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Richard H. Thames, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Communication & Rhetorical Studies

College Hall 311
Phone: 412.396.5077


Ph.D., Rhetoric, University of Pittsburgh, 1979
M.Div., Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, 1972
B.A., Psychology, Rhodes College, 1969

A founder of the Kenneth Burke Society, Thames helped organize the original Burke conference in Philadelphia in 1984 and the centennial conference in Pittsburgh in 1996 at Duquesne. He edited the Society's Newsletter for over a decade and now serves on the Editorial Board of its online KB Journal.  He has also served as an Associate Editor of the Quarterly Journal of Speech, 1998-2001 as well as a reader for numerous journals.  Thames is recognized for interpreting Burke in terms of the Aristotelian organicism and naturalism Burke encountered at Columbia University in 1916.  He is currently editing a critical edition of Burke's unpublished 'symbolic of Motives,' which Burke allowed him to copy when he was fortunate enough to study with Burke during his Visiting Mellon Professorship at the University of Pittsburgh in 1974; no further copies came to light until Burke's death in 1993.   In conjunction with his studies of Burke, Thames' interests include the rhetoric of religion and the rhetoric of science & social science; the rhetoric of the marketplace and the rhetoric of popular culture; hermeneutics and criticism.  He seeks to explore the rhetorical influence of ideas within and across historical periods, tracing the intellectual lineage of thinkers and examining how their ideas shape, maintain, and change beliefs in intellectual and popular culture.


Recent Scholarship (2009 - Present)



"The Meaning of the Motivorum's Motto: Ad bellum purificandum to Tendebantque manus ripae ulterioris amore." KB Journal (Kenneth Burke Society Journal), Fall 2012.


"Political Economy." The Encyclopedia of Identity, Ronald Jackson (ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2010.

"Preaching What We Practice: Course Design Based on the Psychology of Form." A Humanistic Critique of Education: Teaching & Learning as Symbolic Action, Peter M. Smuddee (ed). West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2010.



"Moving from Dinnertime News to 24/7 Diatribes." Southern States Communication Association (SSCA), New Orleans.

"Rhetoric and the End of Burke's Poetics, Dramatistically Considered." Eastern Communication Association (ECA), Providence, RI.

"For Love of the River's Farther Shore: Kenneth Burke's Mythic Imagery of Transcendence." Rhetoric Society of America (RSA), San Antonio.


"Synecdoche, Representative Anecdote, Paradigm: The Basis for Kenneth Burke's Aristotelian Qualitative Science of Dramatism." SSCA, Louisville.

"Shouting ‘Ice Cream' in a Crowded Theatre." Rhetoric as Equipment for Living: Kenneth Burke, Culture and Education, Ghent University, Ghent Belgium.

"The Polis is Held Together by Love." Conference on "IMC and the Polis." University of North Carolina, Wilmington.

"What's the Point: At the Juncture of Body and Mind" Media Ecology Association. Grand Rapids, MI.

"Kenneth Burke, Thomas Kuhn, and Objections to a Physical Model for the Social/Human Sciences." Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences (SPHS), Eugene, OR.

"Beatrice and Beauty: Charles Williams, Dante, and the End of [Kenneth] Burke's Symbolic." National Communication Association (NCA), Washington, D.C.

"Catharsis, Death, and Beauty: [Edgar Allan] Poe's Raven and the End of [Kenneth] Burke's Symbolic." NCA, Washington, D.C.


"Kenneth Burke and Archaic Ontology." SSCA, San Antonio.

"Ecology, the Humane Science: A Burkeian Critique of the Science-Fiction/Fantasy Snow Queen Triology by Joan Vinge." ECA,Cambridge, MA.

"Artistic Leaning," SPH), Rochester, NY.

"I Sing the Body Poetic." NCA Pre-Conference on "Narrative, Phenomenology, and Cognitive Science," Orlando.


"The Meaning of the Motivorum's Motto," SSCA, Little Rock.

"Marxist vs. Marxoid: Karl and KB," ECA, Arlington.

"Why Change? Socially Constructed Realities and Material Recalcitrance," SPHS, Philadelphia.

"All Hands on Deck: A Semiotic Analysis of James Cameron's Titanic," Semiotic Society of America, Pittsburgh.

"The Wild Child and the Voice of the Other," NCA, New Orleans.


"The Virtual and the Vicarious." ECA, Baltimore.

"The Rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Political-Revolutionary vs. Religious-Redemptive." ECA, Baltimore.

"Enaction, Attention, and Language." SPHS, Montreal (McGill University).

"Best Bridge to the Farther Shore: Rhetoric, Symbolic, Dialectic?" NCA, San Francisco.


"And the Point Is: Drawing Implications from Basic Gesture." SPHS, Washington DC (George Mason University).

"Enough! Kenneth Burke's Aristotelian Attitudes towards Wealth." NCA, Chicago.


Recent Honors and Awards

***See full CV to see list of Awards


Representative Departmental, State, Regional, and National Professional Service


Faculty Search Committee Co-Chair (2009-10, 2010-11)

Library Acquisition (2010-11)

Ph.D. Comprehensives Committee (2008-11)

Program Assessment Committee (2009-10, 2010-11)

Search Committee, Co-Chair (1994-2011-every search)


Kenneth Burke Society (one of three Founders)


Editorial Board, KB Journal (Kenneth Burke Society Journal), 2006-11

Journal of Communication & Religion 2009-11

Review of Communication 2010

Purdue University Press, 2008-09

Professional Affiliations

Kenneth Burke Society

National Communication Association

Eastern Communication Association

Southern States Communication Association

Semiotic Society of America

Society for Phenomenology and the Human Sciences

Society for Philosophy and Existential Phenomenology