Kenneth Burke's New Rhetoric Kenneth Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Burke had a "puissant sense of the potency and efficiency of the word," Schwartz goes on (Schwartz 1966), which meant that man reveals his "symbolizing capacity through language."

The ceremony continues, with some spiritually appropriate remarks offered by the clergy in charge. Sometimes, the bride and groom write the script from which the clergy will read. And often, the bride and the groom write their own personalized vows. But in many cases, the clergy asks the groom if he takes this woman to be his wife, and does he promise " love, honor, cherish and protect her, forsaking all others and holding only unto her?" The groom of course answers "I do." And then the same litany is repeated by the bride prior to the traditional exchange of rings. "Wedding rings are an outward and visible sign of an inward spiritual grace and the unbroken circle of love, signifying to all the union of this man and this woman in marriage." The new rhetoric in this instance is also that everyone in the audience knows that when a person is seen in public with a gold ring, that means the person is married, and hence, not available for flirting or mating.

Burke said that the use of language produces "a desired impression upon the hearer or reader," and that rhetoric is used not in persuasion so much as in identification. The audience doesn't need to be persuaded that this couple is serious about their vows; people cry at weddings because they are so sweet, and so romantic. And sentiment runs high because (especially for women) they identify with the bride and groom; either they were once married and the language therefore takes them back to a brighter, happier day, when idealism and love really meant something. or, the language as the rings are exchanged allows the men and women in the congregation to dream of one day when they too will be exchanging vows.

Every little girl wants to have a lovely wedding, and the language (rhetoric) from a wedding is warm, wonderfully sincere, and gives off a good feeling about the future. Very often scripture is read by the officiating clergy member; a popular passage is from Corinthians; "Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or does not demand it's own not irritable or touchy..." And this is a way for the clergy to warn the couple that they will no doubt be challenged by emotions that can be hurtful unless they are patient and understanding with one another.

That language is not intended just for the couple getting married, if one takes Burke's new rhetoric seriously. Everyone in the audience hearing the words of the service is in effect identifying with the ceremony. A man and a woman, neighbors of the bride, came to the wedding out of loyalty and to be part of a fun celebration. But when they hear the pastor or rabbi or priest saying, "If you love someone, you will be loyal to them no matter what the will always believe in them...and stand your ground in defending them..." that language becomes personal and they identify with it rather than being persuaded that it is the right thing for a new couple to embrace.

In a very real way, a wedding is a chance for other married couples in attendance to renew their own vows. While the bride and groom exchange words and promises, the married couple in the back row may join their hands, and she may squeeze his hand; whether the bride is wearing white or blue, whether the groom is nervous or bold as he says "I do," the theme of what is being said out loud rings poignantly in the ears and minds of all who are participating and listening.

When the bride throws her bouquet at the end of the ceremony, she is speaking in symbolic language to the young unmarried woman who catches it - next, it's your turn! Not just to get married, but also to find the right man who can hold her, love her, be faithful to her and cherish her - all the things that the script of the wedding has admonished the newlyweds to be faithful to. The cutting of the cake, the first dance at the reception, those two are parts of the new rhetoric, because they are statements that convey a message through symbolism, the language of identification with others and with tradition.

Works Cited

Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1950.

Foss, Sonja, Karen Foss, and Robert Trapp (1991). "Introduction to Kenneth Burke."

From Contemporary Perspectives on Rhetoric. 2nd edition. Waveland. Retrieved 23 Nov 2007 at

Hochmuth, Marie. "Kenneth Burke and the 'New Rhetoric'." The Quarterly Journal of Speech. (2003): 133-144. Retrieved 5 Dec. 2007 at

Schwartz, Joseph. "Kenneth Burke, Aristotle, and the Future of Rhetoric." College

Composition and Communication 17.5 (1966): 210-216

Simmons, Michael. (2001). "Kenneth Burke: Symbolic Action." Colorado State. Retrieved 23 Nov 2007 at

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