You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
June 28, 2005
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· Wherein I Briefly Invoke Kenneth Burke's Take on Political Style ·
I can assure you that Chris is an intelligent, courageous, honorable young man, serving us all well. Doubly ready not only by education but by training, he may possess, indeed, academically and militarily, even more than our President, so I'm looking forward to what our Commander in Chief will have to say on TV tonight.
President Bush is now facing some tough political realities himself, some represented historically in a chart I've included here — all widely cited from the Wall Street Journal just before our 2003 invasion:
This is by way of preparation today for my main theme. Turning on Kenneth Burke's The Philosophy of Literary Form (1941), it adduces but one chapter, "Types of Meaning: Semantic and Poetic Meaning," distinguishing between what we'd perhaps call "denotation" and "connotation." At its heart is a clear grasp of what, citing Arnold Toynbee, Burke calls "withdrawal," a "transition from a system of social values grown unfit for the situation they would encompass, to a new order of values felt, correctly or not, to be a more scrupulous fit for the situation."
Although I can't begin to mark the fullness of Burke's point — turning on yet another distinction between our going "through" and "around" such structures — I can quote, at least, from one stylishly Burkean passage:
I'll be eager to see which tone Mr. Bush — or his several political speech writers — will take with us tonight.
Besides Chris, I have some millions of other Americans also in mind.
Mr. Bush now having delivered himself of his speech, I'll let you assess his own political style.Permalink
Especially apt to this judicial task is Eliot Cohen's A Hawk Questions Himself as His Son Goes to War.
The rising, concluding eloquence of his two last paragraphs is even more apt to Burke's demand for a "cult of style."
"O, what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive."
The speech reminds me of a late night info-commercial. I believe Mr Bush wants me to buy something.
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