Skip navigation

Reading Toni Morrison, Beloved

Reading Toni Morrison, Beloved

Baillie, Justine ORCID: 0000-0002-0056-9155 (2015) Reading Toni Morrison, Beloved. In: Reading Toni Morrison's Beloved: First Lecture of the Bank of America's Cultural Program, June 2015, Bank of America Head Office, Holborn, London with satellite link to Bank of America Headquarters in South Carolina, USA.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)


In this keynote lecture for the first event of the Bank of America's cultural program, Holborn London, with a live satellite link to Bank of America in South Carolina, Baillie regards Beloved as more than the embodiment of Sethe’s murdered daughter. Her memory extends backwards beyond her birth in Kentucky to the slave hold of the Middle Passage and it becomes clear that she is a figure for the eruption of a repressed, collective memory, one of the ‘Sixty Million and more’ of Morrison’s dedication. The violence of this eruption is duplicated in the first two sentences of the novel, ‘124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom’, and Morrison forces the reader into a traumatic space - not, this time, the hold of a slave ship, but a house in which the original trauma is repeated. Without warning, we are thrown into confusion and propelled, even if subliminally, back into the slave hold; here, the structure of the original trauma repeats as memory and operates without Morrison needing to revisit the actual events of the Middle Passage. In Morrison’s own analysis of the opening sentences of Beloved she writes: ‘The reader is snatched, yanked, thrown into an environment completely foreign, and I want it as the first stroke of the shared experience that might be possible between the reader and the novel’s population. Snatched just as the slaves were from one place to another, from any place to another, without preparation and without defense.’ (Morrison, ‘Unspeakable Things Unspoken’, p.228). In effect, Morrison is addressing the question of the unrepresentable and of how the terror of the Middle Passage can be received in the imagination of the reader.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Keynote)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Slavery, trauma, motherhood, gothic
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences > School of Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS)
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2017 12:25

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item