Toni Morrison: A Teaching and Learning Resource Collection

Morrison Criticism: Names and identity

A Slave by Any Other Name: Names and Identity in Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Names, vol. 56, No. 1, March, 2008, 23–28
Cynthia Lyles-Scott Florida Atlantic University,

Keywords: Names, Identity, Beloved, Cultural Memory, Slavery

Main claim: Morrison’s story demonstrates differences in both intent and result when names were issued by slave owners as opposed to names bestowed by Black people themselves. Toni Morrison’s Beloved is an example of many different types of literature. It is a supernatural tale about a slain daughter who comes back to life. It is a love story about two people who fi nd one another after nearly twenty years have passed. And it is a familial tale about three generations of women and how their lives were and are affected by the institution of slavery. As Patricia Waugh wrote in Feminine Fictions, ‘Toni Morrison’s novels explore the racial history of black people in terms of how their oppression is lived out through relationships within their family and yet how these same relationships carry the possibility of human dignity and connection’ (213). While there are many aspects of Beloved that could be argued as important within the context of the novel, the one I am focusing on here is the act of naming or nicknaming as a way of reclaiming one’s self and one’s identity. yield. (108–09)

Key Citations in Works Cited: 

Bracks, Lean’tin L., 1998. ‘Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Evolving Identities from Slavery to Freedom,’ Writings on Black women of the Diaspora: History, Language and Identity, New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., pp. 55–81.
Fabre, Genevieve, 1988.‘Genealogical Archaeology or the Quest for Legacy in Toni Morrison’s Song of Soloman,’ Critical Essays on Toni Morrison, by Nellie Y. McKay, pp. 105–14.
Harris, Trudier, 1988. ‘Reconnecting Fragments: Afro-American Folk Tradition in The Bluest Eye,’ Critical Essays on Toni Morrison, by Nellie Y. McKay, pp. 68–76.
Le Clair, Tom, 1983.‘An Interview with Toni Morrison,’ Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists,ed. by Larry MacCaffery, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, pp. 252–61.
McKay, Nellie Y., ed., 1988. Critical Essays on Toni Morrison,Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co.McKay, Nellie Y.,
Barbara Christian, and Deborah McDowell, 1999. ‘A Conversation on Toni Morrison’s Beloved,’ Toni Morrison’s Beloved: A Casebook, ed. by William L. Andrews and Nellie Y. McKay, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 203–20.
Rigney, Barbara Hill, 1988. ‘Breaking the Back of Words: Language, Silence, and the Politics of Identity in Beloved,’ Critical Essays on Toni Morrison’s Beloved,ed. by Barbara H. Solomon, New York: G.K. Hall & Co., pp. 138–47.

Reading the Onomastic Text: 'The Politics of the Proper Name' in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
Author: Christian Moraru
Names, vol 44, No. 3, September 1996: 189-204

Keywords: Song of Solomon, Naming, Onomastics, Semiotics, Poststructuralism

Main Claim: Names play a crucial role in Toni Morrison's fiction,as the author herself has acknowledged. Critics have insistently focused on Morrson's rich "denominative imagination," placing it against the background of the African-American tradition. Names constitute in Morrison "legacies" to be reconstituted (Fabre1988,109), and, to adapt Gerard Genette's remarks on the "poetics" of naming (1976), enshrine hidden denominations to be unearthed and assumed. Along these lines, I explore the fictional reverberations of these legacies in Song of Solomon. I am here particularly interested in how Morrison's characters trace names back to their always problematic origins as well as in the concrete, narrative implications of such a "genealogical archaeology" (Fabre1988).

Key Citations in Works Cited: 

Rabinowitz, Paula.1983. "Naming, Magic, and Documentary: The Subversion of the Narrative in Song of Solomon, Ceremony, and China Men.
Feminist Re-Visions. What Has Been and Might Be. Ed. Vivian Patraka and Louise A. Tilly. Ann Arbor:U of Michigan P, 26-42.

Rosenberg, Ruth.1987.'''And the Children May Know Their Names': Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon." Literary Onomastics Studies VIII:195-217.

Smith, Valerie.1993. "Song of Solomon. Continuities of Community. "Toni Morrison. Critical Perspectives. Past and Present. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K.A. Appiah. New York: Amistad, 273-283.

Stein, Karen. 1980. "I Didn't Even Know His Name': Name and Naming in Toni Morrison's Sula." Names 28: 226-229.

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