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Speaking in Tongues and Dancing DiasporaBlack Women Writing and Performing$
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Mae G. Henderson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195116595

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.001.0001

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Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Chapter:
(p.76) 4 Toni Morrison’s Beloved
Source:
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora
Author(s):

Mae G. Henderson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.003.0005

Writing against the limitations of conventional historiography and nineteenth-century slave narratives, Toni Morrison, in her novel Beloved, addresses the unspoken and unspeakable: the sexual exploitation of black women. The author journeys to a “site of memory,” and through memory and imagination, she reconstructs from the “traces” and “remains” left behind “the unwritten interior life” of her characters. Like the author, her character Sethe must learn to speak the unspeakable in order to transform residual memories (“rememories”) of the past into narrative memory. In order to reclaim herself, Sethe must reconfigure the master’s narrative (and its inscriptions of physical, social, and scholarly dismemberment) into a counter-narrative by way of an act of reconstitutive “re-memory.” Through the fundamentally psychoanalytic process of “remembering, repeating, and working through,” Sethe reconfigures a story of infanticide into a story of motherlove. Private memory becomes the basis for a reconstructed public history, as personal past becomes historical present.

Keywords:   Mae G. Henderson, Toni Morrison, Beloved, Sethe, counter-narrative, “rememory”, motherlove, “remembering, repeating, and working through”, “site of memory, public history, private memory

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