The Origin of Others (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)

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9780674976450: The Origin of Others (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
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America's foremost novelist reflects on the themes that preoccupy her work and increasingly dominate national and world politics: race, fear, borders, the mass movement of peoples, the desire for belonging. What is race and why does it matter? What motivates the human tendency to construct Others? Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid? Drawing on her Norton Lectures, Toni Morrison takes up these and other vital questions bearing on identity in The Origin of Others. In her search for answers, the novelist considers her own memories as well as history, politics, and especially literature. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Camara Laye are among the authors she examines. Readers of Morrison's fiction will welcome her discussions of some of her most celebrated books--Beloved, Paradise, and A Mercy. If we learn racism by example, then literature plays an important part in the history of race in America, both negatively and positively. Morrison writes about nineteenth-century literary efforts to romance slavery, contrasting them with the scientific racism of Samuel Cartwright and the banal diaries of the plantation overseer and slaveholder Thomas Thistlewood. She looks at configurations of blackness, notions of racial purity, and the ways in which literature employs skin color to reveal character or drive narrative. Expanding the scope of her concern, she also addresses globalization and the mass movement of peoples in this century. National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates provides a foreword to Morrison's most personal work of nonfiction to date.

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Review:

Morrison explores how cultures, societies, and individuals develop the notion of the Other, the reasons for it, the perceived benefits of distinguishing based on what many insist are racial traits despite the slipperiness of concepts of race...In this slim volume, Morrison shares again her enormous talent for examining the complexity of race and racial identity, the inhumanity that results from 'othering' a fellow human being, the justifications for cruelty that has resulted in romanticized images of slavery and oppression, and how the perversity of racism reverberates through centuries.--Vanessa Bush"Booklist" (08/01/2017)

This is an intriguing and timely series of reflections on race, fear, belonging and otherness.--Louise Kennedy"The ARTery" (08/31/2017)

From legendary writer and thinker Toni Morrison comes a book that deals with one of the thorniest topics of our time: race...What is race? What motivates us to construct otherness? What makes us so afraid of one another? Probing, brilliant, and beautifully rendered, The Origin of Others is destined to become one of the major sociological texts of our time.--Elizabeth Kiefer"Refinery29" (09/01/2017)

The Origin of Others is a must read.--Tara Block"PopSugar" (08/26/2017)

[A] slender but profound volume.--Tom Beer"Newsday" (09/20/2017)

Every literature lover who dreams of studying with Toni Morrison will devour The Origin of Others, a new collection of her Harvard lectures on race, literature, and otherness.--Angela Carone"San Diego Magazine" (09/08/2017)

What is sure to be her most personal and self-reflecting work in nonfiction yet, Morrison delves further into the themes that have always been crucial to her canon: race, politics, history, identity, et al.--Maura M. Lynch and Jinnie Lee"W Magazine" (09/03/2017)

[Morrison] traces through American literature patterns of thought and behavior that subtly code who belongs and who doesn't, who is accepted in and who is cast out as 'Other.' ...The Origin of Others combines Toni Morrison's accustomed eloquence with meaning for our times as citizens of the world.--Nell Irvin Painter"New Republic" (10/11/2017)

The Origin of Others gives readers around the world a chance to take a peek inside the insightful mind of one of America's most celebrated novelists... Equal parts challenging and engaging, reading The Origin of Others is like learning from the literary legend herself.--Sadie Trombetta"Bustle" (10/13/2017)

Morrison trains her well-aimed pen at the themes that only a titan such as herself can so gracefully take on like race, fear, borders and the mass movement of people, for example.--Lesley-Ann Brown"NBC News" (10/23/2017)

About the Author:

Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, a National Book Critics Circle Award, and a Pulitzer Prize. She is the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Princeton University. Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of The Beautiful Struggle and Between the World and Me.

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