Toni Morrison: A Teaching and Learning Resource Collection

"Jazz": Critical Overview

Self and Mutuality: Romantic Love, Desire, Race, and Gender in Toni Morrison's Jazz 
Author: Michelle C. Loris
Sacred Heart University Review 14:1, 1994

Keywords: Psychoanalysis

Main Claim: Toni Morrison's novel Jazz wrestles with the problem of romantic love and desire. It defines that problem as a struggle for both self-identity and mutuality (mutual recognition). The longing and desire to be known completely as oneself by an other who shares this same feeling and intention, the novel declares, is the secret of love. [...] Morrison's novel demonstrates through her characters that for African Americans living in a racist, post-slavery society which denies them their status as human subject, the bonds of love are often forged into the bondage of domination and displacement of the self."

Key Citations in Works Cited: 

D.W. Winnicott, "Ego Distortion in Terms of the True and False Self in The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment (New York: International Universities Press, 1965). 

Jessica Benjamin, The Bonds ofLove: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and the Problem of Domination (New York: Pantheon, 1988).

Traces and Cracks: Identity and Narrative in Toni Morrison's Jazz
Author: Carolyn M. Jones
Source: African American Review , Autumn, 1997, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 481-495
Published by: Indiana State University

Keywords: Jazz, Music, Poststructuralism, Narrative theory

Main claim: In [...] Jazz, Morrison creates a narrative strategy that combines the movement of music and the structure of tragedy; more specifically, she uses the improvisational quality of music to deconstruct the form of tragedy, allowing a reconstruction of identity to emerge that is not determined, but fluid and improvisational. In Jazz, Toni Morrison retells the story of Beloved, which Morrison regards as the essential story of the black experience in America. The story begins with the fracturing of human psyches, souls, and bodies in slavery. This fracture causes one to devalue the self, to displace the self and to locate the best of the self in an "other": the beloved. In Jazz, Morrison symbolizes this fracture through Violet's cracks and Joe's traces. The narrator of Jazz brings these cracks and traces together in the centerpiece of the novel-the story of Golden Gray and the Wild."

Key Citations in Works Cited:

Appiah, K. A., and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds. Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993.
Davis, Christina. "Interview with Toni Morrison." Appiah and Gates 412-20.
Derrida, Jacques. Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976.
Fish, Stanley. Is There A Text In This Class?: The Authority of Interpretative Communities. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1980.
Hardack, Richard. "'A Music Seeking Its Words': Double-Timing and Double Consciousness in Toni Morrison's Jazz." Black Warrior Review 19.2 (1993): 151-71. Hartmann, Charles  Jazz Text: Voice and Improvisation in Poetry, Jazz and Song. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.
Holloway, Karla F. "Beloved: A Spiritual." Callaloo 13 (1990): 516-25.
hooks, bell. Black Looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992.

Discrimination in 'the City': Race, Class, and Gender in Toni Morrison's Jazz
Author: Golam Rabbani
Advances in Language and Literature, 10.5, 2019. 
Stable URL:

Keywords: Harlem, Racism, Discrimination, Internalized racism, Colorism, misogyny, sexism

Main claim: Toni Morrison begins her novel, Jazz, with an epigraph from The Nag Hammadi text, “Thunder, Perfect Mind.” The epigraph ends with the words, “the designation of the division,” which seems to summarize Morrison’s motives to write the novel. Apart from the rhythmic alignment of music in the narrative, this novel seems to “designate” the social “divisions” based on race, class, and gender. This study aims to analyze the discrimination based on race, class, and gender in Toni Morrison’s Jazz. It examines Harlem, frequently referred “the City” in the novel, as a chauvinistic and xenophobic space where African American characters are oppressed and segregated by their race, class, and gender. The novel is about the African Americans who come to “the City” during Great Migration1 and settle in Harlem. They come to Harlem expecting the future free from their trauma of slavery. Though they seek freedom from the oppression, they seem to have internalized the oppressive norms of the dominating whites. As a result, discrimination occurs within their community

Key Citations in Works Cited: 
Bouson, J. Brooks. Quite As It’s Kept: Shame Trauma and Rape in the Novels of Toni Morrison. New York: State University of New York Press, 2000.
Harding, Wendy, and Jacky Martin. A World of Difference: An Intercultural Study of Toni Morrison’s Novels. London: Greenwood Press, 1994.
Heinert, Jennifer Lee Jordan. Narrative Conventions and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. Print.
Heinze, Denise. The Dilemma of “Double Consciousness”: Toni Morrison’s Novels. Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1993.
Kubitschek, Missy Dehn. Toni Morrison: A critical Companion. London: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Loris, Michelle C. “Self and Mutuality: Romantic Love, Desire, Race, and Gender in Toni Morrison’s Jazz.” Sacred Heart University Review, vol. 14, no.1, 1994, pp. 53-62
Nowlin, Michael. “Toni Morrison’s Jazz and the Racial Dreams of the American Writer.” American Literature, vol. 71, no. 1, 1999, pp. 151-174.
Peach, Linden. Toni Morrison. London: Macmillan Press, 1996.
Raynaud, Claudine. “Risking Sensuality: Toni Morrison’s Erotics of Writing.” Black Intersectionalities: A Critique for the 21st Century. Eds. Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2013. Print. 128-144.

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