NEMLA - April 2014, Redefining American History and Identity through the Novels of Toni Morrison

full name / name of organization: 
Fran L. Lassiter
contact email: 

This roundtable seeks critical and creative treatments of Toni Morrison's novels as indicative of her efforts to redefine American history and identity through a multiplicity of voices and cultures. For the past forty years, Toni Morrison has created texts that rewrite and fictionalize (African) American history from the perspective of an African American woman. Her novels, ranging in topics from racial caste systems in The Bluest Eye to the horrors of slavery in Beloved to the traumas of foreign wars and integration on familiar soil in Home, represent an ongoing and oft-time harsh critique of American history and identity. In a 1993 interview, Morrison describes her philosophical approach to writing as: "I try to give some credibility to all sorts of voices, each of which is profoundly different…It's important not to have a totalizing view. In American literature we have been so totalized—as though there is only one version. We are not one indistinguishable block of people who always behave the same way." Topics for paper presentations include, but are not limited to, the following:

 Familial/communal structures
 Spirituality
 Migration and alienation
 Language
 Collective memory
 Morrison's evolving literary canon
 Storytelling
 Identity and cultural politics

Proposals on any Morrison novel will be considered, but presentations are limited to 10-minutes (culled from longer formal papers) because of the roundtable format. Please send a 500-word abstract to Fran L. Lassiter ( With your abstract, please include the following:

Name and affiliation
Email address
Postal address
Short bio

The deadline for submission is September 30, 2013.