Kenneth Burke was one of the most influential literary theorists of the twentieth century. He studied at Columbia University, but he dropped out before graduating, preferring to spend his time among the avant-garde writers of Greenwich Village. His literary connections and autodidactic talent allowed him to gain clout as a theorist despite his lack of a degree. He published in and edited prominent literary magazines and taught at colleges across the country. His work in literary criticism received numerous accolades, including the 1981 National Medal for Literature at the American Book Awards.