The Color Purple

“God Love All Them Feelings”: Sex and Spiritual Embodiment in The Color Purple College

In Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Shug Avery introduces the novel’s protagonist, Celie, to the concept of religious embodiment. Critic Anne-Janine Morey, in her book Religion and Sexuality in American Literature, defines embodiment as “the unreconciled relation of body and spirit” (3). In Western theology, God (the Word) and the flesh are conceived as binary oppositions, with the divine operating on a metaphysical plane. While popular theology asserts that the body, with all its attendant yearnings and desires, is completely separate from the soul, which is typically associated with spirituality and the divine, analogies and metaphors that link the spiritual with the sexual can be found in the Bible itself, such as in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians and the Song of Songs. Both of these Biblical texts explicitly and metaphorically compare Christ’s relationship with the Church to the relationship between two lovers. This analogy considerably complicates the Judeo-Christian narrative that spiritual fulfillment and sexuality are diametrically opposed, positing instead that the achievement of the former is largely contingent on the recognition and indulgence of the latter.


Shug Avery’s theological persuasions follow this more sex-...

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