Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Life is not like a drama; Life IS drama (Part 1)

What goes on when people open their mouth to communicate? This theory is to figure out why a writer or a speaker selected the words that were choreographed into the message. The task is ultimately one of assessing motives.

Language is a strategic human response to a specific situation. Verbal symbols are meaningful acts from which motives can be derived. Clusters of words are dances of attitudes. The task is to find out their motives.

In Burke’s methodology, he uses 3 perspectives to analyze public address :
1) Identification
2) Dramatistic Pentad
3) Guilt Redemption Cycle

1) Identification - Without it, there is no persuasion
Burke is concerned with a speaker’s overall ability to identify with an audience. Identification is the common ground that exists between speaker and audience. Substance is a person’s physical characteristics, talents, occupation, background, personality, beliefs and values.

The more overlap there is between the substance of the speaker and the substance of the listener, the greater the identification is (perceived similarity). Audience sense a joining of interest through styles as much as through content.

2) The Dramatistic Pentad
Persuasion – the communicator’s attempt to get the audience to accept his or her view of reality as true.

This perspective is a tool to analyze how the speaker tries to do it. This method is deceptively similar to the standard journalist practice of answering who, what, where, when, why and how in the opening paragraph of a story.

Burke recommends that a content analysis identifies key terms on the basis of frequency and intensity of use. The pentad directs the critics attention to 5 crucial elements of the human drama : act, scene, agent, agency, purpose.

By evaluating the ratio of importance in the content, the critic can determine which element provides the best clue to the speaker’s motivation. The pentad offers a way to determine why the speaker selected a given rhetorical strategy to identify with the audience. When a message stresses one element over the other four, it reveals a speaker’s philosophy or wordview.

Look out for my next post for continuation…



  1. hey, i just saw your comment recently cos i havent been active on my blog for quite awhile. so sorry. have already followed you on twitter. thanks for reading :D


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