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Toni Morrison and the Classical TraditionTransforming American Culture$
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Tessa Roynon

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199698684

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199698684.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 29 September 2020

In Search of Home: the 1920s–1950s

In Search of Home: the 1920s–1950s

(p.102) 4 In Search of Home: the 1920s–1950s
Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition

Tessa Roynon

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that in the novels that address the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s — Jazz, The Bluest Eye, and Sula — Morrison examines the opportunities and pitfalls that ‘freedom’ proscribed by segregation entailed. Together with Home, which is set primarily in the 1950s but which incorporates retrospective depictions of earlier decades, these novels enlist classical notions of ‘fate’, ‘sacrifice’, and classical purification rituals in their representations of city and town life, and of the continuing quest for a viable black identity. It argues that Jazz writes against dominant American versions of pastoral (epitomized by Leo Marx) in its depiction of black urbanization, and that Home enacts a complex dialogue with Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The chapter ends by discussing the political implications of the final rejection of Aristotelian ‘catastrophe’ or ‘calamity’ in Morrison's trilogy and other texts.

Keywords:   Jazz, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Home, Leo Marx, urbanization, pastoral, Homer, fate, sacrifice

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