When presented with the chance to do research on Morrison, and specifically her connections to Dante, I was thrilled; it felt as if I was getting the chance to do real things in terms of literary analysis in a new, more professional atmosphere. But I found myself easily frustrated and overwhelmed because I simply wasn’t sure where to start.
So, I started where I was most comfortable: in Morrison’s words. Rereading Jazz (I’m in the middle of it now) coupled with Beth’s suggestion to really focus on the names of the seven terraces in Purgatory really helped me to narrow down some thoughts and find genuine connections, and I noticed a return of my enthusiasm. Finally! I seemed to be seeing something.
To start the actual content of this post, the seven terraces of Purgatory (depicted in Dante as a mountain) have the same names as the Seven Deadly Sins (see Brianne’s post to get a picture of Purgatory complete with the names). Coincidentally, the Seven Deadly Sins have come up in like 3 of my classes so far this semester, so I’ve actually spent a decent amount of time thinkING about this! In a quick Google search (sometimes Wikipedia is helpful!), I learned that the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins preceded Dante, yet of course he was very interested in them. In my rereading of Jazz, I believe that Morrison too has an interest in these sins and I think that is a major part in her conversation with Dante.
Of course, because Toni Morrison is who she is, she doesn’t make this connection too obvious. She chooses not to use the exact phrasing of the sins all that often. So far, I’ve only found the exact word “pride” used once on page 7. Even without the use of the specific words, Morrison is able to convey the sins quite often. I think that they are also really linked to music– and this brings in the “jazz” aspect of the novel as well as some of the research/history that we’re seeing in When Harlem was in Vogue. Perhaps here is my favorite example from page 59, “Yet Alice Manfred swore she heard a complicated anger in it; something hostile that disguised itself as flourish and roaring seduction. But the part that she hated most was its appetite.” The bolding here is my own, but this one small section calls to mind three of the seven deadly sins– and I might even argue that “flourish” has connections to pride as well. As I continue to read I’m going to keep looking for these moments! Plus, stay tuned: I’ve got some interesting thoughts on religion/Christianity and its role here too (it’s all intertwined- Morrison is a genius).