the bluest eye - seminar

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  • What The Bluest Eye knows about Them: culture, race, identity

    (Christopher Douglas)

    Caroline Souza

    Most of the characters family history establishes their motivations

    Geraldine typological genealogy

    Funkiness losing ones funkiness is a fundamental part of the whitening process (white people no

    longer carry this quality, whereas black people still do)

    The body is what most threatens their (Geraldines and the type of people she represents) pursuit of

    whiteness. It has to be constantly cared for.

    Junior Resistance his body seems to resist his mothers attempts to erase or mitigate racial

    difference (almost an innate desire for blackness)

    Performative Culture

    (Geraldine and Junior do certain things and hold certain values believing that this

    might define membership in a culture)


    Essentialist Culture

    (However, the text devalues such membership in favor of an essentialist culture which has its origin and true

    value in race)

    Geraldine Them rather than One

    Typology of cultural loss (as she cant change her race, she tries to change her culture, a

    process described by Morrison as loss rather than gain)

    Its a Black Arts novel in the sense that it reclaims a racial pride. Given her race, Geraldines cultural

    behavior and values are inappropriate Assimilation (which Morrison fights, believing that its not the

    solution for the Negro problem)

    Zora Neale Hurston X Richard Wright (Boasian anthropology) (Parkian sociology)

    Two antagonist models (1940s and 1950s):

    Cultural assimilation of racial minorities

    (Civil Rights Movement)

    X Race as the real origin of and authorization for cultural identity

    (Hurston, Black Aesthetic and Black Power movements)

  • This dilemma formed the intellectual ground for The Bluest Eye, in the 1960s

    Pecola pathology of self-loathing

    Clarks dolls test school segregation was distorting the minds of the black youngsters to the point of

    making them self-hating

    Claudia diverges completely from these black students. She escapes the pathology identified by this

    experiment, whereas Pecola is absolutely engulfed by it.

    Morrisons point Clarks social constructions of white beauty indeed exist and exert an overwhelming

    pressure, BUT the application of this phenomenon is bumpy, incomplete, complicated and resisted. (see p.


    She also criticizes Browns answer of integration (in the book, they go to a partially integrated school,

    and the problems still exist, and are still strong)

    Morrison and the Black Aesthetic reject Parks assimilationism and the portrayal of Negro pathology

    implied in Clark (see p. 152)

    The Bluest Eye a Black Arts novel (rejection of protest, realism, and the premises of Brown)

    Alliance between literary realism and social science conceptual circuit (social-science findings

    influenced the composition of literary texts, which were then read as evidence of the original theory)

    Morrison and the Black Arts movement refute this alliance in favor of separatism and racial authenticity

    Funk (-iness) this word has a racial history

    Morrison invites us to see funk as human in general (whiteness produces itself as non-funk; and

    Geraldine struggles to lose this quality through sexual repression and body denyal)

    Her work, especially in what concerns Geraldines typology, tries to affirm the insufficiency of the

    sociological type and other deterministic ideas. In this sense, The Bluest Eye tests the limits of typology in

    Geraldine just as it does its literary cousin, the stereotype (see p. 159)

    The novel rehearses its own hermeneutic disappointments tries to put people into one kind of group

    identity or another but finds that they dont exactly fit (see p. 160)

    The novel shows as that the concept of culture is as problematic as the typological division, as long as it

    also works by eliminating a certain amount of alterity


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