Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Placing Toni Morrison's Love: African American Feminists Theorizing Embodiment, Home, and Memory as Political Resistance

Valorie D. Thomas.

This project considers Toni Morrison’s work in the context of fiction, film, and critical theory by black feminists who address embodiment and compassion as critical interventions on intersectional oppressions of race, gender, class, and cultural displacement. I will discuss Toni Morrison’s most recent novel, Love, and films including Beloved, Sankofa, Eve’s Bayou, and Daughters of the Dust, within a critical framework including works by Patricia Hill Collins, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Toni Cade Bambara, June Jordan, Angela Davis, Hortense Spillers.

Morrison has been theorizing and deconstructing Western discourses of love throughout her career, since the publication of her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1975. Her fiction problematizes the commodification of love, while investigating discourses of love – romantic, erotic, filial, communal – from a specifically feminist, Afro-diasporic critical position. Beloved, in particular, interrogates representations of enslaved and incarcerated black bodies and black women as “property that reproduces itself,” while investigating the possibilities and parameters within which the enslaved nonetheless managed to realize an emplaced sense of self and love under conditions of total dehumanization. Within this novel, Morrison calls for “room to imagine,” grounding this architecture on a foundation of African Diaspora cosmologies, ancestor consciousness, and African philosophies of collective identity formation.

I am suggesting that Morrison's novel Love attests in contemporary terms to the critical necessity of vernacular epistemologies, embodied knowledges, and constructing compassionate home spaces within “unhomely” landscapes. My methodology is interdisciplinary, and while grounded in film and literary analysis, will address African diaspora ethico-aesthetics, syntheses of traditional and modern cultural practice, and vernacular spatial formations.


Valorie D. Thomas  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of English and Intercollegiate Department of Black Studies of the Claremont Colleges, Claremont Graduate School Cultural Studies Program Affiliate
Pomona College

My specializations include Toni Morrison, African Diaspora Film and Literature, Black Women Writing Resistance and Activism, and 18th and 19th Century Afro-Atlantic Literature. Currently, I am completing a book manuscript titled 'In Vertigo: Space and Autopoiesis in African Diaspora Film and Literature '

  • Black Feminist Theory
  • African Diaspora Literary/Film Analysis
  • Embodiment
  • Haptics
  • Habitable Space
  • Love and Memory as Political Practice
  • Cultural Displacement/Emplacement
  • Representing Body and Place
Person as Subject
  • Morrison, Toni

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)