Reconsidering Literary Onomastics: Names and Naming in Faulkner and Morrison



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The subject of this thesis is literary onomastics – the study of names in literature. My focus is on American literature, and, specifically, on two important authors within the genre: William Faulkner and Toni Morrison. My project is a multilayered analysis of the theory and its applications to literature. I begin in my Introduction with a review and critique of the theoretical origins of literary onomastics in addition to other past applications of the theory, so as to make clear the necessity of a new way of approaching literary onomastics. I then provide this revised approach with a new methodology that allows for a much broader and nuanced conceptualization of the function of names in literature. This methodology further provides a new point of comparison for Faulkner and Morrison, a favorite pairing for scholars of American literature. I then demonstrate the efficacy of my new methodology with close readings of Light in August (1932) and As I Lay Dying (1930) by William Faulkner, and Beloved (1987) and Song of Solomon (1977) by Toni Morrison. Although literary onomastics has been previously dismissed by some scholars as unproductive, my new methodology makes clear that names are not only an essential element of these particular authors’ literary projects, but also an expansive and illuminative means by which to analyze all literature.



literary onomastics, Faulkner, William, Morrison, Toni, American literature, Plato, Cratylus, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, Beloved, Song of Solomon