Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Adam Bradley

Second Advisor

Nan Goodman

Third Advisor

William Kuskin

Fourth Advisor

Maria Windell

Fifth Advisor

Deborah Whitehead


“Teach Me Your Word” examines Protestant discourse in twentieth- and twenty-first-century American novels, comics, and television. It argues that artists employ shifting representations of the ineffable not to establish a Protestant nation but to critique and reform injustice in America. Including texts from William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison, David Simon, Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon, Scott Cheshire, and Marilynne Robinson, “Teach Me Your Word” analyzes the sermonic rhetoric of literary pastors and pastor figures to identify the mediated, negotiated, and transformative effect of religious discourse within American literary communities. Furthermore, the gospel message preached within these texts always redirects so that it speaks to the reading/viewing audiences as well as the fictional characters. Protestant discourses in American literature need to be considered as both religious and sociopolitical discourses that work to align America’s practices more closely with its stated ideals. To do so in a non-oppressive, non-discriminatory manner, these texts resist concretizing the ineffable source that powers religious discourse so as to generate evolving conceptions of both religious and American ways of living in the world.