Rhetorical counteraction in Kenneth Burke’s A rhetoric of motives and the war of words

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2 Scopus citations


However esoteric Kenneth Burke’s A Rhetoric of Motives seems at first glance, it remains highly relevant to our contemporary moment. As a philosophy of rhetoric that centers on the nature of human conflict, it helps audiences interpret the vicissitudes of political warfare with greater precision and insight. The value of A Rhetoric of Motives becomes even more apparent in light of its recently discovered second volume, The War of Words. Together, these two volumes offer a novel method of rhetorical counteraction that helps specialist and non-specialist audiences redress the threat of nationalistic war. Burke’s approach to rhetorical counteraction is distinguished by the study of rhetorical devices across history. By approaching these devices systematically, Burke believed he could help his audience reframe their attitude toward evolving political events. The purpose of this article is to present a thorough account of Burke’s method so that it can enrich how we teach and engage in public deliberation today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-399
Number of pages16
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Method
  • Nationalistic warfare
  • Philosophy of rhetoric
  • Rhetorical devices
  • Rhetorical education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education


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