Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication


Attribution theory seeks to explain the ways in which humans ascribe causes to everyday events, especially the observed behavior of other human beings. This study seeks to apply the basic patterns of social attribution to the act of "pre-formance"--the aesthetic act in which a performer engages the voice of a literary text and, through rehearsals involving attribuiton, embodies that voice for some audience. Theodore Newcomb's "symmetry theory," a model that contains the essential features of human attribution, is discussed within the philosophical perspective of phenomenology, and the transformed model is used as the basis for a new theory of the act of performance. Three essential patterns of attribution are defined (consistency, consensus, and distinctiveness) and applied to the author's "pre-formance" of William Faulkner's story "A Rose For Emily." Also, the fundamental attribution error is defined as "the tendency to overattribute other's behaviors to disposition rather than to environment or context," and this tendency of human perception is revealed to be the cause of much literary (and social) misinterpretation. Finally, the theories of M. M. Bakhtin are appropriated to the model, to allow the engagement of the performer/reader and the literary other (e.g. narrators or characters) to be described as the complex experiential phenomenon that it is. The finished model, which replaces the "textual other" with the concept of "figural voice," describes attribution as the most important principle in the psychological construction of a response to a literary text.