of Morrison’s Modernist Apocalyptics
Leaving, then, the white world, I have stepped within the Veil,
raising it that you may view faintly its deeper recesses—the mean-
ing of its religion, the passion of its human sorrow, and the struggle
of its greater souls.
—W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
The sublime always begins with the chord “And then I saw,” fol-
lowing which apocalyptic cumuli curl and divide and the light with
its silently widening voice might say: From that whirling rose that
broadens its rings in the void here come my horsemen: Famine,
Plague, Death and War.
—Derek Walcott, Bounty
In a moment of delirious optimism, the invisible, unnamed narrator of Jazz virtually sings out, “Here comes the new. Look out. There goes the sad stuff. The bad stuff. The things-nobody-could-help-stuff” (J 7). We are invited to bear witness to the end of a time, not its residue. This end occurs in language, as the narrator utters the lyrical phrases that are already redefining and modulating the “sad stuff.” What was before is already under erasure, disappearing out of detail, into the generalization of “The way everybody was then and there.” We are invited to “Forget that” as the narrator declares history to be over, vanished before a future that lies, immanently, ahead. This is far from Beloved’s warning consequences about ignoring the past or trying to forget it.
Although history will be revealed to be far from over, the claim about its passing in Jazz announces the narrator’s sense of “the times” as subject