dapting Alterity in Anglophone Scenarios, Rome, Italy, 25 - 26 November 2022, pp.3-4
Otherness in Toni Morrison’s “Recitatif” and A Mercy
The proposed paper seeks to examine the concept of otherness by drawing on Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Others, which is derived from her lecture series given at Harvard University along with her fictional works. While focusing especially on the African-American experience, Morrison’s critical engagement with the terms such as otherness, belonging, racialization and dehumanization goes well beyond the limits of any particular national, ethnic group and her insights are indeed timely and pertinent in today’s world where othering matters in many significant ways. In her both fictional and non-fictional writing, Morrison explores the myriad ways self-justification works and cautions us against human fallibility by resisting the progressive, post-racial interpretation of history. In so doing, she refers to the unique status of literature, arts in general, as well: “Narrative fiction provides a controlled wilderness, an opportunity to be and to become the Other. The stranger. With sympathy, clarity, and the risk of self-examination” (The Origin of Others 91). Correspondingly, the proposed paper analyzes the question of alterity as explored in Morrison’s works, “Recitatif” and A Mercy in particular. Both narratives chart a set of intersecting, relational processes in which justifying the self and dehumanizing the other take hold gradually at the expense of coalition and community building. The paper will also address the critics and translators’ responsibility to help literary work realize its full potential in giving voice to the silenced, unrepresented lives and pasts.