Date of this Version
Black American Literature Forum
This problem of how to represent the black self on the white page, how to overcome the inherent ethnocentrism of the Western literary tradition, is one with which both the critic and the novelist of Afro-American literature must struggle to come to terms. As Gates points out, it is a tradition which dates all the way back to Plato's metaphor of the soul -of a white horse which is described as a "follower of true glory" and another, "of a dark color," which in turn attempts to lead the soul "to do terrible and unlawful deeds." For those who are able to control the dark horse and allow the white one to lead the way, Plato promises a vision of the soul which goes on to "live in light always," whereas those charioteers who cannot control the black horse are condemned "to go down again to darkness," to a life below the earth.
Copyright © 1990 Indiana State University. This article first appeared in Black American Literature Forum 24:4 1990, 747-460. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Philosophical object, African American culture, White people, Novels, Graphic logos, Literary criticism, Slaves, Mothers, Black communities, Textual criticism
Powell, Timothy B., "Toni Morrison: The Struggle to Depict the Black Figure on the White Page" (1990). Departmental Papers (Religious Studies). 11.
African American Studies Commons, Literature in English, North America Commons, Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority Commons, Religion Commons, United States History Commons
Date Posted: 18 September 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.