The Contributions of the Narrative Paradigm to Examining Prophetic Rhetoric

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 1-1-2009



Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Pat Arneson

Committee Member

Calvin Troup

Committee Member

Richard Thames


prophetic, rhetoric, prophecy, narrative, fisher, teresa


Religious leaders, politicians, and entrepreneurs frequently issue declarations about societal change and advancements, pronouncements that are in turn routinely deemed "prophetic" by the media and by members of the audience who hear those declarations. And yet, upon closer scrutiny, those comments may not actually be "prophetic". The current project was born of an attempt to understand prophetic rhetoric and to examine specifically the example of Mother Teresa's rhetoric.

This project asks the research question: "What structures are in place for examining rhetoric for prophetic qualities?" The characteristic of "speaking God's word" is essential to some scholars' understanding of the nature of prophetic rhetoric, thus making the identification of prophetic rhetoric critical. The communication and religious communication literature is wide on the subject of prophetic rhetoric and includes a variety of methods for examination. This research builds on the extant methods of identification by using narrative as a method for examining rhetoric for prophetic qualities. The narrative paradigm augments the narrative method by illuminating additional prophetic qualities of a rhetor's narrative, specifically the call to social action. This work contributes to a greater understanding of religious discourse by various publics and assists in developing religious common ground. This common ground allows publics to understand the value of prophetic discourse. This understanding in turn assists the progress of civil discourse in a postmodern society.

Chapter one provides an historical context for the study of prophetic rhetoric. Chapter two provides a comprehensive review of the literature about prophetic rhetoric in communication studies. Chapter three discusses the narrative paradigm as a way of informing investigations of rhetoric, specifically searching for a call to social action. Chapter four examines the rhetorical case of the narrative of Mother Teresa. And chapter five connects civility and social action to the investigation of prophetic rhetoric.





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