The Voices of Toni Morrison

Barbara Hill Rigney

Rigney's study highlights some interesting continuities in Morrison's fiction:  semiotic discourse, character identity formation, presentation of the other side of history, and desire in language.  As this listing implies, Rigney's book is textbook French feminist criticism, very capably covering the major theoretical threads, such as language, the maternal, identity, and desire.Modern Fiction Studies

Barbara Hill Rigney's comprehensive examination of the work of 1993 Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison is informed by both feminist and African-American critical theory. In her analysis of Morrison's five novels—Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, Sula, and Tar Baby—Rigney defines a black feminine/feminist aesthetic. The many “voices” of Toni Morrison, Rigney argues, are manifested in her radical use of language, her reformulations of self and identity, her reinterpretations of history as both fact and mythology, and her images of female desire. As Rigney describes Morrison's texts, they are characterized by deliberate and meaningful silences, by the movement beyond language into music, and by representations of magic realism and the conjure world. While Morrison's fictions disrupt traditional chronologies and diffuse linearity, they also bear historical witness to the realities and brutalities of slavery, reconstruction, depression, and war—and thus, Rigney documents, they are always profoundly political. Rigney's study, like Morrison's novels, transcends traditional interpretations, maps new territory for postmodern fictions, and cultivates a common ground for a discourse on theory, race, and gender.

Barbara Hill Rigney is professor of English at The Ohio State University. She is the author of Margaret Atwood; Madness and Sexual Politics in the Feminist Novel: Studies in Bront´┐Ż, Woolf, Lessing, and Atwood; Lilith's Daughters: Women and Religion in Contemporary Fiction, and numerous articles on feminist critical theory.

1991  206 pp

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