Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Morrison Questions for Wednesday's Seminar

Here are some questions about Song of Solomon and Sitkoff. Some of these issues we've addressed in our discussions. We'd like you to choose one and write a thoughtful response here on the blog.

1. How many white characters do we meet in the novel? How would you characterize the role of whites in the novel (direct/indirect, positive/negative/neutral, etc.)? How does this role of the whites reflect the issues addressed in Sitkoff?

2. Sitkoff cites MLK's role in emancipating the psyche of blacks (we discussed this idea last week). Is there any reflection of this experience in the novel? Where does it appear? How does it come about?

3. Can we make any generalizations about the male and female characters in the novel? Where/how does Sitkoff's study address gender roles among African Americans?

4. As Sitkoff's book makes clear, rhetoric--the ability to move through words--played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. What do you notice about the language (diction) of the novel? Does it affect or in any way reflect the characters' struggles?

5. Sitkoff's study draws attention to the different strategies adopted by civil rights activists, generally divided along the lines of gradualism and radical change. Where in the novel do we see different responses to the plight of blacks and the potential for change?

6. One of the striking things that Sitkoff's book makes clear is the astonishing capacity for suffering among civil rights activists (think of those photos we saw), as well as the general suffering among blacks in America. What kind of suffering do we encounter in the novel? Where does it defeat, where energize or mobilize the characters?

7. In King's "Letter From Birmingham City Jail" King insists that injustice anywhere is the business of all Americans: i.e., the plight of African Americans is in some sense universal. Is there a similar sense of universality in Morrison's novel--in other words, is this novel just about blacks, or about human beings generally?

8. The setting of the novel shifts between the industrialized north and the rural south. How does Milkman's experience differ in those two settings? How did these settings figure in the Civil Rights Movement, as outlined by Sitkoff?

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