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October 07, 1988 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-10-07

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Friday, October 7, 1988

Page 7

Works cross all

cultural boundaries...

BY CHERIE CURRY
AND MARGIE HEINLEN
IT'S a Beloved thrill to envision Sula, the
turbulent Tar Baby sing the inspirational Song of
Solomon. Tar Baby's eyes invoke a message.
Read deep into The Bluest Eye.
Ahhh, to be a fledgling poet, but what an
honor to be an established novelist ... like Toni
Morrison.
The University should be unabashed in
welcoming Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison
today; after all, Morrison's writings have wel-
comed achievements in every aspect of literature
- from the degrees and the teaching to the
writing and the editing.
Morrison, the Schweitzer professor of the
Humanities at the State University of New York
at Albany, received her B.A. degree from Howard
University and her M.A. degree from Cornell.
She has also received more than a dozen honorary
degrees from various universities and colleges.
Morrison has taught at such universities as
Texas Southern, Howard, Yale, Rutgers, and
Standford, lectured at Bowdoin College, Uni-
versity of California at Berkeley, and San Jose
State University, and is trustee of the New York
Public Library, co-chair of the Schomberg
Commission for the Preservation of Black
Culture, and member of the Queens College
Advisory Board.
As an editor at Random House, she steered
such writers as Toni Cade Bambara, Angela

Davis, Muhammed Ali, Gayle Jones, and Andrew
Young through publication processes.
Morrison's major novels, The Bluest Eye,
Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, and Beloved have
received extensive critical acclaim. She received
the National Book Critics Award in 1977 for
Song of Solomon and the1987 Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction for Beloved . Both novels were chosen as
the main selections of the Book of the Month
Club in 1977 and 1987 respectively.
Her first play, Dreaming Emmett, was
commissioned by the New York State Writers In-
stitute of the State University of New York in
1985. Meeting with favorable reviews, it drew
audiences throughout New York and the entire
Tri-State area.
As for future projects, Morrison has accepted
an appointment to the Robert F. Goheen Pro-
fessorship in the Humanities Council at
Princeton University. As the first incumbent of
the Goheen Professor, Ms. Morrison will teach
in Princeton's Creative Writing Program and will
have the flexibility to participate in inter-
disciplinary programs including Afro-American
Studies, American Studies and Women's Studies.
Her appointment will take effect in the Spring of
1989.
This is probably one of the last chances to see
Morrison to speak for a while, as she settles in at
Princeton. Her presence at the University as part
of the Tanner series on values has been part of a
unified effort by the philosophy department. A
committee invited her to speak at the University
in the spring of 1986, long before the release of

Beloved and its Pulitzer award- so the faculty
and students are getting an excitingly timely
honor.
Appealing to questions relating to values in
her own way for an academic audience, the series
offers an opportunity to Morrison to speak her
"unspoken" vision. A professor in the philo-
sophy department comments, "Obviously such a
powerful novelist who has made a contribution
of first rank to Black literature, feminist
literature, American literature, she would be
perfect for the series."
Morrison's themes established a strong desire
for a more academic lecture on values as a issue
within itself. Delivered with her unusually sen-
sitive portrayals that have the unique ability to
elicit personal identification, her novels often
deal with questions about morals and conflicts
inherent within them as they affect Blacks,
women, and our culture in general. But her
perspectives ignore traditional class, race and sex
lines, allowing her to draw in a huge audience -
which will be evidenced today at Rackham
Lecture Hall.
TONI MORRISON delivers the Tanner Lecture
on Human Values, titled "Unspeakable Things
Unspoken: Afro-American Presence in American
Literature", at 4 p.m. in Rackham Lecture Hall.
A Symposium on the Tanner Lecture will
follow the next morning at 9:30 a.m., Oct. 8, in
Auditorium 4 in the Modern Language Building.
Morrison, together with poet and playwright
Amiri Baraka, and other scholars, will
participate. Both the lecture and symposium are
free.

.making her 'Beloved' of her readers

Toni Morrison:
SEmancipating
Force
Turning away from her familiar contemporary
gettings to the random violence of the Recon-
struction, Beloved is more than any personal
0dyssey. Morrison sweeps the history of slavery and
freedom into her characters - from Sethe's (the
silouetted protagonist's) mother, a survivor of the
slave ship crossings, to Denver, her child, who
chronologically reaches out to the present.

BY MARGIE HEINLEN
JAMES Baldwin, pioneer of Afro-
American fiction, has handed down a
vision- there are truths in the words
of the suffering, the down-trodden,
the mad and those who have learned
to hate themselves -truth able to
emancipate us all. And Morrison -
through her characters - nods,
understanding Baldwin's wisdom:
"That [a] man who is forced each day
to snatch his manhood, his identity
out of the fire of human cruelty that
rages to destroy it knows, if he
survives his effort, and even if he
does not survive it, something about
himself and human life that no
school on earth- and ,indeed, no
church- can teach. He achieves his
own authority, and that is un-
shakable."
Toni Morrison- Bluest Eye,
Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby,
Beloved - ranges prolific in human
value and emotional scope
throughouteachmof her novels.
Awarded the highest accolade - the

Pulitzer- for Beloved, a tale so
unified that it rarely allows even the
reader to escape. Turning away from
her familiar contemporary settings to
the random violence of the Recon-
struction, Beloved is more than any
personal odyssey. Morrison sweeps
the history of slavery and freedom
into her characters - from Sethe's
(the silouetted protagonist's) mother,
a survivor of the slave ship
crossings, to Denver, her child, who
chronologically reaches out to the
present.
The story emerges as a historical
ghost story - her characters do not
die - and at times it's uncertain
rather they are dead memories or
living shells. Sethe, a steely woman
in her mid-thirties, escapes her own
social realism raising her memories
to symbolism. The word "Beloved,"
the seven letters Sethe could afford of
the funeral mass sermon that begins
"Dearly Beloved,..." on the headstone
for her murdered two year old
daughter are etched into the memories
of each reader by Morrison.

"But her brain was not interested
in the future. Loaded with the past
and hungry for more, it left her no
room to imagine, let alone plan...-
when one more step was the most
she could see of the future. Other

people went crazy, why couldn't
she?" Beloved is a story that cuts
across history and class structure to
acknowledge the sane struggling to
survive in an insane world.

CLASSIFIED ADS! Call 764-0557

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Interested in writing about film, theater,
music, books or dance?
Join the Daily
Arts Staff
Call 763-0379 for
details!

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