Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination - The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization 1992 (Hardback)

by Toni Morrison

Format: Hardback 110 pages

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Morrison ponders the effect that living in a historically racialized society has had on American writing in the 19th and 20th centuries. She argues that race has become a metaphor, a way of referring to forces, events and forms of social decay, economic division and human panic. Her point is that the central characteristics of American literature - individualism, masculinity, the insistence upon innocence coupled to an obsession with figurations of death and hell - are responses to a dark and abiding Africanist presence. Through her investigation of black characters, narrative strategies, and idiom in the fiction of white American writers, Morrison provides a daringly original perspective that aims to alter conventional notions about American literature. She considers Willa Cather and the impact of race on concept and plot; turns to Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville to examines the black force that figures so significantly in the literature of early America; and discusses the implications of the Africanist presence at the heart of "Huckleberry Finn". A final chapter on Ernest Hemingway is an exposition of the racial subtext that glimmers beneath the surface plots of his fiction.

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Harvard University Press


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