Toni Morrison

This week’s review unpacks how Toni Morrison conceptualized freedom, examining Morrison's political thought through her writing.

Toni Morrison: Imagining Freedom

Balfour, Katharine Lawrence. Oxford, 2023
240p bibl index, 9780190673284 $35.00, 9780190673314

Toni Morrison: Imagining Freedom book cover.

Morrison’s passing has led to a spate of scholarly works assessing her profound legacy in American letters. Balfour (Univ. of Virginia) has produced one of the best examinations of Morrison’s oeuvre to date. Focusing intently on the concept of freedom, Balfour connects multiple works (fiction and nonfiction) to explore Morrison’s vision of freedom as inherently complicated by the racial and gendered oppressions prevalent throughout US history. She explores these difficult political concepts in Morrison by grounding the discussion within the texts’ own specificities, teasing out the tensions that Morrison constantly evokes surrounding responsibility and rights, mobility and situatedness, home and displacement, all with an eye toward understanding Morrison’s constant questioning of abstract notions of freedom in a concretely unequal world. Though not a literary critic per se, Balfour combines her acute political knowledge with keen readings of Morrison’s prose, capturing the multiple layers of connotation that drive Morrison’s fiction. This accessible volume is required reading for anyone seeking to understand the ways in which Toni Morrison’s fiction offers political practices and ideals necessary for the current moment. Balfour’s work is not one to pass on.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer
: D. E. Magill, Longwood University
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies, Women’s & Gender Studies
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – English & American
Choice Issue: Mar 2024


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