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An Introduction to “The Toni Morrison Dataset”

An Introduction to “The Toni Morrison Dataset”

Toni Morrison remains as an invaluable and popular literary icon within the African American and American literary traditions. "The Toni Morrison Dataset" is a collection of bibliographic information (i.e. publication title, publication date, publication decade, author gender) about critical articles, essays, and book chapters published roughly between the 1970s and 2020s on Toni Morrison's fiction. The collection serves as an attempt to account for how the literary criticism produced on Morrison's work has evolved over the past 40 years.

 "The Toni Morrison Dataset" currently contains 641 critical works published on Morrison's novels by scholars across various fields of literary study, as well as philosophy, theology, visual culture studies, and education. Morrison's The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Beloved (1987), and Paradise (1997) have received the most critical attention from scholars over the past few decades. Critics have paired Sula and Beloved together most frequently in their analyses of Morrison's novels.

The dataset also traces gender discrepancies in the critical works published on Morrison's fiction. The data reveals that 445 critical works have been authored by female critics, while only 195 critical works were written by male critics. Both male and female critics produced the most criticism on Morrison during the 2000s; during this decade, 192 works were authored by female critics and 102 by male critics.

The 2000s produced the most criticism on Morrison's novels. From 2000-2009, scholars produced a total of 294 critical works on Morrison. The 2020s show the least amount of critical works produced, which could be explained by the fact that not as many articles have been published on Morrison's fiction in 2020 thus far in comparison to previous decades.

Toni Morrison is a canonical author, but she is often overlooked in terms of identifying how critics and scholars have framed her in relation to her fiction. Morrison's five novels, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Beloved, and Paradise remain as the most frequently analyzed novels amongst critics. While "The Toni Morrison Dataset" does not contain every single critical work published on Morrison between 1970 and 2020, the dataset does provide an entry point for tracing prominent shifts in how critics have approached her novels in their analyses throughout the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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