In 2012, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison took the stage in Sanders Theatre and spoke to a rapt audience about goodness, altruism, and the literary imagination.
On that same stage Thursday afternoon, Harvard Divinity School (HDS) paid homage to Morrison, who passed away in August.
Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at HDS, who knew Morrison as both a friend and colleague, gave the keynote address during “Toni Morrison Stories: Goodness and Mercy and Mexico.” He spoke of Morrison’s quest to confront the evils of racism and place goodness and mercy at the heart of her writings and teachings.
Through five stories of Morrison, Carrasco shared five lessons: she was a reader before and while she was a writer; racism is a cosmology that is programmed into people through practice; her imagination was open to crossing borders; she wrote out of joy and responsibility — especially to black women; and goodness and mercy were in her writings.
Carrasco recounted the stages of Morrison’s interest in exploring the racial unconsciousness in American thought and literature, especially in the writings of Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ernest Hemingway. He explained that Morrison appealed to students to read more widely and deeply, something she not only preached, but practiced.
“During all the years she was a writer she read social history, art history, literary method, political theory, history of religion, anthropology, and feminism,” he said. “Her multidisciplinary reading meant she was never a static author, never writing the slight variation on the same theme again and again.”
Punctuating Carrasco’s stories of Morrison were clips from the film “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” which was released earlier this year.