Thesis Title

Images of Change: Language and Power in the Works of Toni Morrison

Date of Graduation

Fall 2004


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

James Jones


Toni Morrison has identified, as one of her projects, the question of what societal forces make intellectual domination possible, and how this domination can be transformed into personal revelation and choice. Many of her fictional characters undergo a transformation from intellectual domination to personal revelation that is both enabled and signified by the characters' language usage, and thereby suggests that Morrison considers language to be a primary societal force contributing to intellectual domination, as well as an important tool for transforming this intellectual domination into revelation and choice. In The Bluest Eye and Jazz, Morrison illustrates the kinds of language usage that maintain intellectual domination, as well as possible ways in which language can transform this domination into revelation, and this is discussed using linguistic terminology and theory. Beloved and Paradise illustrate a similar language usage, but emphasize the wider societal intellectual domination that this language maintains, as well as the wider community revelation that transformed language makes possible, and this discussion includes feminist theory. Morrison endows language with the power to transform the hierarchical systems of opperssion currently operating in society, so that her language usage is politically charged, providing a possible map for the dismantling of these systems of oppression and their replacement with egalitarian systems, attitudes, and ways of being.


Toni Morrison, language, hierarchy, revelation, transformation, power

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


© Laura L. Taylor