Humor and Ambivalence in the Novels of Toni Morrison


  • Silvia Chirilă



Rarely can one find pure comedy in Toni Morrison’s novels, as humor is usually either part of a double discourse in which traumatic experiences are “confronted“ through a game of perspective, or a means of emphasizing a tragically flavored situation through situating it in a context open to ambivalence. If personal or collective tragedy cannot be eliminated, at least it can be counteracted, just as power relations can be influenced through humor. Apart from being a way of diminishing the tension of trauma or oppression, humor implies freedom of thought and interpretation even when dominant ideologies and discourses aim at enforcing specific institutionalized representations and definitions of self and other. At the same time, in Toni Morrison’s novels “the comic twist“ is represented as a way of displacement and a form of empowerment or healing for African Americans, even when it has to do with self-deprecation or self-irony, as pain becomes laughter and “a litany of humiliation, outrage and anger turned sickle-like back to themselves as humor“ (Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon“).

Author Biography

Silvia Chirilă

Since 2009 I have been a PhD student in the Department of English and American Studies of Humboldt University in Berlin, working on a thesis entitled "Between the Double and the Shadow: Paradox and Tension in the Novels of Toni Morrison." I graduated from Al. I. Cuza University, Iasi, with an English major in 2004 and I completed a MA degree in American Cultural Studies in the same institution in 2007. My academic background also includes teaching at the Faculty of Communication Sciences of Petre Andrei University, Iasi, from 2005 to 2008 (subjects taught: English, Theory of Communication, Discourse Analysis and Rhetoric). My major research interests are African American Literature, Cultural Studies, Gender Issues, Psychology and Psychoanalysis, Cognitive Sciences, Identity Matters, and Narratology and Fiction Theory.




How to Cite

Chirilă, Silvia. “Humor and Ambivalence in the Novels of Toni Morrison”. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, vol. 13, May 2012, doi:10.5283/copas.55.