Toni Morrison quotes

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Toni Morrison

Birthdate: 18. February 1931
Date of death: 5. August 2019

Toni Morrison is an American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher, and professor emerita at Princeton University.

Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award in 1988 for Beloved. The novel was adapted into a film of the same name in 1998. Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected her for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. federal government's highest honor for achievement in the humanities. She was honored with the 1996 National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Morrison wrote the libretto for a new opera, Margaret Garner, first performed in 2005. On May 29, 2012, President Barack Obama presented Morrison with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2016 she received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction.

Works

Beloved
Beloved
Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye
The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison
Sula
Sula
Toni Morrison
Jazz
Jazz
Toni Morrison
Paradise
Paradise
Toni Morrison
Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon
Toni Morrison
God Help the Child
God Help the Child
Toni Morrison
A Mercy
A Mercy
Toni Morrison
Tar Baby
Tar Baby
Toni Morrison
Love
Love
Toni Morrison
Home
Home
Toni Morrison

„Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.“

—  Toni Morrison, book Beloved

Source: Beloved (1987), Ch. 9
Context: Bit by bit, at 124 and in the Clearing, along with others, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

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„Language can never "pin down" slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable.“

—  Toni Morrison

Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)
Context: Language can never "pin down" slavery, genocide, war. Nor should it yearn for the arrogance to be able to do so. Its force, its felicity is in its reach toward the ineffable. Be it grand or slender, burrowing, blasting, or refusing to sanctify; whether it laughs out loud or is a cry without an alphabet, the choice word, the chosen silence, unmolested language surges toward knowledge, not its destruction. But who does not know of literature banned because it is interrogative; discredited because it is critical; erased because alternate? And how many are outraged by the thought of a self-ravaged tongue?

„It is easily the most empty cliché, the most useless word, and at the same time the most powerful human emotion — because hatred is involved in it, too.“

—  Toni Morrison

On the title of her book Love (2003), in O, The Oprah Magazine (November 2003) http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/200311/omag_200311_toni_b.jhtml
Context: It is easily the most empty cliché, the most useless word, and at the same time the most powerful human emotion — because hatred is involved in it, too. I thought if I removed the word from nearly every other place in the manuscript, it could become an earned word. If I could give the word, in my very modest way, its girth and its meaning and its terrible price and its clarity at the moment when that is all there is time for, then the title does work for me.

„A dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written, it is unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis. Like statist language, censored and censoring.“

—  Toni Morrison

Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)
Context: A dead language is not only one no longer spoken or written, it is unyielding language content to admire its own paralysis. Like statist language, censored and censoring. Ruthless in its policing duties, it has no desire or purpose other than maintaining the free range of its own narcotic narcissism, its own exclusivity and dominance. However moribund, it is not without effect for it actively thwarts the intellect, stalls conscience, suppresses human potential. Unreceptive to interrogation, it cannot form or tolerate new ideas, shape other thoughts, tell another story, fill baffling silences.

„There is and will be rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering in the malls, courthouses, post offices, playgrounds, bedrooms and boulevards; stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death. There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination.“

—  Toni Morrison

Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)
Context: There is and will be rousing language to keep citizens armed and arming; slaughtered and slaughtering in the malls, courthouses, post offices, playgrounds, bedrooms and boulevards; stirring, memorializing language to mask the pity and waste of needless death. There will be more diplomatic language to countenance rape, torture, assassination. There is and will be more seductive, mutant language designed to throttle women, to pack their throats like paté-producing geese with their own unsayable, transgressive words; there will be more of the language of surveillance disguised as research; of politics and history calculated to render the suffering of millions mute; language glamorized to thrill the dissatisfied and bereft into assaulting their neighbors; arrogant pseudo-empirical language crafted to lock creative people into cages of inferiority and hopelessness.

„Anger… it's a paralyzing emotion… you can't get anything done. People sort of think it's an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don't think it's any of that — it's helpless… it's absence of control — and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers — and I need clarity, in order to write — and anger doesn't provide any of that — I have no use for it whatsoever.“

—  Toni Morrison

Interview with Don Swaim (1987) http://wiredforbooks.org/tonimorrison/
Context: Anger... it's a paralyzing emotion... you can't get anything done. People sort of think it's an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don't think it's any of that — it's helpless... it's absence of control — and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers — and I need clarity, in order to write — and anger doesn't provide any of that — I have no use for it whatsoever. I can feel melancholy, and I can feel full of regret, but anger is something that is useful to the people who watch it... it's not useful to me.

„Tongue-suicide is not only the choice of children. It is common among the infantile heads of state and power merchants whose evacuated language leaves them with no access to what is left of their human instincts for they speak only to those who obey, or in order to force obedience.“

—  Toni Morrison

Nobel Prize Lecture (1993)
Context: Tongue-suicide is not only the choice of children. It is common among the infantile heads of state and power merchants whose evacuated language leaves them with no access to what is left of their human instincts for they speak only to those who obey, or in order to force obedience. The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek — it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language — all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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