July 14, 2008
For a rigorous critique of Toni Morrison’s literary postmodernism, see Madhu Dubey’s indespensible Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism (U of Chicago Press, 2003). Dubey challenges the conservatism of Morrison’s southern folk aesthetic on the grounds that it naively valorizes a premodern, black, southern, and female, oral tradition as an imaginary solution to problems associated with the alienating experience of modernization – particularly urbanization and print-based literacy. For Dubey, Morrison regularly succumbs to a “nostalgia for the literal” (178), and her desire for abolishing mediation makes her anything but a technological progressive. Rather, in a “postmodern romance of the residual” magic and orality provide the means for forging an imaginary black community that, in reality, remains riven with conflict due to the socioeconomic contradictions inherent to late capitalism.
Amy Elias’ ebr review of Signs and Cities: Black Literary Postmodernism was published as part of the Senseless Resistances gathering.