Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Eric Acton

Committee Member

Daniel Seely


The focus of this study is on uncovering the underlying cultural assumptions, or Master Narratives, across four couples narratives that I elicited. I use Deborah Tannen's work and definitions to frame my analysis (2008). She identifies three narrative types: small-n narrative, the accounts of specific events or interactions that speakers said had occurred with one another; big-N Narrative, the themes speakers develop in telling about one another and in support of which they told the small-n narratives; and Master Narrative, the culture-wide ideologies shaping the big-N Narratives. Specifically, I identify two Master Narratives that underscore couples narratives in a broad sense: (1) relationships occur by happenstance and (2) adversity enhances the coupling bond. These assumptions are identified in locating the big-N Narratives and small-n narratives across four couples stories. Like Tannen, I aim to show how these three narrative types operate on different levels of abstraction and how couples conceptualize and talk about their relationships with one another.