Pennsylvania College of  Technology Dr. Ed Vavra
Assoc. Prof. of Rhetoric

Toni Morrison

Primary Works:

General Critical Studies

Studies of Specific Works

Song of Solomon

Hirsch, Marianna. "Knowing Their Names: Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon." in Smith, New Essays, pp. 69-92. [R. 5 This is a fruitful essay.]

     "'The fathers may soar / And the children may know their names' -- the novel's epigraph raises the novel's central themes: family relations, flight, transmission, origin, knowledge, naming, transcendence, contingency." (73)

"this novel mretains its topical significance for male and female, black and white readers alike." (75) [And this is why it belongs in the universal canon..]
Lubiano, Wahneema. "The Postmodernist Rag: Political Identity and the Vernacular in Song of Solomon." in Smith, New Essays, pp. 93-116. [R]
"This text's structure is finally signifying at its most surgical: it refuses to make itself easily understood." (102) [This essay does the same, although the second half is much better than the first.]
Middleton, Joyce Irene. "From Orality to Literacy: Oral Memory in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon" in Smith, New Essays, pp. 19-39. [R. 2- ?]
"The bath secene signifies Milkman's cultural immersion in a black, traditional oral culture." (23)  [Nothing in this essay suggests how Sweet represents traditional black culture, nor is there much orality involved in the way that Milkman and Sweet bathe each other. Middlleton regularly stretches to touch the point she is attempting to make.]
Mobley, Marilyn Sanders. "Call and Response: Voice, Community, and Dialogic Structures in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon."  in Smith, New Essays, pp. 41-68. [R. 1] [Mobley appears to be more interested in showing that she has read the literary theorists (Bakhtin, Culler, Foucault, Lacan) than she is in the novel.]

Smith, Valerie. ed. New Essays on Song of Solomon. Cambridge University Press, 1995. (PCT Library PS3563 .08749 S636 1995) [R, Essays listed under their authors' names]

     "Recent debates about the litarary canon (the body of works historically and commonly considered great) have held the notion of universality up to heightened scrutiny. Defenders of the traditional canon typically argue that texts historically judged as great meet timeless artistic criteria, standards that transcend constructions of race, gender or ethnicity. When challenged to defend the practice of largely excluding literature written by people of color and by white women, they accuse revisionists of confusing politics or demographics wiht literary standards. Those who would enshrine U.S. literary history as it has commonly been written thus deny that the predominance of white male writers bespeaks a set of class or political interests." (1) [strawman fallacy???]

"As an adolescent she [Morrison] read widely across a variety of literary traditions, counting the classic Russian novelists, Flaubert, and Jane Austen among her favorites." (6)

     "One mark of the greatness of the novel has been its ability to respond to changes in critical concerns and preoccupations as they have evolved over time. Critics of African American literature have become increasingly engaged with such topics as constructions of gender and of black folk practices in narrative and the usefulness of postructuralist theories for interpreting black texts. ... Accordingly, the essays collected here, each writen by a leading critic of Morrison's work, exemplify the fresh theoretical and cultural perspectives that have been brought to bear upon African American texts in general and upon this work in particular. Each piece included here reveals the mulifarious complexities contained beneath the surface of a novel that may seem deceptively straightforward given its familiarity. Taken together, the essya in this volume will spark renewed interest in this pivotal text." (15) [Smith, like most of the critics represented in this collection, is too caught up in "fresh theoretical and cultural perspectives." I first read this novel because it is listed in Harold Bloom's canon.]