Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics situates Toni Morrison as a writer who writes about writing as much as about racialized, engendered, and sexualized African American, and therefore American, experience. In foregrounding the ethics of fiction writing, the book resists any triumphalist reading of Morrison's achievement in order to allow the meditative, unsettled, and unsettling questions that arise throughout her long labor at the nexus of language and politics, where her fiction interrogates representation itself.
Moving between close reading and critical theory, Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics reveals the ways in which Morrison's primary engagement with language has been a search for how and what language is made to communicate, and for how and what speaks in and from generation to generation. There is no easy escape from such legacy, no escape into a pure language free of the burdens of racialized agendas. Rather, there is the example of Morrison's commitment to writerly, which is to say readerly, wakefulness.
At a time when sustained study devoted to single authors has become rare, this book will be an invaluable resource for readers, scholars, and teachers of Morrison's work.
Yvette Christiansë —
Yvette Christainsë is Professor of English and Africana Studies at Barnard College. She is the author of two books of poetry, Castaway (Duke University Press, 1999) and Imprendehora (Kwela/Snail Press, South Africa, 2009). Her novel Unconfessed (Other Press, 2007, Kwela Books, 2007, Querido, 2007) was a finalist for the Hemingway/PEN Prize for first fiction and a recipient of a 2007 ForeWord Magazine BEA Award, and was shortlisted for the University of Johannesburg Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2008 and the Ama Ata Aidoo Prize in 2010.
Christiansë, Yvette. Toni Morrison: an ethical poetics. Fordham, 2013. 307p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780823239153; ISBN 9780823239160 pbk. Reviewed in 2013aug CHOICE.
Christiansë (Barnard College) joins, and contributes to, a robust scholarly conversation about Toni Morrison by examining the novelist's most recent works, including Love, A Mercy, and Home, in light of her earlier writing. Christiansë posits that Morrison's underlying concern throughout her oeuvre is the problem of language and representation, and in five chapters that alternate between close readings of Morrison's texts and critical theory, she focuses on moments in the novels when questions are asked and unanswered, when funerals are interrupted, and when language fails. The author's assumption that readers are familiar with both Morrison and critical theory makes this text most appropriate for advanced readers and scholars, but her examination of Morrison's "ethical poetics" usefully complicates Morrison criticism, which at times can rightly be labeled triumphalist in its appraisal of the novelist's literary achievements. The book would be particularly valuable read in conjunction with Lars Eckstein's Re-membering the Black Atlantic: On the Poetics and Politics of Literary Memory (CH, Apr'07, 44-4322) and Martha Cutter's Lost and Found in Translation: Contemporary Ethnic American Writing and the Politics of Language Diversity (CH, Apr'06, 43-4511).
Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and above. -- A. M. Laflen, Marist College