Morrison's Soundings in the Faulknerian Void
Any attempt at aligning Toni Morrison's work with that of others--particularly if the other happens to be an earlier white male writer--confronts her cautionary remark that "I am not like James Joyce; I am not like Thomas Hardy; I am not like Faulkner, I am not like in that sense" ( Interview with Nellie McKay; rpt. Taylor-Guthrie152). For her remarks here--grounded as they are in concerns about assimilation--insist that criticism of her work attend, not just to the aesthetic, but to the political implications involved in establishing intertextual relations. What are the consequences of citing affinities, tracing out affiliations, establishing connections? What does it mean to say that one text is like another? On the one hand, I do want to suggest that Morrison Beloved and Faulkner Absalom, Absalom! can be brought into meaningful relation without effacing distinctions between them or, more significantly, without assuming the priority of the earlier novel--without, that is, simply assimilating Morrison's literary production to a stylistics, and thus a mode of conceptuality, determined in advance. On the other hand, I also want to acknowledge at the outset that there are difficulties, a certain resistance, to be not so much overcome as accounted for in arguing that Beloved plays with and plays off of, repeats and revises, simultaneously recites and (as it were) re-sites Faulkner's text.
For Morrison's novel not only appropriates many of Absalom's central themes but replays and implicitly replies to its strategies of narrative articulation as well.
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Publication information: Book title: Unflinching Gaze:Morrison and Faulkner Re-Envisioned. Contributors: Carol A. Kolmerten - Editor, Stephen M. Ross - Editor, Judith Bryant Wittenberg - Editor. Publisher: University Press of Mississippi. Place of publication: Jackson, MS. Publication year: 1997. Page number: 199.
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