Playing in the Dark

Playing in the Dark : Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

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Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison brings the genius of a master writer to this personal inquiry into the significance of African-Americans in the American literary imagination. Her goal, she states at the outset, is to "put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature...draw a map, so to speak, of a critical geography and use that map to open as much space for discovery, intellectual adventure, and close exploration as did the original charting of the New World--without the mandate for conquest." Author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and other vivid portrayals of black American experience, Morrison ponders the effect that living in a historically racialized society has had on American writing in the nineteenth and twentieth 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 compelling 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 daring perspective that is sure 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 examine 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 a brilliant exposition of the racial subtext that glimmers beneath the surface plots of his fiction. Written with the artistic vision that has earned her a preeminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrishow more

Product details

  • Paperback | 91 pages
  • 137.16 x 218.44 x 7.62mm | 113.4g
  • Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • New York, NY, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 0679745424
  • 9780679745426
  • 87,934

Review quote

"A profound redefinition of American cultural identity."--Philadelphia Inquirershow more

About Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio. She is Robert E. Goheen Professor, Council of the Humanities, Emeritus at Princeton University. She is the author of eleven novels: The Bluest Eye; Sula; Song of Solomon, which won the 1978 National Book Critics Award for fiction; Tar Baby; Beloved, which won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction; Jazz; Paradise; Love; A Mercy; Home; and God Help the Child. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in more

Flap copy

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Beloved and "Jazz now gives us a learned, stylish, and immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that promises to change the way we read American literature even as it opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on race. Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly "unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires. Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature. "By going for the American literary jugular...she places her the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America.""--Chicago Tribune "Toni Morrison is the closest thing the country has to a national writer.""The New York Times Book Reviewshow more

Rating details

3,420 ratings
4.18 out of 5 stars
5 44% (1,493)
4 36% (1,240)
3 16% (537)
2 4% (124)
1 1% (26)
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