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Belschner says Morrison’s works ‘are needed more than ever’

Barry McNamara
Toni Morrison receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – The voice and writings of Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison are more vital than ever.

That’s the assessment of Monmouth College English professor Marlo Belschner, who wrote her master’s degree thesis on Morrison.

Morrison died Monday at the age of 88.

“It is a great loss at a time when intellectuals like Morrison are needed more than ever,” said Belschner, who joined Monmouth’s faculty in 2002 and completed her master’s and doctoral degrees at Southern Illinois University.

Belschner said Morrison’s voice brought an increased understanding of racial issues.

“Great literature is really a philosophy of the world, and Morrison’s works certainly present an insightful philosophy,” said Belschner. “Her amazing talent in portraying the African-American gaze helps her readers to understand more about the world that we all inhabit.”

Belschner said a particular strength of Morrison’s writing was in creating rich, vivid characters.

“Toni Morrison understood the often contradictory impulses and desires that propel us through life, and her characters often feel more fully-fleshed than even those we actually know,” she said.

Morrison received the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award for her 1987 book Beloved and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Three years later, she was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. In 2012, Morrison received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Although Beloved was adapted into a 1998 movie starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover and is what Belschner calls Morrison’s “best-known work,” the Monmouth faculty member has another favorite.

Paradise is her most powerful novel – beautiful and painful,” she said of the 1997 work. “Toni Morrison was a speaker of truths, and the world is less known and less magical without her.”