Call for Chapters:
The Routledge Research Companion to Toni Morrison
editor: Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem, CUNY
This is an early call for chapter proposals for a volume I have 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 would, at least initially, like 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 the sense that the call is open also to junior scholars, perhaps “dissertators” working on Morrison and doing excellent, innovative work. We are also looking for scholars from around the world, for the collection to be truly global and truly diverse, both in terms of approaches and in terms of contributor-authors. Routledge is respected and known for its strength as a scholarly publisher with a truly global authorship; this collection continues that legacy in the context of Morrison studies.
Another aspect of this endeavor is to think beyond some of the more or less entrenched, perhaps restrictive, borders in the reception and interpretation, the assumed “givens” and the production of knowledge on/from this oeuvre. The research on Morrison has, to a certain extent, been controlled, too much, one might say, in the hands of certain prevailing critics; Harold Bloom comes to mind of course. Going forward, how do we think beyond some of the limits that have surrounded Morrison’s work and the work on Morrison, and, how create bridges to new and fruitful passages, meanings, readings, and thus new knowledges produced from out of the work of (Black, female) genius, Toni Morrison?
I. The book requires a set of chapters that review the current scholarship in Morrison studies…
These chapters must needs be both “review,” in terms of their content, and also critique. They must rise to the level of a contribution to the field, in other words, and not merely assess or deliberate on existing scholarship. These analyses could be a mix of theme, trope, and method, in terms of central organizing idea or analytic.
Theme, eg., race, class, gender (all meanings: women, men, trans, sexuality, sex, etc.), ability, religion, slavery, reparations, colonial violence, incarceration, racial capital, etc.
Trope, eg., identity, the specter, interruption, silence, speaking, color or other symbol schemas, the fragment, sexual content, borders and boundaries, etc.
Method, eg., Black studies, Postcolonial studies, Women’s studies, Queer theory approaches, the new materialism and/or Thing Theory, the new histories of (racial) capital, Feminist theory approaches, Film/Adaptation studies, Trauma and Memory studies, Reception or Translation studies, etc.
(Note: the above lists are not at all comprehensive, just clarifying notes.)
II. The book will feature chapters that point the way to the future of Morrison studies… This part of the book will comprise approximately fifty percent of its content. Largely what we want to accomplish here is the establishment of an understanding of the history and current work in Morrison studies and create a vision for that work going forward.
It is essential, in my view, 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? Where have we ‘failed’ thus far, either in our comprehensions or the fullness of them or in our attentions, the attention paid to this woman writer-philosopher who I think anyone who studies her would agree that she is not “just” a writer, she is a creative genius, and a genius full stop. This, if true, has to mean that we have only just begun, despite the massive response in print, to derive and document the many and various richnesses of this oeuvre.
A few things that come to mind right away…
Coming immediately to mind are needed treatments of Morrison as a theorist and not merely a creative writer. She wrote voluminously ass 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. (And, the authors listed here 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 part of the literary dance in the work.
…But I will stop there, because I don’t want to over-define this piece myself. Rather, in this, 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 be submitted or proposed and on the basis of our conversations. What do you see as specters of this particular 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 picture of all that Morrison brought to table and all that she has left us—us, the world, the futurities to come that surely will and do 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, which will appear a few years following Morrison’s transition, it is, yes, to be tributary also—both something honoring Morrison’s memory and a scholarly scholar’s companion, the definitive such companion, for the 21st Century.
Lastly, two things. First, 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. And second, as noted, this is an early version of the Call. Once I have received some number of proposals and the volume begins taking a perceptible shape, I’ll write a new call based on that and highlighting areas of need. For now, I wanted to leave the design largely open in order that the shape it takes is collectively arrived to, on the basis of the good advice of Morrison’s scholarly community and whatever dialogues we engage in.
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 from now 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 will submit the proposal officially in probably March of 2022, once all proposals are received and decisions made regarding which to include (barring peer review).
You may reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org My bio follows, below, if that is helpful for you.
~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). She lives in Brooklyn.