Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Identity, Difference and Healing: Reading Beloved within the Context of John Caputo's Theory of hermeneutics/Identiteit, Verskil En Heling/heelwording: Belovedgelees Binne Die Konteks Van John Caputo Se Teorie Oor Hermeneutiek

Academic journal article Literator: Journal of Literary Criticism, comparative linguistics and literary studies

Identity, Difference and Healing: Reading Beloved within the Context of John Caputo's Theory of hermeneutics/Identiteit, Verskil En Heling/heelwording: Belovedgelees Binne Die Konteks Van John Caputo Se Teorie Oor Hermeneutiek

Article excerpt

Abstract

John Caputo's interest in the human struggle towards healing/wholing is obvious in his contribution on the work of Foucault: "On not knowing who we are: Madness, hermeneutics, and the night of truth in Foucault" (Caputo, 1993:233-262). While basing his reading of madness as a form of human suffering on the work of Foucault, Caputo moves beyond Foucaultian theory--"in a direction that, while it was not taken by Foucault, is perhaps suggested by him" (Caputo, 1993:234)--by envisioning a hermeneutics of response and redress and a therapeutics of "healing gestures" (Caputo, 1993:234). In this article we investigate the applicability of Caputo's theory of progressive Foucaultian hermeneutics to Toni Morrison's "Beloved", a work of historical fiction. (Morrison is an African-American author and Nobel laureate.) We do this investigation by reading the novel's three major characters (Sethe, Beloved and Denver) as symbolic representations of Caputo's three kinds of hermeneutics, of which the third, represented by the character Denver, is constitutive of a therapeutics of healing.

Opsomming

John Caputo se belangstelling in heling en/of heelwording is duidelik in sy artikel oor die werk van Foucault; "On not knowing who we are: Madness, hermeneutics, and the night of truth in Foucault" (Caputo, 1993:233-262). Caputo onderskryf Foucault se siening as hy waansin/geestelike versteurdheid/nie-redelikheid interpreteer as 'n vorm van menslike lyding. Hy voer die argument egter verder as Foucault--en wel in 'n rigting wat Foucault dalk nie self ingeslaan het nie, maar wat moontlik deur hom gesuggereer is (Caputo, 1993:234). Caputo stel naamlik 'n hermeneutiek van respons en herstel voor, asook 'n terapie wat hy baseer op "helende gebare" (Caputo, 1993:234). In hierdie artikel ondersoek ons die toepaslikheid van Caputo se teorie van 'n voortgaande Foucaultiaanse hermeneutiek op Toni Morrison se historiese roman "Beloved". (Morrison is 'n Afro-Amerikaanse skrywer en Nobelpryswenner vir letterkunde.) Ons ondersoek hierdie moontlikheid deur die roman se drie hoofkarakters--Sethe, Beloved en Denver--te lees as simboliese uitbeeldings van Caputo se drie tipes hermeneutiek. Ons konsentreer veral op Denver as verteenwoordigend van Caputo se derde tipe hermeneutiek en as verteenwoordigend van sy voorgestelde helingsterapie.

1. Contextualising Beloved

Beloved contributes, as do all Toni Morrison's other texts, to the project of postcolonial excavation and reconstruction of marginalised identities and histories. Set in America during the height of the slave system and post-abolition reconstruction, Beloved actively interrogates and subverts the oppressive socio-economic and sociocultural traditions of slavery and patriarchy and their painful effects on African Americans. As a "neoslave narrative" (Kella, 2000:115) Beloved's reconstitution and representation of the painful history of America speaks not of hegemonic master narratives but of smaller, personal stories and individual histories which microscopically reflect the suffering, survival and healing of African-American individuals and communities.

Morrison has said that she writes "about love and ... how to survive whole in a world where we are all of us, in some measure, victims of something" (see Joyner, 1980:243-247). Her novels build on themes that speak of racially, culturally and gender-specific experiences, yet they simultaneously transcend narrative specificity to touch on the greater human themes of community, history, memory, "self-love and self-worth" (Bjork, 1992:29), love of others and surviving in a divided world. While the pain and suffering of women form the specific context within which Morrison locates her narrative, Beloved is not merely a representation of female pain and suffering, it is also a "healing ritual" (Christian, 1993), a "fixing ceremony" (Morrison, 1988:86) and a "creative engagement" with healing practices (Martin, 1996:104). …

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