Melissa Lewis

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Judith Hoover, Cecile Garmon, Ron Veenker


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Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Myths present ideas that guide perception, conditioning us to think in a particular way. Myths stemming from and propagated by a religion that venerates a female deity provides a very different image of womanhood than those offered from a male-oriented religion. In this thesis I examine the rhetorical visions of images of men and women in different creation myths. Specifically, this study identifies (1) the fantasy themes present in creation myths depicting a female or male creator and (2) how each society incorporates the fantasy themes social reality.

The fantasy theme method of rhetorical criticism, created by Bormann (1972), provides the mode of analysis for the sample of creation myths. The sample consists of fifteen creation myths from past and present day cultures. This study does not contain an equal sample of creation myths depicting a creatress versus a male creator; for the fantasy theme of God as a woman exists almost as a mere anomaly.

From the fantasy themes present in the creation myths, I construct two rhetorical visions - god a. a man and god as a woman. In the rhetorical vision of god as a woman, she appears as a mother figure who manifests herself in our physical world. The rhetorical vision of god as a man presents a vision of a male dominated universe in which the supreme deity exists outside this world.

These two rhetorical visions constitute two different rhetorical communities. Participation in these rhetorical communities involves different motives and consequences for women's lives. The social reality for women living in societies that venerate a male creator is oppression, while women living in societies that venerate a creatress share equal status with men.

In this thesis I explore the rhetorical relationship between religion and society through a feminist perspective. Applying Fisner's (1984) narrative paradigm to creation myths provides alternatives to the construction of gender found in patriarchal creation myths. Implementing the narrative paradigm in patriarchal religious cultures will allow women to define their own gender through the introduction of new religious myths within the patriarchy and by offering an alternative paradigm in which to view and tell existing myths.


Communication | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Rhetoric and Composition | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Speech and Rhetorical Studies