War and peace: transfigured categories and the politics of 'Sula.' (Women's Culture Issue)
I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matthew 10.34)
... unless we receive full Redress and Relief from these Inhumanities we will move to renounce all Allegiance to this Nation, and will refuse, in every way, to cooperate with the Evil which is Perpetrated upon ourselves and our Communities. ("Black Declaration of Independence," The National Committee of Black Churchmen, 4 July 1970)
By comprehending the exclusion of African and African American cultural experience from the hegemonically constructed history of the United States, Toni Morrison reorients the late twentieth-century reader to a new vision which foregrounds African American participation in, and constitution of, that history. Morrison realizes her historical project in a language of scriptural allusions and figures, and thereby creates works that, like the Bible, are meditations on the interdependence of history and spirituality.
The experience of African American culture is the experience of this vital link. The Africans who underwent the horrific sea-change of the Middle Passage are simultaneously historical and spiritual presences. African religion and history in the United States were incorporated into and masked in Christian forms and figures,(1) and the ancestral histories of the Bible (e.g., the exodus from Egypt, and the Babylonian captivity) became " the site of memory" for African Americans--the locus of both history and spirit.(2) the coextensive ineffability and tangibility of these notions manifest themselves in Morrison's novels as a demand for parabolic interpretation; the parabolic form is at the heart of the political and theoretical status of her work. Sula is one such parable, and Morrison's novels are parabolic in the fullest sense: "open-ended, tensive, secular, indirect, iconoclastic, and revolutionary" (McFague 32).
In keeping with black and feminist liberation theologies, Morrison's parables foreground the quotidian socioeconomic survival of African Americans, as well as the conflicted status--past and present--of race and racialized gender in United States culture. In Morrison's words, "The work [of art] must be political" ("Rootedness" 344). But to label Sula a political text is not to say that it is programmatic or oppositional, or that its characters exemplify cultural progress. Consistent with the nature of parable, Sula lacks a straightforward black-and-white, good-and-evil plot As Hortense Spillers puts it, Sula's reader must" accept the corruption of absolutes and ... the complex, alienated, transitory. ... No Manichean analysis demanding a polarity of interest--black/white, male/ female, good/bad--will work here" (183-84). In this respect, Morrison is as much theorist as novelist, and her parables recall Barbara Christian's observation that "... people of color have always theorized, but in forms quite different from the Western form of abstract logic." Much of the criticism of Sula since its publication twenty years ago has focused on the "corruption of absolutes" in the novel, its movement away from what Christian calls the "Western dualistic or |binary' frame" (54). Morrison specifically rejects the either/or requirement that underlies what are considered classical or Western methods of reasoning, categorization, and teleology, and constantly points out the dangers inherent in a dualistic view.(3) As Deborah McDowell puts it, "We enter a new world [in Sula] ... that demands a shift from a dialectical either/ or orientation to one that is dialogical or both/and, full of shift and contradictions" (60). The "shifts and contractictions" McDowell notices are part of the parabolic form. Moreover, the recognition of Morrison's parabolic technique draws together the major themes of her work: the anti-dualism, the historical specificity and accuracy, and the profound presence of an Africanized Christian theology.
As parable, Sula at every level questions easy divisions between war and peace, good and evil. At the novel's end, for example, Nel visits "the colored part of the cemetery," which contains tombstones bearing the name/word Peace, Sula's family name. "Together they read like a chant: PEACE 1895-1921, PEACE 1890-1923, PEACE 1910-1940, PEACE 1892-1959" (170-71). Morrison foregrounds a number of ideas in this passage. Peace is the absence of war and, in the context of a cemetery, the absence of life (a person is said to "be at peace" when dead). But the absence of war allows for the manifestation of positive forces of growth and life, and the PEACE on the tombstones here does not signify the end of the lives of the individuals named, but the continuing cycle of life and death, of history and spirit, connected ironically and with great complexity to peace. In addition, the passage encodes an African worldview which sees a continuum, rather than a strict boundary, between the living and the dead. Here and throughout her work, Morrison does not propose a way of dividing up the world, but envisions a complex cultural universe which always already requires dismissal of a dualistic philosophical framework.
It would be incorrect, however, to read Morrison's parables as divorced from political praxis. Peace was a word of considerable, almost palpable, political significance at the time of Sula's composition--during the height of the Vietnam War. Sula subtly interrogates the notion of war in terms of the political and social struggles of African Americans, many of which took place within the military or in terms of war-related issues such as the draft. In a sense, the Vietnam War was a testing ground for demands for equality and the end of racial oppression.(4) Taking heed of Morrison's remark that "... Sula was begun in 1969 ... in a period of extraordinary political activity" ("Unspeakable Things" 24), and in contrast to much critical work to date, I read war and men to be as central to this novel as peace and women. Of particular importance is Shadrack, whose sane insanity is his response to the horror of war and death.(5)
The two sections in which Shadrack is the central figure--"1919," signifying the end of World War I, and "1941," signifying the beginning of World War II--frame the text. The book's epilogue-like last section, "1965," coincides with the year that the United States began regular bombing raids on North Vietnam, and was also the year of the well-known Southern California "race war," the Watts Riots. Morrison interweaves the themes of war and motherhood and probes these cultural constructs through Shadrack and his connection to Sula, and through the relationship between Eva Peace, Sula's grandmother, and Eva's son Plum. The characters of Sula and Shadrack examine and invert the societal prescriptions for women and men of mother and warrior, respectively; they are distorted mirror images of Eva and Plum.(6) Shadrack, "blasted and permanently astonished by the events of 1917," refuses war's legacy of death (7). Sula refuses her grandmother's legacy of motherhood: "'I don't want to make somebody else,'" Sula says, "'I want to make myself " (92). These historical references, secular figures, moral possibilities, choices, and reversals are part of the parabolic structure of the novel. Morrison gives no unitary or univocal answer to the cultural situations and political questions drawn in her text. Instead, the parabolic structure demands moral introspection every time it is invoked: A parable teaches not a single "right answer" but constant and constantly revelatory communal and individual reflection.
Morrison's parabolic interrogation, which manifests itself as a theoretical subversion of binary categorization and a particular, historical probing of the complex relations between war and peace, is constituted through an idiosyncratic, radical, and complex biblical typology. Sula is at the center, but all characters and facets of the novel arise from the typological matrix. For example, Sula's "deweys" can be seen as a disturbing fulfillment of the mystery of the Trinity (God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit):
They spoke with one voice, thought
with one mind, and maintained an
annoying privacy. Stouthearted, surly,
and wholly unpredictable, the deweys
remained a mystery not only during
all of their fives in Medallion but after
as well. (39) However, Morrison does not use scriptural figures and stories in one-to-one correspondence to characters and subplots in Sula, nor does she employ traditional biblical typology, a deliberate displacement of type by anti-type. Instead, type and anti-type often inhere in a single character.
The central figures Sula and Shadrack combine and collapse a number of typologies. Among Sula's many connections to the Bible is her name: Sula is an anagram of Saul, and Sula Mae is nearly anagrammatic for Samuel; moreover, the family name Peace echoes the epithet for Jesus, Prince of Peace. Recalling that the Books of Samuel are centrally concerned with war, Sula's name incorporates, and collapses together, both war and peace. With parabolic complexity, Sula Peace, like the Prince of Peace, comes "not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34).
As historical framework, Morrison's intricate biblical allusions are perhaps the primary way in which she constructs the "presence of the ancestor" in her novels ("Rootedness" 343). The Bible, as a tribal, genealogical, and oral text, has served as a typological model for African Americans as they interpret and preserve spiritual traditions and experiences, and so has become an ineluctable part of African American history and culture. "The Bible wasn't part of my reading," Morrison has said, "it was part of my life" (Ruas 219). Black theologian James Cone has written:
Because white theologians and
preachers denied any relationship between
the scriptures and our struggle
for freedom, we by-passed the classic
Western theological tradition and went
directly to the scripture for its word
regarding our black struggle. (64) Cone and Lawrence Levine explain that, for black Americans, Scripture has always had double meanings, speaking of freedom and emancipation as an earthly possibility and not merely a reward in the hereafter. If in Sula Morrison's theoretical project is to deconstruct binarism, and her political subject is African Americans in relation to war and civil rights, then the nexus of biblical allusion is the primary component of her language and specifically replicates the history and spirituality of the African American cultural experience.
As might be expected, Morrison draws on the Old Testament as much as the New Testament. Levine writes:
The essence of slave religion cannot
be fully grasped without understanding
[its] Old Testament bias. It is
important that Daniel and David and
Joshua and Jonah and Moses and
Noah, all of whom fill the lines of the
spirituals, were delivered in this world
and delivered in ways that struck the
imagination of the slaves. (50) Walter Ong explains that the Bible was originally an oral text, and that its use in religious tradition of all kinds was and is "spoken": "The spoken word is always an event, a movement in time, completely lacking in the thing-like repose of the written or printed word" (75). Sterling Stuckey has shown that black Americans have always had a distinct ethnic culture, and that it was not the case that the only culture they knew was that of their white masters and oppressors. Traditions brought from Africa, such as the ring shout, served as the foundation for the black churches which incorporate the Bible.(7) "Culture is not a fixed condition but a process: the product of the interaction between the past and the present" Levine has said (5). In becoming Americans, Africans preserved the past--their spirituality and specific religiocultural traditions interwoven with Christianity. Again, Morrison's allusions in Sula to Samuel, Genesis, Exodus, the Gospels, and Revelation are part of her representation of the "presence of the ancestor"; they are not appropriations but constitute a facet of what Michael Awkward calls "the novel's cultural specificity" (76). Morrison employs scriptural texts to recreate an explicit cultural topos--in Sula, the geography of the Bottom and Medallion, Ohio--and thus enhances historical and political understanding. Her novels re-envision the African American, and hence the American, experience in a parabolic mode, and so provide "a new way of being in the world" (McFague 146).
Sula's first section, the only one in the novel without a year as its title, is a geography lesson on the novel's setting, the "Bottom."(8) This section echoes the creation and destruction of the world in Genesis, but our introduction to what "was once a neighborhood" comes at its demolition, not its construction:
... they tore the nightshade and blackberry
patches from their roots to make
room for the Medallion City Golf
Course .... Generous funds have been
allotted to level the stripped and faded
buildings that clutter the road from
Medallion up to the golf course.
... There will be nothing left of the
Deborah McDowell points out that "Sula glories in paradox and ambiguity" and that "the Bottom [is] situated spatially at the top" (60). The beginning of Sula juxtaposes the end of the neighborhood to the story of how the Bottom came to be, how "a good white farmer promised freedom and a piece of bottom land to his slave if he would perform some very difficult chores" (5). The white farmer convinces the slave that the hilly land of the Bottom is |the bottom of heaven,' recalling the meaning of the word Babylon--the gate of God.(9) Sula contains significant allusions to the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites. Medallion, which encompasses the "neighborhood" of the Bottom, is a "little river town in Ohio," which echoes Psalm 137:" By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion."(10) The destruction of the hilly "Bottom," which reaches to the bottom of heaven, parallels the destruction of the Tower of Babel. Thus, at the outset of Sula, Morrison's theoretical collapse of binary oppositions arises from a clear, specifically parabolic, historical structure. The parable of Babel teaches not the origin of languages, but the dispersal of nations and peoples through war, greed, and oppression: "Come, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Genesis 11:4). The history of the Bottom--"the bottom of heaven"--its people, and its eventual destruction is in microcosm the history of African Americans, and the African diaspora: In the beginning, the end of the hilly Bottom, the whites have uprooted the blacks at the uncreation of the neighborhood.
There are many categorical collapses in Sula, such as the top/bottom pair, as well as allusions to biblical reversals entailed in Babel/ Babylon, diaspora and exile. All of these collapses have theoretical, historical, political, and spiritual significance, and so constitute a parabolic structure having particular reference to the African American experience. The parabolic collapses do not annihilate themselves but exist problematically and call for constant ethical awareness, not of the collapsing categories themselves so much as the cultural superstructures in which they exist. For example, the thriving black plants tom out of the earth of the Bottom both nourish (blackberries) and poison (nightshade); categorizing living things as good or bad is irrelevant in such violent uprooting, as Morrison herself has commented in "Unspeakable Things Unspoken":
The violence lurks in having something
tom out by its roots--it will not,
cannot grow again. Its consequences
are that what has been destroyed is
considered weeds .... Both plants have
darkness in them: "black" and "right."
One is unusual (nightshade) and has
two darkness words: "night" and
"shade" The other (blackberry) is common.
A familiar plant and an exotic
one. A harmless one and a dangerous
one. One produces a nourishing
one delivers a toxic one. But they both
thrived there together, in that place when
it was a neighborhood. (25) Either/or categorization only reinforces the danger of dominance, the danger of violence justified by classification. Morrison provides a powerful interrogation of the moral categories of good and evil here, as well as implicitly asking what such labels do to respect and human dignity when they are confounded with race. Sula expresses the contingency and inadequacy of ethical categorization in particular, and binary categorization in general, in her last conversation with Nel:
She opened the door and heard
Sula's low whisper. "Hey, girl." Nel
paused and turned her head but not
enough to see her.
"How you know?" Sula asked.
"Know what?" Nel still wouldn't
look at her.
"About who was good. How you
know it was you?"
"What you mean?"
"I mean maybe it wasn't you.
Maybe it was me." (146)(11) By questioning cultural categories of good and evil, Sula embodies what Morrison calls in The Bluest Eye "Christ's serious anarchy" (134). When Sula returns to the Bottom after ten years which include college and living in seven cities, her presence challenges the social order of her community. As John Dominic Crossan has said of Jesus, Sula "challenges .... civilization's eternal inclination to draw lines, invoke boundaries, establish hierarchies, and maintain discrimination" (xii).
Hortense Spillers has called the character Sula "Morrison's deliberate hypothesis" (183). The townsfolk of the Bottom attempt to categorize her as a witch or a devil a supernatural being in either case, but Sula continues simultaneously to reject and embrace all the categorizations placed on her. This "moral ambiguity," to use another of Spillers's phrases, is the source of Sula's integrity as a character, and what makes her the hypothesis of a reframed method of categorization. In the sense that Sula is a "hypothesis" and not an exemplar or role model, Sula is not a "realistic" novel. Catherine Rainwater calls attention to the fact that some critics see Morrison's "elusive" narrative threads as "untenable" (101), and Morrison herself has noticed, with apparent discontent, that her work "frequently falls, in the minds of most people, into that realm of fiction called fantastic, or mythic, or magical, or unbelievable."(12) Although Morrison's writing is not mimetic, and neither Sula nor her grandmother Eva, for example, portray |real' women, what a pears fantastic or magical is always a vehicle of theoretical and political interrogation. In this way, Morrison's novels fit Sallie McFague's definition of parables of the synoptic gospels:
... the outstanding features of the
parables [are] the element[s] of the
extraordinary, of radicalism, of
surprise and reversal. They are
metaphors with considerable shock
value, for their intention is to upset
conventional interpretations of reality.
Yet ... the parables introduce this note
of extravagance in a curiously mundane,
secular way: through seemingly ordinary
stories about ordinary people
engaged in ordinary decisions. (44) Sula, for all its reversals and magical extravagance, remains mundane, secular, and historically faithful.
It cannot be over-stated that Morrison's parables are rooted in history. Therefore, while some critics choose to ignore Shadrack or dismiss his significance, the fact that he is the first character Morrison introduces in Sula is hardly surprising.(13) It is crucial for my reading of the subtext of men and war, history and the Bible, that following the initial geography lesson, the novel begins with "Shadtrack ... in December, 1917, running with his comrades across a field in France" (7). He wonders why he is not feeling "something very strong"; instead he notices "the purity and whiteness of his own breath among the dirty, gray explosions." A surreal and horrifying passage follows:
... [Shadrack] saw the face of a soldier
near him fly off. Before he could register
shock, the rest of the soldier's head
disappeared under the inverted soup
bowl of his helmet. But stubbornly,
taking no direction from the brain, the
body of the headless soldier ran on,
with energy and grace, ignoring altogether
the drip and slide of brain
tissue down its back. (8)
Black men participated in U.S. wars from the Revolution forward, in a military that remained segregated until after the Korean war. During World War I, nearly 400,000 black men were drafted, half of them serving in France. The black 369th Infantry were under continuous fire for a record of 191 days, for which they won the Croix de Guerre and the honor of leading the victorious Allied armies to the Rhine in 1918.(14) The French had treated black soldiers as equals, but "the American military authorities issued orders prohibiting them from conversing with or associating with French women attending social functions, or visiting French homes."(15)
Morrison's Shadrack survives the "fire" of the World War I battlefield, but in doing so loses his mind. As the Bottom's resident crazy man, he becomes, along with his institution of Suicide Day, "part of the fabric of life up in the Bottom of Medallion, Ohio" (16). The horror and suddenness of death on the battlefield make the "unexpected" of it real to Shad (14), but for blacks in America, war was hardly the only situation in which death could be sudden and unanticipated. John Callahan has written: "The heroism of black regiments is well-known; perhaps less well-known are the humiliations and terrors these soldiers faced back home, especially in the South."(16) Black soldiers returning from World War I were reminded that they were no longer in France, that they would no longer be treated as equals. Mary Frances Berry and John Blassingame write that, "Returning black soldiers were insulted, stripped of their uniforms, and beaten by white ruffians and police." The years 1919 and 1920 saw extraordinary violence against African Americans in the form of lynchings and beatings. Of the scores lynched in 1919, many were veterans still in uniform; Berry and Blassingame note that "police authorities gave little or no protection to black citizens" (318). Morrison explicitly refers to such treatment in Jazz:
Some said the rioters [in East St. Louis]
were disgruntled veterans who had
fought in all-colored units, were
the services of the YMCA, over
there and over here, and came home
to white violence more intense than
when they enlisted and, unlike the
battles they fought in Europe, stateside
fighting was totally without honor.
(57) In Sula's "1920" section, we read of the "victorious swagger in the legs of white men and a dull-eyed excitement in the eyes of colored veterans" (19), and Nel watches her mother turn to "custard" before a white conductor on a Jim Crow train headed for New Orleans. hose watching include two black soldiers "still in their shit-colored uniforms and peaked caps"; when Helene Wright becomes white before their eyes, they are "stricken" (21-22).
Morrison foregrounds Shadrack, and the World War I experience, precisely to show what it was the African Americans were striving against in the 1960s.(17) Military service for African American citizens at all historical periods has reflected their status in the culture as a whole, but during the Vietnam era the disparity between the demands placed on the African American soldier and the rights he or she was accorded was particularly conspicuous. One can hardly wonder at Shad wanting to institute a "National Suicide Day" so that "... the rest of the year would be safe and free" (14).
The historical dimensions of Morrison's project include specific references to the African American experience in relation to war, as well as the historically important analogy of this experience to Judeo--Christian Scripture, which itself reflects an historical and political as well as spiritual tradition. Shadrack is a biblical name. In the book of Daniel, Hananiah, an Israelite noble, is named Shadrach by the Babylonians, who hold him and his people captive and force him to work for the King of Babylon. Hananiah and his fellow nobles Mishael and Azariah survive Nebuchadnezzar's furnace "heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated" (Daniel 3:19).(18) In the Book of Jeremiah, another Hananiah is the prophet of peace who speaks of freedom and the fall of Nebuchadnezzar, when Jeremiah speaks of the captivity that the children of Israel have yet to endure.
Morrison is not only analogizing the Babylonian captivity of the Jews to the condition of African Americans in a racist nation. Hananiah and Jeremiah were religious prophets in dispute, but they also represented opposing political factions within captive Judah. Hananiah was one of the "anti-Babylonian 'autonomists,'" who, Norman Gottwald writes,
equated "national survival" with the
full independence of Judah under its
present leadership, whereas the pro-Babylonian
"coexisters" [such as
Jeremiah] equated "national survival"
with the socioeconomic and religiocultural
preservation of the people of
Recalling the "period of extraordinary political activity" coextensive with Sula's composition, we need to keep in mind the extent to which the African American cultural struggles have been, and are, rooted politically in African American churches. But the black churches were not united on the form that political activism should take, and Morrisons Shactrack may be seen, like his biblical namesake in the Book of Jeremiah, as an "autonomist," a black nationalistic theologian: "The goal of Black Theology," writes James Cone, "is the destruction of everything white so that black people can be alienated from alien gods" (qtd. in Ferm 45). On the other hand, the association of Shadrack with the prophet of peace Hananiah echoes the more moderate call of the Civil Rights Movement to "endure no more." In his "Letter from Birmingham City Jail," Martin Luther King said, "We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights" (292).
In general, as part of Morrison's parabolic form, no one character in Sula is ever typed or categorized definitively. Morrison's Shadrack is the fictional fulfillment of both Old Testament Hananiahs. He sees people who "seemed to be smoking ... their arms and legs curved in the breeze" (11), just as the biblical Shadrach saw the Babylonian guards burnt to death outside Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. He is also reminiscent of the prophet Jeremiah, screaming curses at the "tetter heads" who tease him and Bottom-dwellers who buy fish from hun. Of the New Testament prophets, he is at once John the Baptist and John of Patmos: "His eyes were so wild, his hair so long and matted, his voice was so full of authority and thunder" 15).(19)
Sula first appears in the novel's fourth section, "1921." Her introduction, "Sula Peace lived in a house of many rooms..." (30), echoes Christ. "In my Father's house are many mansions..." (John 14:2). The address, 7 Carpenter's Road, suggests that this is the road where Christ will be found; the number seven has great mystical significance; and Christ, of course, was not only a carpenter, but the Prince of Peace.(20) The obvious reversal is that Sula does not live in her father's house, but in her grandmother Eva's house, with her mother Hannah and an assortment of uncategorizable people, such as the beautiful, white/black, alcoholic, angel-voiced Tar Baby and Eva's indistinguishable adopted trinity, the deweys.
Equally if not more important to Morrison's project, however, are Old Testament allusions realized in Sula and her family. Sula contains pervasive links to the biblical Books of Samuel, which are loci of issues of civil rights, war, motherhood, and family, and remind us of the originally political function of black churches and black theology. Joel Rosenberg comments on ancestry and history in Samuel:
Samuel most resembles Genesis in it8
preoccupation with founding families
and in its positioning of these representative
households at the fulcrum
of historical change. As in Genesis, the
fate of the nation is read into the mutual
dealings of spouses, parents, and
children, of sibling and sibling, and of
householder and servant, favored and
underclass. (123) Sula reveals what Rosenberg calls "a complex scheme of historical causation and divine justice" in its resonance with the Books of Samuel (123). These books are as concerned with war as any in the Bible and, again, resemble Genesis in their focus on familial politics of national or universal consequence.
Sula's allusions to Genesis revolve around issues of motherhood, sexuality, and gender as well as creation; J. P. Fokkelman writes of Genesis:
The possibilities, limits, and precarious
aspects of sexuality are expressly explored....
[there are] stories in which
women struggle with each other for
motherhood .... characters and reader
are forced or invited to decide what is
or is not sexually permissible.... (42) Eva, of course, is the first woman; she is, in terms of her name, "mother of all living."(21) But Morrison's Eva is Adam in her power to name, and she is also life-taking. In Sula," ... those Peace women loved all men. It was manlove that Eva bequeathed to her daughters" (41). Eva Peace's daughter Hannah, who is Sula's mother, possesses an extravagant love for men: "Hannah simply refused to live without the attentions of a man, and ... had a steady sequence of lovers .... What she wanted ... was some touching every day" (42-4). Nancy Huston, in her essay "The Matrix of War," points out that many cultures throughout history have required pre-war sexual abstinence," the idea being that sexual frustration would create a more aggressive and potent warrior. Hannah Peace, and Sula Peace after her, "explore their sexuality," but they don't "struggle with each other for motherhood"--Sula is Hannah's only child, and Sula never becomes a mother. And as long as Hannah and Sula make love to men in the novel, the men are not making war; that is, as long as women are not having babies, there will be no men to make war.(22)
Sula's refuse of motherhood parallels Shadrack's refusal of war. In a sense, Shadrack is born when he has refused war and is released from the military hospital. Shadrack is the archetypal "motherless child"; his family is a mystery not only to the reader, but to other residents of the Bottom. Morrison characterizes him with complex irony, Shadrack is a "long, long way from his home," whether that home is understood to be Africa or an America that would embrace him as her child. In fact, Shadrack has no nation to defend:" ... he didn't even know who or what he was ... with no past, no language, no tribe, no source ..." (12). On the other hand, once Shadrack has affirmed his blackness, he returns to the Bottom; he has been "only twenty-two miles from his window, his river, and his soft voices just outside the door" (14).
As Eva contrasts with Sula in terms of motherhood, Eva's son Plum contrasts with Shadrack in terms of war. Plum returns from France sane, but a hopeless junkie, a war casualty. As if she recognizes the link between motherhood and war, Eva sets fire to her son:
He opened his eyes and saw what he
imagined was the great wing of an
eagle pouring a wet lightness over him.
Some kind of baptism, some kind of
blessing, he thought.... [Eva] rolled
a bit of newspaper into a tight stick
about six inches long, lit it and threw
it onto the bed where the keroserie-soaked
Plum lay in snug delight. (47) This passage is filled with allusions to Revelation:
And when [Satan] saw that he was
cast unto the earth, he persecuted the
woman who brought forth the male
child. And to the woman were given
two wings of a great eagle, that she
might fly into the wilderness, into her
place .... (Revelation 12-13-14) When Eva descends into Plum's nether room, Sula echoes Revelation's "seven bowls of plagues." Compare Eva's picking up what she thinks is a "glass of strawberry crush ... put[ting] it to her lips and discover[ing] it [is] blood-tainted water" (47) to this passage in Revelation:
And the second angel poured out his
bowl [of the wrath of God) upon the
sea, and it became like the blood of a
dead man; and every living soul died
in the sea. And the third angel poured
out his bowl upon the rivera and fountains
of waters, and they became blood.
(Revelation 16:34) These apocalyptic passages are prefigured in Exodus, when the Lord turns the waters of the river to blood (7:17-20) and later reminds the children of Israel "how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you unto myself" (19:4). In Sula, deliverance and apocalypse coextend, are collapsed into one. This collapse recalls the conflicted status of African Americans in the United States: Promised the rewards of citizenship, they continually face fire.
As with Shadrack, the Peace household fulfills more than one biblical typology. Hannah of the Bible is the mother of the prophet Samuel. Barren for many years, the pious Hannah dedicates Samuel's life to God, and Samuel later anoints Saul and then David as Kings of Israel. Again, Sula's name recalls both Saul and Samuel; in fact, the name Samuel is "an etymology of the name Saul" (Rosenberg 125). Sula is not exactly Saul, nor is she exactly Samuel, although she is a prophetic, as well as an apocalyptic, character.
Readers in American culture accustomed to employing an "either/or" hermeneutic for all literary forms, including the Bible. But parables do not, in fact, come with the pre-determined morality associated not only with fundamentalist Christian churches, but with certain secular misunderstandings of Christian theology. Sallie McFague defines the parabolic form:
A parable is ... an assault on the accepted,
conventional way of viewing
reality. It is an assault on the social,
economic, and mythic structures
people build for their own comfort and
security. A parable is a story meant to
invert and subvert these structures.
(47) Not surprisingly, Morrison's critics want to identify characters precisely with a biblical namesake or as the namesake's opposite. Such a position, however, fails to take into account not only Morrison's project regarding categories but also the subversive nature of the Christian parabolic form, as well as the complexity and depth inherent in naming in the scriptural sources themselves.
In 1 Samuel Hannah's prophetic prayer, which she sings after Samuel's birth, encompasses a characteristic biblical reversal:
The bows of the mighty men are
broken, and they that stumbled are
girded with strength.... He raiseth
up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth
up the beggar from the dunghill, to set
them among princes, and to make
them inherit the throne of glory. (2:4,
8) As Rosenberg notes, it is a prayer in which:
YHWH is invoked as the God of
surprise, bringing down the mighty,
raising up the downtrodden; impoverishing
the wealthy and enriching
the pauper, bereaving the fertile
and making barren the fruitful--always
circumventing the trappings of
human vanity and the complacency
of the overcontented. (124) The New Testament fulfillment of Hannah's song is the Magnificat of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). In Sula, it is not Sula's mother Hannah who utters yet another fulfillment of this prayer, but Sula herself. On her deathbed, Sula is speaking to her estranged and beloved Nel:
"After all the old women have lain
with the teen-agers; when all the
young girls have slept with their old
drunken uncles; after all the black men
fuck all the white ones; when all the
white women kiss all the black ones;
when the guards have raped all the
jailbirds and after all the whores make
love to their grannies; after all the
faggots get their mothers' trim; when
Lindbergh sleeps with Bessie Smith
and Norma Shearer makes it with
Stepin Fetchit; after all the dogs have
fucked all the cats and every weather-vane
on every barn flies off the roof to
mount the hogs ... then there'll be a
little love left over for me. And I know
just what it will feel like." (145-46) Sula's soliloquy also recalls (and inverts) the "Laws Regulating the Personal Relationships" of the Hebrews, set out in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus. Sula has been categorized by her own people as a pariah: "Whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people" (Leviticus 18:29). The laws (categories) must be broken, and abominations committed, for there to be "a little love left over" for Sula. Like the anarchic, insurrectionary Christ, Sula overturns the Law, as Jesus doe in Matthew:
Think not that I am come to send
peace on earth; I came riot to send
peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at
variance against his father, and the
daughter against her mother, and the
daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
And a man's foes shall be they of his
He that loveth father or mother
more than me, is not worthy of me.
And he that taketh not his cross and
followeth me, is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose
it; and he that loseth his life for my
sake shall find it. (10:34-39)
Sula's prophecy, like Christ's (and Hannah's and Mary's), describes a complete categorical collapse that entails a radical revisioning of the world. The politics of Sula are not programmatic; rather, the novel focuses on a social understanding that gives rise to action. Again, the historical Jesus of Nazareth constantly challenged social norms and hierarchies, law and dogma, as well as defying the complacency and acceptance of these norms by people of all social classes.(23) Textually, such an understanding must be complex, nonbinary, encompassing and, above all historical. For example, Eva's burning of her son is a horrifying act, if we categorize Sula as realism. But Morrison is writing history in parabolic form, not necessarily reality, and certainly not pre-determined morality.
In terms of the interweaving of motherhood and war, Eva has removed her son from the possibility of going to war again by killing him. With historical rather than ethical reasoning, she explains to her daughter Hannah the difficulty of Plum's birth, and what the war did to him:
"He give me such a time. Such a
time. Look like he didn't even want to
be born.... After all that carryin' on
... he wanted to crawl back in my
womb.... I had room enough in my
heart, but not in my womb, not no
more. I birthed him once. I couldn't
do it again." (71) Again Eva echoes Revelation, where the woman with the wings of an eagle "is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent" (Revelation 12:14). The beginning and the end are joined, as with the description of the Bottom: Eva, the first woman (Genesis), is connected to the end of time, the apocalypse (Revelation). Her relation to the serpent (Satan, the dragon) is complicated: Is Eva's act of child murder evil, merciful, or a combination of both?
Sula defies any desire to categorize its events in terms of a simplistic or fundamental morality, and instead offers an historically and spiritually informed understanding of civil rights and African American military service. Morrison chooses to foreground historical and chronological events through her use of years as chapter headings (e.g., "1921," "1923," etc.). This heightens Sula's departure from "reality," but not from history. As Kimberly Benston has said, "All of Afro-American literature may be seen as one vast genealogical poem that attempts to restore continuity to the ruptures or discontinuities imposed by the history of black presence in America" (152). This is where Morrison's historical writing intersects with her theory of categorization. The fates of the Bottom-dwellers represent a political system which has enslaved a people, emancipated a people, enfranchised them, disenfranchised them--then simultaneously demanded their military service and denied them citizenship through civilian lives of poverty and terror. Morrison's transfigured categories fit Benston's maxim exactly because they encompass discontinuities and contradictions, which are a distinguishing characteristic of the parabolic form. Her parables accomplish connection, where before there was division, and so "restore continuity" to American history by recognizing the constitutive role of the African American experience. Morrison enriches Benston's observation in her explicit, biblical recognition of spirituality as inseparable from history.
Sula's characterization comprehends more biblical typologies than any other in Sula. The birthmark over her eye looks to some Bottom-dwellers like a rosebud, to others like the head of a snake. The rose is the flower of Mary, mother of Christ. Mary is the anti-type, the fulfillment, of Eve, who encounters the serpent; in Genesis, God says to the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:16).(24) Sula's birthmark also recalls the seals on the foreheads of the servants of God in Revelation.(25) Sula is Saul and Samuel and David, who is a type of Christ; she is the fulfillment of Eve (and therefore of her grandmother Eva) and Mary; and she is the prophet and the Christ, a figure of redemption and resurrection--an insurrectionary, anarchic figure, like the historical Jesus. Sula's most significant connections to other characters--to Nel, on the one hand, to Shadrack, on the other--have biblical parallels as well. Shad the fisherman is Peter to Sula's Christ, and Shadrack sees Sula's birthmark as neither a rose nor a snake but as a tadpole. Shad is both Christian apostle and African ancestral medium; thus, his "insanity" enables his transcendent vision of the tadpole: at once two animals--a frog and a fish--one in the process of becoming the other. Shadrack sees not absolute categories, either/or, but interdependence, growth, and transformation--the goal of parable.
Sula and Nel also recall David and Jonathan, biblical warriors whose greatest love was for each other. Nel's ending cry is for Sula:
"All that time, all that time, I
thought I was missing Jude.... We
was girls together .... O Lord, Sula,"
she cried, "girl, girl, girlgirlgirl." (174) Her cry inverts David's lament for Jonathan, the son of Saul:
"I am distressed for thee, my brother
Jonathan; very pleasant hast thou
been unto me. Thy love to me was
wonderful passing the love of
women" (2 Samuel 1:26) Sula Peace represents a radical kind of love, her characterization combines Old Testament warrior/kings with the New Testament Prince of Peace. Her last question to Nel, "'About who was good. How you know it was you?'" recalls questions posed by Jesus time and again. It is the question embedded in the inversions of the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible that allows, for example, the first to be last and the last to be first.(26)
After Sula's death, at the end of 1940," ... Medallion turned silver," from "a rain [that] fell and froze" (151), like Revelation's "sea of glass like crystal" (4:6). With Sula dead, "a dislocation was taking place" for the Bottom-dwellers (153). Suicide Day 1941 arrives, and Shadrack becomes Moses, leading his children to the Promised land, "as though there really was hope" (160). At the river, the citizens of Medallion's small ghetto begin to dismantle "the tunnel they were forbidden to build," having been denied jobs on the tunnel project because of their color (161). But unlike the Red Sea's parting for the children of Israel, the river does not become for the folks of the Bottom "a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left" (Exodus 14:22). Instead, the tunnel walls collapse: "A lot of them died there ... [but] Mr. Buckland Reed escaped, so did Patsy and her two boys, as well as some fifteen or twenty who had not gotten close enough to fall" (162).
Morrison's subtle theological reinterpretations no more allow for absolute categorization than does Scripture. In Exodus, "The Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the seashore" (Exodus 14:30), but there is no such satisfaction for Bottom-dwellers--they are the ones who die, not their oppressors. Moreover, Morrison's invocation of Exodus recalls the complexity of the chosen people's position: their relapse into worship of false idols, their forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Morrison never forgets the inconsistencies of all human beings. In Sula, the dwellers of the Bottom of Medallion, Ohio, are nightshade and blackberries, both bad and good. Suffering under a social system which continues to require of African Americans their very lives, and which identifies them always as "other," the people of the Bottom are quite as capable as their white oppressors on the valley floor of invoking racism toward their own "others": "garlic-ridden hunkies, corrupt Catholics, racist Protestants, cowardly Jews," and so on (150). In the late sixties and early seventies, when Morrison was writing the novel, black theologians struggled to articulate a theology of liberation for their people, to repeat Morrison's words, "in a period of intense political activity." In Sula Morrison has given us history dependent more on spirituality than realism, something she does in her other novels as well.
The recognition of Sula--and I would argue that this is true of Morrison's entire canon--as parabolic suggests that it is appropriate to characterize the novel as theological; that is, Morrison provides parabolic models for the interpretation of the kingdom of God, where the kingdom of God is always a matter of relations and communities in this world. Again, this is in keeping with Sallie McFague's understanding:
What is stressed in the parables and
in Jesus' own life focuses on persons
and their relationships; therefore; the
dominance of the patriarchal model
in the Christian tradition must be seen
as a perversion in its hegemony of the
field of religious models and its exclusion
of other personal relational
models. (21) Without a doubt, Morrison's political novels subvert this perverse hegemony. Christ-figures such as Sula engender social repentance and cultural reflection; their disruption of the social order inheres in the parabolic form. In turn, they evoke a desire for community and relationality, and for liberation, in the tradition of the African American Christian church.
In Morrison's historical, revisionary theology of community, the "Bottom" exists at the top, and the "fine cry--loud and long"--of woman mounting beloved woman has "no bottom and ... no top" (174). Of the Peace family tombstones in the Medallion graveyard we read: "They were not dead people. They were words. Not even words. Wishes, longings" (171). In the mystical world of Morrison's Africanized Christianity, the dead remain with the living always, like Sula's "sleep of water always" (149), and this presence and this yearning inscribes beauty, inscribes hope--inscribes a most significant and subversive empowerment.
(1.) See particularly Stuckey's "Introduction: Slavery and the Circle of Culture" (3-97) for a compr explication of the ways in which African traditions have become part of African American Christianity. (2.) See Morrison, "Sits." (3.) Toni Morrison's fiction embodies a powerful critique of dualistic thinking.... Dualism creates warring antitheses: the |other' is an enemy to strive with, and ideally to dominate" (Lopow 363). (4.) See Berry and Blassingame. United States military service by African Americans is discussed in Chapter 9, "Military Service and the Paradox of Loyalty." (5.) Shadrack may be compared to the shell-shocked World War I veterans portrayed in the "Golden Day" chapter of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man--in particular, the crazy drum major. See Callahan, especially 44-45. (6.) See Huston. (7.) "By operating under cover of Christianity, vital aspects of Africanity, which some considered e in movement, sound, and symbolism, could more easily be practiced openly. Slaves therefore had readily available the prospect of practicing, without being scorned, essential features of African faith together with those of the new faith" (Stuckey 36). (8.) In Morrison's Song of Solomon, Milkman Dead urges his friend Guitar to give him" |Just the tea. No geography." Guitar answers," |... What about some history in your tea? Or some sociopolitico--No. That's still geography. Goddam, Milk, I do believe my whole life's geography" (114). In "Unspeakable Things Unspoken," Morrison comments, "In between |places' and |neighborhood' I now have to squeeze the specificity and the difference; the nostalgia, the history, and the nostalgia for the history, the violence done to it and the consequence of that violence" (25 As Ralph Ellison has put it "Geography is fate ..." (qtd. in Callahan 39). (9.) "The Yahwist also displays a wide-ranging interest ... especially. . . in popular etymologies o the names of persons and places, often cast in the form of puns: ... Babel, where the tongues were confused (Babylonian [Akkadian] babel/bab'ilu, |gate of God,' resembles Hebrew balal, |to confuse,' Genesis 11:9) . . ." (Gottwald 327). (10.) In his July 5, 1852 address "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" Frederick Douglass warned: "Do you mean, citizens, to mock me by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!" (368). Douglass then quoted verses 1 through 6 of Psalm 137. (11.) Sula's speech toward the novel's end also resonates with the ending of Ellison's Invisible Man: "Being invisible and without substance, a disembodied voice, as it were, what else could I do? What else but try to tell you what was really happening when your eyes were looking through? And it is this which frightens me: Who know but that on the lower frequencies, I speak for you?" (503). (12.) See Morrison, "Site" 112-13. She continues: "I'm not comfortable with these labels. I consider that my single gravest responsibility (in spite of that magic) is not to lie.... I'm looking to find a truth about the interior life of people who didn't write it (which doesn't mean that they didn't have it)...." (13.) For example, Marianne Hirsch dismisses Shadrack as part of the "sons and fathers [who] have ceased to be primary forces in female plots": "Through the figure of Shadrack and through the communal rituals he invents to survive his utter inadequacy, the community tries to confront the male impotence that defines it, an impotence that is later represented by Eva's son Plum" (179). (14.) In Morrison's most recent novel, Jazz, Joe Trace relates that he "|walked all the way" in a victory parade "|with the three six nine'": "|I thought that change was the last, and it sure was th best because the War had come and gone and the colored troops of the three six nine that fought it made me so proud it split my heart in two'" (129). (15.) See Berry and Blassingame 317. They go on to say that the American military authorities told the French that they could harm their relations with America if they continued their attitude of "in and "familiarity": "The French were asked to understand that the vices of blacks were |a constant menace to the Americans who had to repress them sternly.'" Morrison alludes to this familiarity in Song of Solomon as well: Empire State, we're told, had "married a white girl in Franc and brought her home" (128). (16.) Callahan explains: "With World War I and America's promise to |make the world safe for democracy' came renewed hopes that long-denied promises would be honored at home. Instead, the parades were hardly over, the troops were hardly home, before these hopes were dashed by a decade of reaction opitomized by the resurgence of the Klan" (44). (17.) In his discussion of Ellison's Invisible Man, Callahan notes that "... Invisible Man tries, bu cannot blot out the chaos and contradictions these [World War I] veterans represent" (44). (18.) Houston Baker reads Sula's Shadrack as a reversal of the character of Shadrach, the Israelite noble, in his "seeming idolatry before the power of death" (111n). My thesis here embraces this very interesting reading of Shadrack, but goes beyond it in terms of Morrison's biblical subtext(s). (19.) In terms of thundering voices, see Revelation 10, especially verse 3: "And [the mighty angel] cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth; and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices." Sacvan Bercovitch notes that early Puritan theologians saw Jeremiah as speaking "like unto a Sonne of Thunder'" (32). (20.) Seven appears significantly in countless biblical events, including Christ's genealogy, and in Revelation, e.g., the seven seals, the seven trumpets of the seventh seal, "the seven angels who stood before God" (Revelation 8:2). (21.) "And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20). (22.) Huston begins her essay: "While doing research over the past few years in an attempt to pieces together what might be called the fragments of a warrior's discourse' in Western culture, I came across the following Gnostic conundrum: |How long will men make war?--As long as women have children.' At first glance, the answer is reminiscent of the paraphrases for |Forever' familiar us from childhood riddles (|Until the ocean goes dry').... after further reading in the course of wh I encountered the analogy between war-making and childbearing countless times--the ancient riddle seemed to me to require a cause-and-effect interpretation: |If women would only stop having children, men would stop making war.'" (119). Huston goes on to discuss parallels between childboaring and warmaking, taboos against warriors having sex before going into battle, etc. (23.) Throughout my work on Morrison, my understanding of Jesus Christ is informed by Crossan's contextualizing of Jesus within his historical moment, a time of much social unrest. In addition, I David Tracy's phrase "the dangerous memory of Jesus of Nazareth" (372) apropos of the character Sula Peace. (24.) Snakes encode complicated mythologies associated with virtually every religious tradition known in the world, from Far East to Germanic to African religious traditions. Often a symbol of resurrection and rebirth, the serpent is not only associated with Satan, but with Christ. For a summ of the serpent's multifaceted symbolism, see "The Snake" in Charbonneau-Lassay, 153-6-4. (25.) See Revelation 7:3. I am grateful to Gwen Crane for first explaining the rose imagery associat with the Virgin to me, and to Amy Bolduc for pointing out this association to the chosen in Revelation. (26.) See Luke 13:30 and Mark 9:35. In Matthew 7:1-2, Christ says, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye measure, it shall be measured to you again."
Alter, Robert, and Frank Kermode, ads. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge: Belknap P, 1987. Awkward, Miohael. "Response" to McDowell. Baker and Redmond 73-77. Baker, Houston A., Jr. "When Lindbergh Sleeps with Bessie Smith: The Writing of Place in Toni Morrison's Sula." The Difference Within: Fominism and Critical Theory. Ed. Elizabeth Meese and Alice Parker. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1989. 85-113. Baker, Houston A., Jr., and Patricia Redmond, eds. Afro-American Literary Study in the 1990s Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989. Benston, Kimberly W. "|I yam what I am': The Topos of (Un)Naming in Afro-American Literature." Black Literature and Literary Theory. Ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. New York: Methuen, 1984. 151-72. Bercovitch, Sacvan. The American Jeremiad. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1978. Berry, Mary Frances, and John W. Blassingame. Long Memory: The Black Experience in America. New York: Oxford UP, 1982. Callahan, John F. "Historical Frequencies of Ralph Waldo Ellison." Chant of Saints. Ed. Michael S. Harper and Robert B. Stepto. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1979. 33-52. Charbonneau-Lassay, Louis. The Bestiary of Christ. 1940. Trans. D. M. Dooling. New York: Viking, 1991. Christian, Barbara. "The Race for Theory." Cultural Critique 6 (Spring 1982): 51-63. Cone, James H. For My Poople: Black Theology and the Black Church. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1984. Crossan, John Dominc. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. San Francisco: Harper, 1991. Douglass, Frederick. "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?: An Address Dolivered in Rochester, New York, on 5 July 1852." The Frederick Douglass Papers, Series One: Speeches, Debates, and Interviews, Volume 2: 184 7-54. Ed. John W. Blassingame. New Haven: Yale UP, 1982. 359-88. Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. New York: NAL, 1953. --. "Society, Morality, and the Novel." Going to the Torritory. New York: Vintage, 1987. 239-74. Ferm, Deane William. "Black Theology." Contemporary American Theologies: A Critical Survey. Rev. ed. San Francisco: Harper, 1990. 41-58. Fokkelman, J. P. "Genesis." Alter and Kermode 36-55. Gottwald, Norman K. The Hebrew Bible: A Socio-Literary Introduction. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985. Hirsch, Marianne. The Mother/Daughter Plot Narrative, Psychoanalysis. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1989. Holy Bible. Authorized King James Version. Ed. C. I. Scofield. New York: Oxford UP, 1969. Huston, Nancy. "The Matrix of War: Mothers and Heroes." The Female Body in Western Culture: Contemporary Perspectives. Ed. Susan Rubin Suleiman. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1985.119-36. King, Martin Luther, Jr. "Letter from Birmingham City Jail." Testament of Hope. Ed. James Melvin Washington. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1986. 289-302. Lepow, Lauren. "Paradise Lost and Found: Dualism and Edenic Myth in Toni Morrison's Tar Baby." Contemporary Literature 28.3 (1987): 363-77. Levine, Lawrence W. Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. New York: Oxford UP, 1977. McDowell, Deborah E. "Boundaries: Or Distant Relations and Close Kin." Baker and Redmond 51-73. McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology. Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. New York: Knopf, 1987. --. The Bluest Eye. 1970. New York: Washington Square, 1972. --. Jazz. New York: Knopf, 1992. --. "Rootedness: The Ancestor as Foundation." Black Women Writers, 1950-1980: A Critical Evaluation. Ed. Mari Evans. New York: Anchor, 1984. 339-45. --. "The Site of Memory." Invendting the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. Ed. William Zinsser. Bo Houghton, 1987.101-24. --. Song of Solomon. 1977. New York: Signet, 1978. --. Sula. 1973. New York: Plume, 1982. --. "Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature." Michigan Quarterly Review 28.1 (1989): 1-34. The New Jerusalem Bible. Reader's Ed. New York: Doubleday, 1990. Rainwater, Catherine. "Worthy Messengers: Narrative Voices in Toni Morrison's Novels." Texas Studies in Literature and Language 33.1 (1991): 96-113. Ramshaw, Gail. "The Gender of God." Feminist Theology. A Reader. Ed. Ann Loades. Louisville: Westminster/ John Knox, 1990. 168-80. Rosenberg, Joel. "1 and 2 Samuel." After and Kermode 122-45. Ruas, Chades. "Toni Mordson." Conversations with American Writers. New York: Knopf, 1984. 215-43. Tracy, David. The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism. New York: Crossroad, 1981. Spillers, Hortense. "A Hateful Passion, a Lost Love." Feminist Issue in Literary Scholarship. Ed. Shari Benstock. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987. 181-207. Stuckey, Sterling. Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America. New York: Oxford UP, 1987.
Patricia Hunt received her Ph.D. from the City University of New York Graduate School in 1993. Her dissertation is on Scripture and history in Toni Morrison's fiction. Professor Hunt lives in to Bay Area and is an Affiliated Scholar with the Beatrice M. Bain Research Group at the University of California at Berkeley.
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|Publication:||African American Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 1993|
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