NameRotter, Kimberly Rose (author), Singley, Carol J (chair), Blackford, Holly V (co-chair), Rutgers University, Camden Graduate School,
Morrison, Toni. Beloved,
Morrison, Toni--Criticism and interpretation,
Morrison, Toni. Beloved
DescriptionThe emergent term, traumatic fiction describes the extraordinary violence inflicted on individuals and groups during a traumatic twentieth-century history which encompasses two world wars, various genocides, the Great Depression, and the Cold War. Traumatic fiction narratives mirror the neurosis of traumatic experience by distorting conventional narrative structures and using literary techniques like fragmentation, textual gaps, and repetition. They critique the social, economic, and political structures which make and maintain trauma. Traumatic fiction narratives focus on the problems of amnesia and memory in the construction of the historical narrative. It questions a "true" historical narrative by focusing on traditionally suppressed voices. Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved (1987) exemplifies this genre of traumatic fiction. However, critics have confused Toni Morrison's traumatic fiction writing style with music. Critics like Lars Eckstein, Peter J. Capuano, and Joanna Wolfe focus their analysis on Morrison's "jazzthetic" quality or the novel's similarities to a slave song; they also argue that the numerous songs incorporated in the novel make the musical quality of her writing essential to understanding this novel. By focusing on the supposed musical quality of her writing, critics have missed Morrison's political purpose. This paper argues that Beloved shows that the dominant white culture, historically contemptuous of the black experience, defines slavery in ways that create trauma for black Americans. Traumatic fiction, it suggests, allows Morrison to access the past and rewrite slavery's narrative. Traumatic techniques allow Morrison to transform her readers into co-witnesses so that a victim's trauma can be externalized, giving the victims much-needed distance from their trauma. That distance allows victims to revisit, reflect, rework, and retell history from a black perspective in order to transcend shame of slavery imposed by white society. Morrison uses traumatic fiction techniques because they provide a language, unmarked by white discourse, for Morrison to tell a black story of slavery that resists forgetting and silencing. Morrison challenges the seemingly authenticated historical story that upholds individualism in order to create room for a new black cultural memory that highlights community, which is its true story.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Kimberly Rose Rotter
CollectionCamden Graduate School Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.