Morrison and the African Influence on Early American Literature

I found Toni Morrison’s writing the most interesting not only because her writing is always poetic in nature, but because of the points she makes in her essay. Her argument is particularly interesting to me because I think that the African influence on early America and American culture at large is largely underrepresented. In her essay she argues that early American authors who are considered important in the classic American Canon used black struggle and black identity as a backdrop for their moral and ideological contradictions. The characters, stories, and themes of early American literature use the moral contradiction of the original principal America was built on juxtaposed with a race-based system of slavery and oppression to further their complexity, whether the authors do it intetionally or not. She uses metaphors and imagery to develop her point, rhetorical strategies that make her writing all the more interesting to read. One metaphor that is particularly interesting is her comparison of the knowledge of the writing process as a fishbowl. She states that before writing, she could not see past what was inside the fishbowl, but after she had a career in writing, she began to see the fishbowl itself. In her words, she began to see why a writer writes what they write, instead of seeing just the writing itself. Her newfound insight helped her to see the imprint of Africanism on early American writings. In her poetic words, “Pouring rhetorical acid on the fingers of a black hand may indeed destroy the prints, but not the hand.” Morrison’s article fascinated me because it was a beautifully written, refreshing perspective on the Canon of American Literature.

Panel: Morrison, Spivak, and Locke.

Question 1: What are your thoughts on the definition of being human?

Question 2: How does the role of power come into play when recognizing the complexity and the stories of other groups. 

Question 3: How does a dominant group facilitate a space where minority groups can share their complex stories?

Leave a Reply