‘The Piety of Degradation’: Kenneth Burke, the Bureau of Social Hygiene, and Permanence and Change
Quarterly Journal of Speech, Vol. 90, No. 4, pp. 446-468, 2004
24 Pages Posted: 19 May 2010
Date Written: 2004
Kenneth Burke’s employment with the Bureau of Social Hygiene informed his rhetorical theory in the 1930s. Between 1926 and 1930, Burke researched criminology and drug addiction and ghostwrote a book for Colonel Arthur Woods, Dangerous Drugs. An investigation of archives indicates that this research left its mark on Burke’s Permanence and Change (1935): in particular, Burke’s concept of piety can be understood better in relation to the Bureau of Social Hygiene. An account of Burke’s criminological research shows that piety, as a rhetorical concept, involves both embodied and discursive acts. Because it involves mental and affective factors, piety forms the basis for metabiology.
Keywords: Kenneth Burke, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, identification, piety, metabiology
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