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September 25, 2007

Essay and Review of Beloved

Please read the following for Thursdsay.

1. Margaret Atwood's review of Beloved from the New York Times.

2. Claire Cowan-Barbetti's essay, "Transforming the Chain into Story".

Please bring a copy of each to class.

September 17, 2007

Morrison and Beloved: some resources and context

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Dearly Beloved,

How's the reading going? I'll assume you're all deeply buried in the pages even as I write this entry. I want to give you some brief notes on the context of Beloved and point you to some web resources on Morrison and her work.

We were unable to give Frederick Douglass the time he deserves, but we may still discuss him because Beloved is in some ways a neo-slave-narrative. In other words, it shares a genealogy with Douglass's narrative. We'll want to consider the similarities and differences between Douglass's narrative and Morrison's novel.

In class we'll go over the characters, themes, images, settings, and the major plot points. But for now here is some brief contextual information:

There's a lot of info on the web about Morrison and Beloved. Voices from the Gaps, a resource on women writers and artists of color, has a brief bio of Morrison and a list of sources and links. Anniina's Toni Morrison Page offers a collection of essays, criticism, and links dealing with Beloved.

Beloved is based on the story of Margaret Garner, a fugitive slave who, in 1856, after being surrounded by a posse of slave catchers and local authorities, killed her own daughter rather than allowing her to return to a life of slavery.

Of course, Morrison's novel is not an "historical novel." Rather it uses this historical event as a starting point for an exploration of the lasting psychic (and physical) anguish brought by slavery and the way in which slavery's legacy continues to haunt the collective and individual experiences and memories of the victims of slavery through the generations.

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- 1867 painting by Thomas Atter White Noble

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-News clipping taken from rootsweb

The setting for Beloved straddles not only the North and the South (geographically), but also the antebellum and postbellum eras of American history (chronologically). Part of Beloved takes place in 1873, just before the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the Jim Crow era. Slavery was over, but state-sanctioned segregation, terrorism, voting disenfranchisement, economic suppression, and educational inequality still ruled the lives of African Americans, especially in the South. One of the most disturbing methods of post-slavery racial suppression and subjugation was lynching. From 1882-1968 over 4,743 people were lynched, most of them African Americans.

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- picture of the memorial in downtown Duluth, which was unveiled in 2003.

This practice hit home here in Minnesota in 1920 when three black men traveling with the circus were lynched in Duluth on allegations of raping a white woman. As was common, a postcard was made to commemorate the event.

How do we account for these events and practices in the story of the 'good people' that Jefferson started in the Declaration of Independence? Morrison asks some difficult questions about the role of stories and memories in the lives of individuals, communities, and nations. What does she add to the story of the 'good people?' We'll delve into these issues over the next six class periods.


September 03, 2007

Readings for Tues, Sept 11

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For Tuesday, read the following 3 selections. Please bring a printed copy of each with you to class.

1. The Declaration of Independence

2. The Gettysburg Address

3. President Bush Salutes Heroes in New York

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