The Rites of Identity: The Religious Naturalism and Cultural Criticism of Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison

The Rites of Identity: The Religious Naturalism and Cultural Criticism of Kenneth Burke and Ralph Ellison

by Beth Eddy
     
 

ISBN-10: 0691092494

ISBN-13: 9780691092492

Pub. Date: 10/20/2003

Publisher: Princeton University Press

The Rites of Identity argues that Kenneth Burke was the most deciding influence on Ralph Ellison's writings, that Burke and Ellison are firmly situated within the American tradition of religious naturalism, and that this tradition—properly understood as religious—offers a highly useful means for considering contemporary identity and mitigating

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Overview

The Rites of Identity argues that Kenneth Burke was the most deciding influence on Ralph Ellison's writings, that Burke and Ellison are firmly situated within the American tradition of religious naturalism, and that this tradition—properly understood as religious—offers a highly useful means for considering contemporary identity and mitigating religious conflict.

Beth Eddy adds Burke and Ellison to a tradition of religious naturalism that traces back to Ralph Waldo Emerson but received its most nuanced expression in the work of George Santayana. Through close readings of the essays and fiction of Burke and Ellison, Eddy shows the extent to which their cultural criticisms are intertwined. Both offer a naturalized understanding of piety, explore the psychological and social dynamics of scapegoating, and propose comic religious resources. And both explicitly connect these religious categories to identity, be it religious, racial, national, ethnic, or gendered. Eddy—arguing that the most socially damaging uses of religious language and ritual are connected to the best uses that such language has to offer—finds in Burke and Ellison ways to manage this precarious situation and to mitigate religious violence through wise use of performative symbolic action.

By placing Burke and Ellison in a tradition of pragmatic thought, The Rites of Identity uncovers an antiessentialist approach to identity that serves the moral needs of a world that is constantly negotiating, performing, and ritualizing changes of identity.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691092492
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/20/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

CHAPTER ONE

Identity and the Rites of Symbolic Action 1

CHAPTER TWO

Kenneth Burke's Natural Pieties of Identity 25

CHAPTER THREE

Catharsis and Tragedy: Kenneth Burke's Rhetoric of Sacrifice 57

CHAPTER FOUR

The Spiritual Utility of Comedy 80

CHAPTER FIVE

Ralph Ellison and the Vernacular Pieties of American Identity 99

CHAPTER SIX

Ellison's Tragic Vision of Sacrifice 120

CHAPTER SEVEN

The Blues of American Identity: Comic Transcendence in Ellison 139

CHAPTER EIGHT

Both a Part of and Apart From: The Spirit and Ethics of a Religious Pragmatism 157

Notes 173

Bibliography 195

Index 199

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