To what extent was Morrison influenced by Virginia Woolf and Henry James?

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linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Toni Morrison was greatly influenced by Virginia Woolf, the first indication of which is her master's thesis, which she wrote on the theme of suicide in the works of Woolf and William Faulkner. That influence is most evident in the stream of consciousness technique of writing, which both Woolf and Morrison use.

In a review of the book The Artist as Outsider in the Novels of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf, by Lisa Williams, Jane Marcus sees the connection between the two writers as being the voices for the silenced and the oppressed. Each focuses onĀ isolation: for Woolf, it is the individual isolated by society; for Morrison, it is the victim of racism. Marcus also notes that

While Morrison's female characters are clearly outsiders, they can nevertheless experience a sense of community that Woolf's characters cannot. Woolf's female characters, on the other hand, are often alienated because of their repressed erotic longing for women. Both Morrison and Woolf consider the severe obstacles the female artist must encounter and overcome before she can create art.