Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


Patricia Sotirin


Stephen Pluhacek


This project examines fundamentalism understood as an everyday way of living poorly with difference. It demonstrates that the fundamentalist is not reducible to stereotypes of the terrorist, extremist, irrational madman, or religious zealot. All of these characterizations--common in mainstream media--depict the fundamentalist as them, and rarely, if ever, as us. Rather, this project understands fundamentalism in terms of fundamental interpretive constructs that constrain our ways of being-with others, skew our interpretive and responsive possibilities, distort our perceptions of difference, and affirm our poor treatment of others. Following Martin Heidegger's conception of the hermeneutic structure of existence, this dissertation calls attention to the ways in which such fundamentalisms filter our interpretation. Yet the hermeneutic character of existence also highlights the incompleteness of any particular frame of interpretation and indicates the possibility of alternative interpretive responses. The project turns to a feminist theological hermeneutic in order to indicate more hopeful and liberating ways of living with difference, ways that point beyond everyday fundamentalism toward invitational communication.

Through new readings of familiar biblical narratives, this dissertation revisits the fundamentalisms that trigger these narratives in order to draw out an alternative feminist theological hermeneutic, or what is termed here an invitational hermeneutic. Each story offers unique ways of making sense of being-with and sharing the world with others of difference that redress the impoverished and fundamentalist forms of self-preserving care and understanding. By examining the well-loved stories of the Good Samaritan, Ruth and Naomi, Queen Esther, and the Apostle Paul and Lydia, the dissertation identifies interpretive and responsive possibilities that together issue an alternative hermeneutical invitation: to understand difference compassionately, to engage strangers and family members alike with rehabilitative care and concernful reticence, and to extend graceful hospitality to others. In these ways, the dissertation indicates possibilities beyond the horizon of fundamentalism, invitational possibilities of living and communicating with difference.