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Transforming Action: Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison Out of the 1930s

Henderson, Clark (2011) Transforming Action: Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison Out of the 1930s. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation connects Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison in the context of a radical 1930s culture through their shared term "action" and explains the prominent appearance of "action" in Invisible Man as a vestige of Ellison's radical beginnings. Chapters clarify the emergence of Burke's and Ellison's writings in the 1930s, cluster appearances of "action" in relation to other key terms, assess political motives, and counter readings and appropriations of their work that ignore, reduce, or redirect such political elements. Attending particularly to Burke's first editions of Permanence and Change and Attitudes toward History, as well as to uncollected writings in the period, the dissertation draws out Burke's "communistic" attitude, commitments to organized politics as a literary and rhetorical critic, and wariness toward American philosophical pragmatism and John Dewey. It traces radical concerns and tropes from Ellison's early writings to drafts of his novel and places Ellison's positive reception of Burke's paper at the third American Writers' Congress in 1939 alongside the influence of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes. The dissertation argues that Burke and Ellison conceived themselves as cultural participants in a project to transform social relations and shows how recent scholarship concerning these writers, especially work seeking to claim them from a neopragmatist perspective, domesticates markers of their 1930s political imaginary.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairBove, Paul A.bove@pitt.eduBOVE
Committee MemberArac,
Committee MemberCondee, Nancycondee@pitt.eduCONDEE
Committee MemberJudy, Ronald A. T.buchnfar@pitt.eduBUCHNFAR
Date: 27 September 2011
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 19 April 2011
Approval Date: 27 September 2011
Submission Date: 5 July 2011
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ralph Ellison; John Dewey; Kenneth Burke
Other ID:, etd-07052011-150900
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:50
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:45


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