- The purposes of this study were to (a) demonstrate a model of courtship rhetoric applicable to the understanding of how interpersonal communication creates, develops, and ends human relationships, and to (b) demonstrate that biography is a useful source of information about human relationships. By using biography to generate the data about the contents and contexts of talk and action over time, this study sought to produce a descriptive history of an entire relationship from the perspective of what was said and done in it.
Courtship is defined as a social behavior characteristic of someone seeking social, political, or interpersonal favor from someone else who has the power to bestow favor. The concept of courtship rhetoric was derived historically, and exhibited three critical assumptions: (1) a hierarchy exists in all social relationships; (2) an individual's position in that hierarchy can be defined by the individual's public and private behavior; and (3) an individual may improve hierarchical position by studying the behavior of higher-ups (however "higher-ups" may be defined by the relationship), and by striving to imitate those behaviors. The courtship model consists of three stages of development based on the operation of form, power, and equity in the relationship. The three stages are (1) a beginning, characterized by a rhetoric of invention; (2) a middle, characterized by a rhetoric of management; and (3) an ending, characterized by a rhetoric of judgement.
The relationship between Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, from July, 1918-December, 1940, was used for examination in this study. This relationship was chosen because there are several good biographies available in which to generate the data about talk, action, and contexts. The procedure for this investigation consisted of (a) collecting, classifying, and verifying the statements and actions of the relationship between 1918-1940; (b) developing a chronology of events in the relationship based on statements and actions; (c) writing a biographical narrative from the perspective of the courtship model; (d) presenting the analysis of the data using the chronology and the biographical narrative to answer questions raised by the courtship model; and (e) presenting a summary of the findings and recommendations for future research.
Two conclusions were drawn as a result of this investigation. First, the courtship model was demonstrated to be a productive tool for the critical interpersonal relationships. The critical questions raised by the concepts of rhetorical form, power, and equity were found to be a viable research methodology for this study, and possibly for future studies using the courtship idea. Second, biography was found to be an appropriate and highly productive source of data about the talk, action, and contexts of human relationships.
There were three tentative hypotheses reached as a result of doing this work. First, there is a power structure discernable in a relationship capable of rigidity, modification, and change based on what each party says and does in relation to the overall goals of that relationship. Second, the community or audience to whom the appeals are directed defines the ways and means of attaining articulated goals. And third, the messages communicated between people will be perceived as intentional even if they are not constricted intentionally, or if the original intention is not the one that is perceived or attributed to the message. If communication is capable of creating reality, then what is not communicated does not exist for that relationship.
- Dissertation Note:
- Ph.D. The Pennsylvania State University 1980.
- Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 41-10, Section: A, page: 4209.
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