Date of Award

Spring 6-30-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Chris Kocela

Second Advisor

Marti Singer

Third Advisor

Randy Malamud

Fourth Advisor

Paul Schmidt


Contemporary American novels over the last forty years have developed a unique orientation toward religious and spiritual rhetoric that can best be understood within the multidisciplinary concept of the postsecular. In the morally-tinged discourse of their characters, several esteemed American novelists (John Updike, Toni Morrison, Louise Erdrich, and Cormac McCarthy) since 1970 have used sermons or sermon-like artifacts to convey postsecular attitudes and motivations. These postsecular sermons express systems of belief that are hybrid, exploratory, and confessional in nature. Through rhetorical analysis of sermons in four contemporary American novels, this dissertation explores the performance of postsecularity in literature and defines the contribution of those tendancies to the field of literary and rhetorical studies.