In a landmark work of literary criticism the Nobel Prize-winning author of The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Beloved, Jazz, and Paradise illuminates the "Africanist" presence shaping the American imagination. Morrison's discussion of Africanist characters in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Twain, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of American literature. She demonstrates how such defining American themes as freedom, individualism, manhood, and innocence arose from the presence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and how an American-Africanist persona came to serve American authors as both a way of embodying and evading the reality-shaping presence of race and its elaboration at the heart of American culture.
PRAISE FOR Playing in the Dark:
"[Toni Morrison's] argument is lucid and eloquent; its paradigm-shattering implications are profound. This brilliant and provocative book raises questions that have never been asked about American literature and provides some compelling models for how we might go about answering them."
--Journal of American History
"Essential reading for anyone interested in American literature and in the ways in which racial thinking is everywhere embedded in cultural production. Morrison is vividly sketching a new way to read American literature and enabling us to see the hard racial truths that it contains. Her argument is daring, profound and painful."
--In These Times
"Her revolutionary little monograph...is a major work by a major American author... [Toni Morrison] is one of the living writers who really matters."
--The Los Angeles Times
"She herself may be the last classic American writer, squarely in the tradition of Poe, Melville, Twain, and Faulkner."
One: Black Matters
Two: Romancing the Shadow
Three: Disturbing Nurses and the Kindness of Sharks