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Toni Morrison and the Maternal

From «The Bluest Eye» to «Home»


Linda Wagner-Martin

Linda Wagner-Martin’s study of African American writer Toni Morrison’s work, beginning with The Bluest Eye in 1970 and continuing through her 2012 novel Home, describes Morrison as an inherently original novelist who was shaped throughout her career by her role within families. Morrison speaks of herself, compellingly and frequently, as daughter, sister, wife, mother, mentor, and friend. The energy from playing these roles in her life helped to lead to her thoroughly distinctive fiction. The book charts Morrison’s changing vision as well. Morrison’s deeper and deeper involvement in the history of African Americans within the United States leads to her study of the urban in Jazz, of the all-black Western towns in Paradise, of the upper-middle class in Love, as well as her poignant study of the returning Korean War veteran in Home. Morrison’s 2008 A Mercy, set in the seventeenth century, reprises much of the power of the prize-winning Beloved and returns readers to the quintessential theme of parent-child relationships. In Morrison’s fictional world, drawing from the human and spiritual forces in both Africa and the United States provides some hope of a truly satisfying existence.
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Acknowledgments and Reference Systems


With thanks to all the students at both Michigan State University and The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill who read Morrison’s fiction with me, and to the Modern Language Association many decades ago for inviting me to speak on Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. I also am grateful for the suggestions of Professors Heidi Burns of Peter Lang Publishing and of series editor Yoshinobu Hakutani of Kent State University for improving the book.

A note on the reference system used. All Morrison’s works are abbreviated with either a single word or a phrase. I have assumed that three in-print collections will be available to readers: (l) Danille Taylor-Guthrie’s collection of interviews with Morrison, published in 1994 as Conversations with Toni Morrison by the University Press of Mississippi; (2) Carolyn C. Denard’s collection of Morrison interviews, published by the same press in 2008 as Toni Morrison: Conversations; and (3) Professor Denard’s collection of Morrison’s essays, titled Toni Morrison: What Moves at the Margins, Selected Nonfiction, also published by the University Press of Mississippi in 2008. I have used the abbreviations Con I to cite the Taylor-Guthrie collection, and Con II to refer to the Denard collection of interviews. I refer to Denard’s collection of Morrison’s essays as Nonfiction.

I have included many of the excellent essays and books on Morrison’s oeuvre in the Secondary Bibliography. There are still other works that—space permitting—might have been included. For their omission, my apologies.← XIII | XIV →

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