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Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the…
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Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Toni Morrison

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7811211,802 (3.88)22
Member:KaylaVO
Title:Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
Authors:Toni Morrison
Info:Vintage (1993), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 91 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Litterary critcism, Race in Literature

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Playing in the Dark : Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison (1992)

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» See also 22 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
What role does a white and a non-white body play in a work of American literature? How are concepts of lightness/whiteness, darkness/blackness, and "otherness" used within a plot, and why? What does this tell about the author and his/her internalized ideals of race, class, power, and privilege? These are some of the questions asked, and analyzed with great prowess in PLAYING IN THE DARK.

In this brief yet powerful collection of essays, Toni Morrison looks at the American literature tradition and the ways it has incorporated and internalized racial language, as well as the ramifications of such. The author is such a brilliant and uncompromising presence, and her analyses ring just as true in 2016 as they did in 1992 when the book was published.

Many of the points that Toni Morrison makes in this text are the same as the arguments made by supporters of the "Black Lives Matter" movement. When she discusses the ways that (and reasons why) modern readers try to write-off troubling racial aspects of literature, and why that discourse is problematic, she is mirroring the criticism of the "All Lives Matter" response. Many, especially those who are not engaged in critical intersectionality discourse, may find Toni Morrison's points shocking or wild. But becoming aware of the American literary traditions and their reflections of society, are necessary if the country is ever to move into a more free and tolerant sphere. ( )
  BooksForYears | Jul 24, 2016 |
Review: “Playing in the Dark” by Toni Morrison. First I’ll say it has been a huge achievement for me to read this great book. It has only ninety-one pages but a lot of Toni’s Literary Imagination content to understand her views. I haven’t come that far with judging, criticizing or critiquing any works from a Literature Author as Toni Morrison. She expresses herself with great feelings and argues her points of view to no end. Her arguments are daring, profound and sometimes painful.

There is still a lot for me to learn about American Literature and how to decipherer what has been written. I plan to go back to this book at another time and read it again. I know I missed the meaning to some of the things she wrote about. I adjusted to some of what she stated but I’m not sure if I believe all her statements in this book. I need to re-hash it and pick it apart some more. I thought it was a great read and learned more about Toni Morrison. I had read “The Bluest eyes” sometime back and I loved the book.


This book however, was written in another format altogether. She made statements, brilliant discussions, intense augments and comments as she summarized “Africanist” presence in the fiction works of other Author’s as of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway etc. I’m finding out that Literature can be read and understood in the minds of all of us. You just need patients to figure it out…….
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
A challenging read, but well worth the time and effort.
  sparemethecensor | Jan 13, 2016 |
80. Playing in the Dark : Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
1992, 100 page hardcover
read Dec 9-12

These essays are work but also enlightening if you can manage to fight your way through them. Morrison is so angry and yet she never tells you, never expresses it in any overt way. But she lays it in raw when one compares the balanced tone and the emotion that almost logically is underneath. She writes objectively, ”Black slavery enriched the country's creative possibilities.” - if you aren't cringing, read that again.

From there she just goes on to talk about it. I found myself so uncomfortable reading this, that it became a hard read. If I could have stayed on her tone, it would just been a somewhat interesting, boring and yet very informative read. Yet, that’s not where she is going. She says it, and you think that’s extreme and then eventually you come around to see how much racism plays such a fundamental unconscious and key a roll in American story telling, and how universal it is. It's like the message sinks in and a knife twists in your gut

Think again about Finn in The Force Awakens. Go see any American movie and look at the roll the black characters play - but these servile roles are child’s play. In serious literature blacks play critical roles in balancing main, non-black characters. They provide a critical sense of freedom and independence to those characters. Morrison brings up Henry James, Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Flannery O’Connor (a bit more respectfully), Mark Twain’s Jim, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Willian Styron, Saul Bellow, Carson McCullers, Edgar Allen Poe, Willa Cather’s Sapphire and the Slave Girl, Melville’s Pip, and she hammers Hemingway. Melville was actually conscious about his racial play, using race in an exploratory and creative manner. Certainly he’s comes across as more modern in his sensibilities in this aspect than all these other authors, and most literature coming out today.

Perhaps I should go back and tone this one down. This reviews seems a bit discouraging. But it is an uncomfortable read, with some uncomfortable revelations that you thought you already knew, but really you only knew a small piece of it.

“As a writer reading, I came to realize the obvious: the subject of the dream is the dreamer. The fabrication of an Africanist persona is reflexive; an extraordinary meditation on the self; a powerful exploration of the fears and desires that reside in the writerly conscious.”
2 vote dchaikin | Dec 27, 2015 |
This little book has been rightly influential out of all proportion to its merits as a book: the basic thesis here is really important (if not entirely original--compare Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel) but the argumentation is unsystematic, even slapdash, with terminology slippery and unrigorous, etc. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
In Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison argues that the "africanist" or black presence is inextricable from American history and therefore American literature, and in order to understand and interpret American literature one should not ignore this crucial presence of the oppressed souls of "sixty million and more" africana people who have died to give birth to America. Further she discusses that " the contemplation of this black presence is central to any understanding of our [American] national literature and should not be permitted to over at the margins of the literary imagination" (Playing 5).
Although slavery has an important role in the history of socio-economic structure of all society for many years and slavery of in the New World was not a new phenomenon, but being enslaved due to skin color and race was a new thing altogether. Over centuries it has had a great impact on both oppressed and oppressor that being ignorant to it is almost impossible.
added by RoyaVakili | editresearch, Roya Vakili
 
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These chapters put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature into what I hope will be a wider landscape.
Preface: Some years ago in 1983 I believe, I read Marie Cardinal's The Words to Say It.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679745424, Paperback)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beloved and Jazz now gives us a learned, stylish, and immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that promises to change the way we read American literature even as it opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on race.

Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires.

Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature.

"By going for the American literary jugular...she places her arguments...at the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America."
--Chicago Tribune

"Toni Morrison is the closest thing the country has to a national writer."
The New York Times Book Review

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:03 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Beloved and Jazz now gives us a learned, stylish, and immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that promises to change the way we read American literature even as it opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on race. Toni Morrison's brilliant discussions of the "Africanist" presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition. She shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree--and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires. Written with the artistic vision that has earned Toni Morrison a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark will be avidly read by Morrison admirers as well as by students, critics, and scholars of American literature. "By going for the American literary jugular...she places her arguments...at the very heart of contemporary public conversation about what it is to be authentically and originally American. [She] boldly...reimagines and remaps the possibility of America."… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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