Toni Morrison's Sula

Toni Morrison's Sula

Toni Morrison's Sula

Toni Morrison's Sula


-- Presents the most important 20th-century criticism on major works from The Odyssey through modern literature

-- The critical essays reflect a variety of schools of criticism

-- Contains critical biographies, notes on the contributing critics, a chronology of the author's life, and an index


Political interpretation has been all the rage, academic and journalistic, during the last thirty years. No contemporary novelist of anything like Toni Morrison's eminence is so insistent that she desires political interpretation by her exegetes. She certainly has received what she calls for: an entire sect of cheerleaders crowd in her wake. Very little can be done against such a fashion at this time. If the United States achieves a larger measure of social justice in a generation or so, then Morrison yet may be esteemed more for her narrative art, invention, and style than for her exemplary political correctness. Myself an archaic survival, a dinosaur still lurching about the halls of Yale and New York University, I go on reading for aesthetic experience only. This brief Introduction therefore will consider Sula only as an artistic achievement, and not as a weapon wielded against indubitable societal oppression by a celebrated African-American feminist Marxist. The essays reprinted in this volume are more than sufficient to meet Morrison's expressed ideological standards for her academic followers.

Sula herself is a total rebel against all society, all conventions, and nearly all moralities. A "demon" in the eyes of the black community, Sula is a kind of Lilith, taking sexual satisfaction where she will. Not evil but doom-eager, Sula quests desperately for freedom, but she necessarily is self-victimized, as Morrison makes clear:

In a way, her strangeness, her naiveté, her craving for the other half of her equation was the consequence of an idle imagination. Had she paints, or clay, or knew the discipline of the dance, or strings; had she anything to engage her tremendous curiosity and her gift for metaphor, she might have exchanged the restlessness and preoccupation with whim for an activity that provided her with all she longed for. And like any artist with no art form, she became dangerous.

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