Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

by Toni Morrison

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Overview

Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Toni Morrison brings the genius of a master writer to this personal inquiry into the significance of African-Americans in the American literary imagination. Her goal, she states at the outset, is to “put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature…draw a map, so to speak, of a critical geography and use that map to open as much space for discovery, intellectual adventure, and close exploration as did the original charting of the New World—without the mandate for conquest.”

Author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and other vivid portrayals of black American experience, Morrison ponders the effect that living in a historically racialized society has had on American writing in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She argues that race has become a metaphor, a way of referring to forces, events, and forms of social decay, economic division, and human panic. Her compelling point is that the central characteristics of American literature individualism, masculinity, the insistence upon innocence coupled to an obsession with figurations of death and hell—are responses to a dark and abiding Africanist presence.

Through her investigation of black characters, narrative strategies, and idiom in the fiction of white American writers, Morrison provides a daring perspective that is sure to alter conventional notions about American literature. She considers Willa Cather and the impact of race on concept and plot; turns to Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville to examine the black force that figures so significantly in the literature of early America; and discusses the implications of the Africanist presence at the heart of Huckleberry Finn. A final chapter on Ernest Hemingway is a brilliant exposition of the racial subtext that glimmers beneath the surface plots of his fiction.

Written with the artistic vision that has earned her a preeminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674673779
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/01/1992
Series: The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in American Studies , #6
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 110
Sales rank: 463,119
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Lexile: 1260L (what's this?)

About the Author

Toni Morrison (1931–2019) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize. The author of numerous critically acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, she was the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Princeton University.

Hometown:

Princeton, New Jersey, and Manhattan

Date of Birth:

February 18, 1931

Date of Death:

August 5, 2019

Place of Birth:

Lorain, Ohio

Place of Death:

New York

Education:

Howard University, B.A. in English, 1953; Cornell, M.A., 1955

Table of Contents

1. black matters

2. romancing the shadow

3. disturbing nurses and the kindness of sharks

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