We have been working diligently, putting our creative minds to work in drawing connections between Dante’s Paradiso and Morrison’s Paradise. In our most recent class days working on the final project, the word “comedy” came up a few times, and bounced around my head for a while. Of course it was partially because we were working with the Divine Comedy, but the word continued to bounce around when we were drawing connections to Paradise and African-American writing, so I figured there must be a connection. There was.
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”
To begin this post, I want to draw attention to Frank’s post “Just Make It Go Away,” which highlights the way that Morrison and Dante both use blindness as a way to describe some of their major characters. The article that Frank brings into his post, “On the Hideous Whiteness of Brexit,” points specifically to the distorting lens that having white privilege has on people. The article’s author, Akwugo Emejulu, pays particular attention to how this whiteness is not an excuse for being blind, which is exactly what Morrison does in her novel, Paradise.
Part of my thought project focuses on how Dante’s perceived image of Beatrice distracts him from seeing what was truly important: his own personal development on his journey to heaven. Dante writes “Dazzled, not destroyed” when characterizing the type of blindness that he experiences. This not destroyed part — it’s really important! It draws attention to how we can repair it. Hurting is not an excuse to give up. Emejulu mentions it in his article, “Bexit shows us how whiteness, as a power relation, operates in ways to cast itself as both a ‘victim’ and an ‘innocent’ simultaneously,” amplifying how we mustn’t fall into the narratives that often plague people who have suffered.Continue reading “We Are Dazzled, Not Destroyed”
Now that I’ve begun re-circling through Morrison’s Paradise to search for connections to Dante, I’ve encountered certain through-lines that I hadn’t noticed in my first reading. One of the most significant is the reoccurrence of the Kitchen as a thematic element; important to both the Convent and to the town of Ruby.
In Musa’s introduction to The Divine Comedy Volume 3: Paradise, he states that Canto 1 serves as a representation of all of the encompassing “themes, movements, structures, images, and symbols” that Dante will address, as they “appear in some way or another in the opening canto”(x). I believe that Morrison’s first chapter, Ruby, serves a similar function to Dante’s first Canto. Morrison drops the reader into a scene where significant aspects are quickly given and then pulled out of focus– only to resurface later on in the novel.
With this connection in mind, the value of every choice of detail in the first chapter should not be overlooked. I observed that one specific occurrence in Ruby lays the groundwork for the the common thread of “the kitchen”. This unravelling begins when the men raiding the convent Continue reading “Women, Men, and the Kitchen in Morrison’s Paradise.”
Paradise ends without justice for the people affected by the violences which occur in the novel. Dr. Beth encouraged us to consider what the effect of, what some people in class have described as, an unsatisfying ending. Specifically, what this absence of justice pushes us to consider as students at a state school on occupied land. As Dr. Beth called attention to the absence of justice and reparations given to peoples violated by a historical through-line of state-sponsored violence, I glanced up at the whiteboard in the classroom with “Happy Thanksgiving!” sprawled across it. Continue reading “Happy Thanksgiving! (?)”
In class, Prof. McCoy had us reread the line from Ruby which states, “their T-shirts, work shirts and dashikis soak up cold like fever,” pointing to the fact that this group was not only distinctly male- it also included members across all age groups (3). Morrison intentionally created a scenario where the violence being enacted is done in such a way as to label an innocent group guilty for events within the community, aka picking a scapegoat. Continue reading “Scapegoats”
In class Dr.McCoy has mentioned Toni Morrison’s television interview, Uncensored, a couple of times, and while I could not find a site that would provide the entire interview without paying for it, I was able to find three segments of the interview on YouTube. Each video is only about 3-5 minutes long, but provide some extremely helpful context behind Morrison’s works. I am linking the third video in particular because Morrison goes into detail behind the meaning of sha sha sha within Consolata’s chapter of Paradise. Morrison states that she chose “the sound and the rhythm to suggest the eroticism and the longing,” that Consolata felt deep within her and could not express through words. Consolata’s lack of ability to express these feelings through language can be seen in the passage “‘But he, but he.’ Sha sha sha. Sha sha sha, she wanted to say, meaning, he and I are the same” (241). I think this passage along with the context provided by the interview relate well to our discussions in class of sound within Morrison’s work, as well as the repercussions of expulsions for her characters.
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”