Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics
An Ethical Poetics
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Abbreviations for Works by Toni Morrison
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Nevertheless, the movement away from a literature that aims to redeem the individual and the community toward one that explores the “concrete thrill of borderlessness” might well be read as a recapitulation of a history of African American literature that is poised between the reflective, self-present...
1. From Witnessing to Death Dealing: On Speaking of and for the Dead
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In his consideration of the philosophy of witnessing, Giorgio Agamben attempts to map out some of the relationships between injury, survival, witnessing, and testimony. He argues that a twofold impossibility confronts the one who would testify: to bear witness to what one doesn’t know, and...
2. Burnt Offerings: Law and Sacrifice
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At the center of Paradise’s Ruby, deep in Oklahoma, is the Oven. Nails have inscribed into its surface the imperative phrase, “Beware the Furrow of His Brow” (P 7). The descendants of fifteen families, who migrated “from Mississippi and two Louisiana parishes” and the failed Restoration...
3. Time Out of Joint: The Temporal Logic of Morrison’s Modernist Apocalyptics
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In a moment of delirious optimism, the invisible, unnamed narrator of Jazz virtually sings out, “Here comes the new. Look out. There goes the sad stuff. The bad stuff. The things-nobody-could-help-stuff ” (J 7). We are invited to bear witness to the end of a time, not its residue. This end...
4. Beginnings and Endings, Part One: Old Languages / New Bodies
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In the early pages of Jazz, Joe Trace utters these words: “you could say, ‘I was scared to death,’ but you could not retrieve the fear” (J 29). Any scene, no matter how intense, can be replayed, but insofar as it is replayed in narrative, his earlier experiences make him afraid that all memories will...
5. Beginnings and Endings, Part Two: The Poetics of Similitude and Disavowal at Utopia’s Gates
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Morrison has described her project in A Mercy as wanting “to separate race from slavery to see what it was like, what it might have been like, to be a slave but without being raced; where your status was being enslaved but there was no application of racial inferiority,” when what is called America...
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This book has treated Morrison as a writer who writes about writing as much as she writes about the condition of African American historical consciousness within the larger America. Over the years, Morrison has increasingly produced writing that cites itself, as well as the canons with...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012