Dr Justine Baillie, a member of the Literature and Language Research Group – under the auspices of CREL (Centre for Research and Enterprise in Language) – has edited, and contributed an essay to, Global Morrison, a special issue of Oxford University Press’s journal Contemporary Women’s Writing. The issue is dedicated to the global significance of the Nobel prize-winning African-American novelist, Toni Morrison. Having been commissioned by the general editors of Contemporary Women’s Writing to lead the Global Morrison research group, Justine organised a very successful two-day international conference at the University of Greenwich in June 2017 and has now edited the proceedings for the OUP publication. Contributors examine Morrison’s literary articulations with the works of writers such as Italian novelist Umberto Eco, British novelist Zadie Smith, French writer Gisèle Pineau, Afro-Brazilian author Conceição Evaristo, and American poet Robin Coste Lewis.
The publication is timely, as recent Black Lives Matters activism has focussed attention on global histories of colonialism, slavery and racism. In her Introduction to the issue Justine writes that Morrison’s 1987 neo-slave narrative Beloved ‘was the catalyst for new interrogations of race, slavery, trauma and of colonialism’s displacements, which connect the local, specific experience with world history’. Justine’s contribution to Global Morrison, ‘Morrison and the Transnation: Toni Morrison, God Help the Child and Zadie Smith, Swing Time‘, brings together contemporary debates about the postracial and the post-black with conceptualizations of the transnation that destabilize the alignment of race and gender with nationalism. Morrison’s considerations of globalization, nationhood, and race in her essay The Origin of Others (2017) are used to illuminate the central concerns of her last work of fiction, God Help the Child (2015) and British writer Zadie Smith’s novel Swing Time (2017).
Future projects, coordinated within CREL by Literature and Research Seminar Series leaders Justine Baillie, Emily Critchley and Katarina Stenke, include the organisation of a conference on neo-slave narratives that will continue the work initiated at the Global Morrison conference at Greenwich. Ade Solanke’s script in hand performance of Phillis in London, her play about the first female African-American poet Phillis Wheatley’s visit to London in the eighteenth century, was a highlight of the Global Morrison conference of 2017 and Ade’s continued research on the eighteenth-century black presence in London will feature in the proposed neo-slave narratives conference.
Congratulations to Justine Baillie and all contributing authors for the well deserved spotlight!
Out now: Contemporary Women’s Writing