Kenneth Burke papers (Burke 2), 1918-1993, bulk 1957-1988

RBM 6368

Collection Overview

Title:
Kenneth Burke papers (Burke 2)
Dates (Inclusive):
1918-1993
Dates (Inclusive):
1957-1988
Creator:
Kenneth Burke Literary Trust
Abstract:
Kenneth Burke (1897-1993) was a poet, novelist, translator, music reviewer, and short-story writer, but he is most widely known as a philosopher of language. In addition to containing the original letters of Burke’s many correspondents, Burke-2 includes interfiled copies of Burke’s own letters, as well as verse, typescripts, photographs, articles, and newspaper clippings.
Collection Number:
RBM 6368
Size:
25 Linear Feet
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical or Historical Note

Kenneth Duva Burke was born 5 May 1897, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, son of Lillyan May Duva and James Leslie Burke. He attended Ohio State University in 1916 and Columbia University in 1917. In 1918 Burke left Columbia to begin a program of self-study and writing among the avant-garde in Greenwich Village. In the 1920s Burke wrote, edited, translated, and served as a music critic for the well-known Dial Magazine. After publishing a novel and major texts in the 1930s, Burke accepted academic assignments at the New School for Social Research (1937) and the University of Chicago (1938, 1949–1950). In 1943 Burke began his long association with Bennington College, Vermont, where he taught literary theory and criticism. After retiring in 1961, Burke accepted shorter teaching and lecturing engagements at universities across the United States, traveling on “the academic circuit” even into the 1980s. During this time, Burke’s writings came into wider recognition, and he received many honorary doctorates and other awards, among them the Gold Medal for Belles Lettres, Criticism, Essays, from the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1975); and the National Medal for Literature at the American Book Awards (1981). Kenneth Burke lived most of his life, from 1922 until his death in 1993, at his home in Andover, New Jersey. Kenneth Burke wrote a novel, poetry, short stories, translations, social commentary, and literary and music reviews. However, he is most widely known as a philosopher of language whose theories of language have influenced contemporary thought, particularly in areas of rhetoric, literary theory, communication, and cultural studies. Burke’s major works include  Counter-Statement (1931; 2nd ed., 1953, 1968);  Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (1935; 3rd rev. ed. 1984);  Attitudes toward History (2 volumes, 1937; 3rd. rev. ed. 1984);  The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action (1941; 3rd. ed. 1973),  A Grammar of Motives (1945; 2nd ed. 1955, 1969);  A Rhetoric of Motives (1950; 2nd ed. 1955, 1969);  The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology (1961, 1970);  Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method (1966); and  Dramatism and Development (1972). Many of Burke's other writings have been published in various collections. These include:  Book of Moments : Poems 1915-1954 (1955);  On Human Nature : A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967-1984 (2003; William H. Rueckert and Angelo Bonadonna, eds.);  Here & Elsewhere : The Collected Fiction of Kenneth Burke (2005);  Late Poems, 1968-1993 : Attitudinizings Verse-wise, While Fending for One's Selph, and in a Style Somewhat Artificially Colloquial (2005; Julie Whitaker and David Blakesley, eds);  Essays toward a Symbolic of Motives, 1950-1955 (2007; William H. Rueckert, ed.);  Kenneth Burke on Shakespeare (2007; Scott L. Newstok, ed.); and  Equipment for Living : The Literary Reviews of Kenneth Burke (2007; Nathaniel A. Rivers and Ryan P. Weber, eds.).

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Arrangement

Following original order, the collection is arranged chronologically, alphabetically by correspondents’ last names, and chronologically therein. The guide to this collection contains three series: Correspondence, Works, and Photographs. Correspondence consists of two subseries: Correspondence. General; and Correspondence. Family.

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Administrative Information

Copyright Restrictions

Copyright, where it persists, is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Item Title], Kenneth Burke papers (Burke 2), RBM 6368. Special Collections Library, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from the Kenneth Burke Literary Estate in 2005.

Processing Information

Processed by J. M. Sabre

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Related Materials

Related Material

Complementing Burke-2, the earlier portion of Kenneth Burke’s correspondence collection is found in the Kenneth Burke papers, Burke-1 (RBM 2619). Several small collections contain Kenneth Burke’s original letters to Burke-2 correspondents. These collections include the Kenneth Burke letter to Mr. Arrowsmith, 1964 October 1; the Kenneth Burke letters to Charles L. Elkins, and manuscripts (RBM 9168); the Kenneth Burke letters to David Mandel, and manuscript (RBM 9424); the Kenneth Burke postcard to Charles Mann, 1979 June 20 (RBM 9369); the Kenneth Burke letters to William H. Rueckert (RBM 5464); the Kenneth Burke letters to Carol Price Sams, and manuscript (RBM 8648); the Kenneth Burke letters to Henry W. Sams, and manuscripts (RBM 8629); the Kenneth Burke correspondence with Myron Simon; the Kenneth Burke letters to Stanley Weintraub; and the Kenneth Burke correspondence with Robert Wess (RBM 7708). Additional materials documenting Kenneth Burke’s career include the Kenneth Burke Letters to Lily Batterham Burke (RBM 6347), and the largely manuscript collection, the Kenneth Burke papers, Burke-3 (RBM 6369). Burke-3 is also available through interlibrary loan in microfilm.

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Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventories are available in PDF, accessible from the Kenneth Burke papers website, Special Collections Library.

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General note

Burke-2 contains the correspondence collection of language theorist Kenneth Duva Burke, largely from the mid- to late twentieth century. The collection includes the original letters of many well-known correspondents, among them, Malcolm Cowley, Denis Donoghue, Ralph Ellison, Marianne Moore, Howard Nemerov, Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, and James Sibley Watson, Jr. Burke’s interfiled responses complete exchanges and narrate, as well, engaging accounts of Burke’s own life and thought during his late productive period. Some typescripts, photographs, verse, articles, and clippings are also interfiled. As a whole, the collection uniquely documents significant historical and cultural conversations of its time.

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Collection Inventory

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General note

“Correspondence” consists of two subseries: Correspondence. General; and Correspondence. Family.

General note

“Correspondence. General” lists items contained in Kenneth Burke’s general correspondence files. Materials include letters written by Kenneth Burke and his correspondents, along with verse, works, and photographs. Ranging primarily from 1957 to 1988, these files continue Burke’s earlier general correspondence collection, Burke-1. Attesting to Burke’s long and varied friendships many files are ongoing from Burke-1. Among these are his exchanges with his life-long friend, writer Malcolm Cowley, poet Howard Nemerov, and James Sibley Watson, co-editor of the modernist magazine The Dial. Additional notable files include Burke’s interchanges with Denis Donoghue, the Irish literary critic; Stanley Edgar Hyman, the American literary critic; the Burke scholar William Rueckert; and Robert Zachary, Burke’s editor at the University of California Press. Many correspondents reflect not only Burke’s interests in language and literature, but also in politics, sociology, music, and art. Some of these correspondents include Djuna Barnes, Peter Blume, Wayne Booth, Kay Boyle, William Bradley, Norman O. Brown, Louis Calabro, Robert Coates, Hugh Duncan, Ralph Ellison, Daniel Fogarty, Armin Frank, Granville Hicks, Matthew Josephson, Robert Lowell, Richard McKeon, David Mandel, Talcott Parsons, John Crowe Ransom, Charles Roig, William Rueckert, Henry Sams, Harry Slochower, Carl Sprinchorn, Christian Susini, Allen Tate, William Wasserstrom, Rene Wellek, Paul West, and Winslow Wilson. Copies of Burke’s own letters interfiled with those of his correspondents allow researchers to reconstruct exchanges, explore influence, and relate conversations to cultural and intellectual movements. Burke’s letters also offer narratives of his own personal and intellectual life, generally, from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, when he was writing as well as accepting many teaching and lecturing opportunities on the academic circuit. Letters engage themes of his later essays and include reflections on logology, technology, and the environment. Purposeful, as well as sometimes playful, emotional, and humorous, the letters reveal rhetorical mastery of a valued social practice and literary genre.

General note

“Correspondence. Family” lists letters, along with works, photographs, and verse, filed separately by Kenneth Burke as family related. The collection offers a glimpse of some of the talented members of Burke’s family and a view into the ongoing life of his family while he wrote, taught, and lectured. A highlight of the letters includes the opportunity to see Burke in a fatherly role, particularly in the correspondence between Burke and his two sons, J. Anthony Burke and K. Michael Burke. Additional exchanges with his daughters Elspeth Chapin Hart, Eleanor (Happy) Leacock, and France Burke extend the picture, which widens further to include occasional letters from Burke’s grandchildren. Yet another highlight appears in the remarkable letters of Burke’s own father, James Leslie Burke, written to Kenneth and Elizabeth Burke between 1956 and the elder Burke’s death in 1959. Many of the letters also suggest the enlivening family presence of Libby Burke. Her letters to Burke during the summers of 1950 and 1958 (when Burke was teaching at Kenyon College and the School of Letters at Indiana University) offer a rare glimpse into their relationship. Affectionate letters written to her also evoke her warm relations with her sons, Burke’s daughters, and her older sister Rose Batterham Houskeeper. Not always primarily directed to Kenneth Burke, letters in the family correspondence were frequently circulated, sometimes with added notes, and variously addressed to both Kenneth and Libby Burke or to other members of the family.

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General note

“Works” lists largely unique, notable, or unpublished items interfiled with letters in the general and family correspondence files. These materials include manuscripts, art, musical notation, poetry collections, and selected newspaper articles, as well as notes related to research, lectures, and commentary. With some exceptions, the list excludes reprints. Highlights include copies of essays submitted for publication, such as a preface to a new edition of Towards a Better Life (1965) and the epilogue “In Retrospective Prospect” (1981) for  Permanence and Change, 4th revised edition. Several essays appear in the context of lectures from which they were developed, as instanced in, “Formalist Criticism: Its Principles and Limits” (1965); “Archetype and Entelechy” (1971, 1972); and “Theology and Logology” (1979). Also present are a few narratives of the past, for example, from Burke’s early life in Pittsburgh (1973) and teaching at Bennington (filed in 1973), as well as reflective memorial addresses, including ones for Stanley Edgar Hyman (1970), James Sibley Watson (1985), and Matthew Josephson (with an unsent addendum, 1978). Additional highlights include “Ralph Ellison’s Trueblooded Bildungsroman,” Burke’s letter-essay about  Invisible Man (1983); the essay “Sensation, Memory, Imitation/ - and Story” (1981); and an unsent essay, “The Summings-Up” (circa 1978), in which Burke traces the evolution of his writings. Also discoverable are a copy of an initialed musical composition, “Andover” (1976), and a comic self-portrait, “What Fame!! What publicity!!!” (1981). The list also encompasses items authored by Burke’s correspondents. Among these are studies of Burke’s works written by a growing following of scholars (e.g., William Rueckert, Christian Susini, and Robert Wess). Other materials intersected with his interests through family relations, and include poetry and a film scenario by his grandson Harry Chapin (1966), writings by his father James Leslie Burke (filed in 1959), activist materials by his son-in-law James Haughton, and essays by his daughter, anthropologist Eleanor Leacock. Still other materials were sent by friends and colleagues, and include a typescript of the W. P. Ker lecture given by Denis Donoghue at the University of Glasgow (1974); the typescript for the film “Ralph Ellison on Work in Progress,” produced by Robert Hughes (1966); Howard Nemerov’s eulogy for his sister, photographer Diane Arbus (1971); sixteen initialed drawings by artist Carl Sprinchorn (circa 1963-1964, filed in 1967); and a chronology of the life of J. S. Watson and Hildegarde Watson by Hildegarde Watson (1962).

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General note

“Photographs” contains images ranging from snapshots, to news photos, to publicity shots. Interfiled with letters in the general and family correspondence, they show Burke and his correspondents during his later period when he taught and lectured at universities throughout the United States. Many of the images offer glimpses of Burke on the academic circuit. Burke appears at a Shakespeare conference at Washington and Lee University (1968), at the John Crowe Ransom Memorial Lectures at Kenyon College (1975), conversing with Malcolm Cowley at Penn State University (1985), and speaking at Purdue University (1988). Several award ceremonies also are documented, including Burke’s Gold Medal for Humanistic Studies award (11 May 1977), National Medal for Literature, American Book Award (30 April 1981), and Elmer Holmes Bobst Award in Arts and Letters (December 1983). The files also contain a few portraits of Burke at his home in Andover, New Jersey. These include an outdoor snapshot of Burke (1972, likely by Elspeth Chapin Hart), one emerging from Lake Bottom (1972, by Joan Lloyd), and two professional outdoor and indoor photographs of Burke (1982, by Nancy Rica Schiff). Several notable images also capture times Burke spent with family and friends, and include Burke talking animatedly with James Sibley Watson (1972); Robert Zachary and his daughter visiting on a summer evening (1971); Burke with Florence Bowman Riley and her husband at their home (1974); a family gathering (1977 newspaper photograph); and Malcolm Cowley meeting with Burke to select their letters for publication (1983, filed in 1984). Images of Burke are complemented by snapshots enclosed in letters by Burke’s correspondents. Though many are family photographs, especially notable are the many photographs taken by Burke’s friend James Sibley Watson. Showing scenes and people that captured Watson’s interest, the images at times evoked Burke’s comment.

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