Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 2009


KB Journal: The Journal of the Kenneth Burke Society, Volume 5, Issue 2, Spring 2009

Online @


Copyright (c) 2009 Carly Woods. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0. KB Journal is sponsored by the Kenneth Burke Society and hosted at Clemson University.


For Kenneth Burke, humans are part of a diseased and ailing society. Yet while the rest of us are under an anesthetic, too doped up to know what is going on, Burke is partially awake and sees through the fog, watching the surgery unfold. Burke’s mission is to elucidate the curative potential of language and literature. Paying particular attention to biographical influences, this article traces key lineages of the medical metaphor in Burke’s major works. I argue that scholars should take seriously the idea that “everything is medicine” to Burke by considering the way that medicine may function as a master metaphor, or a reading strategy, that allows us to more fully understand his theories of symbolic action, identification, and rhetorical demystification.

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