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Beloved by Toni Morrison
Transcript of Beloved by Toni Morrison
- °1931, Lorain, Ohio
- Née Chloe Wofford
- Writer & professor
- 1993: Nobel Prize Literature
- 1988: Pullitzer Prize for
> inspired by true events:
Beloved, The Film
Morrison, 2004: xv - xix
A presentation about
Thisbe De Rijcke, Guido De Wilde & Lisa Vandenbossche
To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way
- Toni Morrison
January 28, 1856
Robert & Margaret fled to Cincinatti, Ohio
Uncle Joe Kite
- Asked Levi Coffin for help
- Slave catchers found them
- Robert fired a few shots
- Margaret killed 2-year-old daughter
Forced into slavery
- Archibald K. Gaines in Kentucky, found in Louisville
- Slaves deported to Arkansas
March 11, 1856
- The Liberator
- 9-month-old baby drowns
- Margaret & Robert to New Orleans
- Then to Mississipi
- Margaret dies of typhoïd fever
1) Toni Morrison
2) History Behind the Novel
3) Foreword by Morrison
5) Close reading: "enslavement"
6) Close reading: "enslavement as a personal experience"
7) Close reading: "language must get out of the way"
8) Beloved, the Character
"Slave mother murders her child rather than see it returned to slavery"
February 2, 1856 issue of the Anti-Slavery Bugle
"Never marry again in slavery, but to live in hope of freedom."
- “what ‘free’ could possibly mean to women”
- “historically true in essence, but not strictly factual in order to relate her history to contemporary issues about freedom, responsibility, and women’s ‘place’”
- “assume the consequences of choosing infanticide; claim her own freedom.”
- “the figure most central to the story would have to be her, the murdered, not the murderer, the one who lost everything and had no say in any of it.”
- "make the slave experience intimate"
- "the effort to forget would be threatened by memory desperate to stay alive."
- "To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way. "
"To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way"
"To render enslavement
as a personal experience,
language must get out of the way"
-Foreword: varying degrees of intimacy (gender-related experiences of slavery, contemporary notions of freedom approached from a historical perspective, elaboration of a historical events on a personal level)
-Different viewpoints within the story represented by means of different characters
-Different generations: ex-slaves (Sethe , Paul D), but also their children (Denver) who know slavery only through their parents
"To render enslavement as a personal
must get out of the
-Unusual, poetic language use throughout the novel
-Great importance of certain words, especially "Beloved", which has multiple meanings
-Different viewpoints represented by means of personal expressions and ways of talking
-Chapters written from the points of views of Sethe, Denver and Beloved respectively: unusual employment of punctuation, cryptic descriptions of events
How did you interpret the character
What struck you about Morrison's language use?
Close readings: enslavement,
personal experience and language
- personal aspect
- language use
as a personal experience, language must get out of the way"
"To render enslavement as
, language must get out of the
-Different sexes: female (Sethe, Denver, Beloved) and male (Paul D, Halle, Sixo, ...)
-Particular belief systems connected to slavery
-Possibly, even slavery’s influence on a dead individual is shown
-Various flashbacks concerning the lives of slaves: the violation of Sethe, Paul D’s experiences in a chain gang, Denver’s birth…
-Slavery in the traditional sense of
-Sethe's enslavement before the
onset of the story, represented
-Paul D: memories of his
experiences as a slave (the chain gang)
-Paul A, Sixo: deceased during an
attempt to escape slavery
-Slavery in the symbolical sense of
the word: something that restrains
(any form) of liberty
-Sethe: enslaved by traumatic memories
-Paul D: also enslaved by traumatic memories
-Denver: enslaved by the experiences of
her mother (and her grandmother), which cause her to fear the outside world and
keep her from leaving 124)
Beloved, the Character
-Language as a theme/ motif:
the headstone, Beloved's limited language capabilities
-Language as a means of representing particular belief systems
-Language as a means of retaining or escaping the past: "rememory", "disremember"
1) What did you find special about Morrison's language use in the novel?
2) How did you interpret the character of Beloved? Is she a ghost? A real girl? Or a symbol of the past haunting the present?
Stands for the personal experience
Limited language capability
Different representations = Different personal experiences
As a real person
- Locked up
- Elizabeth E. House: mistaken identity?
Personal experience = missing family
- Limited lingual ability
- Name baby's tombstone
- Newly born
Personal experience = murder
- Memories of passage (Africa to America)
- Manner of speaking and perpetual smile
- Switched places
Personal experience = passage from Africa to America
- Beloved = collective of personal experiences
- Personal reaches universal
- Allegorical figure
- Past returned to haunt the present
Opera Libretto, 2007, New York production
"To render enslavement as a personal experience, language must get out of the way."
- Language - Fact - Fiction
- "Novel": fiction + fact
- Beloved: fiction or fact?