Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Calvin Troup

Committee Member

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Ronald C. Arnett


C.S. Lewis, Grace, Interpersonal communication, Intimacy, Love, Philosophy of communication


This project builds a theory of the presence and practice of grace in intimate interpersonal communication utilizing the writings of C.S. Lewis and his intellectual mentors. Lewis, who wrote extensively on the theory and practice of love, offers a compelling approach to understanding human relationships from a Christian philosophical perspective.

The first chapter begins with major questions and themes in the interpersonal literature concerning human discourse, relation, and action. Lewis frames human relationships in a robustly theoretical and practical manner, characterizing the conditions of our discursive relational selves as difficult yet joyful. He argues that the work of intimate interpersonal relationship building is in need of the presence and practice of grace.

The second chapter expands upon Lewis's response to his historical moment. Lewis's Christian theism lends him a compelling scholarly and pragmatic standpoint amongst the other critics of modernity. He is writing and living within the cusp of historical change. Accordingly, the chapter discusses key texts in which Lewis articulates the problematic trends within modernity concerning presuppositions of human discourse and relation. Together, these texts speak to the presence and practice of grace in intimate interpersonal communication.

Chapters Three, Four, and Five outline the major metaphors which build a theory of grace in intimate relationships: sentiment, will, and responsiveness. Lewis's work suggests that we as scholars and practitioners should consider intimate interpersonal communication as a matter of sentiment understood philosophically, will understood phenomenologically, and responsiveness understood ontologically. These metaphors frame intimacy as heartfelt choice, loving labor, and responsiveness to form. Each of these metaphors build upon the other, and each chapter concludes with specific implications for interpersonal communication theory and practice.

Chapter Six discusses current discursive and practical trends concerning intimacy development. The project argues that adolescents and young adults meet challenging moments of relational development with incongruent beliefs and practices, often rendering them ill-prepared for intimacy. In a culmination of the major metaphors of this project, the concluding sections discuss approaches to teaching young adults about how to feel, will, and respond in intimate contexts in a manner which leads to good and gracious love.