The Alien City Chronotope within the Scope of Toni Morrison’s Jazz

Ekaterina Chernetsova, Elizaveta Maslova


The research observes the representation of the alien city chronotope in Jazz (1992) by a contemporary American writer Toni Morrison. The narration of the novel occurs in Harlem (New York) in the 1920-s, however, because most characters’ identities originate in the mid-19th-century American South, time and space frames extend. Focusing on the city space in the novel Jazz we regard the city as a social and cultural phenomenon of America, an independent live character that enters into a dialogue with the novel’s protagonists and, at the same time, contributes to their alienation within its frames. Harlem of 1920s functions not only as sociohistorical background but also as a unique narrator that relates the urban experience of African-Americans. We deduce that the chronotope exhibited in the novel in question combines several places and embodies narration about protagonists’ roots, their original habitat and a new conflicting environment that both attracts and repels them. The intrinsic ties of time and space in the literary work discussed in the article are presented on the level of the city, which represents alien and fragmentized reality. Thus we are convinced that the alien city chronotope in the novel is shaped by the opposition of ethnic and cultural identities of characters within their changing world. The characters’ illusions and aspirations are guided by the dubious and forceful voice of the city and none of the protagonists is able to escape the traumatic labyrinth of time and space tracing their memory.


Keywords:  chronotope; city space; alien; identity; novel

Full Text:



Alexander, L. (2007). Storytelling in Time and Space: Studies in the Chronotope and Narrative Logic on Screen. Journal of Narrative Theory. Vol. 37(1), 27-64.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1994). Problems of Dostoyevsky Poetics. C. Emerson (Ed. and trans.). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The Dialogic Imagination. M. Holquist (Ed.). C. Emerson, M. Holquist (trans.). Austin: The Univesity of Texas Press.

Best, J. (1994). The Chronotope and the Generation of Meaning in Novels and Paintings. Criticism. Vol. 2, 291-316.

Chadwick-Joshua, J. (1995). Metonymy and Synecdoche: The Rhetoric of the City in Toni Morrison's Jazz. In Yoshinobu Hakutani & Robert Butler (Eds.), The City in African-American Literature (pp. 168-180). Cranbury:

Associated University Press.

Connon, D. (2010). Subjects Not-at-Home: Forms of the Uncanny in the Contemporary French Novel. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B.V.

Crichfield, G. (1991). Bakhtin’s Chronotope and the Fantastic: Gautier’s “Jettatura” and “Arria Marcella”. Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Vol. 4(3), 25-39.

Dick, H. P. (2010). Imagined lives and modernist chronotopes in Mexican nonmigrant discourse. American Ethnologist. Vol. 37(2), 275-290.

Eckhard, P. (2011). Chronotopes of the Uncanny Time and Space in Postmodern New York Novels. Berlin: Transcript-Verlag.

Emerson, C. (1994). Getting Bakhtin, Right and Left. Comparative Literature. Vol. 46(3), 288-303.

Falconer, R. (1997) Bakhtin, Milton and the Epic Chronotope. In Adlam C., Falconer R., Makhlin V., Renfrew A. (Eds) Face to Face: Bakhtin

Studies in Russia and the West (254-272). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.

Folks, J.J. (1999). Language and cultural authority in Toni Morrison’s Jazz. Journal of Literary Studies. Vol. 15(1&2), 146-159.

Frank, J. (1945). Spatial Form in Modern Literature: An Essay in Three Parts. Sewanee Review. Vol. 53(4), 643-653.

Hassan, M. A., Raihanah, M. M. & Hashim, R. S. (2017) Muslim Revert Narrative and American Gaze Post 9/11 in Jamilah Kolocotronis' Rebounding. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language

Studies. Vol. 23(3), 133-146.

Hitchcock, P. (2016). Novelization and serialization: Or, forms of time otherwise. Bakhtiniana. Vol. 11(1), 187-207.

Holquist, M. (1990). Dialogism: Bakhtin and His World. London: Routledge.

Horowitz, I. L. (1966). On Alienation and the Social Order. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Vol. 27(2), 230–237.

Lefebvre H. (2003). Henri Lefebvre: Key Writings. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Leise, C. (2017). The story upon a hill: The puritan myth in contemporary American Fiction. Alabama: University of Alabama press.

Liet van der, H. (1994). “Haven’t You Heard…”: Speech and Chronotope in Peer Hultberg’s Novel “Byen og Verden”. Scandinavian Studies. Vol. 71(2), 207-220.

Morgan, D. (1996). Andrew Sukhanski’s “Wood Mountain Time” and the Chronotope of Multiculturalism. Mosaic: In Interdisciplinary Critical Journal. Vol. 29(3), 35-51.

Morrison, T. (2004). Jazz. London: Vintage.

Morrison, T. (1981). City. Limits, Village. Values: Concepts of the Neighborhood in Black Fiction. In Michael C. Jaye an Ann Chalmers Watts (Eds.), Literature and the American Urban Experience: Essays on the City and Literature (pp. 35-43). New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Morson, G. S. (1991) Bakhtin, Genres and Temporality. New Literary History. Vol. 22(4), 1071-1092.

Morson, G. S., Emerson, C. (1990). Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Osovsky O. Y. (2017). Big Time for Ideas: M. M. Bakhtin’s Mentality Through the Lense of Modernity. Russian Literature. Vol. 1, 252-253.

Osovsky O. Y. (2018). The Destinies of Meta-Criticism in the Era of Mega-Crisis. Social Sciences: A Quarterly Journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Vol. 49(2), 132-143.

Paquet-Deyris, A. (2001). Toni Morrison's Jazz and the City. African American Review. Vol. 35(2), 219-231.

Pattison, D. (2017). Building Intimacy: The Erotic Architectures of Toni Morrison’s Jazz. Critique - Studies in Contemporary Fiction. Vol. 58(2), 129-145.

Sartre, J-P. (1955). Camus’ The Outsider. Literary and Philosophical Essays. Vol. 1, 26–44

Schappell, E. (2008). Toni Morrison: The Art of Fiction. In Carolyn C. Denard (Ed.), Toni Morrison: Conversations (pp. 62-90). – Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Simmel, G. (1903) “Metropolis and mental life.” Wolff K. (Ed.) Sociology of Georg Simmel. Chicago: Free Press, 1950.

Stave, A. Sh. (2007). Jazz and Paradise: Pivotal Moments in Black History. In Justine Tally (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Toni Morrison (pp. 59-74). N.Y.: Cambridge University Press.

Tönnies, F. (1963). Community and Society. NY: Harper and Row.

Taylor-Guthrie, D. (1994). Conversations with Toni Morrison. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Weber, M. (1922). Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.




eISSN : 2550-2247

ISSN : 0128-5157