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Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


First Advisor

Deborah Carlin

Second Advisor

Joseph T. Skerrett, Jr.

Third Advisor

Joyce A. Berkman

Subject Categories

American Literature | American Studies


The aim of this dissertation is to explore how and why Toni Morrison employs biblical allusion, biblical names and entire books of the Bible both directly and ironically in order to emphasize the importance of ancestry and community in the lives of African-Americans. Morrison begins in Sula emphasizing the idea that communities that are not cohesive cannot survive. She challenges her readers to question how The Bottom community could have thrived if the people thought of it as more than just a place, but as a group of neighbors who help each other to live and grow. She continues in Song of Solomon with the emphasis not only on community but also on ancestry as identity. When Jake agrees to give up his name, he prevents his descendants from knowing or understanding from where they came. In not knowing their past, they are empty. She culminates her argument in Beloved where she fully emphasizes both community and ancestry with the incarnation of Beloved as the community of all slaves that have gone before. All three novels are heavily laden with biblical allusion that culminate in Morrison's challenge for all not to forget and to let their history lead to a reclamation of ancestry and community.