Playing in the dark Whiteness and the literary imagination

Toni Morrison

Book - 1992

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Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press c1992.
Main Author
Toni Morrison (-)
Physical Description
91 p.
Includes bibliographical references.
  • 1. black matters
  • 2. romancing The shadow
  • 3. disturbing nurses and The kindness of sharks
Review by Choice Review

This is a short volume comprising a preface and three chapters based on William E. Massey Sr. lectures given at Harvard University. Morrison, herself a renowned writer of fiction, is also the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University, so she brings to her first collection of literary criticism the authority of academe as well as the penetrating insight of the creative writer and reader. Her purpose is to show how, "Explicit or implicit, the Africanist presence informs in compelling and inescapable ways the texture of American literature." The three chapters focus on specific works by, e.g., Willa Cather, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, and Ernest Hemingway. The vocabulary is literary and scholarly but distinctly not dogmatic or confrontational. As she states, "My project is an effort to avert the critical gaze from the racial object to the racial subject; from the described and imagined to the describers and imaginers; from the serving to the served." This book offers insight for all readers of American literature interested in understanding the complexity of the American psyche as revealed in literature. The perspective offered here is refreshing, unique, accessible, and bold. Appropriate for upper-division undergraduates and faculty. D. S. Isaacs; Fordham University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Novelist Morrison takes a turn as a literary critic, examining the American literary imagination and finding it obsessed with the white/black polarity. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Morrison ( Jazz , LJ 4/15/92) believes that an African American presence, largely ignored by critics, has always permeated white American literature. She opens by carefully setting her parameters and defining her terms--e.g., Africanism: ``the denotative and connotative blackness that African peoples have come to signify, as well as the entire range of views, assumptions, readings, and misreadings that accompany Eurocentric learning about these people.'' The first few pages feature densely packed language whose meaning becomes clearer when Morrison examines such specific works as Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl . This brief, highly provocative book, which considers ``the impact of racism on those who perpetuate it,'' is highly recommended not only for Morrison's many admirers but for all those interested in American literature.--Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn Campus , New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.