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Toni Morrison’s Beloved: A Tragedy of Revenge and Reparation

  • Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter engages the full spectrum of tragedy theory in arguing for a view of Morrison’s Beloved as a formal tragedy, a generic translation of fiction and tragedy thus a “novel-tragedy” in Kliger’s phrasing. Much scholarship on this novel uses analytic frames from gender and women’s studies, the feminist trope of the body, race in its connections with historical slavery, motherhood and maternal matters, as well as history and the status of the novel as against that question. Few take up the specific matter of reparations, still fewer the politics of genre, craft, and form. From the massive response to this significant text, important here are scholarly treatments addressing the form of the novel and the specter of reparations in it, as well as those concerned with legal matters and intertextual valences in Beloved. In this reading, the character Beloved is the core around which the novel orbits. She is positioned as a postmodern, new-American version of the Greek mythological Erinyes; the title character’s true function regards vengeance and the reparation of past injuries. This chapter argues, ultimately, that the novel’s first concern is justice and its chief aim is to serve as clarion call for material—and not merely symbolic—reparations for slavery.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishThe City University of New York, Kingsborough Community CollegeNew York CityUSA

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