Phyllis M. Japp
Phyllis M. Japp, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies at University of Nebraska.
In her 1999 essay “Can This Marriage Be Saved? Reclaiming Burke for Feminist Scholarship" in the journal Kenneth Burke and the 21st Century Phyllis M. Japp disagrees with Celeste Condit, explaining that she feels a connection to Kenneth Burke’s Definition of Man, even as a woman. She says that personal experience has led her to this deeper understanding of his ideals. She explains “I have found in Burke an indispensible array of guerilla army tactics for survival in a field of masculine symbols” (113). It seems that Japp agrees with Condit on the matter that Burke’s text is inherently masculine, but is still useful to feminist rhetoricians because she is armed with an understanding of another gender that most of her peers in a majorly patriarchal discipline are not. Rather than rejecting Burkean theory altogether, like many feminist scholars in the 1990s, Japp seems to agree with Condit that Burke’s ideas need extension in order to be applicable to the modern feminist scholar. Japp explains “Reclaimation is a strategy midway between acceptance and rejection, affirming the value of a text…while simultaneously reworking and reshaping that text…to better serve all in the community” (114). In order to reclaim Burke, Japp suggests that women’s voices be included in the conversation by way of actual women. Of course, Japp seems to say, Burke’s Definition of Man is missing the female experience—he has not lived it. Updating any classical text, whether spiritual, rhetorical, etc., must be reinforced with the female voice and experience because it has been missing since the beginning of time. While Japp does absolve Burke of his masculine-construction, she also does not blame him entirely for his mistake.