Call for Chapters: _The Routledge Research Companion to Toni Morrison_

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem, CUNY
contact email: 

Call for Chapters:

The Routledge Research Companion to Toni Morrison

editor: Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem, CUNY

This is an early draft of the call for chapter proposals for a volume I’ve been commissioned to edit, The Routledge Research Companion to Toni Morrison. This companion text is intended for a scholarly audience and is meant as support, including for up-and-coming or new Morrison scholars as they approach new research on her work.

I hope to see mostly responses from today’s Morrison scholars—for this book to be comprised, though not entirely, of their work. I say “not entirely” in that, the call is open to junior scholars, perhaps “dissertators” working on Morrison and doing excellent, innovative work. Importantly, too, the volume is to feature work from a diverse grouping of scholars from around the world. The collection is to be truly international and truly diverse, both in terms of approaches and in terms of contributor-authors. Routledge is known for its strength as a scholarly publisher with a remarkably (race, gender, geographic, and otherwise) diverse, global authorship; this collection continues that legacy in the context of Morrison studies.

Another aspect of the endeavor is to think beyond some more or less entrenched, perhaps restrictive, borders in the reception and interpretation, some of the assumed “givens” that live in the knowledge produced thus far on/from this oeuvre. The research on Morrison has, to a certain extent, been controlled, one might say, in the hands of, or even too much “owned,” by prevailing critic(s). Going forward, how do we think beyond the limits that may have surrounded the response to Morrison, how create bridges to new and fruitful passages, meanings, readings, interpretive leaps and thus new knowledges produced from the work of this Black woman writer and thinker, this globally impactful Nobel Laureate?

Largely what we want to accomplish here is the establishment of an understanding of the history and current work in Morrison studies, and to create a vision for that work going forward and for the 21st Century.

I. Understanding Toni Morrison, 1970 to 2022:

The book requires a set of chapters that review the current scholarship in Morrison studies… This section fills out the picture of where and what Morrison studies has been, what its scholars have been thinking, writing, and arguing cases for since she started publishing fiction. So, Morrison and race, Morrison and religion, Classical Morrison, Morrison and intersectionality, Ecocritical Morrison, etc. 

These chapters must needs be both “review,” in terms of their content, and also critique or theorization. They would constitute a contribution to the field, not merely reviewing or presenting the existing scholarship but also assessing and deliberating on it. These chapters also look for holes and cracks, slippages or overdeterminations, or simply the "overlooked" in the work on this oeuvre, however without developing those issues. They broach, perhaps in their concluding pieces, opportunities and challenges that remain open for exploration and development, in whatever ways.

Such analyses could be a mix of theme, trope, and method, in terms of central organizing idea or research focus or analytic lens.

--Theme, eg., race, class, gender (all meanings: women, men, trans, sexuality, sex, etc.), ability, religion, the mother figure and kinship, slavery, reparations, colonial violence, incarceration, racial capital, etc. etc. etc.

--Trope, eg., identity, the specter, interruption, silence, speaking, color or other symbol schemas, the fragment, the mother (may constitute theme and trope in Morrison), the body, the scar or traumatized body, sexual content, borders and boundaries, etc. etc. etc.

--Method, eg., Black studies, Postcolonial studies, Women’s studies, Queer theory and Ecocritical approaches, intersectionality, interdisciplinarity, and transdisciplinarity, the new materialism and/or Thing Theory, posthumanism or nonhumanism, the new histories of (racial) capital, Feminist theory approaches, Film/Adaptation studies, Legal studies, Trauma and Memory studies, Reception or Translation studies, etc. etc. etc.

(Note: the above lists are not at all comprehensive, just clarifying notes.)

II. New Directions in Toni Morrison Studies:

The book will then feature a set of chapters that point the way to the future of Morrison studies… This part of the book will comprise approximately fifty percent of its content.

It is will be most helpful for today’s Morrison scholars to take a good look at where we’ve been and to point the way forward—what is yet needed? Are there misunderstandings in our general understandings, in the "givens" and "must knows," in the analytics through which her work, of whatever genre, has been looked at and what does their correction look like? What recent publications are suggesting answers to this question, and appear to us as not just new but rife with potential in terms of vital and meaningful, political or merely under-explored readings? Where have we ‘failed’ thus far, either in our comprehensions or in the fullness of them, or in our attentions -- the attention paid to this woman writer-theorist who I think anyone who studies her seriously would likely agree, she is not “just” a writer, she is a creative genius, a genius full stop. This, if true, has to mean that we have only just begun, despite the massive response already in print, to derive and document the many and various richnesses of this oeuvre.

These chapters would fully develop the new direction(s) outlined and would be the kind of contribution it argues in favor of. What, as I say above, are the opportunities and challenges that remain open for exploration and development, and what do they look like fully developed? A few things that come to mind for me at least…

--Coming immediately to mind are needed treatments of Morrison as a theorist and not merely a creative writer. She wrote voluminously as a thinker-theorist – speeches, essays, treatises, the interviews too – which do not see near enough treatment, or are used only as secondary material to discuss the novels. Perhaps her philosophical/theoretical work has earned the status of subject matter in work where we might, in contradistinction, use the novels as secondary material?

--Others we could benefit by seeing are biographical studies, on aspects of her lifework or moments from her life. It strikes me that we do not know enough about Morrison’s life, and that, probably different from male writers of her stature, we have not often looked at what went to make her, what her influences were (aside from Faulkner and a few others commonly noted)—such as other Black women writers. Why do we not see more work on Morrison and Bambara? On Morrison and Hurston or Larsen? Gwendolyn Brooks, an analysis that might highlight the poetry of Morrison in the narratives? Or simply other woman writers—Virginia Woolf, perhaps, or Mary Shelley? Mary Wollstonecraft or Louise Erdrich or Joyce Carol Oates? There are also other male writers—I suggested Langston Hughes in my 2020 book, as well as Richard Wright though less obviously, but we think certainly of James Baldwin, of Aeschylus and Shakespeare, of Spike Lee or Ta-Nehisi Coates. So, Comparative Morrison. (The authors listed are neither prescriptive nor is this a comprehensive list – there are many, many others besides.)

--One other area, also broached in my book, regards Morrison’s connection to, the influence in her work, from the Greek classics, or let us simply say the connections to and from antiquity (East, West, North, South) in her work, which are surely global in reach. Like Shakespeare, she had read everything, she was the bricoleur, with everything “to hand,” and “everything” is thus part of the literary dance in the work.

…But I will stop there, because I don’t want to over-define this piece or the book as a whole -- our own worlds of knowledge are what and where they are. Thus, rather, I seek the counsel of today’s Morrison scholars, to fill in and fill out the picture of the future of the study of her and her work -- both on the basis of what will simply be submitted or proposed for the collection and on the basis of whatever conversations occur through this process. (Fully acknowledged, of course.) What do you see as specters of this particular scholarly future? Perhaps I am unfair, after all, in my complaints about a paltry comparativity in the field? How do we carry forward the brilliant work already existing, and continue building out the portrait of all that Morrison brought to the table and all that she left us—us, the world, the futurities to come that surely will come under some semblance of her influence?

If this sounds, tonally, a bit “tribute” like, yes, this too is part of the thing we do. This volume, appearing only a few years following Morrison’s transition, is both a (scholarly) way of honoring her memory and legacy -- in supporting researchers in their understandings and in spurring and buoying new knowledge, and coming generations, in its production – and, it is a fully scholarly scholar’s companion, the definitive such companion, for the 21st Century.

Lastly, two things. Any chapter of this collection will be eligible to be set up as Open Access, for those interested in that or whose universities encourage it. Open Access can mean greater explosure, both for the book and for the individual scholar's contribution. Second, as noted, this is an early version of the Call. Once I’ve received some number of proposals and the volume begins taking a perceptible shape, I’ll write a revision based on that and highlighting areas of need. For now, I wanted to leave the design more open in order that the shape it takes is collectively arrived to, on the basis of the responses from and good advice of Morrison’s scholarly community.

It would be great, in this first round, to receive one- or two-page proposals by early next year, let’s say 2/28/22 as a final deadline. That gives a good six months to develop proposals. Once decisions are made about the table of contents, authors would have another six months, until probably August or September of 2022, to complete full chapters. Finally, the publisher of this volume will be Routledge, Inc., assuming the proposal is accepted and we receive a contract. Having published two books last year with this publisher, I am entirely pleased to work with them again on this project. I’ll submit the proposal officially in probably March of 2022, once all chapter abstracts are received and decisions made regarding which to include (barring peer review).

You may reach me at:  My bio follows, below, if that is helpful.

~Maureen E. Ruprecht, The City University of NY (KCC)


Bio: Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem completed a Ph.D. in English at The Graduate Center-CUNY in 2012. She is Professor of English at Kingsborough-CUNY and has taught at The Graduate Center-CUNY, Drew University, Hunter College-CUNY, and Eugene Lang College of the New School. Maureen is a postcolonial and Irish studies scholar working on Anglophone writing of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries; she specializes in historical literature with a particular focus on Ireland and African America as well as the literatures of partition more generally. Her research looks at the borders imposed through partition schemes and other imperial processes; at political justice, especially reparations (economic, human rights); at social justice of race, class, and gender; and at the poetics of conflict, trauma, and silence in poetry and narrative. Maureen’s first book, The Literature of Northern Ireland: Spectral Borderlands appeared from Palgrave in 2015. In 2019, Silence and Articulacy in the Poetry of Medbh McGuckian, a second book-length study, was brought out by Rowman and Littlefield. In 2020, Routledge, Inc. published Maureen’s third monograph, Objects and Intertexts in Toni Morrison’s ‘Beloved’: The Case for Reparations, and a collection she co-edited, for which she wrote the theoretical introduction, The Economics of Empire: Genealogies of Capital and the Colonial Encounter. Recent articles include “A Consciousness of Streets: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Partition” (Synthesis, 2016) and “Drawing the Border, Queering the Nation: Nation Trouble in Breakfast on Pluto and The Crying Game” (Gender Forum, 2016). The article “Architecting the Carceral State: The Fragment in Medbh McGuckian’s Diaries and Walter Benjamin’s ‘Theses’” is to appear in a special issue of Review of Irish Studies in Europe (RISE), Vol. 4, no. 2 (2021). Maureen is at work on two new collections: the volume Imperial Debt, on reparations for modern era imperialism; she was commissioned also to edit The Routledge Research Companion to Toni Morrison. Maureen is now serving a three-year term on the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities (CAFPRR). Before entering academia she worked in the business world while raising her two children on her own. She lives in Brooklyn. [end]