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Toni Morrison: Writing the Moral Imagination

ISBN: 978-1-4051-6033-9
164 pages
October 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Toni Morrison: Writing the Moral Imagination (1405160330) cover image


This compelling study explores the inextricable links between the Nobel laureate’s aesthetic practice and her political vision, through an analysis of the key texts as well as her lesser-studied works, books for children, and most recent novels.
  • Offers provocative new insights and a refreshingly original contribution to the scholarship of one of the most important contemporary American writers
  • Analyzes the celebrated fiction of Morrison in relation to her critical writing about the process of reading and writing literature, the relationship between readers and writers, and the cultural contributions of African-American literature
  • Features extended analyses of Morrison’s lesser-known works, most recent novels, and books for children as well as the key texts
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 The Bluest Eye and Sula 19

2 Song of Solomon and Tar Baby 41

3 Beloved 61

4 Jazz and Paradise 77

5 Books for Young Readers, Love and A Mercy 99

Epilogue: Home 131

Further Reading 137

Works Cited 141

Index 147

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Author Information

Valerie Smith is the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton University, USA. Her numerous awards include fellowships from the Alphonse G. Fletcher Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Smith is also the author of several essays and articles, including the books Self-Discovery and Authority in Afro-American Narrative (1988) and Not Just Race, Not Just Gender: Black Feminist Readings (1998).  
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“In sum, Valerie Smith has risen to the challenge of presentation and synthesis, while making a personal contribution to Morrison scholarship.”  (Cercles, 1 December 2015)

“This concise volume will be of special value to less experienced (including high school) readers who want to go deeply into Toni Morrison’s work, and it provides an invaluable starting point for anyone who wants to understand the works themselves in their cultural contexts.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.  Lower-and upper-division undergraduates; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 March 2013)


“In this ever engaging, elegantly written study of Toni Morrison’s oeuvre, Valerie Smith brilliantly enacts the role of active reader advocated by Morrison herself.  This book makes an incisive contribution to our understanding of Morrison’s artistic vision and range, illuminating her ethical engagement with memory and history, freedom and enslavement, love and loss, personhood and community.” Sonnet H. Retman, University of Washington

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