Goodness and the Literary Imagination: Harvard's 95th Ingersoll Lecture with Essays on Morrison's Moral and Religious Vision

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$27.95  $25.99
University of Virginia Press
Publish Date
5.51 X 11.6 X 0.81 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author

Toni Morrison was the author of eleven novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015). She received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


The Nobel Prize-winning author's lecture at the Harvard Divinity School as well as a rich collection of scholarly illumination of the religious dimensions of her fiction.... The close readings of her work in these critical essays build strong cases for such a focus while never subverting the purely literary value of her work or reducing it to theological dogma.... A Mexican American historian of religion at Harvard, [Davíd] Carrasco provides a bookend to the lecture with his 2017 interview with Morrison, which reflects on the lecture and its themes and her powerful assessment of slavery as 'the story [of] people who were treated like beasts [but] did not become beastly.' Instead, they created 'a culture that this country could not do without.' A volume that attests to Morrison's singularity, with a cultural resonance that extends well beyond literature.

--Kirkus Reviews

Here, in these pages, we meet one of our greatest literary artists and thinkers, Toni Morrison, and a group of her most engaging interlocutors as they illuminate the centrality of 'goodness' in her oeuvre. Taking a backward glance at her life's work, Morrison insists 'Writing and trying to find a language for goodness is all I've ever done in the novel.' Throughout she has given us characters who embody goodness and characters who acquire self-knowledge only through practicing it. This volume places her efforts in a context that best illuminates the moral, ethical and religious dimensions of her work. In so doing it provides an enormous contribution to our multi-dimensional understanding of Morrison, while also speaking directly to our times, reminding us of the importance of goodness, imagination, vision, and moral clarity as we cultivate a worthy antidote to the evils that threaten to consume us.

--Farah Jasmine Griffin

"The publication of this extraordinary book could not have arrived at a more propitious moment. At a time when the country as a whole seems tormented by the corrosive presence of a new kind of evil that is trying to banish any memory, much less evidence, of its opposite, Goodness and the Literary Imagination reminds readers of evil's opposite, but in forms that Morrison's fiction renders again strange. Its publication should be treated as a major event; its contribution to American literary and religious studies is absolutely assured."

--Giles Gunn, University of California, Santa Barbara, Emeritus, author of The Pragmatist Turn: Religion, the Enlightenment, and the Formation of American Literature

This eloquent, wide-ranging collection comprises Morrison's 2012 Ingersoll lecture at Harvard Divinity School, "Goodness: Altruism and the Literary Imagination"; scholarly essays on her fiction; and a spirited interview with the late novelist.... This volume highlights Morrison's invaluable contribution to American letters and suggests her influence will be felt for years to come.

--Publishers Weekly

In her 2012 Ingersoll Lecture at Harvard, Nobel Prize-winning author Morrison (1931-2019) talked about goodness and literary imagination, suggesting that evil gets all the theatrics and attention while its counterpart is silent backstage.... VERDICT Interestingly, the essayists here, rather than literary experts, specialize in religion, history, theology, and ethics, which provides a refreshing analysis and perspective on Morrison's work and a valuable contribution to Morrison scholarship.

--Library Journal, starred review

Toni Morrison's 2012 Harvard Divinity School lecture--included as the first ten pages of this book--occasioned this remarkable collection of essays on the question of goodness and evil in Morrison's canon. The essays Carrasco (Harvard Divinity School), Paulsell (Harvard Divinity School), and Willard (Boston College) have gathered look at many of Morrison's works and cover the evolution and breadth of Morrison's career.... The collection as a whole offers a fascinating look at Morrison and at American literature and ethics more generally. Summing Up: Highly recommended.