cover image Goodness and the Literary Imagination

Goodness and the Literary Imagination

Toni Morrison, edited by Davíd Carrasco, Stephanie Paulsell, and Mara Willard. Univ. of Virginia, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8139-4362-6

This eloquent, wide-ranging collection comprises Morrison’s 2012 Ingersoll lecture at Harvard Divinity School, “Goodness: Altruism and the Literary Imagination”; scholarly essays on her fiction; and a spirited interview with the late novelist. In her talk, Morrison observes of contemporary fiction that “evil has a blockbuster audience; goodness lurks backstage,” in contrast to “the triumph of virtue” celebrated in 19th-century fiction. In her own books, Morrison explains, she prefers endings in which “the protagonist learns something... morally insightful that she or he did not know at the beginning.” The essays, contributed by the volume’s editors and others, examine such subjects as the role of spirits, ancestors, and nature in Morrison’s fiction; her take on the echoes of slavery in American life; and “how the religious dimensions of African American life permeate her novels, sometimes in Christian tones, sometimes in African tones.” In her interview, Morrison elaborates on her interest in exploring the nature of goodness, noting that, in response to slavery, “people who were treated like beasts did not become beastly,” but instead “chose creation.... jazz, the blues, schools, ideas.” This volume highlights Morrison’s invaluable contribution to American letters and suggests her influence will be felt for years to come. Agent: Donald Cutler, Bookmark Literary. (Oct.)