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Bust of Kenneth Burke
Photograph by Richard Ackley: Kenneth Burke in 1991

A bronze bust of Kenneth Burke was a gift in 1991 to the University Libraries from Virginia and Don Burks and Marion and George Molnar. Virginia Burks, the sculptor and a personal friend of Burke, worked from life to fashion an extraordinary portrait that captures his protean energy and vitality.

The title plaque includes Burke's choice of words: ad bellum purificandum ("towards the purification of war") which is the motto of Burke's book A Grammar of Motives and a goal of all of his works. After Burke's death in 1993 at the age of ninety-six, the sculptor added the death date and the Latin inscription nostrae dies mortis, meaning "day of our death," to the base of the bust

Kenneth Burke's words and personality are rather more linked than many had the opportunity to observe when he was alive. Perhaps this monumental bust of his great head--at once impish, friendly, and demonic--may help to bridge the gap between the man and his ideas. We are happy to have it installed in the Rare Books Room, near Burke's correspondence.