Date(s) - 09/22/2022
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Makayla Steiner, Assistant Professor of English will present for the Humanities Center’s weekly colloquium on Thursday, September 22. The presentation will be held at 3:00 PM in room 4010 JFSB.
Title: “I was not a soulless animal”: Identity and Personhood in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy
Identity is one of contemporary secularism’s most revered values. Indeed, one may identify based on race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, geography, and a host of other physical markers. Despite the ubiquity of identity markers, secularism continues to struggle to answer what appears to be a most basic question: what is a person? In her 2008 novel, A Mercy, Toni Morrison troubles the modern, secular narratives of race-based identity, choosing instead to place what I suggest is a postsecular focus on the singular, intangible elements of human experience. I argue that Morrison’s novel rejects notions of identity decoupled from personhood by narrating one man’s loss of personhood in exchange for material gain, and one young, enslaved woman’s full conversion to personhood as she chooses (agency) to communicate her inner experience (language) to another (relationship).