Sample Oral Report Outline

Outline: Communication Article Oral Report

Class: Communication Theory

Name: Michael E. Eidenmuller


1.  Reference Information (APA or MLA) 

  • Glaser, G.R. & Frank, D.A. (1982). Rhetorical criticism of interpersonal discourse: An exploratory study. Communication Quarterly, 30(4), pp. 353.358.

 2. Institutional Affiliation and Academic Rank of author(s) at time of publication 

  • Glaser, University of Oregon, Associate Professor
  • Frank, University of Oregon, Assistant Professor

 3. Theory 

  • A synthesis of Symbolic Convergence Theory and Rhetorical Theory (“rhetorical situation”)
  • Individuals create/co-construct social reality through the sharing/telling of stories "fantasies" (and perhaps other rhetorical forms) organized or apparently organized along thematic lines -- or a "theme." Themes work their communicative magic by responding to a real or perceived exigence -- here in the context of an interpersonal relationship. An exigence is a real or perceived problem, urgent in nature, requiring a “fitting response,” and capable of being ameliorated (or solved) through persuasion. In terms of rhetorical theory, the ultimate goal of communication is to persuade an interpersonal Other to believe or act in a particular manner and so ameliorate the exigence. In the present account, then, interpersonal relationships involve the violation of an expected behavior or set of behaviors and a subsequent redressing of that violation via alternative (competing) accounts, both in terms of what the exigence is as well as how it might best be ameliorated. In the best of rhetorical worlds, competing fantasy themes would merge to form a shared "rhetorical vision" that 1) redefines the past, 2) offers a vision in the present, that 3) provides (rhetorical) hope for the future in an interpersonal relationship.
  • This study is guided largely by an interpretivist epistemology, though it retains some fundamentally objectivist features.

 4. Data/Method(s)  

  • A tape recorded conversation between a married couple (16 years, six children).
  • Self-report + Rhetorical Criticism (fantasy theme) 

5. Analysis/Findings

P1's, "Mrs. X", exigence was that her husband did not value her very much. Her rhetorical goal was to get her husband to respect and honor her. P2's, "Professor X", exigence was to get his wife to "raise her level of awareness" regarding his intellectual needs, and to forgive him of his past indiscretions. Rhetorical strategies by Professor X included a series of fantasies organized around the a theme of "male victimage." In essence, Professor X, argued that his indiscretions were partly the result of his cultural and historical conditioning that made him susceptible to aggressive sexual impulses – a sort of ‘me Tarzan you Jane’ theme that could hardly be counted on to end with marriage. Second, P2's fantasies targeted his wife's lack of interest in his work and profession, thereby placing the primary locus of guilt for the relational failure on her. His fantasies sought to create a shared vision in which, at best, both partners might find some refuge in mutual understanding. At worst P2's fanstasies made his wife bear the blame for his past misdeeds. Mrs. X seemed to give some credence to her husband's attempt at thematizing their relationship. However, Mrs. X also made some attempt to redirect the thrust of the blame for his past indiscretions away from her. Her fantasies, however, failed to chain out, mostly because they were rendered in relatively short, sarcastic quips. Later in the conversation, Professor X modified his 'me Tarzan' theme and suggested that his male aggressiveness, once sexually directed, was now (more or less) ready to be (re)directed toward his wife's needs for love and affirmation. Professor X's rhetorical efforts appear to work in some measure to satisfy Mrs. X’s concerns; yet, at the same time, his efforts also seem to satisfy his own need to be free from the guilt born of his past indiscretions.

6. Conclusions/Implications/Future Research  

  • Rhetorical theory extended
  • New method for interpretively analyzing interpersonal communication
  • This study demonstrates how interpersonal communicants use fantasy themes as  a rhetorical strategy designed to solve various interpersonal exigencies, thereby reconstructing, and redefining the (thematic) nature of the relationship. 
  • The authors conclude that interpersonal influence/impact can be achieved when one person’s fantasy theme – here the ‘story’ of a relationship – holds more persuasive appeal over a competing theme. Interpersonal impact rests in the power to give a coherent and plausible account of one's past actions and to use that past to redirect a vision for the future.
  • Future research should develop objective standards to assess how and to what extent a interpersonal problems are solved from the view of both parties involved.

7. Lines of Criticism: N/A

8. Additional observations/points

A Communication Therapist might have done well to seize upon the fantasy of seed-planting-watering-growing that surfaced in the interaction. As it is, the study leaves one in doubt as to how the relationship will proceed, and whether or not it is likely to remain intact in view of the present interpersonal (thematic) climate. Indeed, the harvest metaphor might provide ground for a successful "rhetorical vision" that would allow each to have mutual accountability for, rather than near unilateral dominance over, the growth and direction of the relationship. Operating within tacitly agreed upon possibilities and constraints directed by the harvest metaphor, the vision might well be or become one of "never-ending love" constructed around fantasies that chained or spun out around the metaphoric theme of "relational harvest" -- a decidedly co-participatory endeavor.

[Communication Theory]

Copyright 2000-2013.
Michael E. Eidenmuller.
The University of Texas at Tyler.
All rights reserved.