EESE 2/2007

   Toni Morrison's Love:
   narrating a world of one's own making


   Hans-Wolfgang Schaller (Erfurt)

Source: Details from cover of 2004 Vintage ed.


Early reviewers of Morrison's latest novel, "Love",1 somewhat baffled comment on her narrative style,2 or try - like Elaine Showalter - to take refuge with well established terms of narratology.3 They all, of couse, note the obvious. The novel sets out with a long section in italics where an unnamed narrator characterizes herself as reticent, reserved and almost speechless. Refusing to talk she only hums while watching what is going on in our modern days. For a narrator this looks like a rather strange narrative strategy. Only later the reader finds out, that the narrative voice belongs to L, a cook, who watches and comments what is going on in the Cosey household. But there also are passages, where figurative narration with changing third-person internal focalizers seems to prevail, or even, where we see instances of an authorial narrative situation. So, it becomes increasingly difficult to decide who really is telling the unfolding story. Morrison, obviously, runs the whole gamut of narrative devices. Still, Rhiannon Ross, refusing to take a closer look bluntly declares: "A ghostly woman nicknamed 'L' narrates."4

However, the problem is trickier than one would wish. In the novel Morrison not only documents her narrative virtuosity but also gives us a whole philosophy of art by simply showing and displaying expressive possibilities of the changing and shifting of narrative form. Art –understood in the broadest possible sense as giving form- thus appears to be a genuine human capability to grasp, to interpret, to evaluate, and to communicate a view of reality which itself remains elusive. Truth, on the other hand, no longer being confirmed by religious revelation or any other ideological certainty becomes fickle and human action, having lost it's guidelines is to be decided on and judged according to the requirements and urgency of the situation. In modern times, therefore, after the loss of the transcendental security, which is accompanied by the collapse of long established authorities and institutions, the individual human outlook on the world and the somewhat subjective interpretation of the individual perspective build the basis for decisions of how to act. This "detraditionalization involves a shift to the authority of the 'individual' because the person has to acquire new 'individualistic' values - different from those provided by established orders - in order to lose faith in what has been on offer."5 Individual ambitions and idiosyncrasies have to be made compatible with the structure of a society which, since the age of enlightenment, is evolving along philosophically secular, scientific, technological, economic, and political lines. Human actions, then, become ethical in that they appear open to negotiation within the community. The "most significant parts of whatever morality can be found in modern societies will be located in the concrete process of moral communication rather than in moral institutions."6 All this points to an understanding of the individual which is both, autonomous in it's own right and conventional in it's being enmeshed in the web of society's requirements and, at the same time, caught in the historically confirmed secular loneliness. This is the existentialist tension modern man is subject to.

This, also, is the reason for and the essence of the emergence, the importance, and ongoing epistemological value of the novel as a genre, especially as the novel probes into possibilities of behavior within a fictitious societal context.7 Here, then, the function of aesthetics comes into play. Whereas moral communication in a real society hopes to diminish chance or contingency, aesthetic communication probes into the moral implications of possible action within a fictitious societal context by multiplying chance and contingency. Art then becomes a testing ground for an ethical discourse which it is able to produce because art in general and the novel in particular is self reflective. Aesthetics and ethics, Geoffrey G. Harpham explains, articulate "perplexity, rather than guiding" and adds:

As the locus of otherness, ethics seems to lack integrity 'in itself', and perhaps ought to be considered a matrix, a hub from which different discourses, concepts, terms, energies, fan out, and at which they meet, crossing out of themselves to encounter the other, all the others. Ethics is where thought itself experiences an obligation to form a relation with its other – not only other thoughts, but other-than-thought. Ethics is the ought in thought. And if the battles of literary theory are won on the playing field of ethics, this is because literary theory [...] has always accepted the responsibility of otherness, just as literature bears the burden of managing the encounter between language and the world.8

Therefore, the well established terms of narratology, story and discourse,9 have to be reconsidered to take into account Morrison's epistemological ideas on art and postmodern poetological convictions. The shifting of the narratological perspective and narrative focus point to an attempt to make readers aware that, firstly, the narrated story is one of a limited perspective and, secondly, that the meaning of the narratological discourse is open to the reader's individual interpretation of it. Morrison's narrative artistry thus confronts the reader with the story-content forcing him to make an ethical value judgment on the basis of his reading skills, but also, more important, on his individual experience of life. The modern moral and ethical predicament is thus perfectly translated into art, made valid, and voices the human concern for others:

Perhaps the most urgent and powerful cluster of demands that we recognize as moral concern the respect for the life, integrity, and well-being, even flourishing, of others… our moral reactions in this domain have two facets, as it were. On one side, they are almost like instincts, comparable to our love of sweet things, or our aversion to nauseous substances, or our fear of falling; on the other, they seem to involve claims, implicit or explicit, about the nature and status of human beings. From this second side, a moral reaction is an assent to, an affirmation of, a given ontology of the human.10

This individualistic condition of existence in modern secular society, is accentuated by asking the reader to make sense of what is narrated. This is made obvious by a passage of figurative narration with a definite but unreliable third-person focalizer who nevertheless easily can be substituted by a reader's own view on and experience of life:

So even when the moon was full and blazing, for Sandler it was a bounty hunter's far-off torch, not the blanket of beaten gold it once spread over him and the ramshackle house of his childhood, exposing the trick of the world, which is to make us think it is ours. He wanted his own moon again releasing a wide gold finger to travel the waves and pointing directly at him. No matter where he stood on the beach, it knew exactly; as unwavering and personal as a mother's touch, the gold finger found him, knew him. And although he understood that it came from a cold stone incapable even of indifference, he also knew it was pointing to him alone and nobody else. (43-44)11

Sandler is one of the flat characters in the novel, only rarely does he occupy front stage, but he obviously sees the world as being his, the rays of the moon point "directly at him" even as they do not really single him out. His visual perception tricks him into believing that everything is meant for him. The world is his, he thinks, to live in, but in 'reality' there is nothing but his consciousness stimulated by his peculiar mode of vision. The deceptively romantic image of the moonlit sea, citing archaic ideals of the unity of individual man and nature, is nothing but trickery "which is to make us think it (the world) is ours." The authorial voice here shifts grounds, calls upon the reader's ordinary experience, and shows us that the seemingly subjective individual human perception really is nothing but a general world view which opens up space for us to act in and where to communicate with each other. And that exactly is the point. Simple minded people, thinking that there is a real world which is ours to take go astray. They do understand nothing. To us the world is nothing but a fleeting image, too elusive to be pinpointed, it is a sound fading away, and our language is not capable to carry any meaning other than that which we construe ourselves. On the level of discourse, then, this is what it is all about.

The novel's story itself revolves around William (Bill) Cosey, an African-American entrepreneur, who, long dead, still dominates the lives of women who had been emotionally and economically dependent on him while alive and who now are haunted by memories of his powerful presence while quarrelling over his heritage. Of central importance are Heed, his second wife, and Christine, his granddaughter, who are about the same age, had been close childhood friends and were ripped apart by the shocking fact that Cosey married Heed, then being at the tender age of eleven. Christine's mother May and L, the cook complete the inner circle of characters, who are directly involved with Cosey, while the love-story of Junior, a daring young girl, and Romen, grandson of Sandler and his wife Vida, function as backdrop and catalyst of the plot.

All the chapters of the novel, Portrait, Friend, Stranger, Benefactor, Lover, Husband, Guardian, Father, and Phantom, point at the central character of Cosey, whose indicated roles are opaquely mirrored in the individual consciousnesses of the women protagonists. However, the novel opens with an untitled section, where a narrator's voice, paradoxically claiming not to speak at all but to hum only, characterizes itself:

Standing by, unable to do anything but watch, is a trial, but I don't say a word. My nature is a quiet one, anyway. As a child I was considered respectful; as a young women I was called discreet. Later on I was thought to have the wisdom maturity brings. Nowadays silence is looked on as odd and most of my race has forgotten the beauty of meaning much by saying little. Now tongues work by themselves with no help from the mind. Still, I used to be able to have normal conversations, [...]. Not anymore, [...]. Now? No. Barefaced being the order of the day, I hum. The words dance in my head to the music in my mouth. (3-4)

The whole section, and also many passages throughout the novel are printed in italics,12 seemingly indicating that there is a controlling narrative voice. It appears to be a voice incapable of words, it is true, but nevertheless one knowing and communicating what really is going on. This is why Ross, evading difficulties, or Showalter, taking refuge in Greek tragedy traditions, identify "L" as the novel's central narrative intelligence. That would put "L" the cook into a narratological dominant position. However, as Sandler's view of the world, which is linguistically transferred to the reader and somehow is becoming our own perspective, proves, there is not such a thing as a central intelligence, either in narration or otherwise. This is confirmed by Christine's coming home and deconstructing time in addition to space:

She remembered the bus ride back, punctured by drifts of sleep flavored with sea salt. With one explosive exception (during which fury blinded her), it was her first glimpse of Silk in twenty-eight years. Neat houses stood on streets named for heroes and trees destroyed to build them. Maceo's was still on Gladiator across from Lamb of God, holding its own against a new hamburger place on Prince Arthur called Patty's. Then home: a familiar place that, when you left, kept changing behind your back The creamy oil painting you carried in your head turned into house paint. Vibrant, magical neighbors became misty outlines of themselves. The house nailed down in your dreams and nightmares comes undone, not sparkling but shabby, yet even more desirable because what had happened to it had happened to you. The house had not shrunk; you had. The windows were not askew – you were. Which is to say it was more yours than ever. (98-99)

Again, subtly and hardly noticeable, the narrative focus shifts from the authorial 'she' to the reader including 'you' to accentuate the emotional effect of an experience which is ordinary in its being general but special in its being believed to be individual. Cosey's house and hotel, the basis of his wealth and one of the reasons for the surviving women's fights, have changed over time and deteriorated, in the text only serve to signify the change in the beholder, which ultimately may be us, the reader, according to our life- and reading- experiences. So what can you say? There is nothing you can rely on, there is no way to grasp reality, all you can do is – maybe - hum, giving sound, which evaporates in the wind. Maybe this is a way to acknowledge a world you do not know, a world you do not understand and where everything you do is valid only as it is aimed at preserving and enhancing a community of humans who are lost as you are.

Toni Morrison, in the preface to her collection of William E. Massey Sr. lectures in a history of American civilization class at Harvard,13 talks about having read a slender book by Marie Cardinal, The Words To Say It. She was especially impressed by the author's extremely emotional reaction to a Louis Armstrong jazz session. There, Cardinal for the first time, experienced an anxiety attack igniting a strong apprehension of death for which subsequently she needed professional help. In her book, the writing of which was part of her treatment, Marie Cardinal contemplates the effect of art on an emotionally fragile psyche. Of course the emotional effect of musical improvisation can be irritatingly direct and strong, due to the sometimes baffling form, starting from a base of harmonious notes, diverging into sublime disorder, returning to and rehearsing variations, indulging in rhythmical discords, harking back to the illusion of permanence, and often ending on a reassuringly long note. Still, this makes life appear as threatened and precariously on edge. However, the music still keeps its balance because of the aesthetic beauty of the performance. The catchword here is performance. The evanescence of sound seems to perfectly imitate life, as it is structured by time (beat sequences), and carries at least emotional meaning which is what is life all about.

Cardinal, a French girl born in Algeria, suffers because the music evokes "images of matricide, of white slaughter of a black mother (African Algeria)".14 Morrison, interested in how black thought, tradition, and consciousness shapes, informs, and eventually alters a dominantly white American culture, recognizes that a psychic illness, in effect similar to Afro-American experience of cultural suppression and deprivation, is wrecking Cardinal's life. For Morrison this is due to the attempts of the French, generically called Europeans, to maintain white dominance in Algeria and to suppress the African (colored) urge to gain independence and achieve and maintain cultural identity. Armstrong's concert all of a sudden, Morrison asserts, on the emotional level made obvious history's dominant trend of the last hundreds of years. The experience of Jazz at its best is an existentialist event. As such it also might well be understood as a crucial experience of art in general, including literature. This, anyway, is what Morrison insinuates. Cardinal, all of a sudden, understood what white oppression had done to the colored soul. It came as a revealing shock.

At the same time it also proved that colored people had escaped into the cultural niche of music. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his seminal study of 'black' literature in American literary history concentrates on literature but also takes music into account. In examining the emergence of ‘black literary criticism' but also of 'black' culture in general, looking at the twentieth century he comments:

Black music, alone of the black arts, has developed free of the imperative, the compulsion, to make an explicit political statement. Black musicians, of course had no choice: music groups masses of nonrepresentational material into significant form; it is the audible embodiment of form. All this, however, requires a specific mastery of technique, which cannot be separated from 'poetic insight.' There could be no 'knowing the lines' in the creation of black music, especially since the Afro-American listening audience had such a refined and critical aesthetic sense. Thus, Afro-America has a tradition of masters, from Bessie Smith through John Coltrane, unequaled perhaps in all of modern music.15

In contrast, in literature the communicative potential of language poses a distinctive problem. A literary text operates on several semiological levels at the same time. The most obvious, of course, are the referential function, pointing towards common experience and perception of 'reality', the pragmatic function, concentrating on the reader and on the dimension of social and cultural action, and the aesthetic self-referential function, introducing the question of form and of the way a text is organized, of how words are placed within the structure, and of what special effects result. In Literature all these functions, of course, are simultaneously present, but the aesthetic function is special in that the self-referential dominates.16

In the novel LOVE this seems to be confirmed in the initial musings of the unnamed narrator "L", given in italics, but who, as we have seen , not really is the central intelligence of a continuing and permanent narratological perspective, but only one –even if it might be the most important- of the voices who tell the story. The popularity of Cosey's hotel and resort did rest on its cultural authenticity as being the one place where the colored identity expressed itself in an uninhibited way:

Those were the days when Cosey's Hotel and Resort was the best and best-known vacation spot for colored folk on the East Coast. Everybody came: Lil Green, Fatha Hines, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Lunceford, the Drops of Joy, 19 and guests from as far away as Michigan and New York couldn't wait to get down here. Sooker Bay swirled with the first lieutenants and brand-new mothers; with young schoolteachers, landlords, doctors, businessmen. All over the place children rode their fathers' leg shanks and buried uncles up to their necks in sand. Men and women played croquet and got up baseball teams whose goal was to knock a homer into the waves. Grandmothers watched over red thermos jugs with white handles and hampers full of crabmeat salad, ham, chicken, yeast rolls, and loaves of lemon flavored cake, oh my. Then, all of a sudden, in 1958, bold as a posse, the Police-heads showed up in bright morning. A clarinet player and his bride drowned before breakfast. The inner tube they were floating on washed ashore dragging wads of scale-cluttered beard hair. Whether the bride had played around during the honeymoon was considered and whispered about, but the facts were muddy. She sure had every opportunity. Cosey's Resort had more handsome single men per square foot than anyplace outside Atlanta or even Chicago. They came partly for the music but mostly to dance by the sea with pretty women. (6-7)

Considering the referential and pragmatic functions of the text, Cosey's place was exceptional in that it seemed to indicate that for colored people even outside the deep South (Atlanta) or the northern metropolitan city (Chicago), where after reconstruction former plantation slaves have moved, a communal and cultural life was possible. The pastimes of middle class white society were being imitated, famous cultural achievers celebrated, general temptations were given in to, gossip flourished, and a general atmosphere of human frailty prevailed. But no more.

Examining the aesthetic and self-referential function of the text it becomes obvious, that the novel is discussing 20th century Afro-American history on the matrix of the individual experience and perception of its protagonists in the late nineties. Cosey's Resort becomes a symbol of black history, highlighting tensions within American society but also within the black community itself. Closely scrutinized by white police, who early on stayed off because the chief had been bribed by Cosey, but who, nevertheless, in reaction to the rampant civil-rights-movement of the late fifties and the sixties eagerly moved in; befouled by the terrible smell of up-beach fish industries; and abandoned by affluent Afro-Americans of the seventies, who dreamed of cruises into the Caribbean Sea or to Hawaii, the place deteriorated and could not, especially after Cosey's death, and under the management of his young widow, maintain its former attraction. The relation of plot and subplot and of the at first baffling cacophony of narrative voices now become understandable, even imperative.

The untitled, and, in terms of chapters, unnumbered incipit in italics, and likewise the over the novel distributed passages in italics obviously represent L's musings. In a way this serves as the historical backdrop against which, as the main plot, the ongoing battle between the surviving old women, Heed and Christine, is pitched. Their unmerciful and unrelenting fight is a personal and individual affair of love and hate, yet it is deeply tainted by history, which both of them do not recognize and cannot understand. Even Christine's former involvement with the civil-rights-movement has no lasting political consequences, her outlook on life strictly remains to be personal. History, then, being nothing but a sequence of events does not teach us anything, we cannot and do not learn from history, is this the message of the novel? The subplot, on the other hand, is vibrant with energy. The love between Junior and Romen demands its immediate satisfaction, there is no way to deter them from consummation and they permanently look for and provoke opportunities for love's fulfillment. Thus they represent, of course, youth, but also urgency, daring, and hope.

Aptly, the narrative situation concerning the subplot continually changes from omniscient to point of view and, as has been shown, to a postmodern subjective multi-perspectivism, which carefully avoids historical connotations other than personal moral reminiscences. At the same time Morrison does not use personal narrative perspectives in love scenes in order to escape the danger of narrowing down the timeless meaning of love, which seemingly surpasses individual and historical restrictions. And this is where historical consciousness and personal experience of love coalesce. Junior's and Romen's love is powerful, present, and overwhelming, but it is tainted, made unresistable by the desire of youth.

The relationship between Heed and Christine, however, once had been pure love, tender, and overwhelming in its innocence. Yet, growing up, being subjected to the desires of the flesh, contesting for the attention of a lecherous old man, being corrupted by the splendors of wealth, and lured by impulse of power, their love turned into hate, as all consuming as their love once had been. It is only at the end of the novel, in the face of death, that they begin to understand what had happened to them. And therefore, aptly, the long dead 'L' visiting the cemetery, unravels the secret when she thinks about the quality of human relations, starting with the dependency of children on their well intentioned parents:

Parents can be lax or strict, timid or confident, it doesn't matter. Whether they are handing out goodies and, scared by tears, say yes to any whim, or wether they spend their days making sure the child is correct and corrected – whatever kind they are, their place is secondary to a child's first chosen love. If such children find each other before they know their own sex, or which one of them is starving, which well fed; before they know color from no color, kin from stranger, then they have found a mix of surrender and mutiny they can never live without. Heed and Christine found such a one. (231)

'L', identifying her name as "the subject of First Corinthians, chapter 13",17 speaking from beyond life, transcends history, race distinctions, differences of class, and sex, and becomes the timeless embodiment of the human capacity for selflessness and love. The King James bible translates First Corinthians, Chapter 13, in this way:

1.Though I speak with tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 4. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. 11. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.18

The word charity most certainly denotes love, and is frequently translated as love, always so in the Revised Version. Yet, this kind of charity/love is godly also, it escapes or is beyond words. And this is why L, in the last paragraph of the novel, meeting the also dead Celestial, a former prostitute who, when alive, had a thin and hardly visible scar running all the way down her face, again takes refuge to humming, to music, to the power of pure sound:

Her scar has disappeared. I sit near her once in a while out at the cemetery. We are the only two who visit him. She is offended by the words on his tombstone and, legs crossed, perches on its top so the folds of her red dress hide the insult: "Ideal Husband. Perfect Father." Other than that, she seems content. I like it when she sings to him. One of those down-home, raunchy songs that used to corrupt everybody on the dance floor. "Come on back, baby. Now I understand. Come back, baby. Take me by the hand." Either she doesn't know about me or has forgiven me for my solution, because she doesn't mind at all if I sit a little ways off, listening. But once in a while her voice is so full of longing for him, I can't help it. I want something back. Something just for me. So I join in. And hum. (234)

The italics, indicative of her authorial position throughout the narrative, suddenly undermine the validity of her stories, everything told begins to waver in its meaning and looses its importance within a tale, whose logic appears more and more unreliable. And that is why even the ghostly "L" still is preoccupied with deciphering the phenomenon of man and Bill Cosey is nothing but the example under scrutiny.

But she comes close, beginning to understand that the originally untainted love between the two little girls has been corrupted and maimed, even turned into its opposite, by the onslaught of the demands of maturity. The cruelty of this eviction from the paradise of childhood is something which eludes the fixation of language. In its utter monstrosity it even surpasses race lines, making distinctions of class irrelevant, and becomes an example of the condition humaine. And this is why one can only hum, not speak, follow a melody, but no argument, because there is nothing firm enough to serve as a basis for logical conclusions. The novel's title, LOVE, therefore, not only is a title but a program. It admonishes us to make our world a place where pity and compassion, human ethical values so to speak, prevail. This is possible, because our world is one of our making.


Works Cited

Morrison, Toni, Love. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003.

Morrison, Toni, Playing in the Dark. London: Harvard University Press, 1992.

The English Bible, King James Version.

Chatman, Seymour, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1986.

Gates, Louis Henry, Figures in Black. Words, Signs, and the 'Racial' Self. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Genette, Gérard, Narrative Discourse, trans. Jane E. Lewin. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

Goldman, Norman, Bookpleasures, October 28, 2003.

Harpham, Geoffrey Galt, "Ethics", Eds. Lentricchia, Frank and Thomas McLaughlin, Critical Terms for Literary Study. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Heelas, Paul, "On Things not being Worse, and the Ethic of Humanity," Eds. Heelas, Paul, Scott Lash, Paul Morris, Detradionalization (London: Blackwell, 1996), 200-22.

Ickstadt, Heinz, Der amerikanische Roman im 20. Jahrhundert. Transformation des Mimetischen. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1998.

Kley, Antje, Ethik medialer Repräsentation im britischen und US-amerikanischen Roman, 1741-2000. Kiel, Habilitation-manuscript, 2006.

Luckmann, Thomas, "The Privatization of Religion and Morality," Heelas, Lash, Morris, 72-86.

Ross, Rhiannon, "In the name of Love," EKConline, books, July 9, 2004.

Showalter, Elaine, The Guardian, Saturday, November 29, 2003.

Taylor, Charles, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989.


1 Morrison, Toni, Love. New York: Knopf, 2003. Quotations (given in brackets) follow: Love. London: Vintage, 2004.

2 Cp., for example, Goldman, Norman, Bookpleasures, October 28, 2003:"Reading [...] Toni Morrison's most recent novel, LOVE, was like trying to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle. You never know where you are going to find the next piece, and when you do find it, how will it fit in."

3 "Among them (serveral women whose stories are influenced by Bill Cosey) is his former cook, L..., who provides a choral commentary on the story [...]." Elaine Showalter, The Guardian, Saturday November 29, 2003.

4 Rhiannon Ross, "In the name of love," EKConline, books, July 9, 2004.

5 Paul Heelas, "On Things not being Worse, and the Ethic of Humanity," Eds. Heelas, Paul, Scott Lash, Paul Morris, Detraditionalization (London: Blackwell, 1996), 211.

6 Thomas Luckmann, "The Privatization of Religion and Morality," Eds. Heelas, Lash, Morris, 72-86; 78.

7 I owe the following argument to an as yet unpublished "Habilitation" submitted to the university of Kiel: Antje Kley, Ethik medialer Repräsentation im britischen und US-amerikanischen Roman, 1741-2000, ms. Kiel, 2006, 42-50.

8 Geoffrey Galt Harpham, "Ethics," Eds. Lentricchia, Frank and Thomas McLaughlin, Critical Terms for Literary Study (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 387-405; 395; 404.

9 Cp. Gérard Genette, Narrative Discourse, trans. Jane E. Lewin (Oxford: Blackwell, 1988); Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1986); ----, "Characters and Narrators: Filter, Center, Slant, and Interest-Focus," Poetics Today 7.2 (1990), 189-204.

10 Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 5.

11 my emphasis

12 Cp. 3-12; 70-77; 117-125; 159-167; 230-234.

13 Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark (London: Harvard University Press, 1992), V-Xiii.

14 Ibid., ix.

15 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Figures in Black. Words, Signs, and the "Racial" Self (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 31.

16 Cp. Heinz Ickstadt, Der amerikanische Roman im 20. Jahrhundert. Transformationen des Mimetischen (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1998), 11.

17 Lil Green was a famous club-singer, she died in 1954; Father Hines, in the 1920's was one of the outstanding Jazz-pianists, T-Bone Walker played the blues-guitar, Jimmy Lunceford the saxophone, and Drops of Joy were a jazz-band playing under the guitarist Jimmy Liggins. They all had in common that they, in the twenties and thirties, represented the cultural and artistic ascendancy of African-Americans on to front stage of American civilization. Their special achievement was readily recognized and less challenged than the literary one of the authors of the Harlem renaissance.

18 The English Bible, King James Version