Complete Story

TELL, David

Fall 2004, pages 33 - 54

Burke's Encounter with Ransom: Rhetoric and Epistemology in "Four Master Tropes"

ABSTRACT: Between August of 1939 and February of 1942 Kenneth Burke maintained a vigorous correspondence with John Crowe Ransom, the editor of the Kenyon Review. The conversation between the two men delved repeatedly into the intersections of rhetoric and epistemology, and took as its point of departure an influential essay written by Burke and published by Ransom: "Four Master Tropes." In this article, I contextualize "Four Master Tropes" against the author-editor conversation in order to clarify the Burkean relationship between rhetoric and knowledge. I argue that Burke understands rhetoric as a core epistemological practice operative in every discovery of "truth."

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