Morrison and Unlearning Women’s Bodies

While discussing threads/patterns/images/etc. in Toni Morrison’s Paradise and Dante’s Paradiso this week, Emily brought up the idea of working to “unlearn.” Our group applied this to multiple facets of the society we live in today, including our ideas of race and gender. After class, I started to think about unlearning in relation to the way we look at women’s bodies and how that gaze affects the individual woman. The more I thought about it, I came to realize that this is something Morrison also addresses in her novel The Bluest Eye. Continue reading “Morrison and Unlearning Women’s Bodies”

Revising the Paradisaical Fall

In reading Linda Krumholz’s essay “Reading and Insight in Toni Morrison’s Paradise” on Wednesday, I was struck by her connection of the Ruby residents in Toni Morrison’s Paradise and the biblical Adam and Eve during the Fall from Eden. A concept that has been percolating in my mind since taking an African American Literature class with Dr. Beth in the spring is “repetition and revision.” Krumholz states that in Paradise, Morrison “considers what the danger of repetition without difference might be” (21). While I can see what Krumholz is saying here, I also see repetition with revision in Paradise. Morrison subverts the gender norms of equating male with God and female with sin through the men of Ruby and the women of the Convent. These two interpretations depend on which perspective the reader taps into. Continue reading “Revising the Paradisaical Fall”

Predestination/Free Will: Both/And

Recently, I ended up spiraling through a wormhole of BBC and National Geographic documentaries rather than relaxing with a good, reliable sitcom. The latest was a documentary series called “The Story of God,” hosted by Morgan Freeman in which he discusses God, justice, and morality (amongst other things) while traveling to landmarks for various religions and cultures around the world. You can imagine what sort of dynamic that has created for me while reading Dante’s Paradiso. To even further it, my Humanities class was reading the Christian Bible. So it has just been a whirlwind of big concepts in my head. Continue reading “Predestination/Free Will: Both/And”

Morrison: The Future of Time

A couple of weeks ago, a friend who is taking a Morrison class at another university sent me a link to this Toni Morrison essay and insisted I read it. At the time, I was eager to do so simply because it was Morrison. Now, though, it seems more relevant than ever. I am sharing the link here with you, and perhaps we can let Morrison guide us through with her words, as we did so in class this week.

Love to you all.


The Muses and Finding Wisdom

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically Paradiso, the reader joins the Pilgrim on a tour of heaven. At the beginning of this reading period in our class, Dr. McCoy alerted us to keep an eye out for the Muses. This is something that I have been attentive to, as a result, and after doing a bit of research and further reading, I noticed that Dante creates a balance and mixture of different faith traditions in his Commedia. We can see allusions to the Greek tradition (including Homer and, especially, Virgil), Judaism, and Christianity. As Mark Musa notes in his paratext to Canto XX, the six souls that compose the eye of the eagle the Pilgrim sees are two Jews, two pagans, and two Christians (243). This means that in Dante’s Paradiso, those of varying faiths are present and not condemned to the Inferno. This is a rather accepting stance in comparison with other historical literature. What kind of implications, then, are there for having this religious diversity in what seems to be a Christian Hell and Heaven? Continue reading “The Muses and Finding Wisdom”

Shadows and Lights

While reading the first nine Cantos of Dante’s Paradiso, I was reminded of shades/ombras/shadows by the contrasting lights.

When he spoke with us, Dr. Herzman referenced the biblical Paul’s letter to the Romans, how it mentioned that God left traces of himself in the universe to lead us back to him. With this, we were discussing the first few lines in the first Canto:

The glory of the One Who moves all things
penetrates all the universe, reflecting
in one part more and in another less. Continue reading “Shadows and Lights”

On Beauty

On Wednesday, Dr. Beth prompted us to think on beauty this week. The sentence was scarce complete when I thought of Zadie Smith’s On Beauty. Both Smith’s novel and Toni Morrison’s Jazz actually have quite a bit in common. Love and marriage, race, and social class are all present in both novels. However, as this is my first time reading Jazz and I’m not quite sure what awaits deeper in the novel, I will not presume to know if their takeaways are similar. For now, though, I can point out the surface similarities (while trying not to spoil any of Smith’s novel for those of you who have not read it) and recommend On Beauty to anyone looking for their next read. Continue reading “On Beauty”

Morrison and the Other

“I am the speech that cannot be grasped.
I am the name of the sound
and the sound of the name.
I am the sign of the letter
and the designation of the division.”

Toni Morrison utilizes this excerpt from “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” from the Gnostic manuscripts in the Nag Hammadi Library as the epigraph of her novel Jazz. The entire poem is made up of paradoxical statements by a first person identifier, such as “[…] I am the first and the last” and “I am war and peace.” The poem is believed to be the voice of the divine, which would explains its all-encompassing assertions. Continue reading “Morrison and the Other”

Churning Thoughts on Possession

As we discussed in class, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is in conversation with many different texts, including John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government. Dr. Beth pointed out Locke’s preoccupation with the protection and regulation of property, and also his law of nature which mentions that people own a property in themselves. This makes it a crime to harm, not only others, but also oneself.

Ever since I took Dr. Beth’s African American Literature course, I have been rolling over in my mind the ideas of both property and possession. The object and the action. Beloved, in a complicated web-like fashion, engages in this conversation, especially in the last several chapters. Continue reading “Churning Thoughts on Possession”