Kenneth Duva Burke was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on May 5, 1897. He attended the Peabody High School from 1911 to 1915, where one of his classmates was Malcolm Cowley, who would later be known as a literary critic; they were to remain lifelong friends. In 1916 Burke enrolled briefly at Ohio State University, switching to Columbia University later the same year. However, he found no course of study to his liking, and he dropped out at the beginning of 1918. Persuading his father to provide him with a modest income, he became a full-time writer from then on, living initially in New York City's Greenwich Village, where he befriended many of the leading literary figures of North American modernism.