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Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable

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Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's novels have almost exclusively been examined as sagas illuminating history, race, culture, and gender politics. This gathering of eight essays by top scholars probes Morrison's novels and her growing body of nonfiction and critical work for the complex and potent aesthetic elements that have made her a major American novelist of the twentieth century.

Through traditional aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the grotesque, ...

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Overview

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's novels have almost exclusively been examined as sagas illuminating history, race, culture, and gender politics. This gathering of eight essays by top scholars probes Morrison's novels and her growing body of nonfiction and critical work for the complex and potent aesthetic elements that have made her a major American novelist of the twentieth century.

Through traditional aesthetic concepts such as the sublime, the beautiful, and the grotesque, through issues of form, narrative, and language, and through questions of affect and reader response, the nine essays in this volume bring into relief the dynamic and often overlooked range within Morrison's writing. Employing aesthetic ideas that range from the ancient Greeks to contemporary research in the black English oral tradition, The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison shows the potency of these ideas for interpreting Morrison's writing. This is a force Morrison herself has often suggested in her claims that Greek tragedy bears a striking similarity to "Afro-American communal structures."

At the same time each essay attends to the ways in which Morrison also challenges traditional aesthetic concepts, establishing the African American and female voices that are essential to her sensibility. The result is a series of readings that simultaneously expands our understanding of Morrison's work and also provokes new thinking about an aesthetic tradition that is nearly 2,500 years old.

These essays offer a rich complement to the dominant approaches in Morrison scholarship by revealing aspects of her work that purely ideological approaches have obscured or about which they have remained oddly silent. Each essay focuses particularly on the relations between the aesthetic and the ethical in Morrison's writing and between the artistic production and its role in the world at large. These relations show the rich political implications that aesthetic analysis engenders.

By treating both Morrison's fiction and her nonfiction, the essays reveal a mind and imagination that have long been intimately engaged with the questions and traditions of the aesthetic domain. The result is a provocative and original contribution to Morrison scholarship, and to scholarship in American letters generally.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578062843
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 12/1/2000
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 153
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Aesthetics and the African American Novel
"Aesthetic" and "Rapport" in Toni Morrison's Sula 3
Language That Bears Witness: The Black English Oral Tradition in the Works of Toni Morrison 12
Toward the Limits of Mystery: The Grotesque in Toni Morrison's Beloved 31
From the Sublime to the Beautiful: The Aesthetic Progression of Toni Morrison 49
Toni Morrison's Beauty Formula 77
Contentions in the House of Chloe: Morrison's Tar Baby 92
Sensations of Loss 113
Meditations on a Bird in the Hand: Ethics and Aesthetic in a Parable by Toni Morrison 125
Works Cited 139
Contributors 149
Index 151
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