P2.1 Burke’s “Unending Conversation” Assignment
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Burke’s “Unending Conversation” Metaphor; Connecting Projects
When dealing with academic research, it helps to approach “research” as a large, continual discussion for which we are present only in part. Thinking this way allows us, as readers and researchers, to see there is no end to the conversation, no finish line; no matter how much research we do, or the lengths to which we explore our topics, there will always be more to learn about the topic. In this way, knowledge constantly evolves.
The work you began in Project 1 and continue in Project 2 contributes to the larger discussion and context surrounding your research topic.
In 1939, Kenneth Burke created the “Unending Conversation” metaphor about entering a parlor. It goes:
“Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally’s assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress.”
In-Class Reading: Research as a conversation: Burke’s Parlor Tricks: Introducing Research as Conversation | Library Babel FishLinks to an external site.
Once you’re done reading, engage in the group discussion concerning the connections you see between the parlor metaphor and the projects (P1 & P2) you’ve been asked to do. Project 1 can largely be seen as the conversation you listen to upon arriving in the parlor, and Project 2 is when you begin contributing to the conversation in progress.
Seeing research in terms of an unending conversation can help you realize that your project will not be the definitive end of a conversation or topic. Rather, Project 1 introduces you to a research topic and familiarizes you with the tenor of discourse in college-level academic writing. Once Project 1 has been completed, your time “listening” in the parlor ends. Then, as you begin working on Project 2, this is where you begin contributing to the current discourse in and around the topic. Ask yourself, how did the “listening” you did in Project 1 help prepare you to “enter the conversation” about your topic in Project 2?
Respond to the following questions — around 250 words or less.
• What connections did you draw from both the readings and class discussion about the potential connection (or lack thereof) between Burke’s metaphor and your research process?
• Did you gain any insight about research, the research process, or the evolution of ideas? Explain
• What was one quote, either from the reading or a classmate’s post to the discussion, that stood out to you and why?
• How do you interpret this statement in the context of Project 2: “research is an iterative process.”