The “Introduction” reads Thomas Jefferson through Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, which I admit to being an almost impossible task. The criticism on Song of Solomon alone is voluminous; the novel marked a turning point in Morrison’s career, and her emergence coincided with a broader recovery of black and women writers at the time. A generation of scholars consequently have used this novel to apply one’s own critical model. I barely scratch the surface here.

Black BookThe most incisive commentator on Morrison remains Morrison herself, where the author-turned-former-editor at Random House discusses technical aspects of her work and its broader cultural reach; these interviews have the further interest of archiving her emergence from part-time writer to bona fide public force (see Taylor-Guthrie). Although not cited in the “Introduction,” my analysis is informed by Morrison’s influential essay, “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature,” and her short book that expands upon similar themes, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness in the American Literary Imagination.

Nancy J. Peterson (ed.), Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches, based on a special double issue of the journal Modern Fiction Studies, uses Morrison studies as a platform for critical reading in the 1990s. Justine Tally (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison, emphasizes the cultural and political work of Morrison’s writing, and is particularly insightful because of its treatment of projects outside fiction. Critics commonly observe that Morrison’s fiction leads us toward “connective” or “communal” forms of reading. Theodore O. Mason, Jr. discusses Morrison as “cultural conservator” in “The Novelist as Conservator: Stories and Comprehension in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (172). Gay Wilentz likewise maintains that Morrison’s “village literature” establishes productive states of consciousness for black Americans in “Civilizations Underneath: African Heritage as Cultural Discourse in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon” (137). On Morrison as a cultural archivist, and her use of the Flying African, see Julius Lester’s 1969 retelling, “People Who Could Fly,” (in Furman, 21-23); Nada Elia explores Muslim traces in the Flying African, amongst other traditions, in “Kum Buba Yali Kum Buba Tambe, Ameen, Ameen, Ameen: Did Some Flying Africans Bow to Allah?” (See also the bibliographic essay for the Preface.) The process of naming is discussed in Cynthia A. Davis, “Self, Society, and Myth in Toni Morrison’s Fiction”; Keith E. Byerman, “Beyond Realism: The Fictions of Toni Morrison”; and in Marianne Hirsch, “Knowing Their Names: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” Spatial and geographic terms are identified in Melvin Dixon, Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature, and in Susan Willis’s influential essay, “Eruptions of Funk: Historicizing Toni Morrison.”

Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, "A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia"

Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, “A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of Virginia”

The scholarship about Thomas Jefferson vies with that on Morrison (if only because he has been around longer) in terms of breadth, and again, I offer only the briefest survey here. My understandings of Jefferson and republican space draw from the book I discussed with “the historian” at Charlottesville (see my Introduction), From the Fallen Tree: Frontier Narratives, Environmental Politics and the Roots of a National Pastoral; honestly, I have little to add beyond what I said there. On the Jefferson side, I should single out two publications by Peter S. Onuf, Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance, and the collection Jeffersonian Legacies. Editor Julian P. Boyd details the Ohio Ordinances in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (volume 6), although general readers can turn to Merrill D. Peterson’s judicious selection in The Portable Thomas Jefferson. William Peden’s edition of Notes on the State of Virginia should go down in some scholarly Hall of Fame as an exemplum of the definitive text.

My understanding of “vacated” place come from two academic streams: the literary criticism that followed the Columbus Sesquicentennial, and from geographers, who at the same time, drew from poststructuralist and postcolonial theory. Literary critics and early Americanists especially will recognize my debt to Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World; Eric Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan; William Boelhower, “Stories of Foundation, Scenes of Origin”; William C. Spengemann, A New World of Words: Redefining Early American Literature; and Mary Louise Pratt, Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. Scholarship in geography, in addition to those discussed in the “Preface” section, include: Matthew H. Edney, who links cartography and power in “The Irony of Imperial Mapping”; Mark Neocleous, who emphasizes the consolidation of state power through mapping in “Off the Map: On Violence in Cartography”; and Neil Smith and Anne Godlewska, who provide background on the discipline, with examples of mapping and imperialism, in their co-edited collection Geography and Empire. On the cultures of cartography in early America, see especially Martin Brückner, The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy and National Identity, and the collection Early American Cartographies. Andy Doolen restores proper emphasis to space in antebellum writing in Territories of Empire: U.S. Writing from the Louisiana Purchase to Mexican Independence.

My readings of Lewis and Clark (like those on Jefferson) extend little beyond From the Fallen Tree. Chapter Four of the Road Course, “Coyote and the Kid,” actually started out as an essay about the 1804-06 expedition. A bit of backstory. I re-traced the National Parks Service route in 1806, in celebration of 200 years of the party’s return. I used the standard guidebooks: Julie Fanselow’s Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail and Along the Trail with Lewis and Clark, by Barbara Fifer and Vicky Soderberg. On the path of the Corps of Discovery, I routinely came across old guys in motor homes, toting a copy of Stephen E. Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West; they referred to this celebratory biography as simply, “the book.” On this trip, however, I also stumbled onto the Nez Perce/Nee-Me-Poo Trail, and Coyote replaced the white explorers as a vehicle for understanding the landscape. So when I got back home, I obligingly slogged through The Definitive Journals of Lewis & Clark, edited by Gary E. Moulton. I read more of the secondary scholarship.

After many armchair tours, I remain partial to Bernard DeVoto (ed.), The Journals of Lewis and Clark. The expedition’s bicentennial produced a spate of commemorations and reflections, with few moving beyond shallow patriotism, one notable exception being Finding Lewis & Clark: Old Trails, New Directions, edited by James P. Ronda and Nancy Tystad Koupal. But even the most enthusiastic scholars confess to “Lewis and Clark fatigue.” Citing the patriotic film maker Ken Burns, Thomas P. Slaughter labels the expedition “one of the ‘most superficially considered’ stories in American history”; Slaughter himself seems to get a little contract-weary in searching study, Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness. For a welcome departure, see Lewis and Clark: Legacies, Memories, and New Perspectives, edited by Kris Fresonke and Mark Spence, which attends to the culture of commemoration itself. Michelle Burnham suggests new ground, not so much for the famed explorers, but for early western literature, with “Early America and the Revolutionary Pacific.” But all affection for Bernard DeVoto aside, here’s hoping for an end to over-the-mountains literature of Manifest Destiny.

 

Works Cited

Akerman, James R. (ed.). The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire. Chicago: U Chicago P, 2009.

Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Leiws, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Bloom, Harold (ed.). Toni Morrison: Modern Critical Views. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2005.

Boelhower, William. “Stories of Foundation, Scenes of Origin.” American Literary History 5:3 (1993): 391-428.

Byerman, Keith E. “Beyond Realism: The Fictions of Toni Morrison.” In Bloom (ed.), Toni Morrison: Modern Critical Views. 55-84.

Brückner, Martin. The Geographic Revolution in Early America: Maps, Literacy, and National Identity. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina P, 2006.

__________ (ed). Early American Cartographies. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina P, 2012.

Burnham, Michelle. “Early America and the Revolutionary Pacific.” PMLA 128:4 (2013): 953-60.

Cheyfitz, Eric. The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan. New York: Oxford U P, 1991.

Davis, Cynthia. “Self, Society, and Myth in Toni Morrison’s Fiction.” In Bloom (ed.), Toni Morrison: Modern Critical Views. 7-25.

DeVoto, Bernard (ed). The Journals of Lewis and Clark. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1953.

Dixon, Melvin. Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature. Urbana: U Illinois P, 1987.

Doolen, Andy. Territories of Empire: U.S. Writing from the Louisiana Purchase to Mexican Independence. New York: Oxford U P, 2014.

Edney, Matthew H. “The Irony of Imperial Mapping.” In Akerman (ed.), The Imperial Map: Cartography and the Mastery of Empire. 11-45.

Elia, Nadia. “‘Kum Buba Yali Kum Buba Tambe, Ameen, Ameen, Ameen’: Did Some Flying Africans Bow to Allah?” Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters 26:1 (Winter 2003): 182-202.

Fanselow, Julie. Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2003.

Fifer, Barbara and Vicky Soderberg. Along the Trail with Lewis and Clark. Helena, MT: Farcountry, 2001.

Fresonke, Kris and Mark Spence (eds.). Lewis and Clark: Legacies, Memories, and New Perspectives. Berkeley: U California P, 2004.

Furman, Jan (ed.). Toni Morrison: A Casebook. New York: Oxford U P, 2003.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. and K. A. Appiah (eds.). Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. New York: Amistad, 1993.

Godlewska, Anne and Neil Smith (eds.). Geography and Empire. Oxford: Blackwell, 1994.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1991.

Hallock, Thomas. From the Fallen Tree: Frontier Narratives, Environmental Politics and the Roots of a National Pastoral. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina P, 2003.

Hirsch, Marianne. “Knowing Their Names: Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” In Smith (ed.), New Essays on Song of Solomon. Ed. Valerie Smith. 69-92.

Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. Ed. Wlliam Peden. Chapel Hill: U North Carolina P, 1954.

__________ . Papers. Ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton U P, 1950-.

Lester, Julius. “People Who Could Fly” [1969]. In Furman, Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon: A Casebook. 21-23.

Mason, Theodore O., Jr. “The Novelist as Conservator: Stories and Comprehension in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” Reprinted in Bloom (ed.), Toni Morrison: Modern Critical Views. 171-88.

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness in the American Literary Imagination. New York: Vintage, 1989.

__________ . Song of Solomon. New York: Knopf, 1977.

___________ . “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature.” Michigan Review 28:1 (March 1989): 9-34.

Moulton, Gary E. (ed.). The Definitive Journals of Lewis & Clark. Lincoln: U Nebraska P, 2001.

Neocleous, Mark. “Off the Map: On Violence and Cartography.” European Journal of Social Theory 6 (2003): 409-21.

Onuf, Peter S. Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance. Bloomington: Indiana U P, 1992.

Onuf, Peter S. (ed.). Jeffersonian Legacies. Charlottesville: U Virginia P, 1993.

Peterson, Merrill D. The Portable Thomas Jefferson. New York: Penguin, 1975.

Peterson Nancy J. (ed.). Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U P, 1997.

Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Ronda, James P. and Nancy Tystad Koupal (eds.). Finding Lewis & Clark: Old Trails, New Directions. Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society, 2004.

Slaughter, Thomas P. Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness. New York: Knopf, 2003.

Smith Valerie (ed.). New Essays on Song of Solomon. New York: Cambridge U P, 1995.

Spengemann, William C. A New World of Words: Redefining Early American Literature. New Haven: Yale U P, 1994.

Tally, Justine (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison. New York: Cambridge U P, 2007.

Taylor-Guthrie, Danielle (ed.). Conversations with Toni Morrison. Jackson: U P of Mississippi, 1994.

Wilentz, Gay. “Civilizations Underneath: African Heritage as Cultural Discourse in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.” Reprinted in Furman (ed.), Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon: A Casebook. 137-162.

Willis, Susan. “Eruptions of Funk: Historicizing Toni Morrison.” Reprinted in Gates and Appiah (eds.), Toni Morrison: Critical Perspectives Past and Present. 308-29.