?Love too thick??: Narrative Structure, Reader Response, and Violence in Toni Morrison?s Beloved and Jazz


Mirin Fader

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My project focuses on the two central acts of violence in Beloved and Jazz : Sethe?s infanticide in Beloved and Joe Trace?s murder of his teenage lover in Jazz . First, I will explore how the narrative structures of the two novels (the manner and order in which Morrison reveals the violence in the texts) situate murder alongside love. Specifically, I will examine the narrative structures in the following two ways: first, the order in which the murder is disclosed in the text; second, the effect of the narrator who delivers the murder to the readers. I will assess the narrative structures? effect on readers? preconceptions and values. I will focus on reader response to the acts of violence in terms of narrative ethics, judgment, and empathy. Finally, I will analyze the collaborative and fluid African-American oral tradition employed by Morrison, which cultivates unceasing evaluation from readers by evoking a multiplicity of responses to the text. I will also explore Call and Response: the reciprocal relationship between storyteller and listener (writer and reader) that grants readers responsibility beyond response?the responsibility to co-create meaning within the text. Morrison employs Call and Response to invite judgment while asking readers to defer final judgments. She thereby resists a unified, stable response from her audience to the characters and their violence.


Jean Wyatt




Ford Research Mentors Endowment

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