This Fall I am teaching an undergraduate class on Toni Morrison with 80 students and a graduate class with 20 students at the City College of New York. Doing so has become a totally absorbing activity as I have been struggling to catch up with the brilliant proliferation of scholarship and media on the topic of Toni Morrison and her writings at the same time that I am keeping up with 100 students.
We are reading four books in the following order: The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Beloved and Jazz. As we are entering the middle section of the semester, I would completely change the order if I could. I think perhaps now it would have been good if we had read Jazz first. Just jump into the deep end of the pool, into the heart of Morrison's work, from the very beginning. Also, I think I would have liked to have included at least one of the 3 most recent books. Perhaps the most likely choice would be Home although Love might have served just as well. All of the books shed light on all the other books so there are many combinations that might suggest themselves. Of course, the very best would be to do the class in which the students would read all ten of her novels, or at least 8 of them. But I think the books are best understood in the light they shed upon one another.
In any case, am going to include here to 2 links to videos of a conference on the religious dimensions in Toni Morrison's work which occured at the Harvard Divinity School. One link is to the lecture that Morrison gives on the theme of Mercy. The conference which features faculty expounding on the sermon in various Morrison novels will be the first link. I would direct your attention in particular to the extraordinary comments of Reverend Jay Williams on the sermon by Pilate in Song of Solomon. I cannot help but add my frustration in not being able to stream this material in my classroom at the City College of New York because our internet strength is not great enough to support such a practice. I have managed to make an audio tape of William's remarks to present in class today I hope although I am not sure of the sound quality.
Toni Morrison: Lord Have Mercy
Labels: Beloved, Christianity, Harvard Divinity School, Jay Williams, Jazz, Mercy, Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
I am a writer and a professor of English at the City College of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. My books include Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979), Invisibility Blues (1990), Black Popular Culture (1992), and Dark Designs and Visual Culture (2005). I write cultural criticism frequently and am currently working on a project on creativity and feminism among the women in my family, some of which is posted on the Soul Pictures blog.