The Politics of Form in The Bluest Eye
Our metaphors of self cannot then rest in stasis, but will glory in difference and overflow into everything that belongs to us.
Deborah E. McDowell
Deborah McDowell introduces her recent essay on Sula with the following quotation from Henry James: "What shall we call our 'Self'? Where does it begin? Where does it end? It overflows into everything that belongs to us." My own epigraph—her concluding sentence in that same essay—reworks James's concern with "self" and "overflow" so as to highlight the mingled awe and anxiety which Toni Morrison's writing tends to elicit. McDowell's emphasis on the mediation of knowledge touches on what is at once inspirational and unsettling in Morrison's work: the verbal abundance in which this writing glories is tinged with skepticism. Its "overflow" touches off a feeling that meanings are unstable, at once elusive and in formation. In part, this effect concerns the "readerly" stance of Morrison's writing (in Barthes's sense), in that her self-reflective narration refracts and defers meanings. In part it also concerns political issues— notably racial and sexual. In this respect, the issues of difference which McDowell identifies as operating in Sula are political, not just literary or____________________