Allow me to preface this post by mentioning that is was mostly inspired by Alpha’s post from last week, “Humanities for the Hood,” where he discussed Morrison’s purpose in writing alongside Dante.
Reading Dante beside Morrison has focused my attention on the collaborative nature of writing. As I discovered connections between Morrison and Dante, I was reminded of the Ted Talk “Creativity is a Remix” by Kirby Ferguson. At risk of turning this blog into a Ted Talk repository, I’ve embedded the video below. Ferguson posits that essentially no art is original, in the sense that all art is in conversation with other art. Ferguson focuses on music in his talk, but I think the same applies to writing, more or less. The video also discusses “ownership” of creative works.
The fact that art does not exist in a vacuum is not necessarily a radical thought. However, I think that Morrison’s “remixing” of The Divine Comedy does more than push the bounds of creativity. In the case of Morrison’s trilogy, as Alpha points out, “Morrison writing in response to Dante, is essentially Morrison writing in response to Western Humanities.” She is trying to fill a gap that Dante left behind. I think this concept of reimagining a story is exemplified on the final page of Jazz. The (still unidentified) narrator directly addresses the reader:
“If I were able I’d say it. Say make me, remake me. You are free to do it and I am free to let you because look, look. Look where your hands are. Now.”
I imagine this is how Morrison felt while reading Dante. The freedom to “remake” is what allows writers to challenge conceptions of property. Writing is building upon, revising, reimagining, and allowing new audiences to be engaged with literature.