Schedule for FALL 2003

Instructor: Steve Duck, 151B-BCSB, 335-0579
Class Meets:   TuTh 9.30-10.45 in N100LC [Lindquist North]  A second section of the course runs TuTh10.55-12.10 in 106-BCSB

Office Hours: TuTh 8.30-9.300 in 151-BCSB and by arrangement.

This course deals with different approaches to identity as it may be understood in terms of communication.  We will start with an approach based on cognition and psychology, move on through sociology and interaction, and then to views based on a constitutive approach to communication, before looking finally at some interpretations from rhetorical theory.  Basic questions that we encounter are these:  Is identity a feature of persons, an attribution made by other people, or a consequence of language needs?  Do we use notions of identity as a result of perception by others, interaction with others, or as a function of human tendencies to label and to order?  To what extent are concepts of “identity” and “communication” inextricably bound together?  Can one think of identity without communication (for example, as an internally coherent system of thought)?  Are other people necessary for identity?

Part of the course introduces and explores George Kelly's Personal Construct Theory (PCT), an approach to “personality” that although a non-traditional psychological approach is nonetheless a psychological approach.  Some of the main concepts in PCT are then compared with those of other theorists, especially George Herbert Mead, Erving Goffman, and Kenneth Burke, along with consideration of the practical work on the matter by Mokros (2003) and his colleagues.  The centre of this course is on the ways in which the nature of identity assumes meaning in relation to other people.  For example, we shall consider the nature of identities and the inherently transformative nature of their continuation, as persons encounter others and restructure their relational experiences: on this view, people do not have single stamped-in identities that are carried with them through life.  Instead those identities are constantly performed and transacted in the conversations and interactions that are enacted with other people, but, following Kelly, we will explore the extent to which this is determined and the extent to which it is based on choices.  On the other hand, what is the “it” that changes in these understandings of identity?

We shall also tend to take a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of people and in attempts to explore the many different levels of influence that affect the actions of people in their dealings with one another.  Starting with a discussion of the nature of individuals, therefore, we shall move on to explore the ways in which communication constructs and continues identities.  We shall think about the issue of identity as it involves some philosophical matters (What is “an individual”?) as well as how one addresses the question of “Who am I?”, the matter of how a person can have “an identity” stolen, the sorts of identity that can be face-managed, the roles that go into an identity, and the importance of identification and group membership in the concept of identity.

The course thus explores some interesting tensions in communication, psychology, and sociology: 1) the issue of how an individual person partakes of society (and its counterpoint: how society "gets into" the individual personality); 2) the matter of the individual as a self-contained unit and as a member of interacting groups; 3) the extent to which a person has any say in the nature of personhood.  In another sense the course explores the idea that individuality is all about ordering: as individuals we order our worlds in the characteristic ways that represent that individuality.  Thus theories of individuality are about ordering and have to start from the premise that the world "needs" to be ordered, or that individuals prefer order to chaos.  Societies also operate orders to serve a number of purposes (to order the individuals in them; to render communication and sociality possible; even to recognize the nature and motivation of "individuals").  Thus many theories of communication, of social behavior, or of society are also about order at some level.  The notion of identity however also faces us with issues about the way in which an individual is afflicted by or benefits from common human processes, interaction, and association with other human beings, development, and change.  An identity must be presented to others in terms in which they can understand it, so the presentation of self is essentially a task based on the recognition of audiences and community.

Course assessments

The assessment for the course will be based on:

1.     Regular production of a critique of the reading.  Each of these should be a short (2 pages MAX) report, one for each class.  These are just regular brief reading notes and they should help you look back over this course in the years to come as well as providing summaries of your reading. 

2.      A topic survey that reconceptualizes an existing issue in any area by exploring it in terms of an identity question.  The results of this work will be presented to the class.  The work here is to prepare a bibliography, write up a report on it and evaluate and then present your work to the class.

3.      A research proposal or critical essay, based on your work for item (2) but presented in essay format at the end of the course.  The course has the extra pedagogic intention of contributing to your experience and training as Ph.D. students preparing for thesis work and scholarly investigation  -- whatever sorts of methods you prefer to adopt.  If anyone wishes to pursue his or her work in the future on the basis of the project designed here, then we can talk about doing it as an Independent Study in a later semester.

All this will require a fair amount of advance preparation, so plan ahead.  If you do this properly then you should be able to avoid a big crunch at the end of semester.

Policy on deadlines and due dates:   Deadlines are meaningful and I have planned my own timetable for the semester around expectations of receiving things from you when they are due.    Plan ahead.    Things will go wrong this semester from time to time and the unexpected always occurs.    Plan ahead and allow time for delays, burst pipes, broken printers, lost pets, crashed computers, and other possible events that might become unavailing excuses – including the regular psychological melt-down that occurs on October 16th.    If you miss deadlines then you will get a failing grade.  I do not give Incompletes.

Other professional matters

The University Classroom Manual now requires that all courses include the following guidance on student preparatoin time, complaints and cheating and they are included here partly to inform you of your rights and duties on this course and also to provide discussion points for the class and guidance for your own classes in the future, both those you may run and those you may take. Students should expect to spend six hours per week preparing for class sessions in this three-credit-hour course.

Student complaints concerning faculty action

The University Operations Manual states that “at the beginning of each courses students should be informed of departmental and collegiate complaint procedures”. A student who has a complaint against any member of the College’s teaching staff is responsible for following the procedures described below. Complaints may concern inappropriate faculty conduct (including inappropriate course materials), incompetence in oral communication, inequities in assignments, scheduling of examinations at other than authorized and published times, failure to provide disability accommodations, or grading grievances.  In complaints involving assignment of grades, it is college policy that grades cannot be changed without the permission of the department concerned.

·        The student should ordinarily try to resolve the matter with the instructor first;

·        If the complaint is not resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the student should discuss the matter further with the ..... DEO [Departmental Executive Officer], or in some departments the person designated to hear complaints.

·        If the matter remains unresolved, the student may submit a written complaint to the Graduate College.  The Associate Dean (335-2137) will attempt to resolve the complaint and if necessary may convene a special committee to recommend appropriate action. S/He will respond to the student in writing concerning the disposition of the complaint.

·        If the complaint cannot be resolved through the mechanisms described above, the student may file a formal complaint, which will be handled under the procedures established for dealing with alleged violations of the statement on professional ethics and academic responsibility in the University Operations Manual. A description of these procedures may be obtained in the Office of Academic Programs, 120 Schaeffer Hall (335-2633). If complaints at the departmental or college level involving reasonable academic accommodations for students with disabilities cannot be resolved through the mechanisms described above, the student may consult the Ombuds Office or the Office of Affirmative Action.

Plagiarism and cheating

Plagiarism is, among other things, the unacknowledged use of the ideas of another person. Cheating is, among other things, copying from someone else’s work, or downloading work from an electronic database without citation.  I also interpret this to mean the borrowing of substantial parts of essays that you or others have written for other courses or for which you have received or will receive credit, copying work from other students on the course, or representing as “your own work” work actually done by others.  An instructor who suspects a student of plagiarism or cheating must inform the student (preferably in writing) as soon as possible after the incident has been observed or discovered. Instructors who detect cheating or plagiarism may decide, in consultation with the Departmental Executive Officer, to reduce the student’s grade for the assignment or in the course, even to assign an F.  Fuller details of this policy are available from the Office of Academic Programs, in the Schedule of Courses, and in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Accommodations For Students Who Have Physical, Mental, Or Learning Disabilities

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, instructors must make reasonable accommodations for students who have physical, mental, or learning disabilities. The student is responsible for requesting accommodations and I will help students preserve their privacy and maintain the confidentiality of student records, including records of disability accommodation. I would like to hear from anyone who has a disability which may require some modification of seating, testing, or other class requirements so that appropriate arrangements may be made. Please contact me during my office hours.

Course Sources

Burkitt, I. (1991) Social selves: theories of the social formation of personality. London; Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1991.  Main Reference Collection Z7163 .C87 v.39 1991.  Try Amazon if you want to buy your own copy of this out of print book.

Duck, S. W.  (1994)  Meaningful Relationships Thousand Oaks: SAGE, MAIN Library : HM132 .D775 1994 or PSYCHOLOGY Library : HM132 .D775 1994.

Maher, B. (Ed) (1969) Clinical Psychology and Personality: The selected papers of George Kelly  Kreiger: New York.  Note: the library catalogue has this classified under Kelly and not under Maher  --- BF 698.K37 (PSYCH).  See me if you want to own your own copy of this out of print book.

Mokrs, H. B. (2003) Identity matters: Communication based explorations and explanations.  Hampton Press: Cresskill, NJ.  Available in the bookstore.

Websites with relevant stuff:;;; (Someone who took this course last time!  The paper compares Kelly and postmodern thought); Yep, it exists: A Website on Buddhism and PCT, which actually have remarkable confluences.

I will also provide a Reading Packet for the class to use as it thinks fit.


"A good deal is said these days about being oneself. It is supposed to be healthy to be oneself. While it is a little hard for me to understand how one could be anything else, I suppose what is meant is that one should not strive to become anything other than what one is. This strikes me as a very dull way of living; in fact, I would be inclined to argue that all of us would be better off if we set out to be something other than what we are. Well, I’m not so sure we would all be better off - perhaps it would be more accurate to say life would be a lot more interesting.  There is another meaning that might be attached to this admonition to be oneself; that one should not try to disguise oneself. I suspect this comes nearer to what psychologists mean when they urge people to be themselves. It is presumed that the person who faces the world barefaced is more spontaneous …But this doctrine of psychological nakedness in human affairs, so much talked about today and which allows the self neither make-up nor costume, leaves very little to the imagination. Nor does it invite one to be venturesome.   What I am saying is that it is not so much what a person is that counts as it is what one ventures to make of oneself. To make the leap one must do more than disclose oneself; one must risk a certain amount of confusion. Then, as soon as one does catch a glimpse of a different kind of life, one needs to find some way of overcoming the paralyzing moment of threat, for this is the instant when one wonders who one really is - whether one is what one just was or is what one is about to be. "   George Kelly, 1964.

This of course emphasizes the person as process… which is an interesting starting thought for an identity course.

Tuesday August 26th: Course introduction

First meeting and general discussion of objectives, reading, and such.   You are very strongly advised to read the first three weeks’ worth of material in the strict order in which it is listed here.

Reading: Kelly's little essay "Don Juan" from Maher and the Reading Packet.  But do not be fooled that this is just an amusing trifle: it contains some critical insights about the nature of individuality that we will keep coming back to.  Try to read it before or very soon after class.  Note how Kelly points out the relationship of identity to the perspective of the viewer, the knowledge of the observer, the symbolic interaction of person and others, and the manner of language chosen for the description.


Thursday August 28th:  Background to Personal Construct Theory

Kelly's goals and intentions in producing the theory were not typical and need some explanation.  As it happens, his theory is reflexive and attempts to explain its own origins in its own terms, so these readings illuminate some of the processes and principles that shaped his overall thinking.  In particular this material sets the stage for some of the details that come later by introducing you to some of the fundamental conceptualizations of human life that Kelly built into his theory: 1) Constructive alternativism (the notion that anything that can be understood, or "construed", can also be understood in more than one way) as contrasted with 2) Accumulative Fragmentalism (the notion that truth can be gradually acquired piece by piece), and the idea of 3) the Invitational Mood of language, that is to say that even hard and fast descriptions of things are really invitations to view things in that way rather than ... hard and fast descriptions!  These three notions are often submerged in reports of Personal Construct Theory that relate it only to Kelly's metaphor of the person as scientist, going around testing out hypotheses about the world. 

These three notions themselves contain much that postmodernists take for granted, but the implications for communication and for the conceptualization of identity are very profound, as are the implications for the conduct of scientific inquiry.  Make sure that you fully understand the terms and are ready to discuss their implications.  If you don't get these ideas the rest of the course will make no sense.  Think about these issues and we'll debate them in class. 

Reading:   Make sure you have read the Don Juan paper first.  Read also Kelly's (1970) "A brief introduction to Personal Construct Theory", but read only the introductory pages 1-8 and save the rest for a later assignment.  I want you to get the principles first before you get hung up on the details. Also read Kelly's "The language of hypothesis"  and also “Man’s construction of his alternatives” in the reading packet or in Maher.

Come to class with:   one or two pages of comment on the reading, especially your thoughts about the basic idea that Kelly is proposing.  List a couple of standard topics that you know (from whatever discipline you come) that could be reinterpreted using these basic ideas, as well as a couple of ideas from that background which are consistent with his approach.  Also list any difficulties that you see with the approach.

Tuesday September 2nd:  Ontological acceleration

By now you will be seeing the principles of Kelly's approach as ones that lead to an approach to identity as epistemic - that is, identity as a way of knowing the world rather than as a byproduct of previous experiences.  Our continued exploration of this idea takes us into the discussion of where identity develops and continues - ontology or the consideration of the nature and development of being a person.  If you know Burke, you will recognize some emphases in Permanence and Change that echo Kelly’s thinking here and are things to bear in mind for November.

Reading:   1) "Ontological acceleration" 2) "The strategy of psychological research" both of which are in Maher and in the reading packet.

Come to class with:  one side of notes about the ways in which this topic relates to any psychological, rhetorical or interpersonal topic.  For example, how does it relate to studies of social memory? or to the nature of definition or concepts of persons? or to the nature of everyday human discourse?  or to social action? Or to any issues dear to your heart?

Thursday September 4th:  Autobiography of a theory

Now that you have got some idea of the fundamental principles of the theory, let us explore the major assumptions in more detail, again taking it slowly and absorbing the approach, but also moving on to consideration of the basic idea as formally stated in the theory itself.

Reading:  "The autobiography of a theory". Also read the Mancuso and Adams-Webber discussion of the Fundamental Postulate ("Anticipation as a constructive process: The fundamental postulate") in Mancuso, J. C. & Adams-Webber, J. R. The construing person.  Praeger: New York. --- BF 698.C615 (PSYCH LIBRARY

Come to class with: a list of things that puzzle you about this basic idea or the notions that would need to be added before you could apply it to your favorite topic(s).

Tuesday September 9th and Thursday September 11th:  Basic Theory and Resource collection

Now that you have grasped the fundamentals and the philosophical/humanistic underpinnings of the theory that Kelly espouses it is time to go more deeply into the theory itself, starting with an overview and then working through each of its elements one or two at a time.  I’m going to leave you to organize this reading at your own pace over the next ten days.  In the background don't forget that you will need to be thinking and doing some research on your chosen topic as noted in the first part of the syllabus. 

Class will not meet as such on these days.  Spend time reading all these materials so that you are ready for the Tu Sep 16th class, because there is a lot of it and you need to have it grasped.

Reading: First revisit the Kelly piece in Bannister 1970 ("A brief introduction to PCT") but this time reading pages 9-29 where he lays out the theory in skeleton.  Once you have, then read about some more corollaries, some of which are important and others only tangential to our purposes. 

Next, follow this up in more detail from the following list.  Read Adams-Webber's ["Actual structure and potential chaos: Relational aspects of progressive variations within a personal construct system" (in Bannister, D. [Ed] (1970) Perspectives in personal construct theory. London: Academic Press --- BF698.B3146 (PSYCH LIBRARY) pp 31-45)], the discussion of the Construction Corollary (Nystedt & Magnusson "Construction of experience: The construction corollary”, in Mancuso, J. & Adams-Webber, J. (1982) The construing person  New York: Praeger --- BF 698.C615 (PSYCH LIBRARY), pp. 33-44).  You can skim Individuality (Gara "Back to basics in personality study - the individual person's own organization of experience" in Mancuso & Adams Webber, pp 45-61); and Organization (Crockett " The organization of construct systems:  The organization corollary" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp 62-95); and Dichotomy (Adams-Webber "Assimilation and contrast in personal judgment: The dichotomy corollary" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp 96-112), but do note that Kelly himself focused not on dichotomy in any simple sense but on a more complex notion of triangulation.

Third, focus on the Experience Corollary but be aware of the issues in Range, Modulation and Fragmentation, by quickly skimming those readings.  You will see from the subtitles in these readings that there is a close interconnection between these corollaries, all of which are to do with the organization of experience in some way or another. Experience (Morrison & Cometa "Variations in developing construct systems" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp. 152-169); Range (Mancuso & Eimer "Fittings things into sorts" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp. 130-151)  Modulation (Hayden "Experience -- A case for possible change"  in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp. 170-197) Fragmentation (Landfield "A constructions of fragmentation and unity" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp. 198-221)

Tuesday September 16th:  Discussion of PCT

In this class we will come to grips with the detailed elements of the formal theory.  We will go over the things that you have been reading about it, looking for the main threads that relate to identity issues.


Thursday September 18th:  Fundamental issues in making Choices

We will now begin working with a crucial element of the theory that connects it to Speech Act Theory and other aspects of communication.  Since by now you  should have a broad understanding of the approach, the fact that this particular reading is extremely complex should cause you no concern!

Reading: Choice (Boxer "The flow of choice" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp. 113-129) in the reading packet.

Come to class with:   some notes mostly on the Choice corollary but perhaps connecting it to the previous reading on the Dichotomy and Individuality.  In particular consider the differences between dichotomy and a dialectic.  Despite what you have read, is Kelly really talking about dialectics or dichotomies or triangulations?  What parallels are you seeing between Kelly's discussion of choice and other considerations of the topic?

Tuesday September 23rd: Memory and the sense of self

We have looked closely at Kelly's theory and its view of the nature of the self (or rather the sense of self).  We can also build into that some consideration of the role played by memory in identity, especially as we reflect on Kelly's fundamental postulate.  Some have wanted to see identities and persons as story-telling or narrative systems.  How do memory and accounting play into the things that we have learned so far?

Reading:  Lots of short pieces, for the most part.  Bannister "The experience of self" in Epting & Landfield   pp. 39-45; also Mair "The community of self" in Bannister (1977) pp. 125-149; Mair IJPCP 1988, 1, 125-137 "Psychology as story-telling"; Mair IJPCP 1989, 2, 1-14 "Kelly, Bannister, and story-telling psychology;  Barclay & Smith, 1993, IJPCP, 6, 231-251 "Autobiographical remembering and self-composing".

Come to class with: some thoughts about the role of memory and narrative in identity.

Thursday September 25th: Self in relation to Others Part I: Understanding Others

We will now start to explore some of the relationship between an individual identity and Others.  So far we have read material that has dealt with the individual largely as a self contained unit, but now we start to explore what the theory has to say about the self in relation to others.  One preliminary requirement for connection to other people is some basis for understanding them.  We can contrast ourselves with others, see ourselves in terms of others, describe ourselves using commonly accepted social language, build other people’s ways of doing things into our own ways of thinking, see ourselves by reflecting on what we are doing (the “attitude of reflection” noted by Mead), or see ourselves as a set of roles.  We’ll go further with these distinctions in the next few classes. 

Reading: Schmittdiel "Self and other construal processes: A theoretical integration" in Epting, F. & Landfield, A. (1985) Anticipating Personal Construct Theory Lincoln: UNebraska Press. --- BF698.P47A58 (PSYCH), pp 46-57; Guthrie IJPCP 1991 "Intuiting the processes of others..."

Come to class with: some thoughts about the issue of attribution and how Kelly's approach might be used to extend it.  We will return to this discussion when we have had a look at some Burke later on also.

Tuesday September 30th: Self in relation to Others Part II: Construing Others as objects and as minds

Other people can be understood or construed as moving objects in the visual scheme or as minds, and it is in this distinction that Kelly's work begins to move us towards Burke and Mead.  But we start with the notion of perception of other people, and self as a target of one's own perceptions.  This is an important starting point and we need to think about it before looking at how identity might be related to language and social interaction.

Reading:  Commonality (Duck "Two individuals in search of agreement" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp 222-234)   Sociality (Tschudi & Rommetveit "Sociality, intersubjectivity and social processes" in Mancuso & Adams-Webber, pp. 235-261). 

Come to class with:  some consideration of the ways in which two minds intersect with one another.  The theory offers a couple of different levels at which a person could understand another and you should begin to contemplate them for yourself before reading next week's reading.

Thursday  October 2nd Motives in others and self

We can now follow up the preceding approach by developing some of the underpinnings of Burke and exploring the ways in which  language as a common communal tool shapes the manner in which we think about motivation, whether the motives of other individuals or of ourselves.  Be aware through this of the centrality of the concept of motivation (intention) in the way in which we circumscribe identity (and of course also recall that Kelly argued against the notion).

Reading:  Dixson & Duck (1993) "Understanding relationship processes: Uncovering the human search for meaning,"  In S. W. Duck (ed) Understanding relationship processes 1: Individuals in relationships, SAGE: Newbury Park. MAIN Library : HM132 .U56 1993 v.1

Come to class with: A few ideas about motives or motive descriptions, and the linguistic (rather than psychological) basis of motives.  Does it make sense to discuss the nature of motives, or to see individuals as driven by motives?  Consider the role of language in describing and defining the experience of individuals and the (dis)advantages of seeing motives not drives but as based in descriptive language

Tuesday October 7th: Community and a sense of shared meaning

We can now look at how two persons from the same community, who start out a little bit the same and a little bit different, can generate a sense of commonality from processes of identity and communication, based on common notions within a society concerning “motive”  .  While all this sinks in, here is a way of looking at it.  This approach is based on Kelly and attempts to relate Mead and Burke to the principles that we have picked up from Kelly.

Reading:  Duck (1994) Meaningful Relationships Chapter 4; Duck & Condra "To be or not to be: Anticipation, persuasion, and retrospection in personal relationships" from G. J. Neimeyer & R. A. Neimeyer (Eds.) Advances in Personal Construct Theory, vol 1, 1990, pp. 187-202

Thursday October 9th: Is the self alone? 

The earlier materials have looked at the self as a person making sense of the world in various ways and have looked at the “individuality” that lies behind that.  However the recent readings have indicated ways in which the individual, however skilled at making meaning, must do that in a way that makes sense within a context provided by others.  We start to look some more at that here, not so much as a socially constructed entity but as something that leaches over into other connections with other people.  Any identity connects to other identities and we will begin to explore the ways in which that happens. Following on an earlier distinction, we can now look at the sense in which an individual partakes of the broader social experience through membership of groups and communities of knowledge.  Since an individual inevitably draws on knowledge that is shared in any community to which he or she belongs, we run across the interesting issue of how individuals coalesce and whether information and knowledge are personal or communal.

Reading: Duck Meaningful Ch 1 & Ch 2; Solas, J. (1992) IJPCP "The ideological dimension implicit in Kelly's theory of personal constructs";

Come to class with: some thoughts about the ways in which identity is located in the community of others.  Does the notion of identity pre-require some notion of sociality?

Tuesday October 14th: Identity as social discourse

There are some important issues that have arisen now that take us outside of the head of the person away from solipsist mechanics and towards the influential roles of expectations held by other people.  We will now consider some of the important demands on performance that affect the social life of individuals and affect our senses of identity.

Reading Burkitt first three chapters. Skim Chapter One, noting the errors he makes in representing Kelly!  Focus on the discussion of Mead (Chapter 2), the ethogenic approach to social being (Chap 3) and the distinction between “self as character” and “self as performer”.  Consider also the importance of linguistic competence in social performance.

Come to class with some ideas about the ways in which the embeddedness of individuals in a broader society operates through symbolic discourse (i.e., discourse based on symbols) as well as through the management of accepted norms.

Thursday October 16th: Common ways of looking,

We have looked at some ways in which our social existence pre-requires some notions of “personality” as well as a suggestion that society is made up of collectivities of individuals.  We need to look at this another way now, and consider how the nature of human life depends on the ability to differentiate ourselves from others – or in other words, the ways in which individuality (at least as conceived in modern life) derives from a previous assumption of specific comprehension of the world derived from social membership.

Reading: Miller, D. L. "Introduction" In D. L. Miller (ed) Mead: The individual and the social self (1914/ 1980 edn). Duck (1994)  Meaningful Relationships Thousand Oaks: SAGE, Chapter 2  MAIN Library : HM132 .D775 1994 or PSYCHOLOGY Library : HM132 .D775 1994

Come to class with some thoughts on the ways in which we derive our sense of self from interaction with others that does not arise only from attempts to understand other people but from a desire to be a part of the social enterprise. 

Tuesday October 21st: Self in relation to Others Part II: Dependencies on others

The way we look at and understand others is not the whole picture of our interconnection to them, obviously, and Kelly, as a clinical psychologist, was all too aware of other aspects of the interaction of self and others.  First Kelly was interested in the issue of dependency but also in the nature of some of the disturbed connections between people.  Thus we will look at his writing on dependency and also on three negative sort of interactive style: hostility (for which he offered an entirely novel interpretation), threat, and aggression.  Since these items are apparent in social interaction and community they should be considered in attempts to understand individuality and society, as well as in understanding one person's range of possible relationships with another.

Reading:  1) Kelly "In whom confide, on whom depend for what?" in Maher, B. (Ed) (1969) Clinical Psychology and Personality: The selected papers of George Kelly  Kreiger: New York. 2) Kelly "Hostility" in Maher, pp. 267-280. 3) “The threat of aggression”   (Maher pp. 281-288)

Come to class with: some thoughts about the ways in which we relate to others in ways other than understanding.  Can you connect this thinking to anything you have read about attachment?

Thursday October 23rd:  The self in social relations of dependency

We have looked at the roles of language in organizing and structuring social life and the assumption therefore that discourse is synonymous with the social domain.  However there are two locations for the roots of discourse: the local and the general.  We have looked here (and will look again) at the local.  We need to look at the general also insofar as it affects identity.  Of course, it is important to tie together language, power and social interdependence, and this reading does that for us.

Reading: Burkitt Ch4, Ch 5 (can be skimmed) and Ch 6.

Come to class with some thoughts about the connections between language and power.  Are we dependent on others because of language in any sense at all?  How do realities of communal living create the identities that we use in speech?

Tuesday October 28th: Community as membership: Self as a referent

If the main challenge of living is sense making, it is crucial to ask where people find both their motivations and the needed resources to construct a narrative of identity.  These can be found in a number of places, from social directives to spiritual imperatives.  In this class we will consider the role of story telling about self as a factor that ties together social forces and individual needs.  We need also to consider how identity works as an accomplishment, as a process to which we refer in considering social interaction.

Reading Burkitt Ch7, Ch 8; Eisenberg, E. M. (2001). “Building a mystery: Toward a new theory of communication and identity.” Journal of Communication(September): 534-552.

Come to class with: some consideration of how tobacco and other psychoactive drugs might influence the sense of self.

Thursday October 30th:   Identity as a way of living

In a sense we begin to look at identity as a moral action, that is to say, identity as a way of living, based on the choices made between the alternative modes of action that a person sees as being available, relevant, and acceptable to others.  We shall therefore contact the notions of culture, dialogue, and rhetoric (as a strategy for influencing events and other people's views of them).  If there are such things as identities then they are founded in the accounts and judgements that people offer for actions of individuals.  Some buzz words and phrases are: Multiple levels of meaning;  Rhetoric as a universal motive (the affecting of situations); talk as a strategy for situations; dialectic as a process transforming situations and meanings for persons' identities).

Reading: Shotter, J.  (1992) What is a "personal relationship?  A rhetorical-responsive account of "unfinished business".  In J. H. Harvey, T. L. Orbuch & A. L. Weber (Eds) Attributions, accounts and close relationships. (pp. 19-39). Springer-Verlag: New York;  Browse in Billig, M.  (1991).  Ideology and opinions: Studies in rhetorical psychology.  Newbury Park: Sage; or browse in Billig, M., Condor, S., Edwards, D., Gane, M., Middleton, D. & Radley, A. (1988) Ideological dilemmas: A social psychology of everyday thinking. SAGE: London.

Come to class with: some evaluation of the rhetorical dialectical, dialogical approach to identity.

Tuesday November 3rd:   The self as a construct: Identity as role (management)

If identity is an accomplishment, a discourse, a narrative a root of moral action and the other things that we have looked at so far, then it will be subject to management (or those aspects of “it” will be subject to management) as discourse unfolds in interaction.  In this class we will consider where face management fits in with other thinking about identity. 

Reading: Metts, S. (2000). Face and facework: Implications for the study of personal relationships. Communication and personal relationships. K. Dindia and S. W. Duck. Chichester, Wiley: 72-94; Cockett, L. S. in Mokros. Cockett, L. S.: Authority matters: An examination of a chair’s participation in a group decision making meeting.

Come to class with: some thoughts about frameworks of Identity within which “an identity” can be managed in localized interactions.  Are we talking about the same thing when identity is equated with “face” as we are when it is equated with “being”?

Thursday November 5th: Self as a rhetorical being

Our consideration of identity issues has been long and winding.  Way back in September we considered a piece by Kelly that spoke of the “invitational mood” of language and we have variously referred to Burke, consubstantiality and identification.  We have also mentioned the sermonic force of language.  Let’s look at identity as a rhetorical construct.

Reading: Mokros introduction;  Rumsey in Mokros; revisit the Kelly piece on the invitational nature of language; revisit the Boxer piece on Choice.

Come to class with:  some thoughts about  whether identity is rhetorical.

Tuesday November 11th: Identity matters

We can now look at some specific work that applies a communication approaches to identity and we will work through the Mokros book for the next two classes.

Reading: Chelton on age differences between adolescents and staff in school library; Coan on gender matters in becoming a dancer; Mokros on salesmen

Thursday 13th

Reading: Lemesianou, Maynard, Thomas from Mokros


Tuesday 18th November The answers!!

In this seminar we will solve all the problems of the preceding semester HAHAHAHAHA, just to set you up right for the presentations that you will be giving yourselves in the rest of the course.

Reading: Antaki, C., Condor, S.,  & Levine, M. (1996) Social identities in talk: Speakers’ own orientations. Brit J Soc Psych. 35, 473-492.

Thursday 20th No Class (NCA)

Tuesday 25th, Thursday 27th No Class (Thanksgiving)

Tuesday 2nd December - Thursday 11th December


At this point the style of the course changes.  Instead of general class discussion on the topics that you have all read and written notes about, one person will come to the class prepared to lead the discussion by presenting a survey of a topic and an evaluation of the literature.  That person will provide ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE, a prep-sheet for the rest of the class (and for me!) outlining key points and providing ONE reading to give us the flavor of the chosen topic.  The rest of you will be expected to have read the prep-sheet and the reading provided in advance by this person, but you are not required to have read as much on the topic as usual .... partly because you will undoubtedly be working on your own detailed presentation to the class.

The leader's assignment here is to write the short (2 page) prep-sheet about a topic and to come to class ready to reconceptualize it in terms of any approach to identity issues.  You should provide a representative discussion of the topic and offer some new ways of thinking about it.  Include a reference section so that we can all benefit from your review.  Be prepared to lead a discussion of the reviewed topic and ensure that we all receive your prep-sheet (and the reading) the week before we all are due to discuss it.  The written prep-sheet need not be the same as the report presented in class, and the review presented to the class could be a condensed version of the one you hand in for grading (but does not have to be).

For these classes each of you will present your review of your chosen area, as indicated above.  The schedule for doing this will be worked out in an early class and you are responsible for doing the work and being prepared to present it at the due time.  In each case, your review should be ready for giving out to the class ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE of your scheduled presentation.

The final assignment (brief research proposal) is due in by 5.00 on December 12th.


from G. A. Kelly "A Brief Introduction to Personal Construct Theory" (p. 9-29)  in Bannister, D. [Ed] (1970) Perspectives in personal construct theory. London: Academic Press

Basic Postulate

A person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which s/he anticipates events


Construction Corollary
A person anticipates events by construing their replications.
Individuality Corollary
Persons differ from each other in their constructions of events.
Organization Corollary
Each person characteristically evolves, for his or her convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs.
Dichotomy Corollary
A person's construction system is composed of a finite number of dichotomous constructs.
Choice Corollary
A person chooses for himself or herself that alternative in a dichotomized construct through which s/he anticipates the greater possibility for the elaboration of his or her system.
Range Corollary
A construct is convenient for the anticipation of a finite range of events only.
Experience Corollary
A person's construction system varies as s/he successively construes the replication of events.
Modulation Corollary
The variation in a person's construction system is limited by the permeability of the constructs within whose ranges of convenience the variants lie.
Fragmentation Corollary
A person may successively employ a variety of construction subsystems which are inferentially incompatible with each other.
Commonality Corollary
To the extent that one person employs a construction of experience which is similar to that employed by another, the person’s processes are psychologically similar to those of the other person.
Sociality Corollary
To the extent that one person construes the construction process of another, s/he may play a role in a social process involving the other person.