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A Brief History and Theory of Speaking

Brief History
Storytelling
Colonial America
Aristotle's Rhetoric
Burke's Dramatism
Fisher's Paradigm
Shannon and Weaver

Kenneth Burke's Dramatism

Although Kenneth Burke never received a college degree, his Dramatism Theory has become an important addition to mainstream communication theory. Burke believed that all of life and all communication is a drama. His primary concern is with a speaker's ability to identify with an audience. If there is a perceived similarity between the speaker and the listener, the audience is more likely to believe that the speaker was "talking sense". This is the key to persuasive speaking, according to Burke.

Burke's pentad identifies five crucial elements of our human drama (communications). The act is what has been done by the communicator. The scene gives the context or background surrounding the act. The agent is the person who performed the act. The agency is the means that was used to "get the job done". The purpose is the stated or implied goal of the address.

To understand a communication through Dramatism, you must examine the situation through all five elements. Burke further claims that all public speaking is an attempt to purge one's self from an ever-present sense of guilt. The speaker only has two choices: purge guilt through self-blame or blame their problems on someone else.

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This page includes information from A First Look at Communication Theory