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The Politics of Memory and Writing: Toni Morrison's Playingin the Dark, Beloved, Nobel Lecture, and "Recitatif."

Miehyeon Kim 1

1아주대학교

Candidate

ABSTRACT

Toni Morrison's novels are involved in a work of mourning Death or loss is prevalent in the world of Morrison's characters, and mourning becomes a driving force or a thematic point of the narratives. The works which try to remember the victims of injustice in slavery, war, or genocide and tell the story of the oppressed past are caught between two commitments: summoning the dead for justice and coming to terms with the loss. As we see in Beloved, mourning is an act of bringing the past into life and Morrison's mourning refuses to attain a sense of closure, which, for Freud, is a sign of healthy mourning. In this sense, Morrison's work of mourning does not follow Freud's distinction between mourning and melancholia. Derrida's concept of specter, which is a threat of the oppressed past and, at the same time, the promise for a just future, is relevant to Morrison's work of mourning. In Playing in the Dark Morrison examines the African American presence as surrogates or shadows for the white characters' search for self and freedom and their drama of repression in the works of white American writers. From this understanding of the critical examination, Morrison sees her job as a black writer as turing the racial other into the racial subject. Resurrecting the dead in Beloved can be part of the project, and it is an investigation for a different future. In this effort to bring the past back into life as a promise for a different future, Morrison also opens room for her readers to participate in her mourning and working for the future. Different from Derrida, who sees the impossible as the only possible chance of something new, Morrison focuses on doable activities in the present to work for a different future. For Morrison, her literary imagination and writing is what makes a change, and she sees that her job as a black writer is also to develop language which helps her to be both free and situated in this racialized world and to refigure the raced community. Removing all the racial codes in her short story, "Recitatif," she shows the possibility of a world not without racial differences but without racial hierarchy. She thinks that for her text and language to live and flourish it must enter into human relationships. With her readers who share her mourning in her work, Morrison works for a different future and a different community.

Citation status

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