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DAVIS, Diane

Spring 2008, 38:2, pages 123-147

Identification: Burke and Freud on Who You Are

Abstract: Kenneth Burke bases his theory of identification on Freud's; however, whereas Burke insists that identification is a symbolic act that therefore remains available for conscious critique and reasoned adjustment, Freud reflects on an affective identification that precedes the distinction between "self" and "other." This nonrepresentational identification - Freud sometimes calls it "primary identification" - remains stubbornly on the motion side of the action/motion loci, impervious to symbolic intervention. This article argues that Freud's scattered insights on primary identification undercut any theory of relationality grounded in representation, and therefore any hope of securing a crucial distance between self and other through conscious critique. It further argues that Freud's theory on identification presents rhetorical studies with a distinctly unBurkean challenge: to begin exploring the sorts of rhetorical analyses that become possible only when identification is no longer presumed to be compensatory to division.
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