A study on the use of direct Bible quotes in evangelical Christian self -help books: An argumentative and dialogic approach
Doctor of Philosophy
My research describes the ways in which the argumentative use of a direct Bible quote contributes to the shaping of the semantic contours of given passages in evangelical Christian self-help books. It therefore views the passages in question as arguments that take advantage of biblical authority and examines the specific methods with which the quoting authors interpret the quote and apply certain reasoning strategies to it. In addition, aligning with Bakhtin's insights, I view these tasks as dialogically performed and present my descriptive analysis as an application of his theory of dialogicality to real-life data. To analyze the structure of arguments in my data, I rely on the model created by Toulmin in his The uses of arguments and the argument typology that Brockriede and Ehrninger proposed based on Toulmin's model. The argumentative passages comprising my data set were collected from twelve books written in English and published in the United States in approximately the last thirty years. The data descriptions consist of three parts. First, I look into the stage before the argumentative reasoning is developed and discuss the specific strategies used for placing an interpretative spin on the quote and combining it with another independent idea. Second, I present a taxonomy of the arguments in my data according to the type of reasoning they use to produce a claim. Third, I examine three aspects of the data that the previous classifications overlook in terms of illuminating the semantic structure of argumentative passages that utilize a direct Bible quote. For each description, I discuss how the phenomena in question can be understood as a dialogic interaction between a prior text and the writer and also between the writer and her readers. In short, my research offers a new approach to quotation and its use in evangelical Christian self-help books. It highlights the argumentative nature of the passages from these books that rely on the authority of the quote for their thesis. I also claim that the argumentative process in question is dialogically undertaken and so argue that my research renders the efficacy of Bakhtin's theory better recognized.