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Black IntersectionalitiesA Critique for the 21st Century$
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Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781846319389

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781846319389.001.0001

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“Risking Sensuality”: Toni Morrison’s Erotics of Writing

“Risking Sensuality”: Toni Morrison’s Erotics of Writing

(p.128) 9 “Risking Sensuality”: Toni Morrison’s Erotics of Writing
Black Intersectionalities

Claudine Raynaud

Liverpool University Press

Writing the erotic is what Morrison has been risking throughout her output since Sula (1973) through Beloved (1986), Jazz (1992), down to A Mercy (2008). The erotic is not a theme, but part and parcel of what writing ventures. Incest, pedophilia, rape, pornography, gang bangs — in Lorde’s words: “abuse of feeling” — and the constant probing of “love” — the title of Morrison’s eighth novel — go hand in hand with a reclaiming of the erotic, constitutive of the black subject (in writing), crucial to its survival and correlative to its freedom. Where Lorde offers a manifesto for a women-identified politics of the erotic, Morrison's fiction risks a poetics of the erotic against (and with) violence and trauma. How does her text summon up sensuality in relation to sexual difference and historical violence? How does it write “black” desire? Is there a progression throughout her oeuvre? If Jazz sets up an erotics of reading in keeping with Barthes’s The Pleasure of the Text, the “lustre of poetry” must always be contained by the space(s) left for the other, encompassed by the sublimity of “word-work” that fights the death of language (Nobel Lecture, 1993).

Keywords:   African American literature, Black subjectivity, eroticism, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, poetics of the erotic, trauma, violence, writing

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