Authors Ta-Nehisi Coates, Tayari Jones and Edwidge Danticat and U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo will join scholars from around the country to celebrate Toni Morrison M.A. ’55, as Cornell University’s College of Arts & Sciences hosts a livestreamed reading of her first novel, “The Bluest Eye.”

The Oct. 8 livestream will include more than 80 other readers in a full reading of the novel on the 50th anniversary of its publication. Participants will also hear portions of the book read in French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and be livestreamed on eCornell, as well as on Facebook. It is free and open to the public and people are encouraged to listen to the entire reading or join in at any point during the day.

“We are delighted to host these events to celebrate the life and works of Toni Morrison, whose words ring as insightful and illuminating today as they did 50 years ago,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts & Sciences. “We are also thrilled that so many noted authors and scholars are taking part in our reading – we hope it will stimulate renewed interest in Morrison’s work among a new generation of students and the broader community.”

“The Bluest Eye” reading is the fourth event in the College of Arts & Sciences’ Arts Unplugged series, which brings artistic, scientific and creative works into the public sphere for discussion and inspiration. 

The reading is the first in a yearlong series of events, Cornell Celebrates Toni Morrison. Others include:

  • Oct. 15, 4:30-5:30 p.m., Toni Morrison Teach-In. Cornell faculty will discuss Morrison’s work and her impact, then participate in a live Q&A with the audience during this online event. Pre-recorded talks will be available on the Arts Unplugged website by Oct. 8.
  • A new one-credit fall course, English 2602 “The Bluest Eye at 50.” 
  • Feb. 18, 2021, 4:30-6 p.m., Roundtable Discussion with Morrison Scholars

This event will coincide with Toni Morrison’s 90th birthday. Scholars from around the world will discuss Morrison’s literary legacy and her scholarly work. This event will be livestreamed.

  • Spring 2021, time and date TBA, “The Bluest Eye” play reading, of Lydia Diamond’s adaptation at the Schwartz Center.
  • Reading groups on campus and at community locations. Details about book choice, times and locations TBA.
  • A Toni Morrison exhibit at Olin Library, Fall 2020-Spring 2021, including photos, videos and copies of Morrison’s works in multiple languages.
  • Toni Morrison quilting project, with contributions from multiple quilters from across the country. Details TBA.
  • “The Pieces I Am” film screening, place and date TBA.

“Toni Morrison was a global literary icon produced in part by Cornell University and therefore a continuing member of our extended family even after her passing,” said Carole Boyce Davies, Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters and professor of Africana studies and English, who is one of the faculty members planning the events. 

Morrison earned a B.S. in English in 1953 at Howard University and a master’s degree in American literature in 1955 at Cornell. An A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell from 1997 to 2003, Morrison returned to the Ithaca campus numerous times over the years. She was the Robert F. Goheen Professor Emerita of the Humanities at Princeton, where she taught from 1989 to 2006. 

She wrote 11 novels that explored and illuminated the black American experience, including “Beloved,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, and “Song of Solomon,” which received a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977. In 1993, Morrison became the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Register now to attend “The Bluest Eye” event. For more information on all of the Cornell Celebrates Toni Morrison events, visit the Arts Unplugged website. Please note that “The Bluest Eye” will be read in its entirety and includes racially-charged language and scenes of sexual violence.