Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Thadious M. Davis


On A Path of Decent Pleasures: Sex, Spirit, and Affect in Late Twentieth-Century African American Literature explores how queer modes of relationality have modified black religious expression in African American novels of the late twentieth century. By thinking through the category of the “queer” within an affective economy of relations rather than as an identity, my work attends to the biological and biopolitical pressures placed upon the construction of racial and social formations and collectivities. Through analyzing novels by James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Randall Kenan, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker, this project illustrates the ways in which queerness has been operant in black religious space, expression, and thought in the post-Civil Rights black literary imagination. Each chapter takes a different queer modality or relational mode—queer affective attachments, queer affective mapping, queer touch, and queer hemispheric contact—in order to trace a conceptual and critical trajectory that can account for the ways in which black literature refashions the dynamic relationship between race, spirituality, sexuality, history, and memory. By mining these texts for the various ways in which black authors have imagined queerness as being not only compatible with religious expression but as being one of black religion’s structuring structures, I show that these novels excavate the space for a political terrain that can be simultaneously black, religious, and queer.


Available to all on Tuesday, December 21, 2021