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27 - Toni Morrison

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2012

Timothy Parrish
Affiliation:
Florida State University
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Summary

Toni Morrison (1931–) ranks among the most highly-regarded and widely-read fiction writers and cultural critics in the history of American literature. Novelist, editor, playwright, essayist, librettist, and children’s book author, she has won innumerable prizes and awards and enjoys extraordinarily high regard both in the United States and internationally. Her work has been translated into many languages, including German, Spanish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Finnish, Japanese, and Chinese, and is the subject of courses taught and books and articles written by scholars all over the world. It speaks to academic and mass audiences alike; four of her novels have been Oprah’s Book Club selections. She invites frequent comparison with the best-known writers of the global canon: Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, James Joyce, Thomas Hardy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, and others. Because of her broad appeal, throughout her career readers and critics alike have sought to praise Morrison by calling her work “universal.”

The adjective “universal” has typically been applied to work in any medium that speaks to readers, viewers, or audience members whatever their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or socioeconomic status. Art that achieves the status of “universality” is contrasted implicitly or explicitly with work that is labeled “provincial,” that is, more explicitly grounded in the culture, lore, or vernacular of an identifiable group. But for all its “universality,” Morrison’s writing is famously steeped in the nuances of African-American language, music, everyday life, and cultural history. Even more precisely, most of her novels are concerned with the impact of racial patriarchy upon the lives of black women during specific periods of American history, such as the colonial period or the eras of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and civil rights. By exploring the impact of historical and socioeconomic factors and processes upon the lives of black women, Morrison uses her fiction to mine the unexplored depths of American culture.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

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References

Andrews, William L. and McKay, Nellie Y. (eds.), Beloved: A Casebook, New York, Oxford University Press, 1999.
Christian, Barbara, “‘The Past Is Infinite’: History and Myth in Toni Morrison’s Trilogy,” Social Identities 6.4 (2000): 411–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Conner, Marc C. (ed.), The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2000.
Denard, Carolyn (ed.), Toni Morrison: What Moves at the Margin, Selected Nonfiction, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2008.
Duvall, John N., The Identifying Fictions of Toni Morrison, New York, Palgrave, 2000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McKay, Nellie Y. (ed.), Critical Essays on Toni Morrison, Boston, G. K. Hall, 1998.
Morrison, Toni, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1992.Google Scholar
Morrison, Toni (ed.), Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Reality, New York, Pantheon Books, 1992.
Morrison, Toni and Lacour, Claudia Brodsky (ed.), Birth of a Nation’hood: Gaze, Script and Spectacle in the O. J. Simpson Trial, New York, Pantheon Books, 1997.
Peterson, Nancy J., Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.Google Scholar
Schreiber, Evelyn Jaffe, Race, Trauma, and Home in the Novels of Toni Morrison, Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 2010.Google Scholar
Tally, Justine, The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
Taylor-Guthrie, Danille (ed.), Conversations with Toni Morrison, Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 1994.
Treherne, Matthew. “Figuring In, Figuring Out: Narration and Negotiation in Toni Morrison’sJazz,” in Narrative 11.2 (May 2003): 199–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  • Toni Morrison
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.028
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  • Toni Morrison
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.028
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Toni Morrison
  • Edited by Timothy Parrish, Florida State University
  • Book: The Cambridge Companion to American Novelists
  • Online publication: 05 December 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CCO9781139003780.028
Available formats
×