Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in English



First Advisor

Jay D. Watson

Second Advisor

Jarod H. Roll

Third Advisor

Jaime L. Harker

Relational Format



“Book of Empire” reveals that contrary to what is often suggested by scholars, modernism is not a moment of secularization and declining faith and that the Bible is actually a resource for mounting a radical critique of empire, nation-building, and racial oppression that defies conservative notions supporting those undertakings. For Willa Cather, William Faulkner, and Zora Neale Hurston, the Bible is a source of moral authority they use to challenge the imperialist, colonialist, and nativist projects of the twentieth-century U.S. In rebranding the Bible as politically radical, these writers are not denying the authority of the Bible, but are re-appropriating it for their socially dynamic purposes, suggesting that conservatives are not reading the Bible correctly. If they were, they would find critique of empire, nationalism, and racial oppression—elements of a progressive agenda in a text too often enlisted to defend the status quo.



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