I may not eat theory for breakfast
, but it sure does make a good late-night snack! What does it mean, I wonder, that one of my favorite and most frequently reread books is a work of literary criticism? (^^;;;Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. 1992. New York: Vintage, 1993.Summary
: Morrison outlines an argument for the investigation of an "Africanist" presence in American literature, arguing that it articulates its themes and ideas expressly through the existence of a enslaved and/or subordinate black population--of blackness and what it has come to symbolize.Comments
: What can I say? This is THE seminal literary criticism on blackness (and, by extension, whiteness) in American literature, and, I would argue, Western literature in general after the "discovery" of the Americas. She shows how the work of white authors such as Poe, Hemingway, and Melville have all been informed and, indeed, would not be the same, without a distinctive black presence. Indeed, we cannot understand white writers period unless we understand how they understood blackness. (Remember that this is not about what black people really are or are not; it's "merely" about how whites view them and their otherness.) The argument that racial difference and racialization is fundamental to our understanding of all aspects of American culture is indeed a radical proposal and ties nicely into Critical Race Theory in the study of law. Most importantly of all, Morrison outlines a number of areas that require further investigation. This book isn't just classic--it's a gateway to future lifetimes of intellectual inquiry!Notes
: trade paperback, 22nd printingRating
- Your intellectual life will go forever incomplete if you do not take the minimum of time required to read this slim volume.