Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Since the 1970 publication of Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye, her work has not only inspired critical praise for its unique portrayal of African-American life, it has also consistently evoked comparison to the work of William Faulkner. While Morrison studied Faulkner in college and wrote her Master's thesis on Faulkner and Woolf, she has repeatedly denied Faulkner's influence, claiming instead a strong affinity between her work and that of other black women writers and African-American cultural forms. As a white southern male writer whose novels are primarily about white southern culture, William Faulkner does seem an unlikely progenitor for an African-American woman writer from Lorain, Ohio.;This study attempts to negotiate the difficult questions of literary influence raised by such comparisons by offering a reading between selected works of Morrison and Faulkner that first acknowledges the dangers inherent in intertextual models that rely on the filial tropes. I suggest that, despite the obvious association of the term intertextuality with post-structuralist theory, intertextual reading practice often appears to be influenced by a biological model which privileges filiation. I turn to the concepts of Lacanian psychoanalysis, especially those of desire, the voice and the gaze, for a way of discussing individual texts by Faulkner and Morrison, and to the Lacanian psychoanalytic encounter for a model of intertextuality that both accounts for influence and allows us to theorize beyond it.;I focus primarily on Morrison's The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and Beloved and Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! and Go Down, Moses, but I also discuss Morrison's Jazz and Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury and Light in August. By locating many of the intertextual sites through common reference in Morrison and Faulkner to African-American musical forms such as gospel, blues, and jazz, I suggest the possibility of an intertextual reading practice that can chart the alterity that haunts not only all intertextual relationships, but also the desiring subject him/herself.



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