Course Descriptions

ENG 4451

Toni Morrison

Jennifer McFarlane-Harris

MWF 9:00-10:20 a.m.

In this course we get to savor the work of one of the greatest writers in the English language: Toni Morrison. We will begin with Morrison as a literary and cultural critic through her transformative Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992). Recognizing the power of Morrison’s historical fiction, we will read A Mercy (2008), which deals with slavery during the 1680s in early America. Next we turn to the book that anchors this course: Morrison’s magnum opus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved (examining both the 1987 novel and the 1998 film adaptation). Morrison returned to the true story that inspired Beloved—a young woman who tried to kill her children rather than allow them to be kidnapped back into chattel slavery—when writing the libretto for the opera Margaret Garner; thus, we will study the libretto, music, making of, and first performances of this opera in 2005. Finally, the course ends with two intimate meditations on race and the residue of childhood anguish: God Help the Child (2015) and Morrison’s only short story, Recitatif (1983, though we will read the just-released reissue with an intro by Zadie Smith).

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