Toni Morrison and Motherhood
A Politics of the Heart
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: State University of New York Press
Title page, Copyright page
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Di Brandt begins the prologue to her book Wild Woman Dancing (1993) discussing how the birth of her first child in 1976 called into question all that she had learned—or thought she had learned—in her Masters English literature program completed the same year. She writes: “It was like falling into a vacuum, narratively speaking. I realized suddenly, with a shock, that none of the texts I had read so carefully, none of the literary skills I had...
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In Song of Solomon the narrator, commenting upon the importance of other-mothering, says this about Hagar Dead: “She needed what most colored girls needed: a chorus of mamas, grandmamas, aunts, cousins, sisters, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, best girl friends, and what all to give her the strength life demanded of her – and the humor with which to live it” (311). I believe that scholars likewise, need a “chorus of mamas"...
Chapter One: A Politics of the Heart: Toni Morrison’s Theory of Motherhood as a Site of Power and Motherwork as Concerned with the Empowerment of Children
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MOTHERHOOD IS A CENTRAL THEME in Morrison’s fiction and is a topic she returns to time and time again in her many interviews and articles. In her reflections on motherhood, both inside and outside her fiction, Morrison articulates a fully developed theory of African American mothering that is central to her larger political and philosophical stance...
Chapter Two: Disconnections from the Motherline: Gender Hegemonies and the Loss of the Ancient Properties: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Tar Baby
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MOTHERS, THROUGH THE TASK of cultural bearing, pass on to each successive generation of children African American culture and instill in their children knowledge about and pride in their African American heritage. More specifically, mothers pass on what I have called the motherline: the ancestral memory and ancient properties of traditional black culture. In so doing, cultural bearing or motherline mothering confers affirming images...
Chapter Three: Ruptures/Disruptions of the Motherline: Slavery, Migration, and Assimilation: Song of Solomon, Beloved
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THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER EXAMINED women’s disconnection from the motherline in and through identification with specific normative gender discourses, namely, those of the family, beauty, motherlove, and female fulfillment. This chapter considers how the African American motherline itself is fractured by historical trauma, in particular slavery, migration, and assimilation. Black women, in the task of cultural bearing...
Chapter Four: Reconnections to the Motherline: Deliverance and Exile: Song of Solomon, Tar Baby
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DISCONNECTIONS FROM, AND DISRUPTIONS OF the motherline were explored in the last two chapters: here the theme of reconnection is investigated. Surveying Milkman’s successful quest in Song of Solomon and Jadine’s failed quest in Tar Baby, this chapter will consider Morrison’s reflections on the theme of reconnection in terms of two interrelated questions: How is reconnection made possible and by whom? More than any of...
Chapter Five: Maternal Interventions: Resistance and Power: The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Paradise
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THE RUPTURE AND REPAIR of the motherline were examined in the previous three chapters. This chapter emphasizes how mothers themselves seek to sustain the motherline and empower their children through the maternal tasks of preservation, nurturance, and cultural bearing. Black mothers are the cultural bearers who model and mentor the ancient properties and the funk of the motherline. Likewise, black mothers, through both preservation and nurturance...
Chapter Six: Maternal Healing: Reconciliation and Redemption: Jazz, Paradise
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MORRISON’S RENDITIONS OF MOTHERHOOD are truly horrifying: a son burnt to death; a baby whose throat is slit; children who are abused, abandoned, beaten, and neglected by their mothers—these harrowing events permeate all seven of her novels. The last chapter considered how these violations may be read as gestures of nurturance and preservation and, in particular, as maternal acts of resistance against a white supremacist and patriarchal...
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Toni Morrison’s theory of motherhood as a site of power and her model of motherwork as concerned with the empowerment of children centers upon a rearticulation of the everyday traditions and practices of black motherhood. More specifically, this rearticulation gives rise to a new consciousness of black motherhood that accords mothers power and enables them to empower children...
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In the fall of 2003, just as this book was going into final production, Toni Morrison’s eighth novel Love was published. This epilogue will briefly consider how this recently published novel may be read in the context of Morrison’s larger maternal vision, what I have called “A Politics of the Heart.” From this perspective, what strikes the reader most about Love is the absence of mothers and mothering. Unlike her previous seven novels...
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Page Count: 243
Publication Year: 2004