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Voicing Relationships

Voicing Relationships
A Dialogic Perspective

January 2010 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

One of the field's most respected scholars advances a dialogic perspective on communication in personal and familial relationships, presenting the next iteration of relational dialectics theory (RDT).

"This is an excellent book and moves one of the major theories in the social sciences forward in very innovative ways. Indeed, this book extends beyond RDT by addressing limitations in the family, interpersonal, and personal relationships literature. I believe this book will prompt many discussions among theorists and researchers in those areas and has the potential to provide exciting new directions in the study of relationships." —Glen H. Stamp, Ball State University

"Leslie A. Baxter is offering up something here that is desperately needed and fills a big hole for those who adopt RDT as their theoretical framework. . . . I found the conceptual content of the book to be clear, compelling, and provoking. . . . The chapter on contrapuntal analysis is the only one of its kind." —Melissa Wood Alemán, James Madison University

Voicing Relationships presents a dialogic perspective on relating, inspired by the dialogism work of the Russian theorist of literature and culture, Mikhail Bakhtin. Written by Leslie A. Baxter, one of the theory's originators, this groundbreaking book presents the next iteration of the theory, along with a methodological primer for contrapuntal analysis that includes guiding readers through a sample analysis.

Developing a rich palette of dialogic concepts useful in the study of interpersonal communication, the book's central argument is that meaning making emerges from the clash of competing systems of meaning, or discourses. Relationship communication is embedded in culture, history, difference, and conceptions of the ideal. In addition, the book gives us a method by which to study communication dialogically—contrapuntal analysis.

Key Features

  • Centers communication at the heart of relationships with an interdisciplinary focus on communication from fields such as psychology, social work, and sociology
  • Offers an up-to-date distillation of two decades of relevant research to organize major findings and issues
  • Moves scholars and students beyond simplistic uses of relational dialectics or using the dialectical pairs in overly-simplistic "cookie cutter" ways
  • Provides scholars and students with guidance in using RDT to guide their own research

Intended Audience

Voicing Relationships is ideal for use in a wide range of courses, such as Interpersonal Communication; Family Studies; Couples, Marriage, and Family; and Counseling.

1. Introduction
Evaluation of RDT as a Theory

Reworkings: Alternative Framings of Interpersonal Communication

Overview of the Chapters

2. Mikhail Bakhtin, Dialogism, and RDT
Bakhtin’s Life and Selected Key Works

Bakhtin’s Dialogism 1919-1924

Bakhtin’s Dialogism Post-1924

Locating Bakhtin’s Theory of Dialogism in Communication Research

Locating RDT in Bakhtin’s Dialogism

3. Discursive Struggles of Culture
The Utterance Chain

Distal Already-Spokens of Culture

The Discursive Struggle of Integration

The Discursive Struggle of Expression


4. Discursive Struggles of Relational History, Otherness, and Normative Evaluation
The Proximal Already-Spoken: Discursive Struggles of Relational History

The Proximal Not-Yet-Spoken: Discursive Struggles of Otherness

The Distal Not-Yet-Spoken: Discursive Struggles of Normative Evaluation


5. Centripetal-Centrifugal Struggle
Foregrounding Power in Centripetal-Centrifugal Struggle

The Interplay of Discourses

Communication Genres of Discursive Struggle


6. Doing Contrapuntal Analysis
Selecting Texts in Contrapuntal Analysis

Identifying Competing Discourses

Identifying the Interplay of Competing Discourses

A Sample Contrapuntal Analysis: A “Dear Birth Mother” Letter


About the Author

Whilst this text provides a comprehensive overview of relational dialogical concepts, it is too in depth for an introductory education studies course. Discussions around the role of social constructivism are particularly interesting and would be useful for students studying at post-graduate level.

Ms Lorraine Anne Loveland-Armour
Department of Education, Newman University
November 4, 2016

The author is using Bahtim's ideas to show the ways communication and relationship is established between people. A great read for anyone who is using symbolic interactionism theoretical framework

Ms Irena Loveikaite
Department of Applied Arts, Waterford Institute of Technology
April 14, 2016

Fantastic book however is not relevant for the course, but excellent for students to understand the wider aspects of the voicing relationships.

Mr Amer Shehzad
Lancashire Business School, University of Central Lancashire
October 15, 2014

too advanced for my undergraduate class

Dr Molly Reynolds
Communication Dept, University Of Kentucky
March 3, 2014

The scope of the text is too specific.

Miss Joquina Reed
Language Literature Arts Dept, Texas A & M International University
June 10, 2012
Key features
  • This book presents and explores a central and logical expansion of the original relational dialectics theory.
  • Baxter develops a view of communication as constituting personal realtionships (and selves), taking a unique focus on communication from other disciplines where communication is studied as a variable (e.g., psychology, social work, sociology) and centering communication at the heart of relationships, and more than that, as constituting them.
  • This next generation of the theory takes a broader, dialogic focus, significantly moving the uses and discussion of the theory forward.
  • The book will move students and scholars past very simplistic uses of relational dialectics (e.g., erroneously looking at this as a theory of balancing opposites, such as openness-closedness) or using the dialectical pairs in overly-simplistic "cookie cutter" ways, providing them with greater guidance in using the theory to guide their own research.

Sage College Publishing

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