Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Kathleen M. Torrens


“Changing Moods, Breaking & Building Bonds: Exploring EVT through Literary Representation” examines demonstrations of Expectancy Violations Theory (EVT) through embodied interactions of fictional characters. With a focus on Jane Austen’s portrayal of interpersonal conflict, this exploration evaluates the theory of expectancy violations (EVT) through the study of the central pairings in Sense and Sensibility (1811) and Pride and Prejudice (1813), two of Austen’s most celebrated novels, and observes how this theory illuminates interpersonal relationships in Austen’s work. Moreover, it seeks to illustrate how the application of expectancy violations theory (EVT) to literary texts reveals concepts such as self-deception. There has been limited research connecting theories of communication to the literary novel. This study seeks to reveal how practicable concepts can explicate classical fiction and, therefore, increase its value.

The methodological approach to this research consists of a thorough examination of essays and critiques on Austen’s work and a close reading of two of her acclaimed novels through an ideological lens, in which patterns, themes, and examples of expectancy violations theory (EVT) are interpreted. Additionally, this analysis examines a variety of studies done on expectancy violations theory (EVT), in order to establish how this theory illuminates the preoccupations behind Austen’s novels. Finally, this research explores critical essays on the concept of self-deception, in order to demonstrate an influential relationship between expectancy violations theory and this recurrent, literary theme.

At the heart of this analysis are two dissimilar relationships that, while having different results, inevitably still have to follow the same path in order to get there. Each of these partnerships encounter expectancy violations along the way, both positive and negative, and are inevitably confronted with self-deception. For Marianne, the heroine of Sense and Sensibility, arises from Elizabeth Bennet’s humiliation caused by Mr. Darcy’s unusual behavior. One of the more interesting dynamics of how these distinct relationships either flourish or disintegrate is that each is partially influenced by an outside source, raising the question as to whether other breaches of expectations would have been quite so impactful, had these external influences not been present - a question that can be answered with further research. The purpose of this study is to apply the familiar interpersonal theory of expectancy violations (EVT) to literature, offering an alternative perspective and understanding of the literary novel, and to illustrate why Austen’s work is still significant today.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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