Inspired by a photograph taken by James Van Der Zee in 1926 of a dead black girl lying in a decorated coffin, Morrison sets out to write a revisionist history of the Harlem Renaissance, or the Jazz Age, in the 1920s in her sixth novel and the second of her love trilogy, Jazz (1992). And, without mentioning, let alone celebrating, the cultural, artistic, social, and even political events and accomplishments of the Harlem Renaissance, Morrison offers her own revisionist history of Harlem by depicting the experiences and traumas of migrant blacks from the South. But what is so unique about Morrison’s literary historiography of the life of Harlem in Jazz? What are the unspoken aspects of the urban experiences of African Americans in Harlem? What are the similarities and differences between the social life of the blacks of the rural South and that of migrant blacks from the South in the urban North? How do the urban experiences of the migrant blacks contest and destabilize the popular formulations of urban experiences observed and developed by certain white, male theorists? In other words, how does Morrison represent and conceptualize a distinctive form of urban modernity in the region of Harlem of New York in the context of the Northern Migration and Harlem Renaissance?
In light of Jennifer Robinson’s “ordinary-city” approach to urban studies elaborated in her Ordinary Cities: Between Modernity and Development (2006), I argue that Morrison’s vision of urban modernity, derived from her observations of the black migrants of Harlem in the 1920s, differs partially from the understandings of urban modernity of white, middle-class, male theorists, such as Georg Simmel and his followers Robert Park and Louis Wirth. Robinson’s “ordinary city” approach seeks to dislocate understandings of urban modernity from certain western theorizations on such metropolises as Berlin and Paris. Privileging certain western metropolises as the origins and sources of what constitutes the urban modern leads to a hierarchical, ethnocentric evaluation of cities without being able to appreciate and understand the urban phenomena and experiences of diverse social groups in different histories and geographies. The “ordinary city” approach does not dismiss the importance of the observations of the established western, male theorists, but aims to explore the particular form of urban modernity of every city by dislodging the privileged relationship between the West and modernity. Specifically, instead of focusing only on the possibility and development of a unique form of individuality in the urban milieu in the early twentieth century, Morrison in Jazz seeks to demonstrate that, as a racial minority in a white supremacist society, African Americans in Harlem develop a black urban modernity, a dialectical negotiation between individuality and community, which is represented through the narrator’s diverse and contradictory observations of the urban experiences of the blacks and also through the struggles of the protagonists, Violet and Joe, who negotiate not only with the traumatic loss of their own mothers and families in their childhood in the South, but also with the unique kind of urban loneliness as well as their gradual detachment from the black communities both in the South and the City during their urban life in Harlem.
KEYWORDS: Toni Morrison, Jazz (1992), the Harlem Renaissance, urban modernity, urban individuality, community
童妮·摩里森的第六本小說、同時也是愛的三部曲中 的第二部《爵士樂》的創作源起自一張拍攝於一九二六年的 照片。此照片呈現一位躺在裝飾過的棺材中供人瞻仰的黑 人女孩。摩里森受到這張照片的啟發而嘗試重新書寫哈林 文藝復興時期(一般也稱作爵士樂時代)的黑人移民歷史。 然而,《爵士樂》一書中幾乎完全未提及哈林文藝復興時期 黑人在藝術、文化、經濟和政治等方面的成就和發展,反 而著眼於來自美國南方的黑人移民的歷史經驗和創傷。但 《爵士樂》一書中所重新書寫的哈林文藝復興時期的歷史有 何特出之處呢?這本小說又呈現出落腳於哈林區的黑人移 民哪些鮮為人知的都會經驗呢?移民至北方都會的南方黑 人移民與仍居於南方的黑人同胞在社會生活上有何相似和 不同之處?而這些黑人移民的都會經驗又如何挑戰和顛覆 某些白人中產階級男性理論家所觀察和論述的都會經驗 呢?簡單來說,摩里森從一九二零年代哈林區移民黑人的 生活中考掘出甚麼樣獨樹一格的都會現代性?
藉由珍妮佛·羅賓森在其書《一般城市:在現代與發展之間》所揭櫫的「一般城市」概念,本文嘗試論證摩里森 在《爵士樂》一書中所呈現的一九二零年代哈林區移民黑人 的城市現代性如何與白人中產男性理論家,如喬治·西默與 其後繼者羅伯·帕克和路易斯·沃夫所認知與論述的城市 現代性有所出入。羅賓森的「一般城市」概念挑戰城市現代 性總與某些西方大都會劃上等號的預設。將某些西方大都會 的現象和發展視為所謂都會現代性的濫觴和依歸無法真正 理解與體會不同社會脈絡下不同社群的都會經驗和現象,反 而會發展出一套以西方為中心來評價城市發展的階層化概 念。「一般城市」概念並無全盤否定西方白人男性理論家既 有的觀察和論述,而是企圖藉由打破現代性與西方被視為理 所當然的連結來探索不同城市中所發展出的各樣都會現代 性。除了呈現與探索二十世紀初期在都會環境中所發展出的 獨特個人疏離經驗外,摩里森在《爵士樂》一書中更進一步 體現美國黑人作為白人主流社會中的種族弱勢如何在哈林 都會區協商辯證出一種在個人疏離與社群連帶間游移的美 非都會現代性。這種特殊的都會經驗在《爵士樂》一書中不 僅表現在小說敘事者對於哈林都會區多樣且善變的全知觀 察中,也展現在書中兩位男女主角協商南方的幼時種族創 傷、都會疏離經驗與黑人社群連帶關係的過程中。
關鍵詞:童妮·摩里森、《爵士樂》(1992)、哈林文藝復興 時期、都會現代性、都會個人疏離經驗、社群連 帶