Christianity and lesbian subjectivity in texts by Alice Walker, Jeanette Winterson & Carla Trujillo
Santiago, Angela I.
Master of Arts
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This thesis focuses on the ways in which Christianity seeks to limit lesbian subjectivity in three novels: Alice Walker's The Color Purple (1982), Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) by Jeanette Winterson, and What Night Brings (2003) by Carla Trujillo. Despite variations in place, culture, and belonging, these three novels share a basic Christian ideology that is patriarchal and homophobic, a repressive ideology within and against which each novel's protagonist struggles to assert her lesbian identity. My first chapter, "Redefining the Boundaries of Spirituality: Celie's Discovery of Lesbian Desire as an Alternative Spiritual Path in The Color Purple," explores the way that Celie's conceptualization of God changes from the Baptist model of a punishing white male figure to a more feminine God who parallels her love relationship with Shug. I argue that their lesbian connection is a catalyst for spiritual transformation. My second chapter, "Embracing Forbidden Fruit: Jeanette's Journey Away From God in Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit." discusses the Evangelical church's attempts to "cure" Jeanette of her sexual deviance and to force her to suppress her "otherness." I argue that this ultimately leads to rebellion against the church in favour of her lesbian identity. My third chapter, "Away from Anatomy, Towards Desire: Lesbian Yearnings vs. Religious Ideology in W hat Night Brings," focuses on prayer and confession as they parallel Marci's struggle to come to terms with her "deviant" sexuality. I argue that Marci is able to defy both her family and the Catholic Church in favour of sexual freedom and an intensely personal, individualistic form of spirituality. Throughout the analysis that follows, this thesis shows how each character develops a stable identity beyond the confines of her familial ties to religion and creates a space for herself that promotes new forms of subjectivity and truth.