Date of Award

1994

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Richard C. Moreland

Abstract

Liqht in August, Moses, Man of the Mountain, Uncle Tom's Children, and Wise Blood all borrow from the South's religious traditions. Recognizing the authority given to the Book, Faulkner, Hurston, Wright, and O'Connor invoke and re-read its central stories, characters, and tropes in order to voice their individual contributions to the South's intra-cultural conversation on race. In various ways, each work claims the necessity of the South to revitalize its practice of biblical interpretation. All of these texts comment upon the South's racial struggles over exactly how the Bible was to be interpreted: is it a book to aid in the exercising of leverage in maintaining racial inequality; is this a text for galvanizing a heterodox group of individuals into a community; is this book to provide a common rhetoric for overturning Southern racial bigotry; or, is the Bible, for the majority of white readers, only concerned with personal piety and salvation? Chapter One explores these questions while outlining my methodology and providing a historical context for my investigation. Chapter Two examines Faulkner's Liqht in August as a critique of an interpretive community within the white Protestant South which read the Bible as divine justification for its racist practices. In Chapter Three, Hurston's Moses, Man of the Mountain is shown to reflect the black church's appropriation of biblical stories to provide models for the black community's support and to undermine white racists' biblical readings. Chapter Four studies Wright's declaration in Uncle Tom's Children that true social and economic equality for Southern black church members will only come through politically committed confrontation. Chapter Five examines how O'Connor's Wise Blood replicates the white Southern church's emphasis on personal salvation and its de-emphasis upon material conditions such as racial equality. Quite simply, de facto segregation and African-American second-class citizenship became so naturalized as to no longer concern the white South's religiosity. The concluding chapter, Chapter Six, speculates on the benefits of an intertextual critical practice for Southern studies and literary investigations, in general.

Pages

237

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