Erik Dussere
Balancing the Books: Faulkner, Morrison, and the Economies of Slavery

New York and London: Routledge, 2003. ix + 161pp.


     Recently we have seen many comparative studies of Faulkner and Toni Morrison. In the introduction of Balancing the Books: Faulkner, Morrison, and the Economies of Slavery, Erik Dussere points out the dangers in the boom that links them without due consideration for the context of Morrison's works. His aim is not to examine only Faulkner's influence on Morrison, but to find "new contexts in which to discuss Faulkner, new strategies for reading Morrison, and new ways of thinking about America's relationship to its own history"(9-10).
     Dussere argues that the theme connecting Faulkner to Morrison is the haunting past, that is to say, slavery. The economics of slavery has devastating forces in the construction of individual subjectivity in their novels. By introducing slavery "as a set of ideological, formal, and historical discourses that are formed by and formulated through economic terms"(13) into his arguments, he tries to seek the crossing point of literature and history to give a new perspective for studying the two fields.
     The first and the second chapter deal with the two writers' attempts to tell the history of slavery not through official and written historical documents such as the ledger in "The Bear" and tombstones in Absalom, Absalom! and Beloved but through various narratives. In the third chapter, Dussere shifts his focus to the difference between the North and the South, which influences their approaches to slavery in Intruder in the Dust and Song of Solomon. Furthermore, he asserts in the fourth chapter that racial prejudice depends upon gendered notion of property in Paradise and Light in August.
     In conclusion, Dussere proves his arguments that Faulkner's works, which focus on white Southern male, acquire the power through the past that tries to consume the present, while centering about white Northern male and black communities, Morrison derives her power from the past that can open the door to the future. He finds that their attempts to rethink the history of discrimination affect their works mutually, and concludes that to examine slavery through them leads to reread and reconstruct the past and to add a new meaning to the memory of slavery.
     As a whole, the first half of this book has only a loose connection with the latter half. Especially in chapter 3 and 4, Dussere does not develop his points fully. For example, chapter 4 needs to make clear the concept of gender, which he claims the ideology of discrimination has a close relation with. Anyway, we can admit this book shows us the crossing point of history and literature and a new direction to the two fields.

Copyright (c)2005 SASAKI Mari