FAU English department hosts Toni Morrison symposium

Last week, over 50 people discussed the works of the late Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison.

The English department held a symposium in honor of Toni Morrison last week. Photo courtesy of FAU

The English department held a symposium in honor of Toni Morrison last week. Photo courtesy of FAU

Darlene Antoine, Contributing Writer

Toni Morrison was considered a literary revolutionary by many — especially by the around 50 people that attended a symposium held in honor at the Student Union on Friday afternoon. 

The author passed away on Aug. 5, 2019 at 88 years old. Morrison was an icon in the literary community, as her works are best known for exploring unconventional themes surrounding the black experience. 

“As I reflect on what Toni Morrison meant to me, as a 14-year-old girl reading her book for the first time, as an undergrad in a class called The Art of Toni Morrison, as a mother reading her children book, as a black woman, I’m afraid I am still at a loss for words,” said Associate Professor of English Sika Dagbovie-Mullins. “So I’m particularly thrilled that we have the opportunity today to reflect upon her work and continue to think about what her work means to us today.” 

FAU’s Department of English and the America’s Initiative explored the literary work of Morrison, a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, editor and professor. The event ignited discussion on the significance of Morrison’s work from transnational perspectives of students, faculty, and panelists alike. 

“This was such a wonderful opportunity to hear from scholars and artists about Toni Morrison as someone who’s life and thought inspired their sense of who they are in the afterlife of slavery,” said Shelby Johnson, a professor of Early American Literature. “Black people have a way to know themselves through Morrison’s worlds.” 

The work of Toni Morrison touched even reached President Barack Obama, who Tweeted this when she passed: “Toni Morrison was a national treasure, as good a storyteller, as captivating, in person as she was on the page. Her writing was a beautiful, meaningful challenge to our conscience and our moral imagination. What a gift to breathe the same air as her, if only for a while.”

Assorted pastries and breakfast items were served aside refreshments in the Majestic Palm Room for the event. Along with food, discussions and discourse, the symposium presented several guest speakers to talk about the significance of Morrison and her work in their lives. 

The panelists were Yogita Goyal, professor of English and African American Studies at UCLA,  Anne Margaret Castro from FIU, Jafari Sinclaire Allen from University of Miami, and Nelly Rosario from Williams College.

“It’s inspiring to see how one woman can be so influential in so many different disciplines. Literature can be so universal, every discipline is trying to examine the same issue of humanity, just from different lenses,” said Estefania Abbate, vice president of FAU’s Generation Action chapter. “Morrison’s work pushes others to examine their own lives, and dig deeper into the processes that form and create our identity.”

Darlene Antoine is a contributing writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected].