Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Humanities (PhD)



First Advisor

Daniel Black, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Timothy Askew, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Georgene Bess, Ph.D.


This study examines trauma, particularly in the thematic contexts of the individual and the community as reflected in her novels Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved. By utilizing the specific theoretical modes of new historicism and trauma theory, the veil of double consciousness imposed on African Americans is explicated and exposes various forms of trauma in the individual and the community. The unspoken atrocities experienced as a result of slavery, Jim Crow, and physical and sexual violence in many of Morrison’s novels, suggest the common thread of trauma. The particular traumas depicted in Morrison’s novels Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved, damage agency, lead to detachment and paralysis in the individual. The scope of this study is limited to the novels Sula, Song of Solomon, and Beloved as they best illustrate trauma in Morrison’s characters and the damage it causes to agency, leading to detachment and paralysis in the individual.

The literary theories of new historicism and psychoanalysis provide cultural and literary context for the novels and allow for a deeper rendering of the characteristics of trauma and provide the context for the term dynamic trauma. of oppression as a mean of dysfunction in the thematic These novels reveal a pathology of trauma disguised as normalcy in the African American community, which leads to disrupted lives, relationships, and communities. Morrison not only depicts these dysfunctional behaviors due to traumatic circumstances but also offers a remedy for the dysfunction—acceptance without acquiescence.