Historical Nightmares and Imaginative Violence in American Women's Writings

Historical Nightmares and Imaginative Violence in American Women's Writings

Historical Nightmares and Imaginative Violence in American Women's Writings

Historical Nightmares and Imaginative Violence in American Women's Writings

Synopsis

Interpreting five contemporary novels that document suppressed histories of violence and abuse, including Toni Morrison's Beloved and Leslie Marmon Silko's Almanac of the Dead, the author then examines the disturbing connections between violence and art.

Excerpt

It seems a bit strange that the words of poets, rather than fiction writers, should provide the epigraphs for a study of fiction about violent revelations, an irony perhaps intensified by the identity of the first poet, a nineteenth- century American woman noted for her privacy. Yet Emily Dickinson Tell all the Truth but tell it slant does offer an apt jumping-off point for a discussion of contemporary American women authors' narrative strategies. Questioning the parameters of privacy for both teller and listener, a significant number of novels written within the past twenty years explore how ignored or suppressed moments of violence catalyze the reclamation of national and personal histories. Additionally, because these narratives are informed by a postmodern impulse, they are also marked by a disruption of received histories and ways of knowing the world. Audre Lorde Coal speaks to the rhetorical and epistemological violence necessarily inherent in such disruption and to the urgency of that reclamation.

Before I can explain the particularities of Dickinson and Lorde's connections to this book, I should clarify a few of its dimensions and limits. What began as a study focusing on contemporary American writing has gradually become a study of challenges to received narrative structures, mainly in terms of gender, nationality, and race. While the specific books I discuss here are all written by U. S. authors, I have become more interested in seeing how these works offer variations on and revisions of what Rosemary Hennessy . . .

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