Honoring Toni Morrison — On the fifth of this month, the great American author Toni Morrison died in New York City at the age of eighty-eight. The English Department has just installed an exhibit honoring Morrison and her literary legacy. The exhibit includes copies of many of her books as well as photographs of Morrison at various stages in her long life. Numerous members of the English Department helped with the installation of the exhibit. Janaka Lewis, Paula Eckard, Bryn Chancellor and Jeffrey Leak all provided copies of Morrison’s books from their personal libraries. Monica Burke, Angie Williams, and I all worked on installing the Morrison exhibit. I encourage everyone to take a look at the exhibit, which is located in the main lobby area of the English Department.
One of the other ways in which members of our English Department honor Morrison is by conducting scholarship on Morrison’s writings. For the purposes of this Monday Missive, I mention four examples of professors who have conducted Morrison-related scholarship.
In her monograph titled Maternal Body and Voice in Toni Morrison, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Lee Smith, Paula Eckard examines the portrayal of motherhood in three of Morrison’s novels: The Bluest Eye, Sula, and Beloved. As Paula points out in her monograph, “In these three novels, Morrison presents motherhood with compelling and brutal honesty. She juxtaposes silence and voice in each novel and uses the maternal body as a source of myth and metaphor to undergd the realities of female experience.”
In his monograph titled Racial Myths and Masculinity in African American Literature, Jeffrey Leak examines the depiction of black masculinity in Morrison’s Song of Solomon. As Jeffrey discusses in his monograph, “Morrison appreciates the rich lives of black men, but she reveals two tenuous strands of black male heterosexual identity formation: virulent differentiation from women and homophobia.” In his analysis of Song of Solomon, Jeffrey shows how these two strands play out in the experiences of the novel’s protagonist.
Janaka Lewis participated in Language Matters: Toni Morrison NEH workshops and met Morrison there and at her curated exhibit “Foreigner’s Home” at the Louvre in Paris as part of the Toni Morrison Society. She notes the influence of Morrison on the field of Black women’s writing in her book Freedom Narrativesand writes about Sula in a forthcoming article in South journal called “Building Worlds of Our Dreams.”
While Malin Pereira’s scholarship for the past two decades has been devoted to contemporary black poetry, Toni Morrison’s first six novels were the focus of her earliest work, published in four journal articles, an essay in a collection on women’s revisions of Shakespeare, and a chapter in her first book, Embodying Beauty: Twentieth-Century American Women Writers’ Aesthetics. In all of these publications, Malin writes, “I was obsessed with how Morrison wrote back to canonical authors and dominant Western ideas about female identity, beauty and blackness, always seeking to decolonize the black mind.” Malin has a yet-unfulfilled desire to write on Morrison’s libretto for the opera Margaret Garner and why it substantially differs from her novel Beloved.
As the aforementioned examples illustrate, our English Department is a place where Morrison and her writings are taken seriously. Ever since Morrison burst on the literary scene in the late 1970s, members of our English Department have read, studied, and taught Morrison’s novels. In so doing, we honor Morrison and her lasting contributions to American literature.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of the English Department. Here is the latest news:
Allison Hutchcraft published five poems in the summer issue of The Missouri Review.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines — Here is information about upcoming events and deadlines:
August 20— First day of classes for the fall 2019 semester.
August 23— The CLAS All Faculty Meeting will take place on Friday, August 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the SAC Salons A & B. The meeting will be preceded by a light breakfast beginning at 8:30 a.m.
August 23— The first English Department meeting for the fall 2019 semester will take place on Friday, August 23, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Fretwell 290B (seminar room).
Quirky Quiz Question — Toni Morrison co-wrote several children’s books with her son, including The Big Box (1999)and Please, Louise (2014). What is the name of her son?
Last week’s answer: Prince Edward Island
Charlotte is named after Queen Sophia Charlotte, the wife of England’s King George III. The capital of Canada’s smallest province is also named after this same queen. What is the name of this Canadian province?