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Modes of Placial Relations in Toni Morrison’s Novel A Mercy: A Phenomenological Approach
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4323-8655
2015 (English)In: The Work of Phenomenology and the Work of Art, 2015Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Critical studies of Toni Morrison’s fiction, quite understandably, tend to favour explorations from the perspectives of, e.g., race, African American Culture, and history of slavery as well as narratological and stylistic investigations. What these approaches lack, however, is a way of accounting forthe world as experienced. A phenomenological method, on the other hand, has the potential to elucidate precisely this. This paper, therefore, suggests a phenomenological reading of Morrison, inspired by Edmund Husserl’s notion of the epoché; my focus will be on textual layers that are not reducible to issues of ‘the natural attitude,’ such as external theories or representational interpretations. Instead of imposing specifictheoretical frameworks on the text, I will adopt a procedure of letting the text ‘speak for itself.’ The paper focuses on the novelA Mercy, which is perhaps the Morrison text that most obviously presents interrelations between the human being and the natural world. Taking a phenomenological understanding ofplaceas a starting point, I will explore tensions between various modes of placial relations, most notably attitudes of mastering of place, bonding with place, and receptivity to place. At first glance, the protagonist, Florens, seems to remain homeless and placeless, lacking a fundamental bond with concrete place. However, a phenomenological analysis, together with a phenomenological understanding of place, uncover a development in the protagonist from an initial lack of a bond with place to an incipient receptive, pre-reflective openness to place as well as an emerging sense of bonding with place by way of body. I will argue that Florens’s attitude to place stands in contrast to and presents an alternative to the attitude of mastering of place presented by the male European characters. Moreover, in line with Edward S. Casey’s view of a bond with the earth as tied to ethics, I will discuss Florens’s attitude as holding a possibility of ecological responsibility. With bell hooks, a bond with place can also be seen as rendering possible a resistance to attitudes of dominion. Thus, I will suggest that ultimately, the protagonist’s attitude to place implies ethical dimensions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015.
National Category
Languages and Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-121713OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-121713DiVA: diva2:878288
Conference
6th Annual University of Sussex Graduate Conference in Phenomenology,Sussex, UK, June 12-13, 2015
Available from: 2015-12-08 Created: 2015-10-13 Last updated: 2017-06-21Bibliographically approved

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