Date of Award

Summer 1994

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Sterk, Helen

Second Advisor

Turner, Lynn

Third Advisor

Vusse, Leona Vande

Abstract

This thesis analyzes birthing experience narratives, featuring examination of the male partner's involvement. The analysis is informed by Walter Fisher's narrative paradigm, which sees all stories as powerful rhetoric, vital to our human lives. How male partners are featured in women's private birthing stories as well as in public, popular birthing stories reveals two important, persuasive forms of rhetoric worthy of comparison and analysis. The private stories represent a report of personal experience; thus, the public stories are compared to standards of experience as told in the private stories. In that respect, the private stories are privileged, since they represent a woman's personal birthing experience. The private and public stories are studied in terms of probability and fidelity. Probability is tested by checking the internal coherence of the women's stories, while fidelity is verified through thematic comparisons of the public with the private stories. Overall, many of the public themes did not meet measures of fidelity. Specifically, the public stories were found to idealize and over-valorize a male partner's role in the birthing experience. The conclusion suggests such a distortion reinforces patriarchal assumptions of male importance in all key events of family life.

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