Dining with Anna Karenina: Opening the Invitation to Burke’s Parlor

  • Daniel Pfeiffer Park University


Kenneth Burke uses the metaphor of a parlor conversation to explain the dynamics of an academic discourse community. This metaphor demonstrates how one, after learning the conventions and the tenor of the parlor, can enter into a scholarly conversation. However, Burke’s parlor metaphor fails to recognize that the conventions of the parlor may prevent certain people from speaking or being heard. Within the discourse community of composition studies, undergraduates are often excluded from academic conversations despite their relative familiarity with discourse conventions. This essay examines a dinner party scene from Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina as an example of Burke’s parlor and proposes a shift in convention to make the discourse community more welcoming to undergraduates.