Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics

By Yvette Christiansë | Go to book overview

4. Beginnings and Endings, Part One:
Old Languages/New Bodies

In the early pages of Jazz, Joe Trace utters these words: “you could say, ‘I was scared to death,’ but you could not retrieve the fear” (J 29). Any scene, no matter how intense, can be replayed, but insofar as it is replayed in narrative, his earlier experiences make him afraid that all memories will remain, for him, “drained of everything but the language to say it in.” He tells himself that this fear, of feeling’s dissipation or absence and the desire to recover or perpetuate it, is why he shot his young lover, Dorcas. It was “just to keep the feeling going” (J 3). It is a remarkable passage, distilling within itself the belatedness and the affectively reduced status of narrative vis-à-vis the event that it recounts, but also the longing toward emotional plenitude that compels such narrative. In a gesture typical of her maturing prose, Morrison stages for us the problem of the relation between event and discourse, and through it the question of how narrative and language, more generally, function in the always compromised and nonetheless necessary project of representation—whether historical or personal. Although the question of race remains central to that interrogation, it does not exhaust the problematic as Morrison conceives it.

In the play of simile, metaphor, and nomination, a play that becomes visible across several different texts, Morrison undertakes a more general exploration of how language compels action despite an ineradicable gap between actuality and its representation. In this gap, the demand for representation grows, and is filled by competing traditions, many of which aspire to cover over that gap and to claim totality. Indeed, this very process of claiming totality is what Laclau calls ideology, and Morrison’s most recent fiction, most notably A Mercy, is concerned with the establishment of ideological dominance or hegemony in a space that I shall call, following Mary Louise Pratt, the “contact zone.” I mean by this both a temporal

-158-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 310

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.