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Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  mgpicc on October 2nd 2008, 11:55 am

I thought this speach was very confusing. It is hard to get the jist by only reading it once. I did though like the paragraph about the Tower of Babel when she said it was a heaven on earth, not a post-life heaven. If you took this essay in bits and pieces, there are some very interesting things, but on a whole it is very heavy.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  candice R on October 2nd 2008, 11:58 am

When Toni Morrison started off her speech she began with a great story about the blind woman and the children. However, as she went deeper into the speech it began to to getter harder to understand how she linked this old women and language together. On the other hand, when the old woman made the statement "...It is in your hands..." the lecture was instantly united. Simply meaning Morrison was able to say that language is in "our" (society as a whole) hands; we have the right to do whatever we please with it. Finally she made it a point to conclude the speech by having the old woman say "...I trust you now..." I by myself interpreted this as her saying that she finally trust us to take responsiblity for language and to do right by it.

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In your hands

Post  Admin on October 2nd 2008, 11:58 am

The blind woman says, "it is in your hands." That answer must be correct becuase no matter what the visitors are foing it is in fact in their hands. If they had asked, "what's for dinner?", she could have said it's in your hands. If they had asked, "can you teach us a lesson?", she could have answered, "it is in your hands."

Because "in your hands" means "it is up to you", it whould have been a correct response to whatever the visitors asked.

what a great abstraction on such a litteral answer.


Last edited by Admin on October 3rd 2008, 11:21 am; edited 1 time in total

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Pendle's Response

Post  pfmh on October 2nd 2008, 11:59 am

I cannot pretend to know everything that Morrison is speaking about of reffering to or teaching in this lecture, but I must say that her thoughts about the suppresion that language can have over human beings is very powerful. It's daunting -- the idea that we are all the holders of thoughts that we must keep to ourselves, that language will never help us to express.
Great Lecture though. I loved the quote that she gave about the youth; they say to the old woman, who is symbolic of all of the elders in the world, "How dare you talk to us of duty when we stand waist deep in the toxin of your past?" Wow. That just about sums up all teenage confusion and anger in one sentence.
Toni Morrison's great.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  Giulia on October 2nd 2008, 7:09 pm

I agree with the others, that this speech was long and a bit confusing. When I first read; it seemed at some points to go off topic but if you reread you can see a certain connection, itís a figure of speech. I found the beginning of the speech quite odd, but its oddity and simplicity make it affasinating like other of her books. When I read about the children asking the blind woman if the bird they are holding is dead or alive and she responds "I don't know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands. It is in your hands." I was intrigued and found this part very allegoric. They test the blind woman to see if she really knows, but the death or life of the bird depends on the kids that are holding it. The blind woman symbolizes a prophet and the bird is their life. It sounds like there is a hidden story in the story, as if the kids are actually asking what will be of their lives. She writes with such deepness and uses many comparisons throughout the speech from writers to history. The stories moral is to teach us that we hold our lives, make constant decisions everyday which affect our future.

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Morrison

Post  Allie5491 on October 3rd 2008, 1:10 pm

I felt that some of this speech's deaper meanings were lost in Morrison's wordy and abstract descriptions. The idea of viewing language as a life form with vulnerabilities is extremely thought provoking, but I didn't feel I understood her meaning fully because some of her speech was hard to understand. "Official language smitheryed to sanction ignorance and preserve privilege is a suit of armor polished to shocking glitter, a husk from which the knight departed long ago. Yet there it is: dumb, predatory, sentimental" Descriptions such as these, although very poetic, seemed to go over my head rather than delivering the theme clearly. I think that Morrison's fear that language can be lost is very relevant to our society today, as we are seeing more and more children favor t.v or video games rather than literature. Our language today is largely taken for granted, and more and more American are missing the beauty and possibilities that our language has.

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Noble Lecture response

Post  Elizabeth Gombert on October 6th 2008, 10:42 pm

This is a very dense lecture, and thus confusing at times, but I think Morrison's message is clear- we are responsible for the well-being of our language; it's fate is in our hands. The bird metaphor seems a little overstretched in the middle of the lecture, where Morrison branches off into a direct discussion of language. This makes it confusing when she weaves her way back into metaphor to finish the lecture. I was intrigued by the ending where Morrison returns to the story of the old woman and the children. Before that point, I thought that Morrison was merely warning us to be aware of how we use language, to realize both its potential and its failures in expressing the human experience. Instead the end seems to show how the old woman brings about the realization of responsibility in the young people, by making them question her, by making them grow heated in their desire for answers. The old woman knows that understanding of language is not explained but discovered for one's self- and the children proved to the old woman that they were capable of this discovery. However if Morrison considers herself the old woman and her audience the childern, then she has just done the opposite of the old woman- she has tried to explain language. Therefore the whole lecture seems to be a contradiction to its own message! Confusing.

Sorry this took so long Ms. Gamzon- I've been having posting problems.

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Re: Lecture: Toni Morrison, Nobel

Post  chiara on October 12th 2008, 8:31 pm

Toni Morrison is clearly a genius. With that being said, a genius editor was needed to reconstruct her speech into something cohesive and harmonious.

Morrison made some brilliant points about language. (My personal favorite was her statement about how language is used to limit and stifle human potential and inteligence.) What I found most interesting about Morrison's ingenuity though was her ability to reaffirm concepts that the subconcious mind may have already figured out. For example, Morrison said, "Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery....". Thus, she takes an elusive and intangible concept and by puting it into words somehow gives it a degree of concreateness. I love that!

However, Morrison's main idea about language being "in our hands" (i.e. we decide how it is used and what it is used for) was muddled by her overextended, far-fetched bird metaphor and her abstract descriptions which seemed to be conjured up out of nowhere. (This is where a genius editor would have been very helpful.) In many ways, Morrison's speech reminded me of a genius off on a tangent. I understood what she was saying but felt confused and frustrated at the way in which she was saying it. I also ended up feeling dissapointed and disheartened because by the end of the speech, instead of feeling inspired and enlightened, I ended up feeling sorry for Morrison that her speech went so badly.

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