ENGL 439 in conversation with ENGL 458

I was part of the ENGL 458: Major Authors class that Beth taught last semester focusing on the work of Toni Morrison, and how it related to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Throughout the semester, I (as well as my fellow classmates- many of whom are in this class as well) learned how to change the way I think and process information, working past the shock of different experiences and instead understanding causes/effects and the humanness of reactions and emotions. Also, Toni Morrison wrote novels that examine the wonder of language in regards to its specificity and limitations as well as certain themes that I believe are applicable to this course as well, including diaspora, disenfranchisement, memory/forgetting, and loss/gain (to name a few). Continue reading “ENGL 439 in conversation with ENGL 458”

Toni Morrison’s relation to novels

I took one creative writing class last semester just because I figured I’d give it a try, so in no way am I an expert in creative writing. I just remember that I learned “Form is never more than an expression of content.” It made me think about how Toni Morrison uses the structure of the novel to write and how important that is for the messages she tries to get across. I think that novels give her enough space to create multiple characters, giving multiple perspectives which emphasize the necessity of varying interpretations, instead of relying on “the single story.” Continue reading “Toni Morrison’s relation to novels”

Using Morrison’s words today

I took a day before posting this in the efforts to try to collect my thoughts in order to display them here cohesively. First, I’d like to thank you all. After undoubtedly an emotion-filled Tuesday night, I was very comforted that this was my first class after the election results. I really believe this class has created a very safe, comforting atmosphere where people feel that they can honestly discuss their opinions without the fear of letting “too much” emotion show- and that is in part facilitated by Beth, but also everyone else in the room contributes to that. I’m sure this is a common thought, but thank you all for letting everyone react however they needed to.

Next, when we were reading in class I kept coming back to this, on page 7:

“Words that seemed at first to bless them; later to confound them; finally to announce that they had lost.”

Continue reading “Using Morrison’s words today”

To Thwart Close Reading

*As a disclaimer, this is not a fully analytical post. In a 400 level college class and the intelligent discourse that comes along with that, I wasn’t sure where to put these thoughts, so I decided to use the blog space, but perhaps even here isn’t the right place.*

When we were discussing the epigraph for Jazz, Dr. McCoy said that she believes the lines can’t be reconciled and that maybe as readers we need to think about beauty. That resonated with me, because as an English major obviously I love analyzing texts: their meanings, reader interpretations vs. authorial intentions, and literary elements. As an future teacher, I love helping others come to their own conclusions about texts as well.


I believe that often in college classes, students fall into two categories. Either they are so stressed by other classes that they skim through reading just trying to finish the assigned pages even if it means losing sleep, sanity, or both. The opposite of that is the students who become obsessed finding the underlying meaning of every sentence, word, and sound. And that’s not a bad thing- we have to go deeper into texts than we have ever attempted before because that’s why people take literature classes in college. I believe that there is a quality of beauty in literature that sometimes get ignored, or rather overlooked.

Continue reading “To Thwart Close Reading”

Similarities in Female Characters

As a class, we have already discussed that Toni Morrison writes for black people. I think that has a lot of weight and the discussion of what that exactly means should be continued throughout the semester, but in this post I’d like to focus on Morrison’s relationship to female readers shown through her female characters in A Mercy.

I think it was Emily (I’m not positive, though it was someone) who brought up the idea that possibility of Florens being raped mentioned by Rebekka on page 84 is a women’s issue. I really liked that idea, because that can be seen as a similarity between many characters that Dr. McCoy had told us to look for while reading that section of the novel.

When thinking about this in class, I was particularly drawn to one passage found on page 115. To save space, I won’t include the entire quotation, but I was looking specifically from “Although they had nothing in common…became like children when the man was gone.” In this passage, I believe that Rebekka shows great wisdom. She relates the male-female dynamic and how the power inequity affects all women, from the religiously devout to her shipmates (women sent out of the country for their lewd behavior), from herself to the slave/servant women in her life. This one passage seemed to sum up the idea of similarities vs. differences in the characters very succinctly. As we continue to read Morrison’s works, I plan to look into her relationship to female readers, not just black readers. (As a disclaimer, I’m not trying to make myself included in her target audience- I just think that her choosing to write about “women’s issues” makes for an interesting discussion).

“Surrogate” in A Mercy

In our class discussion on Wednesday, “fungible” was one of the terms that Dr. McCoy projected on the board. Defined as “able to replace or be replaced by another identical item”, we talked about things standing in place of other things especially with its relation to slaves and the idea of people being treated in such ways. Dr. McCoy wrote “surrogates” on the board and I found that word particularly interesting because I had also written it in the margins of page 30 when Jacob thinks “perhaps Rebekka would welcome a child around the place.” He sees the narrator as a surrogate daughter for him and his wife, who have dealt with numerous tragic deaths of their young children. Surrogate also has a special meaning I think for Jacob himself; as an orphan, he grew up with no family so the relationships he cultivated have been surrogates for the life many people take for granted.


Another thought I had regarding the word “surrogate” was how it relates to the narrator. Because she is obviously not the mother’s favorite, she has women who act as surrogate mothers. Some questions that I have still would be how important are surrogates for both the narrator and Jacob, and will that be a uniting force for these characters?