Toni Morrison: A Teaching and Learning Resource Collection

"The Bluest Eye": Critical Overview

The Bluest Eye: Notes on History, Community, and Black Female Subjectivity
Author: Jane Kuenz
Source: African American Review , Autumn, 1993, Vol. 27, No. 3, Women's Culture Issue (Autumn, 1993), pp. 421-431
Published by: Indiana State University
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Keywords: Mass culture, Hollywood, Sexualization, Race/Gender, Commodification, Commodity Culture, Postmodernity, Capitalism

Main claim: "The Bluest Eye as a whole documents this invasion-and its concomitant erasure of specific local bodies, histories, and cultural productions-in terms of sexuality as it intersects with commodity culture. Furthermore, this mass culture and, more generally, the commodity capitalism that gave rise to it, is in large part responsible-through its capacity to efface history-for the "disinterestedness" that Morrison condemns throughout the novel. Beyond exemplifying this, Morrison's project is to rewrite the specific bodies and histories of the black Americans whose positive images and stories have been eradicated by commodity culture."

Key citations in Works Cited: 

Awkward, Michael. Inspiring Influences: Tradition, Revision, and Afro-American Women's Novels. Now York: Columbia UP, 1989.
Henderson, Mae Gwendolyn. "Speaking in Tongues: Dialogics, Dialectics, and the Black Woman Writer's Uterary Tradition." Wall 16-37.
Jameson, Fredric. "Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture." Social Text 1 (1979): 135-48.
Smith, Valerie. "Black Feminist Theory and Other Representations of the Other." Wall 38-57.
Wall, Cheryl  A., ed. Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1989.
Wallace, Michele. "Variations on Negation and the Heresy of Black Feminist Creativity." Reading Black, Reading Feninist A CriticalAnthology. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Meridian, 1990. 5247.
Willis, Susan. "I Shop Therefore I Am: Is There a Place for Afro-American Culture in Commodity Culture?" Wall 173-95.

The Blues Aesthetic in Toni Morrison's the Bluest Eye
Author(s): Cat Moses
Source: African American Review , Winter, 1999, Vol. 33, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 623- 637
Published by: Indiana State University
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Keywords: Blues, African American Folk culture, African American oral traditions, Cultural Transmission, Music, Colorism

Main Claim: "The catharsis and the transmission of cultural knowledge and values that have always been central to the blues form the thematic and rhetorical underpinnings of The Bluest Eye. The narrative's structure follows a pattern common to traditional blues lyrics: a movement from an initial emphasis on loss to a concluding suggestion of resolution of grief through motion. In between its initial statement of loss and its final emphasis on movin' on, The Bluest Eye contains an abundance of cultural wisdom. The blues lyrics that punctuate the narrative at critical points suggest a system of folk knowledge and values that is crucial to a young black woman's survival in the 1930s and '40s and which supports Claudia's cathartic role as storyteller. The lyrics also illustrate the folk knowledge and values that are not transmitted to Pecola-information without which she cannot survive as a whole and healthy human being."

Key Citations in Works Cited: 

Baker, Houston A., Jr. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1984.
Bell, Bernard. The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1987.
Cataliotti, Robert H. The Music in African American Fiction. New York: Garland, 1995.
Davis, Angela Y. "Black Women and Music: A Historical Legacy of Struggle." Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance. Ed. Joanne M. Braxton and Andr6e Nicola McLaughlin. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1990. 3-21.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., and K. A. Appiah, eds. Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993.
Miner, Madonne. "Lady No Longer Sings the Blues: Rape, Madness, and Silence in The Bluest Eye." Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and Literary Tradition. Ed. Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1985. 176-91.
Morrison, Toni. "Afterword." Bluest Eye, 209-16. 
--"An Interview with Toni Morrison." With Nellie McKay. Gates and Appiah 396-411.
--"'Intimate Things in Place': A Conversation with Toni Morrison." With Robert B. Stepto. Gates and Appiah 378-95. .
--"That Language Must Not Sweat: A Conversation with Toni Morrison." With Thomas LeClair. Gates and Appiah 369-77.
Oakley, Giles. The Devil's Music: A History of the Blues. New York: DaCapo, 1997.
Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History. 3rd ed. New York: Norton, 1997.


Black Naturalism and Toni Morrison: The Journey away from Self-Love in The Bluest Eye
Author: Patrice Cormier-Hamilton Source: MELUS , Winter, 1994, Vol. 19, No. 4, Ethnic Women Writers VI (Winter, 1994), pp. 109-127 Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of Society for the Study of the MultiEthnic Literature of the United States (MELUS)
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Keywords: Naturalism, Racism, African American literary history, Poverty

Main claim: "In this article, I will explore Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye from a naturalistic perspective; however, while doing so I will propose that because Morrison's novels are distinctly black and examine distinctly black issue must expand or deconstruct the traditional theory of naturalism to deal adequately with the African American experience: a theory I refer to as "black naturalism." [...]  The theory of naturalism is also about the primal struggle for freedom-freedom to develop and realize all of the possibilities of our souls and intellects within a societal frame- work. One cannot think of African Americans without considering society's insidious racist attempts to retain black men and women as cheap sources of labor, whether enslaved or ostensibly "

Key Citations in Works Cited: 

Bambara, Toni Cade. Gorilla, My Love. New York: Random House, 1972.
Bell, Bernard. The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition. Amherst: Massachusetts U P, 1987.
Brooks, Gwendolyn. "The Courtship and Motherhood of Maud Martha" from Maud Martha (1953).Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women 1860-1960. Ed. Mary Helen Washington. New York: Doubleday, 1987. 406-28.
Christian, Barbara. Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, 1892-1976. Westport: Greenwood, 1980.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Penguin, 1987.
--The Bluest Eye. New York: Pocket Books, 1970.
--"Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation." Black Women Writers 1950- 1980: A Critical Evaluation. Ed. Mari Evans. New York: Doubleday, 1983.
Pizer, Donald. Twentieth-Century American Literary Naturalism: An Interpretation. Carbondale: Southern Illinois, 1982.
Showalter, Elaine. "The Female Tradition." The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin's, 1989.
Walker, Jim, and Diane Weathers, eds. "Conversations with Alice Childress and Toni Morrison." Black Creation (1974-75): 90-92.
Washington, Mary Helen, ed. Invented Lives: Narratives of Black Women: 1860-1960. New York: Anchor, 1987.
Willis, Susan. Specifying: Black Women Writing the American Experience. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1987.

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