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Toni Morrison becomes the first Black American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature

Written by Sparky

November 11, 2021

Toni Morrison is universally recognized as one of the greatest American writers in modern history. In 2016, Beloved, first published in 1987, was an international sensation and voted the best work of American fiction of the previous 25 years; it is not controversial to suggest that nothing has been published in the last five years to challenge its crown. Her work has influenced, changed, and inspired both readers—like Kamala Harris and Barack Obama—and writers—from Ocean Vuong to Keah Brown to Rich Benjamin. After Morrison’s death in 2019, the literary world overflowed with tributes of all kinds—visual, literary, and physical.

She was also a moral and intellectual giant, whose perspectives on language and writing and race were as important as her works themselves. “The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, midwifery properties for menace and subjugation,” Morrison explained in her Nobel lecture. “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.”


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