Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Hyon Yoo Joo


The school of thought articulated by critical theorists Giorgio Agamben and Joan Copjec differ from each other in methodology, approach, and language. Yet, both Agamben and Copjec each write to reject positivist notions of ethics, which each theorist identifies as rooted in the same ideological apparatuses that propagate exclusionary and violent actions. By turning away from pre-given ethics and ideology, these writers attempt to delineate why these philosophies have been the vehicle of violence and racial oppression, and reiterate the importance of turning away from such thought in order for the subject to conceptualize a new way of being and relating to others that combats dominant ideology. Agamben's theoretical concept of homo sacer that lies at the center of his philosophical project, and Copjec's Lacanian understanding of the subject as inherently ruptured, both delineate subjectivity, as well as the concepts of race and racism in novel ways. Using these theorists to read Morrison's novels illustrates the critical concepts outlined by these two thinkers.

In the first chapter of this thesis, I plan to outline Agamben's notion of homo sacer, and Copjec's theorizing of the subject as inherently ruptured. I employ Morrison's piece of literary criticism, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, to demonstrate how Morrison's literary and intellectual project as a writer also aims to refigure subjectivity, illustrating and expanding upon Agamben and Copjec's work. In the second chapter, I will move on to discuss Agamben's political philosophy and concept of homo sacer, analyzing Morrison's novels, A Mercy, and Home to demonstrate how her work illustrates and expands upon Agamben's analysis of biopolitics. Lastly, in the third chapter of this thesis, I place Morrison in dialogue with Copjec, demonstrating how Morrison's characters illustrate the notion of a ruptured subject, and why it is important to read her work through this lens. I aim to demonstrate how Morrison's characters expand upon the notions of race, femininity, and subjectivity as conceived by Copjec. The ultimate goal of this thesis is to delineate why it is beneficial to place these three writers in dialogue with one another to analyze notions of racial identity, subjectivity, violence, and trauma.



Number of Pages

95 p.