Date of Award

6-16-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ben Rafoth, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Paul W. Chilcote, Ph.D., M.Div.

Abstract

The present study investigates specific details in the narrative strategies of six women clergy in order to identify thematic patterns reflected in their personal call narratives and to interrogate the socio-culturally situated identity reflected by these patterns. By conducting a cross-disciplinary study of six second-career women who understand themselves to be “called to the ministry,” I unpack and foreground the transformative experiences they undergo in their journey as scholars and ministers. Each woman had recently earned, or was about to graduate with, a professional theological degree, the Master of Divinity. Each was between the ages of 35-55, having maintained a previous career in an entirely different field before returning to graduate school for a theological professional degree. The data garnered from this study suggests that women pursuing the Master of Divinity Degree (Professional Graduate Degree) undergo a personal transformation which is not only evidenced in their speech and their construction of personal narratives, but which shapes their own perception of themselves as public figures. This identity transformation reveals itself as participants strive to negotiate between personal identities, goals, and priorities and the requirements concerning public verbal and written expression of their call to ministry they feel obligated to meet in the context of their disciplinary and ecclesial discourse communities. Borrowing insights from the disciplinary fields of rhetoric, narrative inquiry, discourse analysis, performance and feminist theory, and theology, this study provides a portrait of some of the ways women “called to preach” use words and rhetorical strategies to create their ministerial identity as well as to validate that identity to themselves and to others. The study concludes by offering suggestions on ways both the church and the academy might respond more positively to women seeking to participate in ordained ministry.

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