The Bluest Eye is Toni Morrison’s first novel that treats the life of a young Black girl named Pecola during the early 1940’s. The title refers to the facial features that Pecola has come to associate with whiteness and to desire in the wake of racial discrimination.
Morrison (1984) talks about the kind of engagement the author would like to have with her readers. Yvette (2013) looks at the how we can read Morrison’s novels at the levels of narrative, meta-narrative, and poetic practice.
Criticism on The Bluest Eye has emphasized the uneasy convergence of aesthetics and politics. Cheng (2001) studies how the novel demonstrates the ways in which racial discrimination enacts an education of desire, producing conflicting emotions and creating affective indiscrimination for those subjected to profound social rejection. Cheng (2000) asks the question of what is beauty or what can beauty mean for the unbeautiful. Spillers (2003) examines the historical conditions of the father-daughter incest in narratives of Black families. Taylor (1999) enlarges aesthetics to cultural criticism that looks at the racialist standards of beauty.
More criticism on Toni Morrison and The Bluest Eye can be found here. Simple Justice, a PBS documentary on Brown v. Board of Education, which serves as a historical backdrop for the novel, can be seen can be seen here. (In Brown, the Supreme Court decision cites Clark’s doll experiments, which records Black children choosing white dolls over those of other colors). You may also with to take a look at the photography of Gordon Parks that captures Black life in the 1940s, the setting of The Bluest Eye.
Morrison, Toni. “Memory, Creation, and Writing,” Thought, 59 (December 1984): 385-390.
Christiansë, Yvette. “Introduction.” in Toni Morrison: An Ethical Poetics, 1-27. New York: Fordham University Press, 2013.
The Bluest Eye
Cheng, Anne A. “Melancholic Responses” in The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation and Hidden Grief, 14-20. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001.
Cheng, Anne A. “Wounded Beauty: An Exploratory Essay on Race, Feminism, and the Aesthetic Question.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 19:2 (Fall 2000), 191-217.
Spillers, Hortense. “‘The Permanent Obliquity of an In(Pha)llibly Straight’: In the Time of Daughters and the Fathers,” in Black, White, and in Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, 230-250. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Taylor, Paul C. “Malcolm’s Conk and Danto’s Colors; Or, Four Logical Petitions concerning Race, Beauty, and Aesthetics.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57, no. 1 (1999): 16-20
Additional resources on The Bluest Eye and Toni Morrison’s work
PBS documentary of Richard Kluger’s book, Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality