One of my favorite rhetorical theorists, Kenneth Burke has done wonders for communication. As I said earlier, one of Burke’s most noted theories is dramatism. Dramatism is a metaphor introduced by 20th-century rhetorician Kenneth Burke to describe his critical method. Dramatism. 1. Dramatism; 2. Introduced by rhetorician Kenneth Burke, made its way into the field of communication in the early ‘s.

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Dramatisman interpretive communication studies theory, was developed by Kenneth Burke as a tool for analyzing human relationships.

In ksnneth theory, our lives are as if on a stage, setting us individuals as actors on that stage as a way to understand human motives and relations. As cited in A Note on Burke on “Motive”, bur,e author recognized the importance of “motive” in Burke’s work.

To understand people’s movement and intentions, the theorist sets up the Five Dramatistic Drramatism strategy for viewing life, not as life itself, [5] by comparing each social unit involved in human activities bjrke five elements of drama — act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose, [6] to answer the empirical question of how persons explain their actions, [2] and to find the ultimate motivations of human activities.

Why use “drama” as the metaphor? According to West, [7] there are three basic reasons that drama is a useful metaphor to the idea of Dramatism. It is possible because Burke believes that Drama has recognizable genres. Humans use language in patterned discourses, and texts move us with recurring patterns underlying those texts. Language strategies are central to Burke’s dramatistic approach. Because of the complexity and extension drramatism Burke’s thinking, it is difficult to label the ontology behind his theory.

However, some basic assumptions can still be extracted to support the understanding of dramatism. It reveals the nuances and complications of language as symbolic action, which in turn, opens up our perspective.

In the edition of GrammarBurke added a new element, Attitude, thereby making the pentad a hexad. David Ling used the pentad elements to evaluate Kennet Edward Kennedy’s speech in to persuade the audiences to see him as a victim of his family curse instead of dramafism one who should be responsible for an accident which caused death of a woman. From Kennedy’s statement, Ling recognized several elements from the pentad: He pivoted the fact and described it as a circumstance that he couldn’t control.

Dramatistic ratios is the “proportions of one element relative to another in the Dramatism Pentad”, [7] which can be used to find the dominant element in the interaction. Any complete statement about motives will offer some kind of answers to the five questions above.

This is called a ratioand there are ten possible ratios within the Pentad. Burke maintained that analyzing the ratios of a speaker’s presentation would expose the resources of ambiguity people might exploit to interpret complex problems. When engaged in a dramatistic study, he notes, “the basic unit of action would be defined as ‘the human body in conscious or purposive motion'”, which is an agent acting in a situation.

Identification is the basic function of sociality, using both positive and negative associations. When there is overlap between two people in terms of their substance, they have identification. Examining Aristotle’s principles of rhetoric, Burke points out that the definition of the “old rhetoric ” is, in essence, persuasion. In comparison with “old” rhetoric, which stresses on deliberate design, “new” rhetoric may include partially “unconscious” factors in its appeal.

Burke’s concept of new rhetoric has also been expanded in various academic disciplines. Burke’s new rhetoric has also been used to understand the women’s equality movementspecifically in regards to the education of women and sharing of knowledge through print media. Academic Amlong deconstructed print medias of the s addressing human rights as an aspect of educating women about the women’s rights movement.

Burke asserts that all things have substance, which he defines as the general nature of something.


Identification is a recognized common ground between two people’s substances, regarding physical characteristics, talents, occupation, experiences, personality, beliefs, and attitudes. The more substance two people share, the greater the identification. Sometimes the speaker tries to falsely identify with the audience, which results in homophily for the audience. Homophily is the perceived similarity between speaker and listener.

For example, the use of the people rather than the worker would more clearly tap into the lower ubrke values of the audience the movement was trying to reach. Burke recognizes that identification rests on both unity and division, since no one’s substance can completely overlap with others.

Individuals are “both joined and separated”. Identification can be increased by the process of consubstantiation, which refers to bridging kennethh between two people. Rhetoric bukre needed in this process to build unity. According to Burke, Guilt Redemption is considered the plot drqmatism all human drama, or the root of all rhetoric.

He defined the “guilt” as “the theological doctrine of Original Sin” [28] And as cited from Littlejohn, Burke sees guilt as “all-purpose word for any feeling of tension within a person—anxiety, embarrassment, self-hatred, disgust and the like” [29]. In this perspective, Burke concluded that the ultimate vramatism of man is to purge oneself of one’s sense of guilt through public speaking. The term guilt covers tension, anxiety, shame, disgust, embarrassment, and other similar feelings.

Kenneth Burke, Dramatism, the Pentad, and Identification: an Overview

Guilt serves as a motivating factor that drives the human drama. Burke’s cycle refers to the process of feeling guilt and attempting to reduce it, which follows a predictable pattern: Society is a dramatic process in which hierarchy forms structure budke power relationships.

The structure of social hierarchy considered in terms of the communication of superiority, inferiority and equality. We feel guilt as a result of our place in the hierarchy. The negative comes into play when people see their place in the social order and seek to reject menneth. Saying no to the existing order is both a function of our language abilities and evidence of humans as choice makers. Victimage is the way that we try to redeem the guilt.

There are two ways of victimage. The way of turning the guilt into ourselves is called mortification. It is engaged when we apologize or blame ourselves when facing the wrongdoing; the way of turning the guilt to external parties kennwth called scapegoating. According to Burke, there are hurke different types of scapegoating, universal and fractional. In universal scapegoating, the speaker blames everyone for the problem, so the audience associates and even feels sorry for the victim, because it includes themselves.

In fractional scapegoating, the speaker blames a specific group or a specific person for their problems.

This creates a division within the audience. As a result, by people who take action against the villains become heroized because they are confronting evil. This is a confession of guilt by the speaker and a request for forgiveness. Many speakers experience a combination of these two guilt-purging options. The ongoing cycle starts with order.

Dramatism – Wikipedia

The order is the status quo, where everything is right with the world. Then pollution disrupts the order. The pollution is the guilt or sin. Then casuistic stretching allows the guilt to be accepted into the bure. Next, is the guilt, which is the effect of the pollution. After that, is victimage or mortification which purges the guilt.

Finally comes transcendence which is new order, the now status quo. Dramatism provides us a new way to understand people. Burke’s goal is to explain the whole of human experience with symbolic interaction. It is used in a variety of fields. Winterowd suggests writers should present ideas dramatistically,not relying on argument and demonstration alone but grounding their abstractions in the concreteness of what being called as representative anecdotes.

The xramatism anecdote, can be either support or conceptual pivot, and in the case of drama is both support and conceptual pivot. Dwight Macdonald and Ernest Van Den Haag views that popular or “mass”- culture functions not as Scene, as one might ordinarily expect, but as Agency. This Act is accomplished with the “Sub-Agency” of modern buurke technology, the mass media. See Chappaquiddick incident [37] He regards the events surrounding the death of Miss Kopechne as the scene, Kennedy himself as the agent, Kennady’s failure to report the accident in time as act, methods to report as agency, and finds out that the purpose for Kennedy is to fulfill his legal and moral duty.


Another example of dramatism in politics is the use of Burke’s rhetorical interpretations as a tool to understand presentations of terrorism in media. Researchers Gurrionero and Canel highlight the use of Burke’s understanding of motives and identification within the context of the media’s framing of terrorist attacks, saying that the words and symbols used are with specific motives to frame the pentad into the voice that benefits the media and viewers at the expense of the acclaimed terrorists.

Rempel Denise applies dramatism to explore the social networking site MySpace. Another example of applying Dramatism guilt redemption cycle elements in communication field, is the communication crisis of Donald Sterling ‘s scandal.

A leaking private conversation provoked his racist and disparaging statement on African Americans. As Billings, the author of The Dramatistic Implications of Burke’s Guilt Redemption Cycle in the Donald Sterling Communication Crisis recognized and analyzed, that Sterlings act of trying to redeem his guilt was failed because of insufficient scapegoat.

Gregory Clark addressed the pentad to look into the sharing places in kennetb United States. Some researchers, such as Robert Wade Kenny, addressed the use of the Pentad and Dramatism to look into the field of sociology. As Kenny states, that the pentad can be used to examine sociology because, “sociology is predicated on the notion that human action is neither random nor mystical, and this sets up the initial condition necessary for an inquiry into the motivating principles that give rise to social order and disorder.

Burke’s Dramatism has been kehneth great contribute to the communication field, which is praised by many researchers in this area. But there are indeed a lot of critiques on the work too. As Charles Kneupper comments on Burke’s work on this theory, that “i would concur that has been limitations in the application of dramatistic theory The theory of Dramatism is criticized for being too broad in scope because it aims to explain how humans interact with each other using symbols, which been described as a general explanation that is almost has no meaning as some critics believe.

Relatedly, some critique that the theory lacks parsimony, meaning it is dramatis and too large to be kenenth. Other theorists draamtism that Dramatism lacks utility because it leaves out topics of gender and culture.

Dennis Brissett and Charles Edgley examine the utility of dramatism on different levels, which can be categorized as the following dimensions: Dramaturgical perspective is vividly used to analyze human individuality. It views individuality as more a social rather than a psychological phenomenon. The concept of a dramaturgical self was formulated by sociologist Erving Goffman was inspired by the theatre, and also finds roots in relations to Burke’s work.

Some examples of classic research questions on the topic involve how people maximize or minimize the expressiveness, how one stage ideal self, the process of impression-management, etc. For example, Larson and Zemke described the roots of the ideation and patterning of temporal socialization which is drawn from biological rhythms, values and beliefs, work and social commitments, cultural beliefs and engagement in activity.

Motives play a crucial role in social interaction between an acting person and his or her validating audience. Within the dramaturgical frame, people are rationalizing.