Surveying the global scene in 1933, Burke wrote in his notes for what would become Permanence and Change, “We are trying to solve cultural problems with the most explosive words in our vocabulary, and we need not be surprised that there are continually occurring frightful accidents which rip out half a continent and maim the lives and bodies of millions.” The step away from these explosive words is, Burke claimed, “the step which [humankind] has never been able to take. Heroism; Jungle authority; acquisition; pugnacity; inspiration; ‘superiority’ . . . this is still at the bottom of our thinking, though [the] situation no longer ‘requires’ it. . . . This is the crux—can we make this change, from which all else would radiate?” In our own historical moment, which so eerily echoes the cultural, political, and technological upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century, Burke’s question remains urgent—and unanswered. Can we make this change?
This theme calls on conference participants to explore the relevance of Burke’s thought and practice for defining, analyzing, or producing the kinds of change that would enable us to transcend or disarm our “explosive words”:
• What cultural problems need to be solved?
• What rhetorical practices cause, cloud, or intensify those problems?
• Where, when, and how does change occur?
• What genres of persuasion and identification encourage or enable change?
• What role do we as teachers, artists, scholars, critics, citizens play in creating change?
Featuring diverse opportunities for engagement with Burke’s enduring relevance, the Eighth Triennial Conference will continue the interdisciplinary tradition of past events, with participation by students and scholars from communication, rhetoric, composition, literary theory and criticism, cultural studies, sociology, technical communication, art, economics, political science, and other disciplines. Thus, in addition to proposals addressing the conference theme, we welcome those that address topics of continuing relevance in Burke studies:
• Burke and his circles
• Archival research in the Burkean corpus
• The meaning and relevance of particular Burkean texts
• Burke in the fields
• The future of Burkean studies
• New applications of Burke’s insights to contemporary issues
Over the course of the conference, a combination of keynote speakers, featured presenters, and seminar leaders will explore the possibilities of and conditions for meaningful change. Keynote speakers, seminars, and seminar leaders will be announced in mid-December, 2010.
Visit the conference website here: http://kbjournal.org/2011conference.