in general that it is a fallacy. The "instrumentalist fallacy" (or perhaps "quandary") is the unstated assumption that any improvement in instruments or methods is to be evaluated solely in terms of its nature as that improvement. But everything has a nature of its own, and this identity is not reducible to its nature as the function for which it was rationally designed.

Thus so far as our adaptation to new experiences is concerned, the Pandora's box of accumulated Counter-Natural innovations, which come to seem like a "second nature," may require much more analytic research and corrective tinkering than the instrumentalist fallacy admonishes us to suspect. We are accustomed now to "impact statements," preparatory research seeking to foretell (be provident or prudent about) the possible cultural and economic effects that some new construction project may have on the surrounding environment. But

thoughts of Technological Accumulation as a realm of Counter-Nature lead us to ask whether Technology's critique of itself may not require constant speculative(analytic, diagnostic, data-gathering) research into the nature of its impact.


So much for possible ultimate inquiries into the relation between Counter-Nature and the role of cantankerous "Promethean" poets whose way of confronting such matters may be so roundabout as to seem like involvement in a totally different cultural groove. In any case, when featuring the primarily "literary" aspects of the writers whom he selects as examples of the "Promethean" temper, Donoghue has done enough, and amply, in pages vibrantly suggestive. But I can't do his book justice in detail, for I have contracted to keep moving on as one thing leads to another. However, here is an ideal passage to help me on my way. Blake, he says, is "dedicated to the primacy of vision." (Note that "primacy of vision" is another "Providence" term.) But this faculty is

a strictly human power superhuman in its origin: he feels no loyalty to Wordsworthian recognitions and acknowledgments, that is, to the Wordsworthian cult of loyalty to nature, since these are tokens of a law that man has not established. Blake believes that the natural world may be redeemed by man's imagination, may be rendered human and therefore transfigured. Wordsworth believes that the natural world is already blessed, and that man has but to recognize that condition and live accordingly: such a life would mean man's redemption. Blake's most complete relation is to his own imagination … his relation to the given world is defiant … n Blake, the Promethean imagination is a form of energy [which is projected] into the otherwise merely natural world.

This visionary imagination is "the distinctively original power, the alpha of human history … the secular manifestation of divine powers … God and the imagination are one." But not only does the notion of the poetic imagination as a creative power provide an aesthetic substitute for the theology of Providence as a principle of Foreordination. Viewing the foresight of Blake's prophetic gospel now from the standpoint of historiographic hindsight, we can realize that an answer to his call for the transcending of natural laws by peremptory modes of purely human affirmation was even then taking shape. For already, in keeping with what Henry Adams was to propound as the "law of the acceleration of history," the pace of the Industrial Revolution was beginning to speed

up, we might almost say "traumatically." The advances of Technology had attained a stage of development that invited many new aspects of pure scientific speculation—and the conditions were such that the imaginings could be practically implemented, even to the extent of imperialistic aggrandizement.

I have been told that I am wrong in my view of what people generally think, with regard to the relation between pure science and applied science. For I would stress the fact that the state of Technology itself provides the conditions which open up avenues of "pure" speculation. Instruments and methods are like images, in suggesting new sets of implications, variants of the Gidean formula, "what would happen if …?" a species of gratuitous sophistication not confined to Gidean ethical aberrancies.


When Blake was writing, developments were already under way which now promise such transcending of natural conditions as can be provided by advances in genetic engineering. Such a realm of Counter-Nature is to be distinguished from whatever might be called a Supernatural realm. For whereas such a realm is, by definition, outside the natural, the term "Counter-Nature" (to designate the resources made possible by the anthropomorphizing genius of Technology) has the etymological ambivalence of the Latin preposition contra, from which the prefix "counter" is derived. It can mean "against" both in the sense of "opposed to" and in the sense of "in close contact with," as in the sentence "To brace himself he leaned against a tree"; and the same root, contra, gives the patriot his proud expression, "my country." I previously quoted a passage in which I discussed the difference between "natural" and "technological" powers. Perhaps I should say more on that point, which comes to a head in my pleas for the term, "Counter-Nature." We are not concerned here merely with the choice of a word. The important thing is: The proposed term points up a matter of derivation that is concealed when we have but the contrast between "natural" and "supernatural" realms, a contrast which the term "Counter-Nature" is specifically designed to obviate. To adapt a bit more from the article I already mentioned:

The flat distinction between "ideas" as derivative "from the bottom up" according to the genealogy of Marxist dialectical materialism, and "from the top down" in Hegel's dialectical idealism, invites a kind of "genetic fallacy" whereby overstress upon the origins of some manifestation can deflect attention from what it is, regardless of what it came from.


The difference between technological power and raw natural power is per se evidence of the way in which the transforming potentialities of symbolism's "ideas" can "transcend" nature without being either orthodoxly supernatural or rooted in a Hegelian Absolute.

Though the change from the human organism's wholly "natural" condition, as an animal like other animals, began with the most primitive uses of language in assisting the development of tools and in reinforcing the imitation of new procedures, I would assume that only within the last two centuries the implementing of such inventiveness (culminating in laboratory techniques for the ever more efficient invention of further inventiveness) has produced a revolutionary explosion in the corresponding realm of Counter-Nature (usually referred to as the ability of humankind henceforth to guide its own evolution rather than being subject to the instincts and laws of natural selection, a development which Darwin studied and which Marx heralded as the rise of "new needs" under modern methods of production). I call that a realm of "Counter-Nature" in the sense that, if all such man-made equipment were suddenly gone, you'd have to try making a living under "natural" conditions, though we become accustomed to our "unnatural" ways as a kind of "second nature."

Once our kind of physiological organism emerges from infancy (speechlessness) into familiarity with a symbol-system such as a tribal language … it is characterized by a property, or faculty, that infuses all experience with its human nature—whence the "anthropomorphism" inherent in what, over half a century ago, I quaintly called "the thing added—the little white houses in a valley that was once a wilderness." By identifying such symbolic prowess with an "entelechial principle" I have in mind the notion that inherent in it there is the incentive to "perfect" itself by covering more and more ground. For such a potentiality is saying in effect: "Whatever the nonverbal, there are words for it, ranging all the way from the technically, scientifically couched analysis of a situation or process to a sheer expression of attitude, as with the poet's feeling that spring requires completion in a spring song or a devout believer's ‘gesture’ of reverence in his symbolic act of prayer."

The rudiment of "Purpose" in this regard I would ground in the sheerly physiological needs for food, shelter, and sex, but the "anthropomorphic" range is the empirical equivalent of unfinishedness, what has been called humanity's "divine discontent." On the side of symbolism, it all begins with the purely formal fact that a sentence is fully a sentence only insofar as it has a meaning, and such a meaning is its purpose.

So we "naturally" start from there and aim to endow everything in nature with the kind of "meaningfulness" that a sentence has.

The pragmatic perfecting of the entelechial principle itself in terms of mediation (Vermittlung) by ingeniously extending the realm of Counter-Nature ever further into the realm of nonsymbolic nature is (take your choice) either an overall human purpose, particularly in its attendant needs to worry about its side effects, or a kind of neo-Schopenhauerean compulsion. …

Logology must confront history, first of all, not in terms of historical change, but in terms of the question, "What is it to be the typically symbol-using animal?"


With regard to the term "Providence" itself, rather than its manifold "radiations," here is an instance which does come close (though with a difference) to the Vico formula. (I discuss it in my Rhetoric of Motives[1950], 112 ff) It is in connection with a speech delivered by Oliver Cromwell before the House of Commons, January 22, 1655. Cromwell refers to the Revolution as an instance of "God manifesting Himself." The fact that the Revolution succeeded is cited as per se evidence of God's will. He sees in it a "necessity" imposed by "Providence." The Vico touch figures thus:

Religion was not the thing at first contested for "at all": but God brought it to that issue at last; and gave it unto us by way of redundancy; and at last it proved to be that which was most dear to us.

Again, after asserting that "they do vilify and lessen the works of God" who accuse him of "having, in these great Revolutions, made Necessities," he says: There is another Necessity, which you have put upon us, and we have not sought. I appeal to God, Angels and Men,—if I shall now raise money according to the Article in the Government, whether I am not compelled to do it!

The role of "God" or "Providence" here (as we may refer either to God as Providence or the "Providence of God") is stressed in answer to the charge that the success of the Revolution depended upon his special skill as a conspirator:

"It was," say some, "the cunning of the Lord Protector,"—I take it to myself,—"it was the craft of such a man, and his plot, that hath brought it

about!" And, as they say in other countries, "There are five or six cunning men in England that have skill; they do all these things." Oh, what blasphemy is this! Because men that are without God in the world, and walk not with Him, know not what it is to pray or believe, and to receive returns from God.

And he clinches matters thus:

If this be of human structure and invention, and if it be an old Plotting and Contriving to bring things to this Issue, and that they are not the Births of Providence,—then they will tumble.


(I forgot where, and I've never been able to find someone who could tell me where) in references to scholastic theology I ran across a definition of God as "the ground of all possibility." It always seemed to me that, if such a "ground" were not defined as "personal" or "intellectual" (a Being who might make Covenants with us), even a confirmed atheist could go along with that definition. It's somewhat in the same groove with the definition of politics as "the art of the possible."

I would introduce it here as a bridge to a terminology of a quite different temper. The secular analogue of what Cromwell calls "the Births of Providence" in connection with the success of a Revolution that put the deposed monarch to death would be, in the Marxist nomenclature of dialectical materialism, the prime emphasis upon the "necessities" of the "objective situation," the "scientific" instruction that the Revolution could succeed only when the time was ripe.

Logological doctrine goes along with Cromwell and Marx here, in noting that technological powers can "succeed" only to the extent that they accommodate themselves to the "necessities" of the situation as "determined" by the natural conditions which are the material "ground" of their operation. "Foreordination" of some sort is implicit in the fact that the fetus of one animal does not develop into the offspring of another. And if the presently emergent skills of biogenetic engineering develop to the point where transformations of exactly that sort can be proposed (with, say, further insight into the resources of recombinant DNA), the same underlying laws of motion that made such a development impossible without the intervention of human bioengineering would still circumambiently prevail, just as the natural conditions that made possible the accumulation of thirty to fifty thousand chemical waste disposal dumps (many of them toxic) across the country were not

"abolished" by technologers' "free" acts when setting up a realm of Counter-Nature in those areas. Nature can do no wrong, for whatever it does is nature. Its role as "Counter-Nature" figures only with reference to its man-made plastic effects upon nature. At present, only with the aid of symbol-guided technologic powers could sheerly natural powers do a grand job of worldwide genocidal pollution.

Incidentally, although I can't resist heckling now and then, in bringing out the suicidal-genocidal aspects of technological power gone wrong, I do not judge my position as outside the technological orbit. In fact, I take it that Logology's wan methodological analogue of HOPE, its involvement with "the tracking down of implications," is at every point following implications that Technology itself brings to the fore, through the suggestiveness of its concepts and ideas, of its things as a kind of imagery, and particularly with regard to possible relations between artificial Counter-Nature and the body's origins in nature oldstyle—origins that are not away back and now abandoned, but are still immediately with us every time we breathe—and they had better be, unless each member of our species is to be supplied with an artificial respirator like those provided in hospitals ("provided"—there's that word again!), provided for patients whose bodies suffer from the privation of an aptitude normal and natural to our species.

Logology is vigilant with admonitions (and corresponding perspectives) that the resources of Technology have brought into being by exactly those conditions—hence a whole new set of moot questions arises. It's not inconceivable that full technological development could be the flower of Western culture gone to seed in a desert of its own making. Or, otherwise put: So far as I can make out, a computer has no more "sense of principles" than does a stone rolling down a hill. Its imitation of the "rational" is an "efficient" reduction of human "reasonableness" to the edge of absurdity. It can't distinguish one Ism from another. It could distinguish between a Marxist and a non-Marxist only if one could say "shibboleth" and the other had to say "sibboleth"—or by some other such distinction purely in the realm of motion (as those two sounds are). It's useful, but quite dangerous if too many decisions (questions of motivation) are delegated to such devices as surrogates for "brains."


The Marxist dialectical counterpart of Divine Predestination is, of course, the theory of successive transformations in the nature of class

conflict, with each stage bringing about the conditions that prepare the way for the next stage. Marx explicitly says that although the stress upon class conflict is usually associated with his name, he got such leads from the bourgeois economists. His contribution was the version of history designed to foretell (I have to check on the specific "Providence" word he uses here, but I think it was "prove") the inevitable development of the class struggle until the ultimate stage of class society, the dictatorship of the proletariat, which would in turn inevitably lead to the abolition of all class conflict.

On this score Logology's stress upon the purely verbal (symbolic) nature of the negative points out a strategic transformation of the dialectical design in terms of which the various transformations of the class struggle through its successive stages are said to have taken place. When turning Hegel's idealistic dialectic into the contrary terms of dialectical materialism, Marx in effect "reified" the negative, as though it were real in the sense of a material thing. The term "negativity," as applied by Hegel to the positive world of material "objects," was a metaphysical concept much like Spinoza's formula, omnis determinatio est negatio. When you scrap Hegel's idealistic rationale, and apply the term quasiscientifically to relations in the world of tumultuous historic details, much that is actually a matter of opposition(as with the concept of "class-conflict" itself) gets treated in terms of "negation," as one might loosely speak of rivals in a game or of political factions as "negating" each other whereas a Marxist narrative of such historic transformations involves a vast welter of such positive details as characterize all actual contests (that is, oppositions). And although they may be summed in terms of "antithesis," that term itself is etymologically the Greek word that corresponds exactly to the Latin word "opposition."

Thus, a Marxist history of the past bristles with positive descriptions of constantly changing oppositions, or antitheses that lead to new adjustments, or transformations which, in keeping with the same etymological root, can be classified as "syntheses." In brief, old op positions can become transformed into new com positions, which are pos itions that lead to new op positions, quite as the stages of growth from seed to sprout to stock to branch to bud to flower to seed are not a succession of "negations" but asequence of transformations, as weights in balance(for which a synonym could be "in opposition") are not "negating" each other.

But hold! The dialectical design itself undergoes a notable transformation when it turns from the records of the past to "providential" discussion of the future, which by the nature of the case can have no welter

of positive documentary details, empirical data, to write the history of and thus to write history with. Whereat lo! of a sudden a genuine negative enters the design. The past has been a succession of class conflicts (oppositions), all capable of description by research and organization of details. But in the ideal future, class conflict disappears and is replaced by a state that is class-less. Here is an outright negative, got by the abolition of classes.

With regard to the bourgeois version of secular providence in foretelling the abolition of slavery, the Marxist dialectic interpreted this development in accordance with the principle of transformation. That is, it diagnosed the historic development as a change from slavery explicitly so called to "wage slavery." But when confronting the possible future after capitalism, instead of asking what new kind of classification might develop out of the change in property relationships the Marxist dialectic abruptly changed the rules and disposed of the issue by then, for the first time, introducing an absolute negative.

Logologically, the issue would be sized up thus: The promises of the French Revolution were sloganized in keeping with Rousseau's distinction between freedom (independence) and slavery (subjection). The inadequacies of so blunt a distinction still figure, even after the step from "wage-slavery" has, by definition, been culminatively taken na perfectly socialized society that was functioning well, the individual citizen would not be independent of his fellows (that should be an outgrown bourgeois ideal). All are mutually interdependent upon the competence and goodwill of one another. And the fictions of private property would be replaced by the actualities of control (a development already quite evident in the conditions of social labor, as contrasted with in dividual enterprise, that are manifested in the corporate organizations of capitalism).

Administration is controlled not by the owners (the stockholders) but by the managers, who usually own but a small proportion of the stock. In fact, the more widely the stock gets distributed, the easier it is for insiders to keep control in their own hands, since the wider the distribution of ownership among small stockholders the harder it is for the owners to unite in the control of administrative policies which would bring a higher proportion of the corporation's profits to the owners, and less to the managers.

In the case of an ideal communist future, even if one grants for the sake of the argument that it is working justly, there would still be grounds for contending that such a social order should not be defined as individual independence (freedom from subjection) but as mutual subjection of all

to all in a way that is gratifying to all. In fact, it's hard to imagine how any society that would involve so extensive and manifold modes of interaction as advanced Technology necessarily does could, by sheer definition, involve not maximum independence but maximum interdependence, though the word spontaneously suggests a riot of problems.


At this point we confront a major moment, perhaps the major moment, in this rambling survey (necessarily "rambling," since the "radiations," or "ripples," that follow from the term "Providence" as a starting point are so manifold, urgent, and directly or fragmentarily relevant to the "eschatological" aspects of the subject). The Marxist theory of history (past and predicted) reminds us that "Providence" in the sense of thoughts on first and last things is explicitly treated in question 22 of Saint Thomas's Summa Theologica and in chapter 64 of his Summa addressed "to the Gentiles." And behind those there are Saint Augustine's major writings on matters of "Predestination." (I have especially in mind that astounding work of genius, The City of God. Recall also the burning words on the Last Judgment in the last book of the New Testament.)

But my Logological approach to a text permits me to make no judgment, whatever about the truth or falsity of Theological teachings. Hence I can discuss such texts only as forms of "symbolic action" that are to be analyzed purely as examples of verbal behavior. Consider, for instance, the doctrine of metempsychosis, "transmigration of souls," in some Eastern religions. It implies different relations between the natural and supernatural orders than those propounded in connection with Western tradition. In the Eastern rationale, a person born subject to great hardships and privations is thought to have merited these conditions as the result of evil ways in his previous existencend if he behaves better this time, he will merit correspondingly better conditions on "his next time around," when his soul will have migrated into another body.

Obviously, a theological rationale of that sort would be at odds with the Augustinian design of Predestination, involving Providential modes of Foreordination on God's part that would call for quite different terministic behavior on the part of the author's text. And within the necessary confines of Logology, I could not properly choose between those two kinds of eschatology. I could but observe how each design is worked out with regard to its own internal consistency; and how it figured in the shaping of its believers' attitudes toward conditions in this world, a kind

of speculation that would be sociologically relevant, whether one or the other or neither rationale or Weltanshauung, or orientation or perspective or paradigm happened to be theologically true.

This position by no means belittles the gravity of the issues ultimately involved. But Logology, in the secular sense of the term, is by its own definition totally incapable of making a single statement about the realm of the supernatural. Its orbit being confined to the study of the word-using animal (or, more broadly, the symbol-using animal) as born wordless and learning language in "infancy," it can but make statements about the empirical realm of symbolic action, which does, however, include words for the supernatural—and in my judgment that Logologer is a poor one indeed who is not profoundly impressed by the subtlety, profundity, brilliance, and scope of the great theological and theologically tinged texts that mark the history of Western thought and Western social organization.

Meanwhile, these developments seem to be approaching a temporary culmination of sorts in a state of affairs not Supernatural, but Counter-Natural, human nature's self-portraiture via the ingenious innovations imposed by human enterprise upon the realm of nonhuman nature, though there are the problems that Logology would sum up under the head of the "instrumentalist fallacy," "instrumentalist quandary," the constantly recurring temptation to ignore the fact that every device or operation has a nature of its own, quite outside its nature as instrumental to some particular human purpose—and lo! there is the Pandora's box of plagues let loose in the multifarious gifts connected with the Promethean fire and thus Providentially implicit in the Greek myth of Technology's beginnings (now speeding up exponentially in what Henry Adams called "the law of the acceleration of history").

With regard to the nomenclature of Thomas's texts (viewed as what they Logologically are, to begin with, a set of terms dialectically adapted to one another) the "radiations" that most directly suggest themselves concern the relations of these texts to Augustine, Aristotle, and Duns Scotus; and, of course, the term "Providence" is integrally interwoven with the other terms in the text concerning God and God's powers, plus the fact that the key terms, "intellect," "will," and "good," in connection with Divine Providence must be used not literally, but analogically, as compared with their application to the field of human psychology, where the term "prudence" (of the same derivation etymologically as "providence") is, as I think Thomas indicates, a better fit because it applies to a kind of judgment, or way of sizing things up, that would have

no place in an all-seeing Intellect. However, in question 22, article 1, Thomas does offer reasons why, "though to take counsel may not be fitting to God, insofar as counsel is inquiry into matters that are doubtful," the term "prudence" can be applied analogously to God.

The issue as to whether Intellect precedes Will is much like the question of procession in the three Persons of the Trinity. It is, by definition, not a temporal progression, since the timeless nature of a Supreme Being would preclude temporal succession among such Powers.

At first I logologically lined up the key terms thus: In God Providence would necessarily be in itself an act of Creation, and hence of Foreordination. For the very act of Foreseeing the Future would be tantamount to Creating that future. By definition a Divine Intelligence cannot be wrong, and nothing that is understood by such a Timeless Intellect to be there could have been there prior to the understanding of it; thus the understanding of it would be one with the willing of it, that is, the creating of it. And since God is by definition simple, God's Intellect and His Will are one with each other and with God's Providence. Also, what is understood to be there and is willed to be there would also necessarily be Good, since an act implies a purpose, and God's universal act of Creation would necessarily be Good, since as Aristotle says in the Nicomachaean Ethics,"The good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim." But here the act would be the Creation of the Good rather than the pursuit of it. Hence that would be supremely so in the case of God and in the Book of Genesis it is explicitly said that God found His Creation good.

But there was the controversy with the Scotists, who would feature the Will (hence the Franciscan formula "The good is good because God willed it," as distinct from the Dominican formula, "God willed the good because it is good"). Also, Thomas added a qualification of this sort: God's Will is rational, hence it acts in keeping with the knowledge of the Intellect. Those who would feature the Will over the Intellect might hold that any imputing of a motive for God's creative act implies a limitation of God's freedom. It is, by definition, a problem beyond the range of Logological competence; and in any case, the issue has been decided historically in Thomas's favor.

But an account of humans in purely temporal situations involves a considerable departure from the theological nature of intellect, will, and foresight. Human "prudence," along with "remembrance of things past" (memoria praeteritorum), and an "understanding of the present" (intelligentia

praesentium), from which we gather, conjecture "how to provide for the future" (de futuris providendis) is quite fragmentary, and halting, in contrast with the comprehensive powers of God, operating simultaneously, "in no time," and omnisciently. Thus, in the Nicomachaean Ethics(1111 a) Aristotle lists the various ways in which we may not know the "circumstances of an act," and to that extent we are not free, for "that which is done … by reason of ignorance is involuntary."

If there are three salads, and we have a choice of one, and do not know that two of them happen to be contaminated, we are not really free to make a "rational" choice unless we know which two of those salads we absolutely must not choose. This is the sort of situation which would clearly fit Engels's precept, probably an adaptation of Spinoza, that "freedom is the knowledge of necessity." When we vote, we are "free" to cast a ballot; but what do we know about the circumstances of the act involved in this vote, as a "free" choice? Several of our wars were fought under administrations that had explicitly contracted to keep us out of war. There is no need to view such developments simply as cases of deception. When voting for the future, there is a sense in which nobody knows the circumstances of the act, except as confined to the mere matter of marking a ballot. But by definition the case of a Supreme Omniscient Intelligence, with a Power of Providence that Foreknows down to the last detail, the Act of Predestination is absolutely free and one with Creation and its modes of Ordination.

Thomas is quite explicit about the difference between the literal and analogical uses of a term. But one can't formulate a general rule specifying exactly what the difference is in particular cases. Where speculations involving such terms as Intellect, Will, and Foreknowledge (Providence) are concerned, we must keep in mind the observations in Aristotle's Nicomachaean Ethics to the effect that an act is "involuntary" insofar as the agent does not know enough about the "circumstances" of that act. For God's Powers of Intellect and Will are those of an absolutely omniscient Agent, in comparison with which the analogous competence of human agents would be as the tiniest fraction of a fraction is to infinity. And I would have us keep this consideration in mind because my theory of Logology involves me in speculatively foretelling a purely temporal culmination, our world's Next Phase, although the design, like Marx's, makes no claim to tell of such ultimate eschatological fulfillments as are so powerfully and urgently, even aggressively, depicted in St. Augustine's City of God.



Whereas my job is largely but to ask just what are the temporal circumstances that might justify a tract on Logology as my symbolic act, in Augustine's case the issue was clear, and he treated of it with profusion and effusion of erudition and rhetorical drive enough to humiliate anybody who wants to advocate anything. I'd put his book in the same bin with the ardent apocalypse that the New Testament ends on.

Augustine had long been emphatic in his resistance to any heresy that looks forward to an eventual unfolding whereby things will ease up for the sufferers in Hell, who will eventually be judged to have suffered intensely enough and long enough. On that score, incidentally, George Thomson, in his Aeschylus and Athens, offers ample grounds to assume that the Promethean trilogy was of that design. Thus the first play, the one that survived and that Percy Bysshe Shelley was so delighted with, starts things out with Zeus as a raw tyrant and Prometheus as a raw rebel, the plan being that, by the end of the third play, they both had eased up, and become reconciled. Lenin, along Marxist lines, foresaw a "withering away of the State" such that class conflict would eventually subside. And Shakespeare has in principle (symbolically) retired from his role as a playwright, when Prospero abandoned his magic by freeing Ariel and Caliban, perfect surrogates for the antitheses that drama feeds on. Viewed Logologically, the Christian threat and/or promise of eternal Hell, going at top speed, and with full force, is a "perfect" reflex of the prime ethical distinction between "do" and "don't," two major "topics," which means in Greek etymology "places," for which the Afterlife will establish places actually, actual locations for those ultimate principles of discrimination, Yes and No, "perfectly edified," that is "comprehensively structured."

And an ultimate irony with regard to the contrast between the Christian and Marxist theories of transformation whereby "the Down shall be Up" (as foretold in The Sermon on the Mount and the Communist Manifesto) is that, in the Christian design those who bear witness (that is, who are martyred, "martyr" being the Greek word for "witness") will thrive forever, whereas those who die for the Marxist Revolution will be "gone for good." And the rewards of their efforts will be reaped by later generations who suffered not at all for the Cause, an ironic situation whereby the promises held out to the revolutionary motivated by the rationale of dialectical materialism are in one sense much more "idealistic" (as modes of self-sacrifice) than those held out to the Christian martyr.


With regard to the design developed in The City of God(book 21, chapter 23) besides quoting biblical authority (Matthew 25:6) Augustine offers an explanation which comes close to sheerly logological book-keeping. In the passage quoted, Christ foretells both "eternal punishment" for the sinners and "life eternal" for the saints. Augustine comments:

If both destinies are "eternal," then we must either understand both as long-continued but at last terminating, or both as endless. For they are correlative—on the one hand, punishment eternal, on the other hand, life eternal. And to say in one and the same sense, life eternal shall be endless, punishment eternal shall come to an end, is the height of absurdity. Wherefore, as the eternal life of the saints shall be endless, so too the eternal punishment of those who are doomed to it shall have no end.

There are rationales that could allow for both these destinies, as were the reprobates simply to fade out of existence. But the design as Augustine knew it, he believed in with an implicit conviction that contributed notably to the urgent eloquence of his presentation.

The invasion of Rome by Alaric's barbarian horde from the north had been a startling event, though one could argue that it was but a new variant of the many times when Rome's own armies returned after a victorious campaign, and the soldiers had to be paid off somehow, as usual with such movements. Also, Alaric was a sort of border politician, well acquainted with the ways of Roman imperialism and its bargainings. And he was even identified with a Christian heresy, the Arians who believed that the Son followed the Father in temporal succession (for unlike both Johannine and secular Logologists, they were unable to distinguish between priority in time and priority in principle).

The Gentiles, the non-Christian and non-Jewish citizens of imperial Rome (which had traditionally erected a temple to every god of every dues-paying province, though that particular form of the "cujus regio, eius religio" design was fading fast) had bitterly accused the Christians of bringing on the public disaster by their monotheistic disdain of the many pagan deities. But rather than merely defending his fellow Christians against these charges, Augustine in effect assumed the role not just of an accuser, but of an educator by his version of the historical situation (his tale of two cities, conceived after the design of the Chosen and the Reprobates, though they were not locally separate populations as with other cities, but both kinds of citizens were scattered within each body politic). And thanks to his eloquent command of what, within the conditions of the times, would be the most relevant and persuasive erudition, he also wrote (we might say, borrowing from Cromwell, "by

abundance") the very prototype of a history conceived in terms of Absolute Predetermination.

Fittingly the Last Judgment of the Damned is the subject of the penultimate book, the work ending in the sign of the saints and their eternal blessedness. But as compared with the pageant like, esoteric unfoldings in the Book of the Apocalypse that ends the New Testament, the statuesque work is rather of a practical, even administrative nature, since Augustine, following his conversion, became as much engrossed in the correlation between doctrine and matters of ecclesiastical organization as the writer, or writers, of the Pauline Epistles. He has a chapter, for instance, "Examples from Nature Proving that Bodies May Remain Unconsumed and Alive in Fire," beginning with the fact that "the salamander lives in fire, as naturalists have recorded." Though Logology can make no judgment doctrinally about Augustine's doctrinal conclusions concerning a Last Judgment, it can wholly recognize the intellectual musculature of his efforts in behalf of his Cause.


Among such texts as we have been considering, all of which could strictly or loosely be called "Predestinarian" after their fashion, two modern ones that particularly impressed me (and both in much the same way) were The Education of Henry Adams and Spengler's Decline of the West. The distinction between a strongly agrarian way of life and the later centuries marked by the exponentially expanding scope of the Industrial Revolution (summed up figuratively by Henry Adams in terms of "Virgin" and "Dynamo") had its analogue in Spengler's distinction between "culture" and "civilization" (which were related somewhat as the body in vigorous years in contrast with that same body when growing old, and consequently marked by hardening of the arteries); a certain pliancy is gone.

In an early book, (Attitudes toward History[1937]) conceived under the influence of those texts, and with that pattern in mind, I built around a concept I called "the bureaucratization of the imaginative." A plan or project, in its early stages would have imaginative pliancy but insofar as it gets organized (for which the dyslogistic synonym is my formula was "bureaucratized") it becomes rigidified by the accumulation of incidental details. And considerations of that sort are implicit in my provisional Logological schematizing with regard to the destiny of the relation between

language and Technology, due to Technology's radical role in generating a realm of Counter-Nature. I shall try to make this closing statement as brief as possible, by reduction to a series of propositions.


  1. Whatever may be the origins and end of human existence, Logology contracts to say only what can be based on the definition of what, at the very least, we undeniably are; namely: physiological organisms that are born wordless, and normally learn words during the early years of our emergence from infancy (that is, "wordlessness").
  2. Though the ability to learn such a medium (of "symbolic action") is in us as individual organisms, the medium itself is a social product, and is matured by its use in "contexts of situation" that are grounded in the realm of nonsymbolic motion, to which the realm of symbolism always, more or less directly or indirectly refers.
  3. We can learn language only because its nature is such that we can apply the same words to different situations; for we learn words by hearing them said again and again in different situations—and all situations in their details are unique.
  4. Thus implicit in the applying of the same words to different contexts there is a principle of analogical extension (which we also in some cases call a "metaphorical" extension).
  5. Thus language both sharpens our attention to what a given situation univocally is(insofar as we have the exact words for it); or what it is like(in case the actual or imagined situation is straining at the outer edges of a given usage, hence relies upon the more latitudinarian, that is, analogical, aspects of speech). Or if something momentously new turns up, the nature of attention made possible by language may help demarcate it as a notable detail, worth repeating and even improving.
  6. We now have said enough to indicate how the kind of attention made possible by language could help humans to single out the instrumental aspects of situations (as with the explicit awareness that an operation performed with a rock in one's hand would be
    more effective than by the fist alone), to which add the fact that language lends itself so well to the communicating of all such innovations, and hence to their distribution.
  7. Whatever the interruptions in such distribution, the slow development at the start has by now attained dimensions that, in the last two centuries, are more like an explosion than a growth.
  8. The interaction between symbolic prowess and the products of craftsmanship leads to an ever increasing range of situations to serve as material for analogical extension (like metaphor, the seeing of one situation in terms of another).
  9. Each specialized nomenclature, with its corresponding modes of attention and suggestion, is the technical equivalent of a vision, and thus goads to further unfoldings, each tentative effort being like an answer to a call.
  10. The conditions brought about by the advances of symbol-guided Technology (that is, by man-made transformations of nonhuman natural conditions) have become an authoritative motivational dimension in their own right, generating the conditions that goad human enterprisers to the generating of further conditions that in turn serve to perpetuate the same cycle so far as the necessary materials are still available or further advances in Technology can bring other resources to fall within the range of exploitation for the given purpose.
  11. Even the correcting of the problems produced by Technology must be accomplished by technological means; they cannot be solved by abandoning the technological way of life, since our modes of livelihood are already so dependent upon its resourcefulness. The "second nature" of Counter-Nature is here to stay, culminatively. Environmentalism is but an intelligent species of Technology's self-criticism.
  12. The Logological concept of our species as the "symbol-using animal" is not identical with the concept homo sapiens, the "rational" animal—for whereas we are the "symbol-using animal" all the time, we are nonrational and even irrational some of the time. Somewhat along Freudian lines I take it that the very process of learning language long before we have reached the so-called Age of Reason leaves upon us the mark
    of its necessarily immature beginnings; and only some of these can be called "childlike" in the idyllic sense of the term. Also, since language has so many words for so many things that we don't know enough about, it often extends our ways of being stupid, and talking out of order.
  13. But implicit in its very nature there is the principle of completion, of perfection, of carrying ideas to the end of the line, as with thoughts on first and last things—all told, goads towards the tracking down of implications. And "rationality" is in its way the very "perfection" of such language-infused possibilities. And what more "rational" in that respect than our perfecting of instruments designed to help assist us in the tracking-down-ofimplications, the rational genius of Technology thus being in effect a vocational impulsiveness, as though in answer to a call? And how or why turn against the specifically human incitements to develop such astounding powers further and further? And where else can you turn anyhow since, maybe like Creon in Sophocles' Antigone, even if we would retract our past decrees, we have already brought about a situation which will drive on of itself. Maybe it's here to stay (and why not, when it is the very portrait of ourselves, ourselves flatteringly enlarged even?)—here to stay, regardless of whether to our great benefit or to considerable disaster. Yet there is also the fact that the resultant realm of Counter-Nature, for all of its strivings toward perfection, is in itself, by the same token, still imperfect. Above all, there is the problem of its freedom. In two hundred years our nation became technologically the greatest on Earth, thanks to three freedoms, namely: THE FREEDOM TO WASTE, THE FREEDOM TO POLLUTE, THE FREEDOM NOT TO GIVE A DAMN.

Indications are that within the boundaries of that cultural frontier all is now settled, and accordingly, "The Dialectic" being what it is, we confront a state of much new unsettlement. It is the claim of Logology that, for an ad interim design, our cultural task is to build a tentatively Providential body of speculations around the specific question: "Just what is involved motivationally in the possible likelihood that the realm of Counter-Nature produced by symbol-guided (hence man-made) Technology is a kind of culmination, a fulfillment of specifically human self engrossments, conceived as an ironic version (a burlesque?) of the ‘egotistical sublime,’ the mirror-image of a spirit in this case materialized?"

And why "ironic"? Because any instrument has a nature of its own beyond its nature as an instrument designed for a given purpose—and therein lies the Vast New Realm of Counter-Nature and its Unintended By-Products, to be studied with regard to its possible relations and disrelations to the natural order, including the nature of our species as developed out of the prehistoric past (a past bodily, physiologically still with us now) in relation to the natural order.


This essay originally appeared in the Notre Dame English Journal 13 (summer 1951): 155–83. Permission to reprint granted by the University of Notre Dame.


4. K.B.


13. Eye-Crossing—From Brooklyn to Manhattan

An Eye-Poem for the Ear (With Prose Introduction, Glosses, and After-Words)


Libbie Burke died on the May 24, 1969. Before going to the poem, here is what Kenneth Burke wrote to Malcolm Cowley the day after she died.

Poor Shorty is gone. She left in her sleep last night. At least, she escaped the year or two of hell-on-earth that was in store for her, had the disease run its "normal" course.

A good deal of my reason for existence has gone with her. And, I fear, also a sizable portion of my reason. For her companionship worked constantly to redeem me from my nature as a born loner.

It is so good to be surrounded by one's family at such a time. It does help. There will be no funeral. This is our understanding; this is our deal; and it goes for all of us. We will deal with our grief in our own way.

In a Tangle,

Paul Jay, Selected Correspondence of Kenneth Burke and Malcolm Cowley, p. 368

This long poem is vintage Burke. It belongs with other, late long poems like "Introduction to What" and "On Floodtides of Sinkership, A Diaristic Fragment." These poems are all written in a Whitmanian kind of verse, all are meditative and deeply personal. But these poems are also anti-Whitmanian and antitechnology and are part of Burke's sustained attack on the creative genius of hypertechnology during his later years. There is hardly an essay in this collection that does not address this antitechnology /pollution theme directly or indirectly.


But this poem is a lot more than just a diatribe against technology (represented by the City—Manhattan) and global pollution. It is a highly personal, first-person poem which takes us back, again and again, to the situation out of which the poem came: Burke's wife, Libbie, is nearly at the end of her days, physically immobilized and moving inexorably toward paralysis and death—as Burke watches and waits, hopelessly. This situation is so charged that one cannot read the poem apart from Burke and his own theory of symbolic action. The poem has a huge inside content that it gets from this personal situation, whether implicitly or explicitly. (See Section X and the commentary, for example.)

The opening lines establish the course the poem will follow. Burke's verbal high jinks not withstanding, he is going to encounter one Scylla and/or Charybdis after another and will have to try to deal with them: There is Libbie's impending death, the bitter, accusing letter from the friend gone sour (II and III, XVI), the city (the towers of Manhattan) which is what they look at from their apartment, the city which is both stupendous and disastrous, a monster of waste and pollution (IV), the cold war between the USA and the USSR (V), the dog shit he encounters during his walks (VI, XI), the fractious customers in the supermarket (VII), the past, and, almost worst of all, his terrible loneliness after Libbie is gone (X). But there is more, especially when he returns again and again to the city, the chief object of their eye-crossing. All Libbie can do is eye-cross, a fact that we need to remember during Burke's goings out and returnings and musings during the poem, and the many crossings that occupy his mind in the course of the poem. Libbie may be physically immobile and Burke psychically immobile, but this poem is full of movement. Burke goes out to the esplanade, to the bar, to the supermarket, for long walks. And his mind goes out to various questions: the unnatural city built by high technology, organ transplants made possible by modern medicine which will keep a president alive (XIV), the failure of Walt Whitman's dream of unity and his dream of a glorious future for America; the similar failure of Hart Crane's dream of transcendent unity as we get it in The Bridge, the future of America (XV and XVII—see the violent negative outburst at the end of XV). At the center of this poem is the city to which Burke returns again and again in the many eye-crossings, and all that it represents as a catastrophe—that is, as a product of technological genius.

There is no conclusion or resolution to the problems and threats in the poem. It ends with a last view of the city at sunset as Burke and Libbie do a last eyecrossing. None of the problems, except maybe the local ones such as the episode in the supermarket and what Burke encounters in his walks (the jog-jog lady, dog shit—a burlesque of the massive pollution caused by the city) are ever resolved. Libbie's illness can only be resolved by her death, which then creates a new problem for Burke because he will be alone and without her guidance for the first time since he married her in 1933—maybe even earlier. At the end of the poem, the city is finally characterized as a "catastrophe" (XVII), a term Burke has loaded up by quoting the line from Remy de Gourmont that "intelligence is an accident, genius is a catastrophe." The problems of the city—all major cities, not just Manhattan—will only get worse, as they get bigger, "better," and become even greater consumers of power and producers of pollution.

Finally, back to Scyllybdis and Charybdylla, the transposed threats with

which the poem begins: Odysseus plugged up his ears and those of his crew in order to block the songs of the two sirens and make the perilous voyage through the straits. There is nothing comparable to this in the poem except Burke's way of getting through his own perilous strait. He does this by following his own advice, which was to write a poem, to deal with it by means of words, to transform his liabilities into assets by the application of his own creative genius (See XIII).


The author spent the winter of 1968–69 on Brooklyn Heights, in a hotel apartment overlooking New York Harbor and the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. It was a fate-laden season. His close companion of many years was still with him, but physically immobilized by an inexorably "progressing" illness. And while the couple could but watch it grow worse, in response to her condition he developed an attitude which he thought of as being "psychically" immobilized.

They were living on the same street where Hart Crane had lived when in Brooklyn. Below them was the river which Whitman had crossed by ferry. Accordingly the relation between Whitman's symbolic crossing on the river and Hart Crane's symbol of crossing on a bridge above the river suggested a third step, a mental state in which a Poetic Ibutlooked across. Hencethepoem'stitle:"Eye-Crossing—From Brooklyn to Manhattan."[1]

Marianne Moore had already moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan, but she graciously agreed to let the author honor himself by dedicating the poem to her. However, when it was printed in The Nation (June 2, 1969) last-minute editorial exigencies resulted in the omission of all but her name. I take this opportunity to restore the dedication in full:

To Marianne Moore
whose exacting yet kindly verses
give us exceptionally many twists and turns
to rejoice about
even in a lean season

In one regard at least, it is especially fitting that I should contribute these particular pages to this particular book. Before the poem was published, Henry Sams had kindly distributed copies of it to a graduate class of his at Pennsylvania State University, and had sent me copies of the students' comments, which they wrote before receiving any information about the work's authorship.


Needless to say, I personally was much engrossed with the comments, which ranged from very friendly ones to some that were quite rough. I had fully intended to send an answer insofar as the various observations and judgments (which, as is usual in cases of this sort, were often at considerable odds with one another) provided opportunities for a general discussion of related critical issues.

The ups and downs reached their extreme when one student, whose paper had been on the gruff side, parenthetically remarked: "If there ever was an oral poem, this is it"—and I cannot conceive of a comment I'd be more happy to hear, as the title of this offering bears witness. But not until now could I find the time to write thus belatedly the intended reply, which loses by the delay, though it may profit by some considerations I encountered when reading the poem to audiences in the course of my journeyings on the "Academic Circuit."

But to the poem itself, interlarded with some Glosses.


Scheming to pick my way past Charybdylla
(or do I mean Scyllybdis?)
caught in the midst of being nearly over,
not "midway on the roadway of our life,"
a septuagenarian valetudinarian
thrown into an airy osprey-eyrie
with a view most spacious
(and every bit of it our country's primal gateway even),
although, dear friends, I'd love to see you later,
after the whole thing's done,
comparing notes, us comically telling one another
just what we knew or thought we knew
that others of us didn't,
all told what fools we were, every last one of us—
I'd love the thought, a humane after-life,
more fun than a bbl. of monkeys,
but what with being sick of wooing Slumber,
I'll settle gladly for Oblivion.


Gloss I

The opening distortion of Scylla and Charybdis is mildly an annunciation of some sort, the vague sign of a temperamental inclination. Or it is like pointing with a sweep of the arm rather than with the index finger. Count me among those for whom not the least of their delight in Chaucer is the fact that his vocabulary has somewhat the effect of modern English deliberately distorted, a kind of "proto-Joyceanism."

As regards my allusion to the opening line of The Divine Comedy: Since Dante's line is so "summational," my reference to it from the standpoint of a "septuagenarian valetudinarian" is meant to be summation by contrast.

I like to pronounce "bbl." as "b-b-l."


Weep, Hypochondriasis (hell, I mean smile):
The bell rang, I laid my text aside,
The day begins in earnest, they have brought the mail.
And now to age and ailments add
a thirteen-page single-spaced typed missile-missive,
to start the New Year right.
On the first of two-faced January,
"… the injuries you inflict upon me … persecution …
such legal felonies … unremitting efforts … malice, raids,
slander, conspiracy … your spitefulness …"
—just when I talked of getting through the narrows,
now I'm not so sure.
Smile, Hypochondriasis, (her, I mean wanly weep).


So let's begin again:
Crossing by eye from Brooklyn to Manhattan
(Walt's was a ferry-crossing,
Hart's by bridge)—
to those historic primi donni,
now add me, and call me what you will.
From Brooklyn, now deserted

by both Marianne Moore and the Dodgers—
an eye-crossing
with me knocked cross-eyed or cockeyed
by a saddening vexing letter
from a dear friend gone sour.
I think of a Pandora's box uncorked
while I was trying to untie
Laocoön's hydra-headed Gordian knot,
entangled in a maze of Daedalus,
plus modern traffic jam cum blackout.
Let's begin again.

Gloss III

"Primi donni." An invention remotely in the tradition of the classical satiric usage (as with Catullus) whereby, since the male sect of Galli (priests of Cybele) resorted to castration as one of their rites, they were referred to in the feminine form, Gallae. But my male plurals for the Ital ian prima donna botch things twice, by being made as though Italian feminine donna were matched by a Latin word of masculine gender, donnus. My only argument for this solecistic neologism is that there is a crying need for it with regard to artistic psychology, even where matters of sexual persuasion (as with Walt and Hart) are not involved.


The architectural piles, erections, impositions,
monsters of high-powered real estate promotion—
from a room high on Brooklyn Heights
the gaze is across and UP, to those things' peaks,
their arrogance!
When measured by this scale of views from Brooklyn
they are as though deserted.
And the boats worrying the harbor
they too are visibly deserted
smoothly and silent
moving in disparate directions
each as but yielding to a trend that bears it

like sticks without volition
carried on a congeries
of crossing currents.
And void of human habitation,
the cars on Madhatter's Eastern drive-away
formless as stars
speeding slowly
close by the feet of the godam mystic giants—
a restlessness unending, back and forth
(glimpses of a drive, or drivenness,
from somewhere underneath the roots of reason)
me looking West, towards Manhattan, Newark, West
Eye-crossing I have seen the sunrise
gleaming in the splotch and splatter
of Western windows facing East.


East? West?
Between USSR and USA,
their Béhemoth and our Behémoth,
a dialogue of sorts?
Two damned ungainly beasts,
threats to the entire human race's race
but for their measured dread of each the other.
How give or get an honest answer?
Forgive me for this boustrophedon mood
going from left to right, then right to left,
pulling the plow thus back and forth alternately
a digging of furrows not in a field to plant,
but on my own disgruntled dumb-ox forehead.
My Gawd! Begin again!


Gloss V

Here the East-West shifting of the previous stanza, moving into the political dimension, takes advantage of the fact that the word "behemoth" can be accented on either the first or second syllable.

Not all readers are likely to know (as the author didn't know during most of his lifetime) that "boustrophedon" is an adjective or adverb for a kind of writing that proceeds alternately from right to left and left to right. Ideally the reader should consider not only the meaning of the word (here applied by analogy to political quandaries), but also its etymology should be taken into account: as the ox turns in plowing; from Greek bous, ox, and strophos, turning, plus an adverbial suffix.


Turn back. Now just on this side:.
By keeping your wits about you,.
you can avoid the voidings,.
the dog-signs scattered on the streets and sidewalks.
(you meet them face to faeces).
and everywhere the signs of people.
(you meet them face to face).
The Waltman, with time and tide before him,.
he saw things face to face, he said so.
then there came a big blow.
the pavements got scoured drastically.
—exalted, I howled back.
into the teeth of the biting wind.
me in Klondike zeal.
inhaling powdered dog-dung.
(here's a new perversion).
now but an essence on the fitful gale.
Still turning back.
Surmarket—mock-heroic confrontation at—.
(An Interlude).


Gloss VI

"Now just on this side." Although the emphasis in the poem is upon the view of Manhattan and the harbor (in the attempt to profit by the summational connotations of a panorama) there arises secondarily the need to build up some sense of the terminus a quo, in Brooklyn Heights. To this end a characteristic "civic issue" is chosen. It is at once trivial and serious. In keeping with the theme, the adverb "drastically" is to be recommended for its etymological exactitude.

As regards the substitution of "surmarket" for "supermarket" (after the analogy of "surrealism" for "super-realism"), I plead poetic license.


Near closing time, we're zeroing in.
Ignatius Panallergicus (that's me)
his cart but moderately filled
(less than five dollars buys the lot)
he picks the likeliest queue and goes line up
then waits, while for one shopper far ahead
the lady at the counter tick-ticks off and tallies
items enough to gorge a regiment.
Then, lo! a possibility not yet disclosed sets in.
While Panallergicus stands waiting
next into line a further cart wheels up,
whereat Ignatius Panallergicus (myself, unknowingly
the very soul of Troublous Helpfullness) suggests:
"It seems to me, my friend, you'd come out best
on that line rather than on one of these."
And so (let's call him "Primus")
Primus shifts.
Development atop development:
Up comes another, obviously "Secundus,"
to take his stand behind Ignatius, sunk in thought.
No sooner had Secundus joined the line

than he addressed Ignatius Panallerge approximately thus:
"Good neighbor, of this temporary junction,
pray, guard my rights in this arrangement
while I race off to get one further item,"
then promptly left, and so things stood.
But no. Precisely now in mankind's pilgrimage
who suddenly decides to change his mind
but Primus who, abandoning his other post,
returns to enroll himself again in line behind Ignatius.
Since, to that end, he acts to shove aside
Secundus' cart and cargo, Crisis looms.
Uneasy, Panallergicus explains:
"A certain …Iamsorry … but you see …
I was entrusted … towards the preservation of …"
but no need protest further—
for here is Secundus back,
and wrathful of his rights
as ever epic hero of an epoch-making war
Both aging champions fall into a flurry
of fishwife fury, even to such emphatical extent
that each begins to jettison the other's cargo.
While the contestants rage, pale Panallerge
grins helplessly at others looking on.
But Primus spots him in this very act and shouts
for all to hear, "It's all his fault … he was the one …
he brought this all about …"
and Panallergicus now saw himself
as others see him, with a traitor's wiles.
I spare the rest. (There was much more to come)
How An Authority came swinging in,
twisted Secundus' arm behind his back
and rushed him bumbling from the store.
How further consequences flowed in turn,
I leave all that unsaid.
And always now, when edging towards the counter,
his cargo in his cart,

our Ignatz Panallerge Bruxisticus
(gnashing his costly, poorly fitting dentures)
feels all about his head
a glowering anti-glowing counter-halo …
Is that a millstone hung about his neck?
No, it is but the pressing-down
of sixty plus eleven annual milestones.
(It was before the damning letter came.
Had those good burghers also known of that!)

Gloss VII

As the reader might suspect, this episode is the account of an incident that did actually take place.

On the assumption that "bruxism" means an inclination to grind or gnash the teeth, as the result of his agon Panallergicus is endowed with a transfigured identify appropriately named "Bruxisticus."

About the edges of the line, "and rushed him bumbling from the store," the author (perhaps too privately) hears a reference to the "bum's rush."

The word "counter-halo" was intended to draw on two quite different meanings of "counter": (1) as with the adjective "opposite"; (2) as with the noun for the check-out desk where the encounter took place.

The inclusion of this episode may present something of a puzzle to those readers who do not share the author's apprehensive attitude toward supermarkets. Though he shops at them regularly, he never enters one without thinking of the whole breed as the flowering of a civilization in decay. There is the criminal wastage due to sheer tricks of packaging (and the corresponding amount of trash-disposal involved in such merchandizing). But first of all there is the fantastic amount of poison that is now looked upon as "normal" to the processing and marketing of foods. Toss it. On one side up comes the TV commercials for indigestion. On the other side up comes the TV dinners.


But no! Turn back from turning back. Begin again:
of a late fall evening

I walked on the Esplanade
looking across at the blaze of Walt's Madhatter
and north to Hart's graceful bridge, all lighted
in a cold, fitful gale I walked
on the Esplanade in Brooklyn now deserted
by both Marianne and the Dodgers.
Things seemed spooky—
eight or ten lone wandering shapes,
and all as afraid of me as I of them?
We kept a wholesome distance from one another.
Had you shrieked for help in that bluster
who'd have heard you?
Me and my alky in that cold fitful bluster
on the Esplanade that night
above the tiers of the mumbling unseen traffic
It was scary
it was ecstactic

Gloss VIII

This section toes not do justice to the Esplanade, which is built above highways, yet is like a park that is in turn like the extension of backyards. And there is the fantastic vista. The Esplanade is an architectural success, well worthy of civic pride. But the words "Me and my alky" explain why our agonist had the courage, or bravado, or sheer foolhardiness to go there thus late at night.


Some decades earlier, before my Pap
fell on evil days (we then were perched
atop the Palisades, looking East, and down
upon the traffic-heavings of the Hudson)
I still remember Gramma (there from Pittsburgh for a spell)
watching the tiny tugs tug monsters.
Out of her inborn sweetness and memories
of striving, puffing all that together,
"Those poor little tugs!" she'd say.

God only knows what all
she might be being sorry for.
And now, fronting on sunset,
repeatedly we watch the tugs, "poor little tugs,"
and hear them—
their signals back and forth as though complaining.
The two tugs help each other tugging, pushing
(against the current into place)
a sluggish ship to be aligned along a dock,
a bungling, bumbling, bulging, over-laden freighter.
Their task completed,
the two tugs toot good-bye,
go tripping on their way,
leaning as lightly forward
as with a hiker
suddenly divested
of his knapsack.
"Good-bye," rejoicingly, "good-bye"—
whereat I wonder:
Might there also be a viable albeit risky way
to toot
"If you should drive up and ask me,
I think you damn near botched that job"?
"I think you stink."
What might comprise the total range and nature
of tugboat-tooting nomenclature?

Gloss IX

This section happens to have a summational development that is touched upon in the poem, but that would not be as pointed, or poignant, for the reader as it is for the author. Nearly half a century before, when first coming as a boy to New York, he had lived with his family on the Palisades overlooking the Hudson. Thus, as regards his later "vista vision" that is the burden of this poem, he was quite conscious of the symbolism implicit in the change from an outlook facing sunup to an outlook facing

sundown. In the apartment on the Palisades the tugs could not be heard. But their industriousness (the sturdy little fellows' ways of maneuvering monsters) was just as apparent, and as inviting to an onlooker's "empathy."


a plunk-plunk juke-box joint
him hunched on a stool
peering beyond his drink
at bottles lined up, variously pregnant
(theres a gleaming for you)
Among the gents
a scattering of trick floozies.
May be they know or not
just where they'll end,
come closing time.
He'll be in a room alone
himself and his many-mirrored other.
It was a plunk-plunk juke-box joint
its lights in shadow

Gloss X

This is one of the episodes that, owing to exigencies of space, were omitted from the previously published version of the poem. Among other things, it was intended to introduce a change of pace. For whereas things had been going along quite briskly, these lines should be subdued, and slow. But there's no sure way of making a reader's eyes behave—and the printing of verse lacks the orthodox resources of a musical score, which would readily allow for such instructions as adagio, pianissimo.

This episode is the closest the poem as a whole comes to representing (symbolizing) the essence of the purely personal grounds for an "immobilized" crossing-by-eye, as distinct from the various kinds of public threats dealt with in my exhibits.


Considering this episode ab intra, I can report on first-hand authority that the agonist of the verses corresponded "in real life" to a citizen who, having dropped into that joint, alone after a long night-walk alone, would not actually have gone home alone. Rather, he'd return to a hotel apartment and a physically immobilized companion who, in earlier days, would have shared the walk with him—and they'd have stopped in together, for a drink or two, while touching upon one or another of the many interests they had in common. The lines were somewhat morbidly anticipating, as though it were already upon him, a state of loneliness not yet actual yet (he took it for granted) inexorably on the way towards his Next Phase unless some sudden illness or accident disposed of him first. The details of the episode also drew upon the memory of occasions when, off somewhere lecturing (in a one or two-night stand on the academic circuit) he had dropped into such joints, there to commune with his watchful aloneness before going to his room, with the likelihood that, before switching off the lights, he would confront, in several mirrors, passing fragments of himself.

Since this episode, whatever its deflections, does probably come closest to the generating core of the whole enterprise so far as motivations local to the author personally are concerned, my reason for bringing up this fact, from the purely technical point of view, is that it illustrates a major concern of mine as regards speculations about the nature of symbolic action in the literary realm. Within the poetic use of a public medium, I take it, there is a private strand of motives that, while not necessarily at odds with the public realm, is at least not identical. It's as though some of the poet's words had secondary meanings not defined in a dictionary. But in saying so, I am well aware that a dishonorable opponent could use my own statement against me—and honorable opponents have always been a rare species.


But turn against this turning.
I look over the water,
Me-I crossing.
I was but walking home,
sober as a hang-over with a fluttering heart
and homing as a pigeon.

There comes a dolled-up Jog-Jog towards myself and me.
We're just about to pass when gong! she calls—
and her police dog (or was he a mountain lion?)
he had been lingering somewhere, sniffing in the shadows
comes bounding loyally forward.
Oh, great Milton, who wrote the basic masque of Chastity
praise God, once more a lady's what-you-call-it has been
and I am still out of prison, free to wend my way,
though watching where I step.
I frame a social-minded ad:
"Apt. for rent. In ideal residential neighborhood.
City's highest incidence of dog-signs."


Profusion of confusion. What of a tunnel-crossing?
What if by mail, phone, telegraph, or aircraft,
or for that matter, hearse?
You're in a subway car, tired, hanging from a hook,
and you would get relief?
Here's all I have to offer:
Sing out our national anthem, loud and clear,
and when in deference to the tune
the seated passengers arise,
you quickly slip into whatever seat
seems safest. (I figured out this scheme,
but never tried it.)
Problems pile up, like the buildings,
Even as I write, the highest to the left
soars higher day by day.
Now but the skeleton of itself
(these things begin as people end!)

all night its network of naked bulbs keeps flickering
towards us here in Brooklyn …
then dying into dawn …
or are our … are our what?

Gloss XII

I boasted to a colleague about "or are our" on the grounds that, though the words didn't mean much, they couldn't be pronounced without growling. He observed that I could have done pretty much the same with "aurora"—and thereby he made me wonder whether, since I was on the subject of dawn, I had been feeling for that very word.

And I have often puzzled about the possible ultimate implications of our structural-steel buildings' reverse way of growth: first the skeleton, the stage that we end on.


As with an aging literary man who, knowing
that words see but within
yet finding himself impelled to build a poem
that takes for generating core a startling View,
a novel visual Spaciousness
(he asks himself: "Those who have not witnessed it,
how tell them?—and why tell those who have?
Can you do more than say ‘remember’?")
and as he learns the ceaseless march of one-time modulatings
unique to this, out of eternity,
this one-time combination
of primal nature (Earth's) and urban, technic second nature
there gleaming, towering, spreading out and up
there by the many-colored, changing-colored water
(why all that burning, all throughout the night?
some say a good percentage is because
the cleaning women leave the lights lit.

But no—it's the computers
all night long now
they go on getting fed.)
as such a man may ask himself and try,
as such a one, knowing that words see but inside,
noting repeated through the day or night
the flash of ambulance or parked patrol car,
wondering, "Is it a ticket this time, or a wreck?"
or may be setting up conditions there
that helicopters land with greater safety,
so puzzling I, eye-crossing …
and find myself repeating (and hear the words
of a now dead once Olympian leper),
"Intelligence is an accident
Genius is a catastrophe."
A jumble of towering tombstones
hollowed, not hallowed,
and in the night incandescent
striving ever to outstretch one another
like stalks of weeds dried brittle in the fall.
Or is it a mighty pack of mausoleums?
Or powerhouses of decay and death—
towards the poisoning of our soil, our streams, the air,
roots of unhappy wars abroad,
miraculous medicine, amassing beyond imagination
the means of pestilence,
madly wasteful journeys to the moon (why go at all,
except to show you can get back?)
I recalled the wanly winged words of a now dead gracious leper.
(My own words tangle like our entangled ways,
of hoping to stave off destruction
by piling up magic mountains of destructiveness.)


Gloss XIII

The poem comes to a focus in one great line: "Intelligence is an accident, genius is a catastrophe." Since the whole is written in the spirit of that oracle, I feel that, however perversely or roundabout, its dubieties are qualified by a sizeable strand of appreciation. For after all, the poem is talking about the fruits of intelligence and genius, albeit that they are visibly beset by sinister "side effects." When the poem was first published, I was asked, in an anonymous phone call, who the author of the line is, and why I speak of him as an "Olympian leper." I answered, "I call him ‘Olympian’ because in his writings he seemed so lightly to transcend his misfortune. I call him a leper because he was a leper." He was a writer to whom, only in later years, I have come to understand the depths of my indebtedness: Remy de Gourmont. Regrettably, the English version limps, in comparison with the French original: L'intelligence est un accident, le génie est une catastrophe. The comparative limp seems inevitable, since we can't pronounce our foursyllable "catastrophe" like the French three-syllable "catastróhf." Jimmy Durante got the feeling in his comic twist, "catàstastróhf."

Since this section unfolds an epic simile that deliberately gets lost along the way, I must again plead poetic licentiousness.


Do I foresee the day?
Calling his counsellors and medicos,
do I foresee a day, when Unus Plurium
World Ruler Absolute, and yet the august hulk
is wearing out—do I foresee such time?
Calling his counsellors and medicos together,
"That lad who won the race so valiantly,"
he tells them, and His Word is Law,
"I'd like that bright lad's kidneys—
and either honor him by changing his with mine
or find some others for him, as opportunity offers."
No sooner said than done.
Thus once again The State is rescued—
and Unus over all, drags on till next time.

Do I foresee that day, while gazing across, as though that realm was alien
Forfend forfending of my prayer
that if and when and as such things should be
those (from here) silent monsters (over there)
will have by then gone crumbled into rubble,
and nothing all abroad
but ancient Egypt's pyramidal piles of empire-building hierarchal stylized
dung remains.
Oh, I have haggled nearly sixty years
in all the seventies I've moved along.
My country, as my aimless ending nears,
oh, dear my country, may I be proved wrong!

Gloss XIV

The conceit on which this section is built is not offered as "prophecy." I include it on the grounds of what I would call its "entelechial" aspect. For instance, a satire would be "entelechial" insofar as it treated certain logical conclusions in terms of reduction to absurdity. Thus, when confronting problems of pollution due to unwanted residues of highly developed technology, one might logically advocate the development of methods (with corresponding attitudes) designed to reverse this process. But a satire could treat of the same situation "entelechially," by proposing a burlesqued rationale that carried such potentialities to the end of the line, rather than proposing to correct it. In the name of "progress" one might sloganize: "Let us not turn back the clock. Rather, let us find ways to accelerate the technological polluting of the natural conditions we inherited from the days of our primitive, ignorant past. Let us instead move forward towards a new way of life" (as with a realm of interplanetary travel that transcended man's earth-bound origins).

But also, at several places in my Philosophy of Literary Form, I discussed such "end of the line" thinking in other literary modes (James Joyce's later works, for example). I did not until much later decide that I had been groping towards an ironically non-Aristotelian application of the Aristotelian term "entelechy," used by him to designate a movement towards the formal fulfillment of potentialities peculiar to some particular species of being.


Thus the conceit informing this section would be "entelechial" (though grotesquely rather than satirically so) in that it imagines the "perfecting" of certain trends already "imperfectly" present among us, though first of all would be the need for further purely scientific progress in the technique of organ transplants, whereby the healthy parts of human specimens could be obtained either legally or illegally and stored in "body banks," to be used on demand. The most "perfectly" grotesque summarizing of such conditions would prevail if: (a) the world becomes "one world"; (b) as with the step from republic to empire in ancient Rome, rule becomes headed in a central authority whose word is law; (c) the "irreplaceable" ruler needs to replace some of his worn-out parts.

The purely "formal" or "entelechial" justification forth issummational conceit is that it would be the "perfecting" of these elements already indigenous to our times: dictatorship, organized police-protected crime, the technical resourcefulness already exemplified in the Nazi doctors' experiments on Jews, and in the purely pragmatic contributions of applied science to the unconstitutional invasion and ravishment of Indochina.


"Eye-crossing" I had said? The harbor space so sets it up.
In Walt's ferry-crossing, besides the jumble of things seen
(they leave him "disintegrated")
even the sheer words "see," "sight," "look," and "watch" add up
to 33, the number of a major mythic cross-ifying.
In the last section of the Waltman's testimony
there is but "gaze," and through a "necessary film" yet …
"Gaze" as though glazed? It's not unlikely.
"Suspend," he says, "here and everywhere, eternal float of solution."
And the talk is of "Appearances" that "envelop the soul."
Between this culminating ritual translation
and the sheer recordings of the senses
there had been intermediate thoughts
of "looking" forward to later generations "looking" back.
Walt the visionary, prophetically seeing crowds of cronies

crossing and recrossing
on the ferry that itself no longer crosses.
Six is the problematic section.
There he takes it easy, cataloguing all his vices
as though basking on a comfortable beach.
His tricks of ideal democratic promiscuity
include his tricks of ideal man-love.
In section six he does a sliding, it makes him feel good.
Blandly blind to the promotion racket stirring already all about him,
he "bathed in the waters" without reference to their imminent defiling
(Now even a single one
of the many monsters since accumulated
could contaminate the stream for miles.)
He sang as though it were all his—
a continent to give away for kicks.
And such criss-crossing made him feel pretty godam good.
Flow on, filthy river,
ebbing with flood-tide and with ebb-tide flooding.
Stand up, you feelingless Erections,
FIy on, O Flight, be it to fly or flee.
Thrive, cancerous cities.
Load the once lovely streams with the clogged filter of your filth.
even to the moon and beyond yet.
"There is perfection in you" in the sense
that even empire-plunder can't corrupt entirely.

Gloss XV

As regards this section, built around Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," I have not dared to check my entries, which add up to thirtythree. If I have missed the count by a little, please at least let me keep the sum in principle. In any case, implicit in the qualitative difference beteween

those terms and "gaze" there is indeed a crossing, a transcendence. Something critical, crucial, has happened en route.


And what of Hart's crossing by the bridge?
"Inviolate curve," he says. Who brought that up?
The tribute gets its maturing in the penultimate stanza,
"Under thy shadow by the piers I waited."
Hart too was looking.
But things have moved on since the days of Walt,
and Hart is tunnel-conscious.
And fittingly the subway stop at Wall Street,
first station on the other side,
gets named in the middle quatrain of the "Proem"
(Wall as fate-laden as Jericho, or now as mad Madison
of magic Madhatter Island.) Ah! I ache!
Hart lets you take your pick:
"Prayer of pariah and the lover's cry."
(If crossing now on Brooklyn Bridge by car,
be sure your tires are sound—
for if one blows out you must keep right on riding
on the rim. That's how it sets up now
with what Hart calls a "curveship"
lent as a "myth to God."
I speak in the light of subsequent developments.)
Elsewhere, "The last bear, shot drinking in the Dakotas,"
Hart's thoughts having gone beneath the river by tunnel, and
"from tunnel into field," whereat "iron strides the dew."
Hart saw the glory, turning to decay,
albeit euphemized in terms of "time's rendings."
And by his rules, sliding from Hudson to the Mississippi,
he could end on a tongued meeting of river there and gulf,
a "Passion" with "hosannas silently below."

Treating of our culture's tendings
as though its present were its own primeval past,
making of sexual oddities a "religious" gunmanship,
striving by a "logic of metaphor"
to span whole decades of division,
"I started walking home across the bridge,"
he writes—
but he couldn't get home that way.
Only what flows beneath the bridge
only that was home …
All told, though Walt was promissory,
Hart was nostalgic, Hart was future-loving only insofar
as driven by his need to hunt (to hunt the hart).
And as for me, an apprehensive whosis
(cf. Bruxistes Panallerge, Tractatus de Strabismo),
I'm still talking of a crossing on a river
when three men have jumped over the moon,
a project we are told computer-wise
involving the social labor of 300,000 specialists
and 20,000 businesses.
Such are the signs one necessarily sees,
gleaming across the water,
the lights cutting clean
all through the crisp winter night.
"O! Ego, the pity of it, Ego!"
"Malice, slander, conspiracy," the letter had said;
"your spitefulness …"

Gloss XVI

In this, Hart's section, I couldn't resist the gruff contrast between the idealistically symbolic bridge and the materialistic one with its current exigencies of traffic. …The reference to men who had jumped over the moon was written when we had but sent astronauts around the

moon. …I hope I can be forgiven for my most ambitious pun, that puts "Ego" in place of Othello's "Iago." … Texts differ as to whether the author of the Tractatus de Strabismo is named Bruxistes or Bruxisticus.


Just as the roads get jammed that lead
each week-day morning from Long Island to Manhattan,
so the roads get jammed that lead that evening
from Manhattan to Long Island.
And many's the driver that crosses cursing.
Meanwhile, lo! the Vista-viewing from our windows at burning nightfall:
To the left, the scattered lights on the water,
hazing into the shore in Jersey, on the horizon.
To the right, the cardboard stage-set of the blazing buildings.
Which is to say:
To the left,
me looking West as though looking Up,
it is with the lights in the harbor
as with stars in the sky,
just lights, pure of human filth—
or is it?
To the right,
the towerings of Lower Manhattan
a-blaze at our windows
as though the town were a catastrophe
as doubtless it is …


In A Grammar of Motives (1945) I expended quite some effort trying to show how philosophic schools differ in the priority they assign to one or

another of the different but overlapping motivational areas covered by the five terms: act, scene, agent, agency, purpose. There is no point to my restating any of those speculations here. However, the terms may lend themselves to some differently directed remarks with regard to the poem about which I have been prosifying (possibly at my peril, since some readers will resent such comments either because they are needed or because they are not needed).

Applying the terms differently here, first, I'd want to go along with the position in Aristotle's Poetics, which features the term act with regard to drama (in keeping even with the sheer etymology of the word). The realm of agent (or character) seems to me most at home in the novel (of Jane Austen cast).

Some overall purpose serves well to hold together epics like The Iliad (where the aim to fight the Trojan war can also readily accommodate episodes of interference, as with Achilles sulking in his tent), or The Odyssey (a nostos that piles up one deflection after another, an organizational lure that is doubtless also at the roots of a literal report of homecoming such as Xenophon's Anabasis). A group of pilgrims with a common destination (as per The Canterbury Tales) will supply over-all pretext enough—or even the inertness of a boat ride in common (Ship of Fools). Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is interesting in this regard. There was movement enough so long as the migrants were on their way to California, but the plot became a bit aimless as soon as they arrived. One is reminded of that ingenious conceit about how we settled this country by moving West until we got to the coast, then all we could do was jump up and down. Would that it had been so, rather than as with our zeal to make the Pacific mare nostrum.

The notion of deriving all narrative from a "monomyth" generically called "the myth of the quest" owes its appeal to the fact that, implicit in the idea of any act, there is the idea of a purpose (even if it be but "unconscious," or like the "built-in purpose" of a homing torpedo, designed to "contact its target"). Even an Oblomov could be fitted in, when not getting out of bed.

Scene figures high in historical novels (such as Scott's). Zola works the same field, though in quite a different fashion, and Faulkner's regionalism in another.

Though I have read little science fiction, I'd incline to say that its fantasies (in being a response to the vast clutter of new instruments with which modern technology has surrounded us) endow the realm of agency (or means) with an importance that it never had before as the locus of motives.


But all this is preparatory to the discussion of a term that has not been mentioned, but that bears strongly upon some issues now at hand. If I were now to write my Grammar over again, I'd turn the pentad into a hexed, the sixth term being attitude. As a matter of fact, even in its present form the book does discuss the term, "attitude," and at quite some length. I refer to a chapter entitled " ‘Incipient’ and ‘Delayed’ Action." It is included in my section on Act; for an attitude is an incipient or inchoate act in the sense that an attitude of sympathy or antipathy might lead to a corresponding act of helpfulness or aggression. But I also had to consider some ambiguities implicit in the term. And to this end I discussed its uses in George Herbert Mead's Philosophy of the Act, in contrast with I. A. Richards's treatment of attitudes as "imaginal and incipient activities or tendencies to action" (in his Principles of Literary Criticism). I also introduce related observations with regard to Alfred Korzybski's concern with "consciousness of abstracting." And in my essay, "Symbolic Action in a Poem by Keats" (reprinted in an appendix to the Grammar) Itell why I find it significant that Keats apostrophizes his Grecian Urn as a "Fair Attitude." But besides impinging upon the realm of "act," attitude also impinges upon the realm of "agent" in the sense that, while inchoately an act, it is one with an agent's (a character's) mood or feeling.

As applied specifically to literature, I'd say that "attitude" comes most to the fore in the lyric (or in a short story of pronouncedly lyrical cast). In this connection, I'd like to quote a relevant passage from Keats, as pointed up in my autobiographical divulging, "The Anaesthetic Revelation of Herone Liddell" (a piece built around some highly attitudinal experiences in a sick-room):

An attitude towards a body of topics has a unifying force. In effect its unitary nature as a response "sums up" the conglomerate of particulars towards which the attitude is directed. See a letter of Keats (March 17, 1817), modifying a passage in Act II, Scene iv, of first part of Henry IV: "Banish money—Banish sofas—Banish Wine—Banish Music; but right Jack Health, honest Jack Health, true Jack Health—Banish Health and banish all the world." Here, he is saying in effect: The feeling infuses all things with the unity of the feeling.

The lyric strikes an attitude. Though the feeling is not often so absolute as with the health-sickness pair that here exercised poor Keats in letters written while he was hurrying on his way to death, any attitude has something of that summarizing quality.

Along those lines, I once proposed (The Kenyon Review, spring 1951) this definition for the lyric:


A short complete poem, elevated or intense in thought and sentiment expressing and evoking a unified attitude towards a momentous situation more or less explicitly implied—in diction harmonious and rhythmical, often but not necessarily rhymed—the structure lending itself readily to a musical accompaniment strongly repetitive in quality; the gratification of the whole residing in the nature of the work as an ordered summation of emotional experience otherwise fragmentary, inarticulate, and unsimplified.

In commenting on the various clauses of this definition, with regard to the words "a unified attitude," I observed:

The "lyric attitude," as vs. the "dramatic act." Attitude as gesture, as posture. … Strictly speaking, an attitude is by its very nature "unified." Even an attitude of hesitancy or internal division is "unified" in the formal sense, if the work in its entirety rounds out precisely that.

When making that last remark I had in mind Aristotle's recipe in chapter 15 of the Poetics where he says that a character who is represented as inconsistent must be consistently so.

As the attendant discussion of the definition makes clear, when referring to "thought and sentiment" I also had in mind "the contemporary stress upon the purely sensory nature of the lyric image," and noted that the whole process would involve "the ‘sentiments' implicit in the ‘sensations,’ and the ‘thoughts' implicit in the ‘sentiments.’ " As regards a situation "more or less explicitly implied," I added:

The lyric attitude implies some kind of situation. The situation may be of the vaguest sort: The poet stands alone by the seashore while the waves are rolling in, or, the poet is separated from his beloved; or, the poet is old, remembering his youth—etc. Or the situation may be given in great detail. Indeed, a lyric may be, on its face, but a list of descriptive details specifying a scene—but these images are all manifestations of a single attitude.

While holding that "the lyric ‘tends ideally’ to be of such a nature as would adapt it to rondo-like musical forms," with stanzas "built about a recurrent refrain," I proposed that a poem "need not preserve such a structure explicitly, to qualify as a lyric," though it might be studied "as a departure from this ‘Urform,’ or archetype." (Just think: There was a time in England when music could be authoritatively defined as "inarticulate poetry.")

Where then are we, with regard to the "Eye-Crossing," viewed as a lyric? You ask: "It is, then, to be viewed as striking some kind of overall attitude?" Me: "Yes, sir." You: "And would you kindly tell me just what attitude your (let's hope) lyrical lines will be taking?" Me: "Please,

sir!" You: "Stand up! Why the groveling?" Me: "There is no name for the attitude, sir." Then in sudden hopefulness, Me adds: "Unless, that is, you will accept the title of the poem itself as a summarizing name for the summarizing attitude." You: "You mean that there is no word in the dictionary, such as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘cynical,’ to designate the poem's attitude?" Me: "If there already were such apt words in our dictionaries, I doubt whether there'd be any incentive for the symbol-using animal to write poems." You: "?" Me: "I mean there is a sense in which each poem strikes its own specific attitude"; then hastily, "not through pride, but because it can't do otherwise"; then winsomely, "So it says in effect ‘Come attitudinize with me.’ " You: "In that case, could you at least give us a first rough approximate, by selecting one word or another that at least points vaguely in the right direction (for instance, like pointing with a sweep of the arm rather than with the index finger)?" Me: "Well, there is a spot where the narrator, or agonist, having referred to Walt as promissory and Hart as nostalgic, calls himself ‘apprehensive,’ and he fits that notion into his over-all scheme. So, for a first rough approximate, I'd propose that the summarizing lyric attitude be called ‘apprehensive.’ "

Yet to say as much is to encounter a problem. A state of apprehension can be variously modified. Otherwise put, the adjective admits of many adverbs. For instance, one can be solemnly apprehensive, or sullenly apprehensive, or sportively apprehensive, or experimentally apprehensive, or arbitrarily apprehensive (as when imagining some grotesque possibility that has a kind of formal appeal because it would "carry to the end of the line" certain tendencies already observable though not likely to attain actual dire fulfillment or "perfection," if I may use the word in an ironic sense). Or one can even be deflectively or secondarily apprehensive, as when referring to a time when tendencies that are now found to have turned out badly were, in their incipient stages, viewed in promissory rather than admonitory terms. (Would the Indians, living in what was to become New England, have had the attitude that led them to help the Pilgrims survive a first critically severe winter if those Indians had foreseen how their hospitality was to be repaid?)

To what extent can an attitude seem adjectivally consistent when it is adverbially varied? French neoclassic drama, for instance, could not have found consistency enough in the grotesquely tragic aspect of Macbeth, which readily allows for the strong contrast between the Murder scene and the Porter scene (while, if you are so inclined, the knocking at the gate can suggest the knock of conscience, and the Porter's ribaldry can suggest an Aristophanic analogue of bodily incontinence due to

fright). Thus, there are varying degrees of tolerance, when adverbial diversity tugs at the outer limits of an attitude's adjectival unity. For some readers more than others the sense of a general apprehensiveness can get lost in a sense of the diversity among the ways of being apprehensive.

Or, the poem may be judged, not as a lyric, but as a lyric sequence. Also, there is a kind of typical consistency, more easily sensed than defined, in a work's style. And insofar as le style, cest lhomme même, there may arise a sense of the narrator, or agonist, as a character, a persona prevailing willy-nilly throughout the work's changes of mood. Such a fiction within the conditions of a poem may or may not accurately represent the character of the author, as citizen and taxpayer, outside the conditions of the poem. But inasmuch as the realm of attitude greatly overlaps upon the realm of agent the attitudinizing nature of a poem might derive assistance from the fact that the poem's style may generate the sense of a single persona with whose imputed character all the range of expressions in the poem could seem to conform. Thus the sense of a single figure as the constant attitudinizer may help extend the range of variations which strike the reader as relevant to the problematical nature of the sights which are the objects of the poetic personas contemplation.

But in the last analysis, the same issue arises. Some readers may feel that the whole range of stylizations contributes to the definition of the fictive narrator's character; other readers may not. In the letter he sent me along with copies of the students' comments, Henry Sams succinctly though differently touched upon this point when referring to the "man side" of the poem "as opposed to the city side." Henry knew, as his students could not know, the damnable personal situation at the roots of my being in Brooklyn that season when the poem was written. So he could more easily approach the poem in attitude-agent terms, whereas his students would be most exercised about the shifts of attitude towards the public scene. In keeping with my theories of "symbolic action," these words afterwards are but designed to present the issue.

Of course, I'd love to talk back and forth about every sentence the students said, whether it be for or against. But obviously Time Does Not Permit. Yet before closing, I'd like to mention an article, "On Doing & Saying," built around an obviously and admittedly overblunt distinction between one hominid who is planting seeds and another (the "mythman") who "completes" the task by enacting the appropriate ritual of a planting song (Salmagundi 15, winter 1971).

I was consciously concerned with a range of associations clustered about the term "cross." But I had to admit that "not until I had finished

the poem did I realize how another dimension had crept in without my slightestawareness."I have in mind my recurrent references to the"theme of light," connected with the fact that "at all hours of the night I had watched the fantastic gleam of the lights across the river." Whereupon:

Lo! an archetype had crept up on me: the "city of light," no less! But hold. Here was an archetype with a difference. For many of the connotations surrounding my images and ideas of light were of a sinister sort, involving "formidable things" (thoughts of empire, war, and imminent decay).


Since the "city of light" does not attain its "perfection" as a "magic" vision gleaming through the night until the poem has built up an attitude of apprehension, obviously a "universal" interpretation here as archetype would be but a "first rough approximate."

But at that point I had to add: "Yet, after all, there was ‘Lucifer!’ "

At this point the author interrupted his writing long enough to go into the next room and wind his eight-day clock which now has to be wound twice a week. The day was dark, with much downpour. No mail came— and though he did get one phone call, it was a wrong number.

He could go on and on—until the last time …


"An Eye-Poem for the Ear (with Prose Introduction, Glosses, and After-Words)" appeared in complete form in Directions in Literary Criticism: Contemporary Approaches to Literature, ed. Stanley Weintraub and Phillip Young (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1973), 228–251. The poem appeared originally, in a shorter version, in The Nation 208 (June 2, 1969): 700–704.

1. The poem itself, without glosses and introductory matter, first appeared in The Nation, and the author and editors are indebted to Carey McWilliams, editor of The Nation, for permission to reprint it in a slightly different text than its original appearance.


14. Counter-Gridlock

An Interview with Kenneth Burke


This interview is an edited-down version of a number of taped interviews that took place during 1980 and 1981 in Andover, New Jersey. Long as this interview is, we finally decided to include the whole piece because there seemed to be no way to cut it without seriously diminishing it. As the interviewers say, they covered a lot of ground; and as Burke points out, he had covered a lot of this ground elsewhere. The published interview included a lot of wonderful pictures of Burke, his family, his colleagues at the School of Letters, and of New York City, where Burke lived and worked for many years. It is with regret that we omit them here. The interview has been edited so that it reads like a continuous document; but in fact Burke went through the original a number of times, deleting and changing things, and the interviewers did a masterful job of compressing hours of interviews into a coherent document. Burke was fortunate in having such good, well-informed interviewers. Our collection of essays ends with it because it contains so many wonderful insights into Burke: the man, the writer, the thinker and tinkerer, the logologer, the comic, the self-quoter and self-analyzer, the storyteller—still vigorous and still seeking at eighty-four.

The repetition is not really a bad thing; Burke often rephrased the main points to change them slightly, and he always spontaneously added new examples, new stories, even new points when he was talking. Portions of the interview are good examples of Burke, live, as different from Burke in print. He was a fabulous talker, which is may be a good way to remember him, with his amazing eyes and incredible energy. He could drink and talk all night and even fit in a five-mile walk on the country roads around his place in Andover, talking all the way. He lived for words. He lived in words. He was his own Logos.

For a Rotinese, the pleasure of life is talk—not simply an idle chatter that passes time, but the more formal taking of sides in endless dispute, argument, and repartee or the rivaling of one another in eloquent and balanced phrases on ceremonial occasions. Speeches, sermons, and rhetorical statements are a delight. But in this class society, with hierarchies of order, there are notable constraints on speech. In gatherings, nobles speak more than commoners, men more than women, elders more than juniors; yet commoners, women, and youth, when given the opportunity as they invariably are, display the same prodigious verbal prowess. Lack of talk is

an indication of distress. Rotinese repeatedly explain that if their "hearts" are confused or dejected, they keep silent. Contrarily, to be involved with someone requires active verbal encounter and this often leads to a form of litigation that is conducted more, it would seem, for the sake of argument than for any possible gain.[1]

This interview is the result of several visits with Kenneth Burke during 1980–81 at his home outside Andover, New Jersey, where he has lived since 1921. Burke is now eighty-four years old and, as he emphasized in a recent letter, "hurrying like crazy to get things cleared up." Frank Gillette and I made each visit; twice we were accompanied by Monte Davis, coauthor of a book on Rene Thom's catastrophe theory,[2] and once by Pellegrino D'Acierno, a Vico and Gramsci scholar who teaches at Columbia University.

We were introduced to Kenneth Burke by my friend Stevie Chinitz who has remained close to him since he was her teacher at Bennington. We drove out from Manhattan through a landscape Burke has described in writing on his friend William Carlos Williams: "that hateful traffic belching squandering of industrial power atop the tidal swamps." Then past Paterson and much further out along Route 80, we turned north toward Andover, through an area just beginning to show the signs of "a cancerous growth of haphazard real-estating"[3] and drove up to Burke's farmhouse, still relatively isolated on Amity Road. There, suddenly, from around the back to greet us was Kenneth Burke: active, demonstrative, and welcoming.

Burke selected portions of a transcript I prepared, revised his answers ("you can tell them I struck all the goddams. They're such a goddam bore!") and added several notes which are indicated by brackets. We covered a lot of ground: "With several other spots it's stuff I've discussed elsewhere, and with the rest it's stuff I'm involved in elsewhere now."[4]

The interview begins with a turn toward biography, motivated by our being together one time on the last day of 1980. It ends with Burke's written summary of a problem that had long concerned him, with the date of his solution. Otherwise dates are not indicated, and the interview reads as one sequence. Describing the nature of these occasions, by reference to the autobiographical hero of one of his stories, Burke summarizes:

This can turn out to be a fairly mellow text, in keeping with Herone Liddell's humanistic ideal of being "as mellow as an over-ripe cantaloupe." (The nearest I can come to that is when guys like youenz turn up in not too

cold weather, and we can haggle backandforth in the room where real logs are burning in the fire place.)

In a 1967 addendum to Counter-Statement, Burke alluded to the "inchoate possibility of an avowal involving literal memories, deliberate fictions, and diaristic accidents." I asked him about his, and he said such a work would necessitate facing "the return of the repressed," and he continued to concentrate on the present. But now he was having difficulty finishing two epilogues for new editions of his other two books written in the thirties: Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History. Throughout the time we visited, he read us excerpts of these essays which were going off in unanticipated directions.

By strategically coining a word to encompass this situation, Burke demonstrated for us one practical use of his method of "perspective by incongruity" ("the gauging of situations by verbal ‘atom-cracking’ ") and provided a title for the interview:

Remember the big traffic jam in New York when the subways stopped? That's when I learned the word gridlock. Gridlock means you can't go any way. The traffic is so jammed, it can't go forward, backwards, or sideways. What I had was counter-gridlock. I went every which way. When I wrote those two books, I had just barged in. But now, more than forty years later, all sorts of considerations that I had by-passed at the time started turning up. A lot was due to things of my own and to others that had developed since then. So, I'd write six or seven pages; then another tangent would seem needed, and I'd start over again, with the same baffling outcome. Instead of no way out, there was a clutter of ways out, each in its own way running into something that cancelled it. Every such turn was like "the return of the repressed," for it involved considerations that, if I had dealt with them at the time, I couldn't have done what I did do.

The title makes clear how our conversation is Burke's table talk at a time when he is near the completion of his theory, but it indicates, as well, an enduring aspect of his style and thought. He has always moved at tangents, provoking admiration and frustration. In 1935, R. P. Blackmur compared him to "Charles Santiago Sanders Pierce for the buoyancy and sheer remarkableness of his speculations," and contrasted his method to I. A. Richards's:

As Mr. Richards … uses literature as a springboard or source for a scientific method or philosophy of value, Mr. Burke uses literature, not only as a springboard but also as a resort or home, for a philosophy or psychology of moral possibility.[5]


Blackmur also notes how Marianne Moore's description of Edmund Burke as "a psychologist—of acute and raccoon-like curiosity" applies equally well to Kenneth Burke who worked with her at The Dial.

Another friend, Jerre Manjione, quotes an unidentified critic who appreciates Burke's ability to keep moving:

Burke's thoughts are as elusive as shadows. Getting the gist is like trying to put salt on the tail of a brilliantly plumaged bird. Once you think you have him firmly in hand, you find yourself clutching a vivid tailfeather or two while he has gone off again.[6]

In conversation, he operates with the qualities of a master comedian, ironist, and dialectician. The interview gives a more sedate impression of our encounters, which were always spirited, often hilarious, and some times uproarious—as when Burke, discussing Emerson and Whitman, suddenly bounded up from his chair to exclaim: "I'm a giant! At five feet four inches I over-tower Balzac by a whole inch." Whereupon he went in search of this poem:

But for those lucky accidents
Were I not tall and suave and handsome
were I not famed for my glamorous Byronic love-affairs
had not each of my books sold riotously
had not my fists made strong men cringe
did not my several conversions
enlist further hordes of followers
and did not everything I turned to
make me big money
despite my almost glorious
good heath of both body and mind
how in God's name
could I through all these years
have held up
and held out
and held on?

He explained:

When I wrote that poem, all of a sudden I understood Whitman. Right there on his page, he built himself a character. Was his family riddled with disease? No problem: In his poems he could rejoice that he was born of a stock ideally healthy. The formula is simple: Anything you wish you were,

just be it. Let your "Song of the Self" be an invention such that even you yourself need not be clear to yourself just when you are confessing, professing, wishing, attaining, and downright lying—and the outcome will be such that (like with much of Emerson) you don't care. It has a lift. If you want something, just let your lines reach out and take it. And if not, why not? And insofar as a "poetic" part of us all gropes in that direction, your plea to get admitted is already in.

Burke in person is most like his poems: impromptu, gnomic, aphoristic, able to dazzle his listeners and return them to fundamental knowledge while providing witness to the astonishing mores of daily life.

Identifying a central quality of Burke's method as "imperviousness," Benjamin DeMott writes:

The sage of Bennington argues with endless invention for the necessity of seeing around the spoken or written word, the announced intention, the "successful" enterprise in persuasion—in order to register the extent of the wordman's probable deflection from the X that is not words.[7]

"The X that is not words" Burke defines as "the objective recalcitrance of the situation itself." When Frank Gillette asked him how he arrived upon the use of the word "recalcitrance," Burke got up and went to the dictionary, saying "I believe it comes from the word meaning ‘heel’ " and checked the etymology: "Yes, calx is heel, calcitrare is to kick somebody in the heel. Another word is ‘inculcate’ which brings it around the other way." Burke, like Richard Blackmur and Charles Olson, uses the dictionary, which he calls the good book, for daily exercise. This goes back to an incident in childhood which he also attributes to Herone Liddell:

The first thing of importance that had happened to Herone Liddell following the accident of his birth was a near-fatal tumble he had taken about the age of three. Spitting meditatively from the height of a second story, he lost his balance, and fell at an angle on his head. Subsequently, he tended to assume that he hit the ground before his own spit.[8]

Burke couldn't attend school for years, and carried around a dictionary in preparation for the event. Thus he started to become an extraordinary auto-didact in the distinct American tradition.

We found Burke to be, true to DeMott's description, "that rarest of men, a good humored original genius." Frank Gillette offered a face-toface homage:

Your lexical freedom, your unwillingness to fix at any specific point, to use your term, "a cluster of associations" has been a constant source of liberation for me, and I mean liberation in the pious sense of the term.


Gillette is referring here to the chapter "The Range of Piety" in Permanence and Change, where Burke first quotes Santayana's definition of piety "as loyalty to the sources of our being" and then provides a definition of his own: "Piety is the sense of what properly goes with what."

Although Burke has been preoccupied with the problems of summation, as well as several difficult northern winters to which recent poems testify, he has not been deterred from other lines of investigation, and he always had something fresh in hand. Most of his recent work has appeared in Critical Inquiry, and now he is working on a theory of narrative in response to a Chicago symposium. "Bodies That Learn Language"—a work in progress—is the final reduction of his epistemology Logology, which he distinguishes from his ontology Dramatism. Other articles he put into the record are: "Variations on ‘Providence’ "[9] and "As One Thing Leads to Another" published in an issue of RANAM(Recherches Anglaises et Americanes) that honors his work. From the latter he read us a definition of language he attempted after George Steiner[10] had written how difficult it would be to succeed at one:

Language is:

The arbitrary conventional medium of symbolic expression and communication that is best equipped to discuss itself and all others.

Its three offices are: to inform, please, and move those persons who are familiar with its conventions.

In its ability to inform, it has proved itself the collective mode of symbolic action that has comprehensively organized the study of its nonsymbolic ground (the realm of motion) and of situations and processes involved in our relation to the complex of symbolic and nonsymbolic factors affecting human conduct.

Burke adds this footnote:

The first clause is the only way I could find to differentiate language from other media (such as music, painting, dance, sculpture). And this reflexive function is important with regard to the connection between language and "thought," and the notion of "thought" as "inner dialogue." Every medium can comment on itself, but language seems most able in this regard. … The second clause is adopted from Cicero.[11]

Burke is justly compared to Roland Barthes, as he (two decades before Barthes) moved literary analysis decisively and playfully in the direction of the social sciences.

Frank and I both came into significant contact with another protean thinker who moved at the boundaries of disciplines, Gregory Bateson. We were anxious to sound Burke out, since we knew the two had met

in 1949 at a conference at the San Francisco Art Institute. (Sitting between Burke and Bateson is Marcel Duchamp, the artist who exemplified a range of paradox which Bateson and Burke approach by more explicit methods.) Burke wrote, as long ago as 1937, that "among the sciences, there is one little fellow named Ecology, and in time we shall pay him more attention." Bateson, in the last decade of his life, considered "the effects of conscious purpose versus nature." Bateson approaches Burke:

A peculiar sociological phenomenon has arisen in the last one hundred years which perhaps threatens to isolate conscious purpose from many corrective processes which might come out of less conscious parts of the mind. The social scene is nowadays characterized by the existence of a large number of self-maximizing entities which, in law, have something like the status of "persons"—trusts, companies, political parties, unions, commercial and financial agencies, nations, and the like. In biological fact, these entities are precisely not persons and are not even aggregates of whole persons. They are aggregates of parts of persons.[12]

Burke, writing last year on his adopted state of New Jersey:

If more and more pollution is to be our state's future, all such polluters can get themselves the best berths on a sinking ship. And they can die rich in ripe old age, and even honored by their fellow citizens. For the ship that is sinking is the ship of state, and indications are, from all over the nation, that such a ship will never go under, wholly. It can just go on sinking and sinking as a place to live in, while there's always the likelihood that those with funds enough can invest in better berths not yet so polluted, elsewhere.[13]

We found that Burke had just finished a paper on Bateson, and then had immediately added several pages after reading a review of Bateson's Mind and Nature by philosopher Stephen Toulmin.[14] He also told us how he upstaged Governor Jerry Brown at a dinner honoring Bateson shortly before his death. Burke was the next-to-last speaker and brought down the house by singing a song he'd written about "everywhere the double bind." He put us down in his calendar as "the Bateson boys."

Most memorable is how Burke still wrestles with two of his masters: Kant and Nietzsche, as he indicates here in one remarkable series of parentheses that reviews the foundation of his critical method. But he is attentive to new work and pointed to Richard H. Brown's A Poetic for Sociology, which proposes "cognitive aesthetics" as a logic of discovery for the human sciences. Burke's response: "I just welcome him," and at another point: "The book's a great shopping list." Brown selects work

in neighboring domains, as Burke did in Permanence and Change, in order to demonstrate parallel motives in art and science. He attempts to establish criteria of adequacy for a unified theory:

Cognitive aesthetics, we argue, has four principal advantages. First, it permits us to move beyond copy theories of truth in both art and in science. Second, it provides a framework within which the pioneering artist and the pioneering scientist are both seen as involved in essentially the same activity: making paradigms through which experience becomes intelligible. These two advantages give birth to a third and fourth; for if art and science are seen to have an essential affinity, then the possibility is opened for a fusion of the two principal ideals of sociological knowledge: the scientific or positivist one, stressing logical deductions and controlled research, and the artistic or intuitive one, stressing insights and subjective understanding. Finally, insofar as such a fusion is possible, cognitive aesthetics provides a source of metacategories for assessing sociological theory from any methodological perspective.

By doing so he makes clear how prophetic Burke's original investigation of behaviorism and positivism was:

This essay takes an aesthetic view, of rationality. Just as scientific theories require aesthetic adequacy, works of art present a kind of knowledge. For cognitive aesthetics, both science and art are rational in that they both presuppose various criteria of economy, congruence and consistency, elegance, originality, and scope. Such criteria are those by which we organize experience into formal structures of which "knowing" is constituted.[15]

Burke's "poetic" perspective or "methodology of the pun" is the precursor of cognitive aesthetics. Like Burke, Brown presents an anatomy of metaphor as a primary means of demonstrating how knowledge is perspectival. Thus Burke:

The metaphorical extension of perspective by incongruity involves casuistic stretching, since it interprets new situations by removing words from their "constitutional" setting. It is not "demoralizing," however, since it is done by the "transcendence" of a new start. It is not negative smuggling, but positive cards-face-up-on-the-table. It is designed to "remoralize" by accurately naming a situation already demoralized by inaccuracy.[16]

I was not surprised to find Burke reading Roy A. Rappaport's Ecology, Meaning, and Religion,[17] which combines the ecological perspectives of Bateson with Burke's analysis of how social action determines varieties of linguistic expression. He now participates in a combined discipline of anthropology and sociolinguistics, as his one-time student Dell

Hymes makes clear in an important review of Language as Symbolic Action. Burke's theory of language as gesture, first applied to poetry, is now a subset of "the ethnography of speaking." Hymes writes:

The revival of interest in the ethnography of symbolic forms (myth, ritual, song, chant, dance, and the like and the subtler forms of daily life) … promises development of work from which a truly comparative "rhetoric" and "poetics" may yet emerge … such linguistic ethnography will impoverish itself if it does not build on the insights accumulated in the tradition Burke extends and enriches.[18]

The impression of ritual language on its hearers is one of some strangeness. The use of dialect variants contributes to this strangeness. Words are used in a variety of ways that make them slightly discrepant from their ordinary usage; but the concurrence of each of these words with another that signals its sense creates a kind of resonant intelligibility, an intelligibility that varies from individual to individual. This ritual code, in its entirety, is probably beyond the comprehension of any of its individual participants. To these participants, it is an ancestral language which they continue. It is a language into which individuals "grow" as their age and acquaintance increase. This process should last a lifetime and tales are told of former elders, who—as they approached extreme old age—ceased to speak ordinary language and uttered only ritual statements.[19]

A note on the photographs: No one has a finer sense than Kenneth Burke of how technological change has revolutionized the cities and landscape of America in this century, an acceleration of scale and event he analyzed and resisted in exemplary ways. It is appropriate to note here that Burke lived without electricity and running water in Andover until the late sixties. His position of "agro-bohemian" anticipated by now familiar solutions to the current crisis, and like Scott Nearing, Lewis Mumford, and Paul Goodman, he is an exemplary figure who lives his thought from the ground up. From the photography collection of the Museum of the City of New York, we selected material that would give some sense of the city Burke knew as a young man, as jack-of-all-trades editor at The Dial during the twenties, and as a social analyst during the decade of the thirties. We discovered that Burke had shared an apartment in the village with Berenice Abbott and other equally notable figures, including Djuna Barnes, Hart Crane, and members of the original Provincetown Players. The photographs from the Edison Archive were suggested by a discussion not included here, but excerpts are used as captions. Burke's daughter, Mrs. Elspeth Hart, graciously allowed me to copy the photographs of Burke as a child and young man; others are from the collection at the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters; the pictures of

Burke and Empson are from the Kenyon College Archive. I would like to thank Frank Gillette, John Johnston, Brian Thomas and, of course, Kenneth Burke for help in preparing this interview.

R. S.[20]


We brought some champagne, kb.


Oh, Champagny-water!


Have you got the Viennese crystal? We just discovered Pely and I grew up in the same neighborhood in more or less the same time. You spent time in Weehawken?


Oh, yes.


Well, here we are. We're all from Weehawken in a sense.


Well, I'll be damned! I didn't realize … when I first came to New York, that's where my parents lived, on Boulevard East.


My home turf. Where Union City and Weehawken come together.


You know that hospital on the Hudson? My father used to run it.


One of my daughters was born in that hospital!


That's named after my grandmother. Only an Italian would do that.


Yes sir, one of my daughters was born in Weehawken. It's part of New Cuba now, isn't it? I remember we were right over where the tunnel goes through. This was during the First World War. Of course, there were army men up there guarding that place. There was the risk that the Germans would blow up the tunnel because of the war goods going through there.

We had an old German music box, a wonderful old Regina music box, beautiful old structure. My dad and I were sitting in the back room. All of a sudden we heard my mother put on Die Wacht am Rhein. We rushed in and turned it off as fast as we could.

There used to be many old German beer halls in that area, lovely old places. Some were still around when we were there. If you walked out from Boulevard East half a mile, you were in the country. Oh yes, and the old man had an electric car, and he just couldn't get up that hill.


Between Weehawken and Hoboken.




You were at Columbia only a short time. Why did you quit?


I was a dropout owing to a situation of this sort. All the courses I wanted to take were there. I didn't drop out because I was disgusted with school. But I only expected to take an A.B. degree and many of the courses I wanted to take were available only for postgraduate work. I'd already taken six years of Latin, and I wanted to take a little medieval Latin. No, I had to do that in postgraduate school. Now often colleges don't have Greek! But I had taken two years of Greek in high school, and I wanted to do the Greek Anthology. No, I couldn't do that until later. So I told the old man, "Pap, I'll save you some money. Let me go down to the Village, and give me just a fragment of what it costs you to send me to school there, and I'll keep up with my work." Well, I did. I went down there and did keep up with my work.


What was the Village like then?


One of the first guys I met there was Joe Gould. Remember old Joe? Oh, he was a fantastic creature. He lived on booze and cigarettes and ketchup. He was a mixture of … he was half insane and half brilliant as hell.


A rather lethal combination. What was his demise? What did he do?


He was writing a history of our times. He had whole files of these things. I don't know where they all disappeared to. He'd go to places like insane asylums, write up little bits of this and that. Ezra Pound got some of that stuff published at the time. When my Counter-Statement came out, Joe came around to see me. He came in and asked me all about the book. That was during prohibition. We made our own booze. We made a rice wine that was pretty effective stuff. I started plying Joe with the rice wine, and Joe kept on discussing the book with me. I knew of course that he was coming for a shakedown. But he was discussing the book making quite relevant comments about it. Finally after we'd talked about it for quite awhile, he said, "I hate to flatter someone who I'm going to ask for money, but that sure is strong wine."


You bought this place in the early twenties?


I bought this place around '21.


Then you moved out?


In the summer I'd stay out here, and in the winter I'd stay in town if I had a job, like when I got tied in with The Dial. My God, the kind of life you lived then! You'd go down to the Village around late September or the beginning of October and rent one of these old railroad apartments where in the kitchen you had a sink and a big tub. There was also a tub in the can out in the hall. But my God, you couldn't bathe in that! There was no heat. You kept junk in that. There was a big vat in the kitchen which you used for everything. You did your laundry in it, your dish-washing and bathing. And there was a coal stove. And the rest of the house would be wholly without heat.

I'd pick one of these places and pay by the month. You'd go in the fall, pick up one of these places—and in spring put your little junky stuff back in storage and come out here. We did this again and again. It's a totally different kind of life now! If it took me more than two or three hours to find a place, I'd think I was put upon. Sometimes I would stay out here all winter and heat the whole place with wood that I sawed and chopped up myself. But that's only if I didn't have a job in New York. When I bought this place I paid off the mortgage the first year. So, during the damn smash-up, I always had this place to go to.


When you did that research on drugs in the thirties, who was that for?


I had a job with the Rockefeller Foundation back in the twenties. Colonel Arthur Woods was the head of the Rockefeller Foundation at that time, and he was also assessor in the League of Nations, the drug commission. Arthur Woods had been a member of a reform administration in New York. He was police commissioner. Later he financed some studies on drug addiction. He represented the U.S. committee on dangerous drugs in the League of Nations, and he needed a ghostwriter and I got that job.

I worked on it for a year and a half. The magic word "Rockefeller" opened all doors for me. I could ask any question. Endocrinologists, they'd tell me anything. Ironically enough, all my notes on that stuff have disappeared. All that work I'd done

just vanished. The stuff I used in The Philosophy of Literary Form was part of it. I wouldn't have any of it but for the parts included there.

In those days people would just walk in and sit down. I didn't know who the hell they were. It was a crazy world then, of course, it was nutty as hell. Trouble was, as far as I was concerned, I was afraid I was going crazy anyhow.


This is the early thirties?


Just about that time. I even wrote fantasies of super-Hitlerite villains, all kinds of stuff. Some of it turns up once in a while, but most of it's vanished. May be it's in the FBI files for all I know. That was such a crazy period. You thought you were going crazy anyhow, and I damn near was. You never knew what's natural and what isn't natural. I was going to have lunch with a guy I'd known quite well. He was a leftist fellow. I'd rushed a shave and had had a drink besides. Had a little blood on my face, and he asked, "What happened to you?" He thought I'd been in some goddam messup or something. I had to tell him I had a new blade in. That was just normal. That was the way everybody was. Honest to God that's the way everybody was.

I've had three stretches of magic: working for Colonel Woods doing the ghosting job, working for The Dial, and working at Bennington. They were all wonderful. The whole three were just from a different world. Everyone was a different world. You do have those.


Could you describe your experience at Bennington?


At Bennington I found working with students. … I really understood the actual … it's a strange situation. I'd get to working with a student, and my God, we were so involved in her work! It was really a world apart. Terrifically. I once had a student—she was a beautiful girl, and she was interested in dance. She wanted to write original stuff—and I'm not so keen on kids writing. I'd rather work some other way, translating or something like that.

I said, "Tell me some writer you really like, a short story writer, and let's have you do a one act play, turning that stuff into a drama." She was in drama and dance and knew that field. She liked Katherine Mansfield, so we started to work on her stuff. I swear to God, we learned things I'd never realized! In the

story you see it all quite clearly. You start to turn it into a drama all of a sudden there's one sentence that seems to need a whole extra scene. You get so involved in such stuff you're just living in it! The joint work becomes engrossing.

When I first got there, I inherited a fantastic story. Bill Troy had a group of students who proved their great literary ability by never producing anything. Only the vulgar produced. The lowly sociology students—they could write. But the literary elect were beyond that. I had this whole group, and I flunked every goddam one of them. But with the understanding that they could come back. They all finally did. The last one ten years after I flunked her. This was one hell of a way for a student to prove herself a great literary champion. Yet I did discover this: The real potential writers did suffer. The mutts could write any goddam thing!

I used to figure things out this way: I decided that I'd divide my "counselees" into three groups: The students you would think of as being set for marriage, the students you would think of as being set for careers, and the students you would try as much as possible to help keep out of the nut house! Those were the ones I inclined to love most.


They became the faculty!


Consider the situation. Every word that a student writes you is there to be concerned with. Then she goes out and tries to write a book—and who cares? The rules are totally different. Students really are marvels. They start out wonderfully. But the situation is so damned unique; and it can't go on. From the standpoint of betterment I began to talk about finding some way of easing things off.


I hadn't known you did all those translations.


I did all this work in German, and my translation of Death in Venice—Auden said, "This is it!" And that put it over. He was part of the family too. Then Mann came over. And since I had done all this work translating him, his essays, his lectures, his letters, and so on, they put me up there sitting next to Mann— and my God, I couldn't follow his German! [Bill Troy heard about this incident, when Mann himself didn't know English very well. And Bill told in my presence how, when I explained to Frau Mann that although I had done much translating of

German I had trouble with it as spoken, Frau Mann said to Thomas, "Nicht sprechen, übersetzen." Bill had been drinking straight whiskey out of a jelly glass on a private occasion when I had gone to join in doing him honor. In an astoundingly few minutes he had gone from being personally charming to the kind of eloquent literary improvising that he was rightly famed for, to this anecdote when the adrenaline that alcohol releases had begun to take over, a stage followed almost immediately by his passing out totally stoned on the floor.]


Permanence and Change wasn't published until 1935. Did you write it out here?


I wrote most of that out here. It was published in 1934 or 1935. Actually, when I first wrote the book … this is why I believe in the whole matter of language as motive … that your own vocabulary hypnotizes you. I'd written all this stuff on perspectives, and when I got through, it was so much more real than the world. If I would talk to somebody, I had a feeling that there was a piece of glass between us … really terrible … it was a really unpleasant notion. In those days I was playing a lot of Ping-Pong at night. I would lie awake imagining a ball going back across the net. That seemed a way of making the two sides nearer alike than the image of being on two sides of glass. And finally things did ease up.

In rewriting, redoing, this whole thing, I've literally thrown away 170 pages as false starts. I finally decided that the middle section, "Perspective by Incongruity," is the essence of the whole business, and I began to work on cutting it down. Perspective by incongruity is a way of seeing two ways at once. It's the whole principle of an ironic approach to something. One of my favorite examples is Veblen's concept of "trained incapacity." They're opposites … he introduced the expression when referring to those who in being competent as businessmen were not competent to look at a situation otherwise. In that middle section I have all kinds of variations on that theme.

And by God, I did start seeing double. I got wild. I had to write twenty pages, but things dragged on and on. So in my impatience on having it pile up the more I tried to cut it down, I would drink a little bit.

I don't drink while I'm writing, but I would take a drink. And

by God, you can't imagine what a sybaritic delight it was when, after getting out of this tangle, I could look down the road and see just one car coming. It was such a privilege. I was working here in the summer. When I heard a car I'd rush out looking to see if only one car was going down the road … wonderful.


How long did your period of double vision last?


Well, it lasted a couple of months. With everything I've ever written, something of that sort turns up. I believe, absolutely, you do get hooked to a vocabulary. If you really do live with your terms, they turn up tricks of their own. You can't get around them.


What dynamic is at work and responsible for such a fix?


They do run you by vocabulary. When you finally get down to where you're making your own terminology, then by God, you're making your own destiny too. You're picking the terms and they always have an angle beyond which you use them and then they use you. There's no question about it. Sometimes a person writes a book and the book sells well, and he writes another book … and it's wonderful. He's making money. Then it turns out that his way of writing gave him psychogenic cancer! That's a part of the anguish of your body when you were writing these books. Take someone like Sylvia Plath. Here's a woman who really lives with her work, means it, every damn thing she writes. She gets more and more efficient on suicidal themes. Then you're going in that groove …


You're preparing for suicide.


But the point is, you're reducing your range. For instance, I've tinkered with that suicide line all my life. But at the same time, I also work with ideas of how to contrast it, how to make it contain other schemes. She must make it more efficient: how to be more suicidal!


But there's dramatistic element in Plath's suicide as well. It was her third or fourth attempt, I believe, before she succeeded.


The housekeeper didn't come.


There was some unconscious mechanism.


You get suicide so clearly in the Japanese: hari-kiri, suppuku, two words they use on it. A lot of suicide is accusation. The technical, traditional way of doing it is to kill yourself on the

doorstep of the guy you're after. … It was her relation to her husband; she was attacking him.


Basically accusing him of murder.


Let me read you my suicidal poem.


Suicide is appropriate for the last day of the year.


I was out here two years in a row. That's why I'm so goddam glad to get away. Two winters in a row alone out here. The first one was absolutely incredible. There was a series of rains that froze. This whole section was one big chunk of ice. Then the second year was mild. But two years of that, then came spring. The irony was that spring was at least the resolution, but here's what happened:


Yes, can fight the other seasons,
but I can't fight spring.
So now, late March, consider me
forcibly defenseless against the ravages
of a call, that, near 83,
I could not adequately answer
e'en if they gave me bbls.
of money
to squander on the project.
A quiet calm, infiltrating desolation settles
in and about the problematical Subject (the Selph)
A Spirit come to dwell within me,
saturating same with its O'ver-All Context of Situation—
and all would be like to commit hari-kiri
except for lack of guts enough to cut one's guts out.


"April is the cruelest month …"


Oh, yes, that's the idea. The other seasons you can fight. You know, I was the guy who did the paste work on The Waste Land, putting The Waste Land together for The Dial. I spent the whole night on it because [Gilbert] Seldes was so particular. You had to fix it in such a way that you could know where the spaces were. I put it one way, it wouldn't fit, and he wouldn't allow it a little bit. Yeah, layout. Eliot wasn't even around. He was in London.


Did you have any contact with Pound?


The publisher sent Pound a copy of my Counter-Statement, and I got a very friendly letter from Pound about it, but he embarrassed the hell out of me because, in the course of saying nice things about my book, he put me in a bad light with the publisher. He talked about what a lousy publisher, so I didn't want to handle it.


How did you get to Remy de Gourmont, through Pound?


Remy de Gourmont died when I was working on him. I was so damned dumb in my early days. This article I wrote on Mann and Gide in Counter-Statement … Gide sent me one of his books, signed his own name, but I didn't even acknowledge it. That's what I mean by suicidal. How stupid I've been!


Did you ever take any drugs?


Nothing but alcohol. I think what saved me was Prohibition. All that goddam stuff. Every night I got sick so I got rid of it. I wasn't proud. If I'd have kept my liquor, I'd been gone a long time ago. Most of it was junk, you know. Every bit of it had chemicals in it. They denatured the denatured. Everyone would put some denaturing in it. Then the bootlegger would take some of the denaturing out. My body wouldn't put up with it.


It's all a seeking for transcendence. Alcohol, all drugs, whatever, is an attempt to achieve transcendence. Authority believes you can control transcendence with doxological methods, through ceremony, through ritual, through language. But if they believe that the expression of personal transcendence is pure escape external to their ritual, then it's prohibited.


I was up at Wesleyan. I was going to an alcohol party, and I went through a room where all the kids were glazed in darkness. My God, what a muddle. They weren't doing anything. But we were going to yell and drink.


It was an interesting moment: the necessity of abandoning language because language had been so reduced to control.


It was synonymous with the awesomeness of authority. In this case, transcendence is associated with nonverbal forms exclusively. Transcendence is not associated with a poetic message, but with a chemical one, direct mediation between your body chemistry and some external influence.


I think sometimes it's the attempt to be all body. The rule I'm most proud of is this one: The only cure for digging in the dirt is

an idea. The cure for any idea is more ideas. The cure for all ideas is digging in the dirt. That's the whole damn thing. Body back to body. That's your relation between ideas … that's the body talking for you. I think people who take drugs frustrate the completion of symbolism. The drugs cut corners! When I look back over my life, and all the hours I've spent under alcohol, I think that's my lostness.


You associate it with loss …


I'm trying to answer a call across a gulf that can't be crossed. I feel that. Every once in a while, I hit a couple of notes on the piano that just get the damn thing. They get what I wish I could do every time. But not by accident, not by alcohol, but just by doing it that way. I wish I could write a whole thing like that. If you haven't created them spontaneously, you haven't really done them. If you haven't done them with your whole full self. I believe that our animal, ideally, our animal … must really face these things right up close. Sometimes people will ask me, "Have you got this done? You're trying to stop things." I say no! I've got out of this … I don't know what you call it … the most terrifying development. We have a lot of it here already, and that is what we do from now on. We use these damn machines on us. … What is going on in me now when I'm talking to you? What is going up and down inside, and therefore what's going on in me when I say the word that makes me horny, or say a word that makes me disgusted. What's going on in my body? And I think for the first time in the world's history, our technological machine has got the resources to check on that. And what we have is a totally new kind of disassociation. I am out there, recorded on a dial. Who am I? Here I am, a person, and now that stuff! And I believe it will give us an ultimate. I can even believe—the irony of this—I suddenly get a little notion, all of a sudden, I can be pious again. I can see beyond. There is something! There is something!


The origins of a new piety!


I don't know. I get a little glimpse of it. I don't know but there it is.


That little glimpse is the intuitional glimpse of a new optimism.


You've got these signs on you, things up and down, you're just a bunch of records on meters. They are reporting on you, just as when you're reading the dials on a car or an airplane. The

problem of identity gets down to that. The irony of this whole business is that the future, a logological future of this sort would be—the irony of my resistance to technology—this would be a purely technological study. You'd have a machine recording you. Yes, the sort of "processing" they do now, working on their own blood pressure as indicated on a screen and learning to control it. My notion is that every bit of us could be objectified that way.

Remember when Aristotle speaks of the tragic pleasure? This means you're enjoying crying. But when you're crying for someone you really have lost, that's not fun at all! Therefore there are two kinds of crying. That sort of difference I would show on the screen. Under those conditions, a body can be studied from the outside.

I have thought about an experiment like this. Take a movie or a play. You have fifty control people and fifty people in your theater. The one fifty would all be together and the control group would be isolated individually. I think you would have a recording of different vibrations with the individuals than the kind that happened with the one audience.


Velocity of resonance, no?


They fit into another, fit together; and I think it could show not just in attitude that the fifty people manifested a different kind of vibrating responding together.


When it reaches a mob state, the resonance has melded into a coefficient of power. That explains mob psychology.


No doubt about it, and I think that's what Hitler was working on. The point is, as I see, you'd actually have for the first time in history, pictures of all these things going on inside you! When I had an examination some years back—I refer to this in the Grammar of Motives—the guy had me walk. He put various types of anodes on me. As I walked they were checking my gait. The record in itself didn't represent my gait; but if you had different kinds of people, their gaits would show up in different ways. The representations would show by comparison with one another. You'd have a complete diagnostic attitude toward yourself.


But who is reading the diagnosis?


Well, you have different views on that. Interpretation is something else again. The thing doesn't interpret itself. This

applies to the polygraph test. These things are not as accurate as people think. I like that story of the guy who thought he was Napoleon. His analysts argued with him, trying to convince him that he wasn't Napoleon. Finally he agreed that he was not Napoleon. The machine indicated that he was lying!


How about Coleridge and drugs?


Coleridge was so promising in so many ways, he put up with it, but he moaned, he was wretched in his last years. There had been a honeymoon stage. That's when he wrote his wonderful mystery poems. After that he was shot. And for several years he was just down, nowhere; then he came back. From then on he lived with himself as a disease, and he was under a doctor's care. But he retained his wonderful ability to verbalize. The record of the Table Talk is engrossing.


Would you say Coleridge functioned in the breast of Wordsworth, the surface of the earth, nature.


Coleridge's great poems, the mystery poems, I would class under the head of what he would call "fancy." I think it wasn't imagination. I don't think he thought that way. But I think those poems were adumbrations of the surrealists. "Kubla Khan" was their ideal: To write a poem out of a dream, and he did. Any one who snoots any of Coleridge has robbed himself. He was one of the most profound writers who ever wrote! And there was always something eating at him.


What is the difference between Wordsworth and Coleridge? Constable said all his art can be found under any hedge. That's pure Wordsworth.


There was a great ambiguity between Coleridge's and Wordsworth's relationship to the "imagination." Coleridge's mystery poems were really not the way Wordsworth saw it. Wordsworth was trying to situate the newness of language in its ability to reflect reality itself; Coleridge was seeing another realm, language that never was on land or sea. From the standpoint of Coleridge, that expression would mean something that wasn't there. What Wordsworth means is it's really there but you didn't see it.


Did you see that R. P. Blackmur's book on Henry Adams finally came out? Blackmur's stuff gets better and better. The essay on Ulysses, for example, which everyone always forgets.


There's no question about it. He has a real calling all his own. After a couple of ps you get into it, you feel it. We had a strange relationship that way. We were both auto-didacts and pretty much close together. He was much better at academic politics than I ever was. One summer, I was going to be at Indiana, and I stayed with him and John Crowe Ransom. We rented a place, a beautiful little house! It was a lovely time. As a matter of fact, that lovely little house is now a parking lot. I did a review on one of his books. It was a dirty trick I did which nobody realized. He gave two of my favorite proverbs, which I had already used: Fides quaerens intellectum and corruptio optimi pessima. [The first was an ideal statement of scholastic theology. One took faith on trust, but having accepted it, one proceeded to show why the position was rational. I have discussed it in my Rhetoric of Religion among other places. See there, page 12. The other, "the corruption of the best is the worst." is so far as I know a Latin proverb. I used it in my essay on Hitler's Mein Kampf. Dick got them both wrong. Whereas intellectum is in the accusative case, the object of "seeing," he made it a nominative. I wrote as though he had done this deliberately, to give some such other meaning as "faith a seeking intellect," or some such. And he made the other, corruptio optima pessima, which could have been interpreted vaguely as possibly meaning "corruption (is the) best worst." I forget exactly how I tinkered with them; but nobody knew the difference, and Blackmur never mentioned it to me. It is amusing that, at the time, I was entangled in the tangle myself.]


You taught with Empson once at Kenyon?


I found out we gave our classes at the same time, so we didn't even know what the other was doing. One night there was a party on, and by golly, I wasn't invited and I felt pretty bad. Still, they had parties all the time. I heard the noise across the fields, the talking, people having a wonderful time. I finally went to sleep and the next thing I knew someone was pounding on the door: Bang, bang, bang. "Wake up, Mr. Burke! Wake up, Mr.

Burke! Mr. Empson is attacking you!" I rushed over. And Empson was sitting in the kitchen under the kitchen sink. He was going in good form, and every time he'd make a point he'd toss his head and hit the pipe and make it ring. I thought he might knock himself out!

That's one way to crash a party, right? I was in to stay. It went on all night till five o'clock in the morning. I never did find out what he had said though; by the time I got there he was on another subject.

We had our classes at the same time, and we discovered that we were both going to give a talk on Coriolanus. So we made an agreement we'd toss up as to who went first—and we'd never change a word or refer to the other's talk at all. It was funny, because in one way students feel inclined to show their attitudes in these matters. One guy, another member of the class, had a stunt which was described to me.

Empson had a quite picturesque way of lecturing. He'd be talking, then suddenly swoop down and glance at his manuscript, then race about the room, or suddenly start writing things on the board. Constant changes in tempo and style. The student started acting as though he were aiming a gun all over the place. He said, "You can't get a bead on him." It would be like him.


Seven Types …


I think his other book …


Some Versions of Pastoral?


Yes, is better than that. That's beautiful.


But the effect of Seven Types of Ambiguity was torrential.


I don't know if it's true but I've heard that originally he had but six types.


Didn't like the number?


Richards was said to have suggested making it seven but I don't know exactly why.


For Pythagorean reasons alone.


Seven is more complete. Six is an impossible number. But three plus four …


You don't settle on six, six is …


I always think six in English is sex.


Did you know Wallace Stevens?


I knew him a little bit. He was given an honorary degree up at Bard. I went up there as a part of the outfit to honor him. My wife was with me, and at one of the meals she sat next to him. She said later, "Guess what Wallace Stevens asked me?" I said, "What's that?" " ‘Does your husband have insurance?’ " I claim that the basic idea of Stevens's work … what's the word for it? The first idea. I think what he was really trying to do was, by imagination, to recall what it was like to see something before he had a word for it. In a sense, that's how he did see things originally. What he really was doing was aiming to regress.


Trying to be innocent again.


Yes. Can't be! The only way was to do it. … In one sense, your body is always that way, of course. But you've lost it forever.

[Editor's note: Jerre Mangione in An Ethnic at Large (New York: Putnam, 1978) summarizes the events to which the discussion below refers:

At the first American Writers' Conference in 1935, Burke scandalized the orthodox Communists in the audience by proposing that all future leftwing propaganda substitute the word "people" for "masses." He argued that words like "masses," "workers," and "proletarians" tended to exclude some of the very elements in society that the Communists were trying to win over. At the end of his presentation, he acknowledged that his advice bore "the telltale stamp of my class, the petite bourgeoisie," but held that the allegiance of his class to the left-wing cause was "vitally important."

For this view he was severely reprimanded in public by such Communist bigwigs as Mike Gold and Joseph Freeman, who gave elaborate Marxist reasons for rejecting the use of "people." Only two months later both men were obliged to swallow their rationales when the Comintern passed a resolution calling for a "People's Front," in which Communist parties in all countries were urged to ally themselves with as many liberals and bourgeois, petit and otherwise, as possible.

Burke's paper "Revolutionary Symbolism in America" is collected in American Writer's Conference (New York: International Publishers, 1935). Malcolm Cowley has a chapter on the conference in The Dream of the Golden Mountain: Remembering the Thirties (New York: The Viking Press, 1980). Other sources are: "Thirty Years Later: Memories of the First American Writers' Conference," The American Scholar (summer1966), a discussion with Burke, Cowley, Granville Hicks, and William Phillips, moderated by Daniel Aaron. Aaron's Writers' on the Left: Episodes in American Literary Communism (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World,

1961) has a valuable discussion. Sidney Hook's review of Burke's Attitudes toward History appeared in the Partisan Review (December 1937), and an exchange between Burke and Hook appeared in the following issue. Hook's comments are reprinted in William Rueckert's Critical Responses to Kenneth Burke, 1924–1966 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969).]


Is it Joseph Freeman you described as "a locomotive in public and a nice guy in private"?


Well it might have been Mike Gold too. They both went after me. Malcolm Cowley omitted some of the major details, so far as I was concerned. I thought it was a terrific experience. For instance I had the goddamdest fantasies after that thing, and I had been going through problems of my own besides. I really felt the ostracism. I was out. When I went out of that room after that thing was over, I walked behind two girls there and one of them said to the other. "But he seemed so honest!" I was just devastated, I felt that it was horrible. My God, the next day I walked down the hall I saw Joe coming, I shrank. And he says hello. You did those things. And the irony is when the slate came up, it was just as if nothing had happened.


You were elevated to the committee.


Yes. But in the meantime I had gone home, and it was ghastly. And I lay down. I had been out the night before; and I'd been shoved into this thing on top of that, and I lay down and I'd hear "Burke! Burke!" My own name had become a curse word. I'd wake up and finally, my God just this side of an absolute hallucination my tongue … shit dripping from my tongue. Horrible. My whole devotion to Harold Rosenberg stems from that time on. He turned up when I was lost. He thought it was funny! He took me down to a bunch of super, of sub subsplinters of a splinter group. To take me into reality.

On the basis of it, I saw so damn much about the psychology of the trials. The irony was that when they turned up, I could understand how the prisoners felt. You feel so goddam … it's a world of its own. You felt that the whole place was against you. I saw something. Boy! And the irony of it in that whole damn business was then, of course, Sidney Hook thought I was just a sellout to Stalin. I didn't believe the goddam charges against Stalin at the time. I really didn't. I thought the guy was straight.




So he thought I was just a sellout on that stuff.


At what point did you realize Stalin was what he was?


Later on … no, I didn't …


After thirty-five?


Very much later. It was almost the time of … from what's-hisname? The guy that spilt the beans over here.


You mean Eastman?


No, no, the Rooshian, the current … what's his name. Kousevitsky?


You don't mean Trotsky?


No, no, not Trotsky … the official who spilt the whole thing on Stalin.


You don't mean Solzhenitsyn. That's too late.


Inside, the big guy in the business itself.


What year is this, in the forties?


It's the man who came over here, who sparred with Nixon.


During the hearings in the early fifties?


Who was the fella who ran the … who became the Prime … Premier, whatever you want to call him, the whole outfit, the head of the state.


Khrushchev? In fifty-five you're talking about?




Until then you didn't think Stalin was exposed?


Yes. I thought it was still …


The evidence was there since the mid-thirties.


I had worked on the damn stuff. I just didn't think … I never thought … I made a complete distinction between left totalitarianism and the Hitlerite stuff. I didn't think that the left … it didn't go that way. I just didn't. It didn't make sense to me.


Have you read Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag?


I've only read pieces of it. I believe what these fellas are saying. I didn't this other stuff that they were handing out then.


Did you think your good will was in any way used by this in your willingness to not see this distinction between Hitlerite totalitarianism, as you put it, and totalitarianism of the left?


I don't know. Hook's attacks on me were based on the assumption that I was just a sellout. I knew that.


That you were actively involved in deceit. Was that what Hook was saying?


Yes. What happened there was this. The whole attack of the Trotskyites at that time in New York … all of us on the fringes of the whole damn thing. … There was a general tendency, The New Republic with Stalin and The Nation with Trotsky; there was always a little balance between them. I just wove along without having to say a lot about it.

When I wrote my Attitudes toward History, I built the whole thing on my formula, the bureaucratization of the imaginative. Trotsky's attack on Stalin was sloganized as an attack against bureaucracy. My assumption was that if you had Trotsky, then you'd have a Trotsky bureaucracy. And that I don't doubt at all. There's no other way to run that sort of enterprise. Anything you know about Trotsky gives you reason to suppose that he would be as much of a slave driver as Stalin ever was.


He was far more sophisticated than Stalin.


Much much more, but it's the same damn thing. If the situation demands such policies, you're going to get them. In Congress, one way to kill a measure is to propose that it be extended to benefit many other groups, too. You can kill it by making it so broad that it becomes unwieldy. Hook thought that I was universalizing the principle of bureaucracy in order to steal it from Trotsky as a special slogan against Stalin … whereas actually I think the way I analyzed the term and corresponding attitudes does apply it honestly in a universal way. There's that wonderful story I quote in my edition of Attitudes published by Hermes. I used to resent that I got it from Lincoln Steffens. But to make up a story as good as that and have it swiped without credit would have been pretty rough!

Steffens, as the story goes, was entering the New York Public Library when a friend of his came stumbling out. The man was obviously in great agitation. "I've found it!" he shouted. And he

clamorously called for Steffens to go with him and listen while he told of his discovery.

Steffens obliged. The two bumped along Forty-Second Street and turned down Fifth Avenue while the friend somewhat incoherently explained.

Gradually, despite his excitement, his words began to make sense—and Steffens realized that his friend had found a plan for saving the world. And the more the outlines of the plan began to emerge, the better the scheme sounded.

Then Steffens became aware that someone was walking along beside them, listening to the account. And finally, turning, he saw a very distinguished-looking gentleman—then, looking again, he realized that it was the devil.


You seem to be interested in my friend's plan.

The Devil:



What do you think of it?

The Devil:

I think it's an excellent plan.


You mean to say you think it would work?

The Devil:

Oh, yes. It would certainly work.


But in that case, how about you? Wouldn't it put you out of a job?

The Devil:

Not in the least. I'll organize it.

That's as great in its way as that wonderful thing I like so much from Veblen: Invention is the mother of necessity. I use that over and over. I love it as though it were the first time I heard it. It's the whole story!


Can you connect bureaucracy with a theory of taxonomy?


My formula: bureaucratization of the imaginative is that you start out with a dream, you organize it, and you're necessarily going to get something else. You're going to get all kinds of unforeseen consequences. The thing builds up a nature of its own. You see, one of my basic laws in this regard is the instrumentalist embarrassment, or paradox, or quandary. I don't know what you call it, paradox? It's the embarrassment of instrumental thinking. That is, you assume that some policy, some instrument designed for a certain purpose, has only the nature that you use it for. That's a great mistake. Everything has a nature of its own. There are all these other potentialities that

go along with it. There's your instrumentalist fallacy, or embarrassment, or paradox, or quandary. I still can't decide what noun to settle on.

The fundamental irony of the whole situation is this: You're anthropomorphizing, proclaiming that King Kilroy was here! But whatever you do, there's something else going on. And that's the scene of the whole show. And some of those unexpected consequences turn out quite well, but others decidedly do not. Of course the biggest ones to turn out lousy are our pollutions. We've built up a nature, but it's a counter-nature, in the sense that it has unforeseen consequences that not nature but only human ingenuity could bring about. Bucky Fuller sees it as irreversible, and he sees it as wonderful. I often see it as both irreversible and wonderful and [points thumb down].


I'd like to turn to the relationship between purpose and motive, which is of course your distinction, and your pentad in general. How does it overlap with a strict linguistic poetics as you find in Jakobson and Barthes? If you were to map your pentad of linguistic force on top of structural linguistics, what would survive? Are there direct points between these two systems?


I've never worked with Jakobson enough to make a decision on that. I don't really know. The terms themselves are really questions rather than answers and someone else might want to define the situation differently. All I say is, however you do define it, implicit in the algebra of it, are certain ways in which the agent will react, will be motivated by the scene, and so on. And then the motivation will be of a different sort depending upon the scope, or circumference of one's terms, if the scene has a god. My analysis of the pentad was a way of sharpening up what's going on in a work that's already written.


A hermeneutic tool, an interpretive tool?


Yes. It makes me understand the musculature of the work. That's what you look for in a work. It tells me what's there. The theory of my pentad (or hexad) tells me what kinds of questions to ask of a work and by inspecting the work I enable it to give me the answers, not just by precept, but by example. If I look at a work: What's the scene/act ratio in there? You want this guy to love that one; well, all right, I'll look to see how the work proceeds to make you do that. I found this a good way of

working with students. If they wanted to appreciate a work, I found such terms for motivation a good way to start asking about the work's style and structure, especially in the case of classical structure. For one can use classical structures as benchmarks without necessarily demanding that there be no departures from such structures.


Do you anchor down the pentad with other points of epistemological inference such that it's not, to use your expression, "a terminological screen" unto itself but a screen compatible with other systems?


Maybe I can do it. I was hearing a fellow on Cavett's show this morning, an anthropologist, McGuiness. He was talking about the Eskimo situation in Alaska. They are just about destroyed. They're drunk all the time, and they can't do a thing. He got caught in a little town where there were only two mechanics who could fix his car, and they were both stewed. The oil companies move in there, give them all money, and all they do with it is drink.

Theirs was originally a survival culture: They had to go out and get those whales. That's what they had to do. Now the whole meaning of such a livelihood is lost. There's a moral in that situation; in a survival culture you had to do things a certain way. Now people go out and run up and down the road to keep in good condition. But in primitive cultures the conditions keep the natives in good condition. They did what they had to do.


Eskimos don't jog.


Yes. You do philosophy. it's a moral act. But by God, if civilization were accurate, we'd do it as a necessary act! The fundamental question in this matter of counter-nature, it seems to be, is: How much of our culture is based on physical necessities? What happens to those necessities? The country was built on necessity. I had it as far back as Permanence and Change. It dealt with the rational and irrational, and I said the trouble with that way of lining things up is: A whole lot of things happen that don't fit either of the two categories. How about methodical? Your stomach! It has a method of digesting. A tremendous amount of culture is based on this methodical business of fitting into nature. How far does that go?


This goes back to your program in Counter-Statement. What do you do in the face of overproduction? That's never been dealt

with. We just go through periodic crises. There's never been an introduction of any dramatistic critique of production.


And I think it's just quite possible that it is a bigger job than we can handle. I don't know. Because it does require so much ethics. There's too much ethics needed to run a state. If I have to go out and jog and stuff like that in order to keep from falling apart …


Has there been anywhere where the introduction of ethics is a brake on production?


Apparently in the Hawaiian culture, originally, they did a lot of it by simply swimming so much and enjoying the water: Fishing!


Can we get back to the point of the exchangeability of systems where common points knit together to reproduce a reinforced episteme … a reinforced mode of knowing where one system overlaps the other to magnify it … and how your pentad fits into any system you wish to draw on, which is separate from it, even alien to it, but which fits it. If it's not structural linguistics, what is it?

For example, I see your work in [Erving] Goffman skeletally, especially in the whole issue of ritual interaction: as one-to-one sequences of behavior, the idea of scenic change among strangers, relations to intimacy and how intimacy relates to ritual interaction. This all comes from your pentad.


You see the original formula I used, the medieval formula: quis? quid? ubi? quibus auxillis? cur? quo modo? quando? is a hexameter line. Dick McKeon had not noticed that himself. If the terms are put in exactly that order, they make a line of verse in classical Latin prosody. I cheated in a way when I worked with it as a pentad, and I always think that I did it as a pentad because I had only five children. If I'd had six …


If you'd had nine!


Oh God! Eaneads, that goes back to …




No, the whole business that I worked on with that is. … My "dramatism" article in The International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences is classed under "Interactionism." I notice that Gregory [Bateson] didn't get in there.


I don't see you as a social scientist. I see you as more than a social scientist.


It's one field I do decidedly work with. Permanence and Change has a lot of sociology in it.


But weren't you rebounding from a kind of naive Marxism in that book?


You know what I was rebounding from? This is a drastic confession. You wouldn't believe this. There's an awful lot of that book that was really secularizing what I learned as a Christian Scientist. All this psychogenic illness stuff … there's no other secular book in the world where you find so much of that published at that time. I got that from Mary Baker G. Eddy, and I secularized it!


That's a revelation. I would never have guessed that overlap.


But the point I started with: quis? quid? ubi? etcetera … "Who?" "What?" "By what means?" … the way I put them in the book originally: "what" was "act," "who" was "agent," "why" was "purpose" … I worked them all out that way. I had "by what means" for "agency," and I cheated in this way: If I say that "he did this," for example, "He built this with a hammer with alacrity, with good will," I've used "agency" in two ways, one literal, one figurative. I put "how" and "by what means" together; and what I did in making it a hexad was to make a difference between the two.

It really is an improvement. "How" is your attitude, and "by what means" is your instrument. I'll tell you the ultimate irony I found out. It was no wise crack in this five-term business. I was writing that book A Grammar of Motives. The book had been accepted and was finished. I started teaching at Bennington, then I holed up in Andover for the winter.

All I had to do was verify a few references here and there. But I started rewriting it! Even to the extent of changing the order. There's no one order required for a book of that sort. I could even have arranged them alphabetically, an order I have used on other occasions. But if you do write them up in a given order, all sorts of internal readjustments turn up. I was out here for the winter. I had a high chair and to keep in trim, I put my

typewriter on that, and wrote standing up. The two boys were playing on the floor around me. In some places the snow was up to the roof in drifts.

Then one day I discovered that I couldn't go on with the revising. (Incidentally I realized later that all this time I'd been standing on one foot, with my other hooked on a chair.) I'd gone through three terms, I had two left: "agency" and "purpose." But for the next step a whole new kind of problem turned up. There were two ways to go. If I went one of those ways, the style of the book turned into a "Dear Diary" sort of thing. And literally if I went that way, I felt as though things would dissolve into a sizzle, like an Alka-Seltzer tablet. The feeling was intolerable. But if I went the other way it was as though my arms were bound tight to my sides, and that was equally intolerable. Both impressions were as near to hallucination as they could be without being so actually. They weren't just metaphors.

I stopped writing and started taking notes on my dreams. When writing these notes, of a sudden I remembered a letter in which I had referred to my children as my "five terms." And that was the problem. I had begun transforming those abstract terms into personalities. If I went more fully in that direction the book would turn into a sizzle. But if I kept them as abstract as the original plan of the book demanded, I'd be as bound as if in a straight-jacket.

For instance, I had originally begun with "Act." In the revised version, I shifted that to third. And my third daughter was the stage-struck one. Thus the tendency toward the personalizing of the terms had begun to make claims as far back as that. But when I got to "Agency," for my fourth section, this shift began to manifest itself intensely.

My elder son, Butchie, was the ideal person for that term. He's the great instrumentalist, exceptionally competent when dealing with machinery, where I'm at my worst. This fits Emerson's idea of "compensation." In our family, he's the great gadgeteer. We all rely on his ability as a fixer. When he was a little kid, he designed a whole plumbing system for this house before we had any such facilities. It was a marvel of economic efficiency. The water would come from the old pump out there in the yard, go through the heating system, the kitchen and the

bathroom, and be drained off through a pipe that went back into the cistern that it had been pumped out of.


It sounds like Rube Goldberg.


That's real efficiency for you! And the instrumentalist term, "Agency," was pressing to become Butchie in a big way, with everything becoming a fizzle if it did, and a straight-jacket if it didn't. As soon as I discovered what I was up against, I knew what I had to cancel and redirect—and why. Stanley Hyman had come to town, and he was staging a two-day drunk party in New York. I went, stayed up all night drinking and talking. I would talk to anyone as long as he would stand it, then I'd talk to another. When I came home I was talked out. While leaving the terms in their "personal" order, I could now otherwise give them their proper abstractness, and the pattern is better with "how," quo modo, as attitude.


It serves the laws of symmetry?


Oh yes, but the point I started to tell you: In this article on "dramatism," I'm talking about my notion of this antithetical element, what I call "congregation by segregation." You get together by all being against the same thing: It's us against them. You find that every system has one of these twists in there somewhere. It's not necessarily that one, but there's always the temptation for that one to get in. In the Christian system, Jesus is the victim. Here the issue is technology, where everything is positive, free, and supposedly good. We find that the victim is the country itself, the nation.


The soil.


Fifty thousand dump heaps now. Victimage is coming back on us now. It's the most efficiently victimizing system that was ever built!


The role of the victim is placed in the future.


You get your freedom, though. Everyone of these guys who made millions is for freedom, while victimizing the structure. I get around to a notion like this: Abolitionism is a falsity. If my theory is correct, I can only believe in transformations. The whole issue gets down now to a distinction between implicit and explicit: an institution that is explicit over in one culture (thinking in terms of comparative cultures) is implicit in anotherd

culture, or vice versa. In other words, you ask yourself how some previous system is transformed. In older systems you had your scapegoat actually, formally expressed, explicitly there. In this system it isn't named at all, yet you have the biggest scapegoat mechanism in history. Here is the straight, assertive, do-as-you-will system, and here is the greatest victimage principle, but it is moved over into the victimizing of the economy itself.


There were many forewarnings of this. We can't say we weren't warned.


Right. I have to start on this basis: I'm defining us as the symbolusing animal, and I'm saying the resources of symbolism have always been the same. You can get them transformed, not eliminated. Marx said, at the time of the bourgeois revolution, you weren't abolishing slavery; you were getting wage slavery. You transformed slavery, you didn't abolish it.

When a culture marked by a more primitive technology confronts a civilization marked by a high development of technology, the more primitive one (like the Eskimos in Alaska) collapses rather than undergoing transformations.


Could we discuss why they couldn't transform it? Is that linguistic?


That's a big feature of it. But as the fellow on the Cavett show said, it's a survival culture in the strictest sense. You give them some money, and money destroys them. It wasn't a money culture at all; it was a survival culture.


But why does money necessarily destroy them? Why couldn't the culture assert itself in such a way that something that wasn't it could destroy it? If they had no history with money, how was it allowed to enter? Clearly we're talking about something above the culture.


If you don't go out and hunt those whales as necessity, then you should do it like jogging. Money makes it ethical as an "ought," while before it was ethical as a "must." There are two kinds of ethics involved. The word means custom. But there are two kinds of customs. One means that you've got to do it, the other means that you ought to do it. That's a big difference. And the more strain you put on the "ought" kind of ethics, the tougher

things are. The more of the culture that just grows out of the necessity of living, the better off you are. It just takes too much conscientiousness to make an adjustment of that sort.


The Eskimo culture never thought in terms of sheer survival. Sheer survival was always granted. It was an assumption that was central within the culture.


They didn't have to see it in terms of anything. As this fellow said, they have thirty-seven words for snow but no word for love. They got along all right without it.


Love in the snow, perhaps. On the way here we were talking a little bit about you and Charles Pierce, his trinity-like structure versus your pentad, the five and the three, or as you say now your hexad, the six and the three. How do you draw our five, or six, from Pierce's three? Are you familiar with his terms for conceiving the world as a continuity? Can you place this in reference to your scene/act ratio? The physical universe displays an undetermined variety and spontaneity for Pierce initially.


Well the fundamental notion I have … the way I cut all the corners of my whole pedantic hexadic process is this: I cut all down to these three things: You've got equations (this equals that); you've got implications (if this, then that); you've got transformations (from this, to that). Give me language and I can show you; for instance, if you say inside, it implies outside. If you say up, it implies down. If I say, "God our Father," there's my equation. If I say inside, my implication.


Equations, implications, and transformations. I got it. Pierce drags in the concept of love into his three, he does. Love is an element in the triple.


Well, love is in my scheme; love is a personalized word for communication.


Not a generalized?


There's communion in love, shared communion. That's all there is to it.


There is a shared dynamic which is the necessary ground for all meaningful activity, for all perception of continuity in the world. You need love, you need the presence of love, as an active dynamic more than the communion of shared selves.


Desire, if you want to make it a nice word. You need some kind of principle of desire. Spinoza says, "It is of the essence of man to desire." You go after something. Actually, the irony of it is the beauty of it. That's why the world is all good. You see, the world is good because the good is that at which you aim. (That's Aristotle.) You're after something, and so is everything else in the world. Therefore, the rattlesnake has a different idea than you have of good. He thinks it's good to take a shot at you. You may think it's good to take a shot at him. But each of you is aiming at the good. Therefore, good, love, purpose, all the same thing.

[We have purposes as physiological organisms, and purposes as symbol-using animals. We feel hunger as physiological organisms. But our ways with symbol-systems are such that in order to feed, we're much more likely to seek for money wherewith to buy the food than to go directly in search of game. And the indirect route via money engages a realm of obligations and trick appetites far afield from the "natural" routes to food gathering. And our books, all of them themselves far afield from such a direct route between hunger and physiological satiety, allow for such roundabout ways as are reflected in the various philosophic nomenclatures I attempt to characterize in my Grammar of Motives. That's what I meant by talk of putting one term for motives in, turning the crank, and out comes another.]

Sure, sure, sure. Love would be your nice word for purpose. That's all you need. Chance, love, and logic. I'm after something; I rationalize; then luck is whether I hit it or not. That'll fit. That's all you need. It fits into the scheme and maybe I can work with it.


Both Fogarty and Hyman compare you to Richards? I always wondered how you felt about that comparison.


That's all right. I give Richards credit as far back as my Permanence and Change, I got good stuff from Richards, and I said so.


Theory of Literary Criticism?


Yes. That was a good book.


What do you make of The Meaning of Meaning?


I got the most out of the supplement by Malinowski. I found that much more useful for my purposes than any of the rest. I've

been plugging it for years. For some reason they won't give Malinowski credit for that text. I don't know why people were so against him. I never followed that. I find it one of the most suggestive essays I ever read. Even the very things he left out are there in a way.

His whole way of bringing out the texture of language as mere part of a wider act: That is, not symbolism in the sense of this being the word for that, but when you're using symbols as part of a sheerly physical operation, as when you're teaching a kid how to tie his shoes.

He talked about the use of language when the illiterate tribesmen were catching fish, and how they called back and forth to one another. The anecdote seems better and better the more closely you look at it. It's more resonant than he had the slightest intention of making it. Fishers of men, fishers of fish and the initials, in Greek, for "Jesus Christ God Son Savior" spelling in Greek ichthus, the fish. Of course that's out of bounds but anyway:

Here they are, catching fish, completely cooperative, working together in a plot against their victims. Then on the way back the tribesmen have a race. They have several boats, and these collaborators turn their trip back into a competition.

Then when they get back they start telling about it. Here language turns to an out and out narrative. And that moves into the whole business of phatic communion. Whereat you can glimpse how the prowess of speech can develop as sheer art, like all great poetry taking delight in language for its own sake. The text also touches upon the commemorative aspect of language, that is, designs on mummies and such. All these anecdotes are explicitly distinguished from the kind of context involved in a book, which defines its own context. These others don't have the formal structure that a book has.

He's just about got in there the whole range of the relationships between language and nonlinguistic motion. The kind of speech used in the first anecdote involves primitive signs: Everything has got to be what you call it with regard to the names for the instruments they're using and the distinctions that are given. It's a primitively scientific aspect of language. There is the narrative sort; then a ritualistic language around corpses and urns, little magical signs. But although Malinowski says that the

written book is formally self-contained, his own account of such symbolic action gives us ground to suppose that it's only relatively self-contained. No text can be wholly self-contained. That's where the deconstructionist guys are cutting in, on that sort of thing. I want to stop halfway there. Destroy it, yes, if you will. But first let us see it as having the form it does have with its particular kind of beginning, middle, and end.


You had already begun to think about social context and language in Counter-Statement, for example when you demonstrate in your analysis of Hamlet how form can be understood as "the psychology of the audience." I'm interested in the prefigurative movement of Counter-Statement and how that is the foundation of your work.


Some students who have worked on my stuff in general have commented on how much of it is already there in germ in Counter-Statement. I started from poetry and drama whereas most of such speculation starts from questions of truth and falsity, problems of knowledge. I started with other words for beauty. The first word I threw out was beauty; but I have my equivalents, involving strategies designed to induce cooperation. The big change in my life was when I wrote those two essays, "Psychology and Form" and "The Poetic Process" in Counter-Statement. I intended to round things out with a third, "Beauty and the Sublime," but that fell through, and I've been racing around ever since. You'll find little bits of it in The Philosophy of Literary Form, but it never got fully developed. In some respects it involved a quarrel with Kant. Consider his Critique of Judgment. There is no indication that he ever read either Aristotle's Poetics or his Rhetoric. Instead he saw in terms of an "aesthetic," strongly pictorial in its emphasis, in contrast with Aristotle's stress upon action. His whole system is a dramatistic mode of analysis. His formula for God was "pure act," which of course, Aquinas could take over. God as technical equivalent is what it all adds up to.

I claim that the line I got from Aristotle complicates my relation to the Kantian tradition, which builds around not action, but understanding. Aristotle's system was ontological, a theory of being (being as an act). Kant's was epistemological, rooted in a problem of knowledge. That's where I get my

distinction between a "dramatistic" and a "scientistic" approach to thoughts on the human condition. And what I call the historical heresy, or fallacy, is to see us purely as products of the particular historical period in which we happen to have lived. I have to see us as transforming a universal identity.


So there is continuity of being?


Yes, if we are the symbol-using animal, then I assume that there are certain permanent relations between bodies and symbol systems. The idiom is the same.


How do you distinguish being from knowing? How is knowing, when it's argued to be prior to being, independent of being?


There are lots of subtler systems. I don't even bring up knowing. I just take it for granted.

[I botched the answer there disastrously. In the first place, on going back over my Permanence and Change to write an epilogue for the new edition that University of California Press is publishing, I came to realize how much Kant is operating there. After all, Nietzsche is an offshoot of Kant, and the middle section of the book is wholly in that groove. The knowing-and-being issue figures this way: My investment in the negative led me to distinguish between "propositional" and "hortatory" kinds. The first, the scientistic (knowledge) kind: is/is not—the second, the dramatistic kind: do/do not. The dramatistic route to knowledge is thus: (a) one acts; (b) in acting, one encounters the resistance to one's purpose; (c) one learns by suffering the punishment dealt by such resistances. There is a sheerly sensory ("aesthetic") route to knowledge, as when one happens to touch something that is hot, and one "instinctively" withdraws the hand. Kant's first Critique features the is/is not negative of science (a realm of "sensation" and "understanding"). The second Critique (his ethics) properly features the do/do not negative ("ideas of reason"), along with a stylistic strategy whereby his "categorical imperative" presents the don't-be-unjust in the accents of do-be-just. The third Critique involves a twist whereby he goes from the "Aesthetic" in the sense of the physiological sensory to the "Aesthetic" in the sense of artistic. Sensation is not purpose; it's purveying information that will help a given organism behave as to carry out its "purpose" (or "drive"). But that's a practical ("utilitarian") function. "Pure" art ("The Aesthetic" to perfection) is antithetical to the "practical." So Kant's epistemological (as vs. the Aristotelian Poetic's ontological approach to these matters) ends us with

the formula for the artistically aesthetic: "purposiveness without purpose." And that could add up to: Artistic sensations for their own sake. And that's far from the ways of Aristotle on the poetics of imitation. And at least I don't have to tell you how Kantian epistemology culminates in " nonobjective" art. History has proved it.]


I've never read Kuhn's book on scientific paradigms. He is stressing more the particular scientific structure, not the general orientation that Permanence and Change builds around.


In fact, he used paradigm very strictly himself. He warns against less than strict use, a more symbolic interpretation of the concept of paradigm.


My concept of orientation would be a symbolic paradigm in that sense. The whole background.


Kuhn would agree. The paradigm for Kuhn is what the ideas are drawn from, not the idea itself, what grounds the logos.


Science is much different, though. You have a specific paradigm.


It's evidential. There's a body of evidence that corresponds.


Your notion of orientation is almost like Gramsci's notion of hegemony. Things by which we live, proverbs, the way you see my body, all kinds of things built into your expectations.


That's it. I just slapped this word in there. First I used orientation, then ideology. I began to ask myself what did I have in mind? Just anything: superstition, prejudices, hopes … completely unformed. You're really talking about nothing specific. It certainly is a quality X you're discussing. It's something like the topics in Aristotle's Rhetoric. He's talking about certain specific judgments. His theory of topics amounts to what, in modern sociology, you'd call values. That is, he tells you what to say if you want someone to like someone, or to form a policy, what to say if you want someone to dislike someone or be against a policy. The things he's telling you to say are the things that represent the kinds of things people think are good and bad, desirable or undesirable, the promissory and the admonitory, in that particular society. But his terms are so highly generalized that they would apply to other systems. He's not telling what the particulars are. He's using a level of

generalization whereby you could analyze symbolism in general. For instance, Aristotle might say that "a good reputation" is one component of happiness. But that would be true of all societies. But societies would differ as to just what is a good reputation. Sociologists could get insight into "values" when reading the Rhetoric from that point of view.


I'm interested in the whole situation of dependency of the child and how language is generated from dependency, and how tied to Augustine's view of things it is.


I finally got my formula down to the basic statement of the case: Bodies that learn language. I claim this statement is everything you need to explain human motives, human relations: Bodies that learn language.


You use the verb learn as key?


Yes, you start in infancy, you see, in speechlessness. You learn speech in two maximum conditions of infancy arising out of speechlessness, infancy literally, and maximum immaturity The whole nature of word magic comes from learning it then. That gives me three loci of motives: motives as supplied by the body, motives that come in language, and motives that come in learning language. But the fourth locus comes from the development of tools that language makes possible.


Robinson Crusoe proved that he was human not when he started transforming the island, but when he started keeping his diary.


The diary is a form of communication, not just an attitude to self. The fundamental thing is that language sharpens the attention making it more likely that, when you have invented something you'll recognize what you have done. And language is the kind of medium that enables you to tell others what you have done. Everything from then on we can deduce from these four loci of motives, the fourth becoming the realm of highly developed technology, which is building the man-made realm of counter-nature, with its attendant realm of pollution.


There are two imaginations of that speechlessness: one is the moving, bumping confusion with no names for anything. And the other, Suzanne Langer did a lot with it, says that before

speech things are too particular. Everything is concrete. Everything is so bursting with quiditas we can't think. So that words give us not particularity but generalization.


I work out two aspects of speech. One I call the objective triad (the thing, its image, and the word for it). The other I call the contextual triad (situations, processes, relationships) which fits in with the Spinozistic critique of substance as treated in his Ethics. A substance having been defined as "that which is conceived by itself," he says there is no such individual entity. You can't conceive of a single thing by itself. The only thing you can conceive of by itself is everything. I salute that passage in T. S. Eliot's doctoral thesis where he says that objects only exist when you have language. It's quoted on page 61 of my Language as Symbolic Action. I think the issue of what you want to call that, the thing Langer is talking about, is obviously the stage where the things just fit as part of the environment.


They haven't been outlined by a name?


Take representative painting. There you realize that the painting is the name. For example, a Vermeer: a little bit of white coming through a window, a table, and a chair. The whole thing is the equivalent of the image of the name. You feel that so much in Vermeer, that the whole thing is it! It's not just a picture of one thing, but the whole thing is the thing. So that painting has something of the quality of the Spinozistic, which might be the equivalent of what Langer is talking about. I touch on the matter in my articles on Bateson. His notion of the "unit of survival" has very good features in it because it does bring out the importance of the environment. But I argue that this kind of unit is the individual body. The environment is needed, but the body. …


Bateson includes the loop.


I use a distinction from a book by Charles A. Perry: Towards a Dimensional Realism. The distinction is between "a part of" and "apart from," which I think is absolutely astonishing. It's a little shift between something being a part of something and apart from something. I work with my notion of the body as the principle of individuation. At parturition, you become separate. You're a part of the situation, but apart from it in the sense that your pleasures and your pains are immediately yours and no one

else's. Immediate sensation is unique. Each individual body has this quality: The difference between feeling your own pain, and being sorry for somebody else's pain.


That's the relationship between sense and empathy.


That's an immediate distinction. Whether it's my bellyache or your bellyache. That's an absolute distinction dividing you from me. I secularize Aquinas's principle of individuation. You see, he takes it that matter is the principle of individuation, and my equivalent of "matter" is "motion." I'm saying that the body as a body is just in the realm of motion, and the motions of that body are such, the centrality of its nervous system is such as to make such pleasures and pains one's own and nobody else's.


But it's a principle you trembled on the edge of violating or transcending. I was looking at the end of A Rhetoric of Motives where you talk about a state of "all the nerves attitudinally glowing … the state of radical passivity and incipience at which there is no inhibition." You say just before that a kind of knowledge that comes from a mystic perception is as much a kind of knowledge as the taste of a new fruit. Why do so many of those transcendences involve a sense of loss of individuation? Isn't that just the point where my bellyache and your bellyache begin to blur? All those descriptions you glean from William James's talk about a sense of loss of border. …


Well, you've got two principles all the way through. Begin, say, with "private property." On a purely physiological level, "private property" is my stake as against your stake. If I own X amount of stock, that's private property in the other sense, the symbolic sense. Because of language you learn all your identity as a social animal, family relationships and so on. You get all kinds. I remember that line when we were kids in school, swiped from Yale:

Bala Boola Bala Boola
Bala Boola Bala Boola
On to Victory, On to Victory
For God and Country
And Pittsburgh High.

Three great identifications! I'm a very strict orthodox theologian. I agree with Saint Paul: "Faith comes from hearing."

You can't have religious doctrine unless somebody tells it to you. Theology is a function of language. If you want to say that a worm is feeling wonderful, is in heaven already, go ahead. If you want to call that heaven, okay, but it couldn't have a doctrine. It couldn't have a word for God, it could only be with God. I think it all fits together pretty well. I met Maritain once. I was asking him about a speculation of mine based on Sherrington's notion that the body is really under a bunch of controls, so therefore, in the ultimate sense, you are really fighting yourself all the time. Then I thought it would be possible if you had this sheer attitude rather than actually moving about by controls. Then all could go on all at once on that level. That might account for this sense of unity. Often it does seem like a basic physiological feeling. I suggested that the mystic's sense of unity might operate on that bodily level. But Maritain said. " Maybe Protestant mystics!" That was a good wisecrack.


Chomsky's people would argue you're not learning language, but that the organ of language is merely growing, like all your other organs.


Well, the organ may be growing.


Clearly the organ must grow in a context that nurtures the "organ." It's not learning in Piaget's sense.


My whole distinction is … this is the way I handle consciousness and mind. I make a distinction of this sort in my haggling with the behaviorists. (I go along with them so much that I have to make a basic distinction between their notions and mine.) I have to make an absolute distinction between nonsymbolic motion and symbolic action. They treat the two realms simply as a difference in degree and not in kind. They want to throw out consciousness. I deal with consciousness this way: All the time, even in the world of inanimate nature, just physical nature, you have things making discriminations. Water is liquid unless the temperature changes. Below thirty-two degrees it becomes a solid, ice. At the upper end, it becomes gas, steam. Nature herself makes these discriminations. At this moment, in our bodies every little cell is discriminating after its biological fashion. But we're unconscious of all that. We're even unconscious of how we're conscious. Discriminations are going on all the time. We're more than ninety-nine percent

unconscious. But mind is the genetically endowed ability, the physiologically endowed ability, to learn an arbitrary conventional symbol system such as a "natural" language. I call that mind. Animals don't have that, so far as we know. In that sense, Helen Keller had a "mind," even if she hadn't had a chance to crack the code by realizing that her helper's pressure on her hand under water was spelling the word "water." When she got that idea, a whole world opened up for her. She got the idea. She had a marvelous mind to begin with. But sensory privations such as she had can prevent such developments. A person so deprived can become a wolf child. And after a certain number of years one can't learn a language even if one didn't have her sensory privations.


So mind in that sense is linked with the organism? The physiology of the organism.


I give a definition that mind is the ability to learn a language, then the development …


But that ability is only emergent at a certain stage in the organism's development. At another stage it would not emerge. So it's not independent of the organism. …


You learn language when you have such limited resources. For instance, when an infant first starts to learn a language, it can do about three things: It can suck, it can cry, and it can thrash around. It only does those three things.


It's all you need.


But later on you've got lots of things to do. These animals in Skinner's boxes learn because they have so few things they can do. If a human animal is adult enough to have a lot of things it can do, it can't learn language. Language is an astoundingly ingenious medium. But the infant can begin learning it because it is still so stupid. It itself paces the job.


Do you distinguish stages in the formative ground of symbolic action, and how then do you locate them in relation to the acquisition of language? For some, the psychoanalytic model suggests how. Lacan, for example, dis