Toni Morrison's Beloved: Origins

Toni Morrison's Beloved: Origins

Toni Morrison's Beloved: Origins

Toni Morrison's Beloved: Origins


This work expands the scope of Morrison's project to examine the ways and means of memory in the preservation of belief systems passed down from the earliest civilizations (both the Classical Greek and the Ancient Egyptian) as a challenge to the sterility of modernity. Moreover, this research explores the author's specific use of Foucauldian theory as a vehicle for her narrative, which reclaims the very origins of civilization's primal concerns with life, procreation and regeneration, springing from the very Heart of Africa. Despite the weight of "white" authority and the disparaging of "blackness," Beloved's multiple "ghosts" conjure up a legacy so potent that no authoritarian discourse has been able to entirely erase it, a legacy that still speaks to us from a heritage we no longer acknowledge yet that nevertheless remains, and sustains us.


You work with one facet of a prism, you know, just one side, or maybe
this side, and it has millions of sides, and then you read a book and
there is somebody who is a black woman who has this sensibility
and this power and this talent and she’s over here writing about that
side of this huge sort of diamond thing that I see, and then you read
another book and somebody has written about another side. And you
know that eventually that whole thing will be lit—all of these planes
and all of the facets. But it’s all one diamond, it’s all one diamond.
[…] This fantastic jewel that throws back light constantly and is
constantly changing because even the face that I may have cleaned or
cleared or dealt with will change.

—Toni Morrison

“A Conversation: Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison”

Like a seemingly endless palimpsest, the breadth and depth of Morrison’s Beloved continues to fascinate. Winner of the New York Times’ survey of notable members of the literati for the best book written in the last 25 years (May 2006), its interpretative possibilities have generated literally reams of paper, testimony to both its popular and political appeal. So now I feel I must deal with the skeptics: what new framework concerning this particular novel could possibly be so innovative as to warrant an entire (or, I hope, entirely) new book? With what kind of arrogance can a literary critic insist that this contribution to the already copious Morrisonia is really worth the effort? The answer is found in the author herself, bearer of life and interrogator of our philosophical givens, who provides more questions than answers, more problems than easy solutions, issuing challenges not only to our emotions but even more especially to our intellect. A difficult work, this novel, but one whose intricacy and cohesion call for precisely the seriousness of intent and the richness of interpretative hermeneutics that the writer demands.

But it is exciting, too. More than a work of criticism, this research has turned into an adventure taking place literally (and literarily) over three continents and thousands of years. When Beloved says “all of it is now,” we not only hear Faulknerian tones of the living presence of the past, but . . .

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