Joyce Irene Middleton, associate professor of English at East Carolina University, has been invited by the Toni Morrison Society to write a scholarly essay for a festschrift in celebration of Morrison’s 80th birthday.
A festschrift is a book of original contributions, compiled to honor a respected academic teacher and writer during his or her lifetime. Morrison, a Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, will be honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in February 2011, when she will be presented with the festschrift.
In the letter inviting Middleton to contribute a scholarly essay about Morrison for the festschrift, Middleton is referred to as “respected Morrison scholar,” and was asked to submit an essay about Morrison’s contributions to creative writing or influence on literary criticism.
Middleton has published numerous essays and given many presentations at conferences on the topic of Morrison’s writing, including works related to oral memory and literacy in Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and her cinematic, written expression in “Beloved.” Middleton also wrote the inaugural essay for the Toni Morrison Society’s newsletter “Notes and Queries.” Middleton’s essay, “Imagining Paradise,” focused on feminine expression, biblical literacy and feminine subtext in Morrison's seventh novel “Paradise.”
Currently, Middleton writes about significant links between Morrison’s work, images and the cinematic interests of global filmmaking, including Morrison's re-writing of Aesop's fables as children’s books. She is working on a book about film as a rhetorical text and a second book on Morrison's lingering and influential concept of American literary whiteness into the 21st century.
In addition, Middleton serves as the director of the Ethnic Studies Program in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences at ECU. The program launched the campus Ethnic Studies Film Series in spring 2010, which includes films that focus on language diversity. Each fall and spring semester, viewers are able to screen a new list of award-winning films by producers and directors from around the world. As an ethnic studies project, the film series encourages ECU students and academic audiences to think about representations of ethnicity in popular and Hollywood films, in their writing and in their personal experiences.