From the 5 questions below, please select any 3 and provide a thorough answer to each. Each answer must be a minimum of 300 words. They relate to the attached article by Mae Henderson, regarding Toni Morrison’s book Beloved.
Questions for “Remembering the Body”
1. Henderson begins this text with five epigraphs, the first from author Zora Neale Hurston. Morrison acknowledged Hurston as a literary inspiration, and in the context of this article, Hurston acts as a real life example of repressed, untold, or mistold history. How does Hurston’s life and burial, as well as her literary legacy, connect to the ideas in this text, and do you feel Allison Walker’s “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” served as a catalyst for correcting a part of history?
2. On page 85, Henderson states “The action of the novel, however, attends to the novelistic present–a present problematized by an unresolved past and an unanticipated future, a present that the past does not prefigure and the future does not refigure.” How does the ambiguous ending of Beloved grapple with the unanticipated future, or is this better exemplified when looking specifically at the character Beloved throughout the text?
3. While analyzing Sethe’s scar (the chokecherry tree), she notes that Baby Suggs does not speak about the scar, instead “she concentrates on the ritual of healing” (Henderon 87). We see a few other times throughout the novel when ritual is passed down, for example when the women come together to exercise Beloved. Do these acts connect to the phrase “This is not a story to pass on” at the end of the novel (maybe expanding the meaning from passing on stories to passing on something more tangible)? Does this change the way you interpret the phrase? (Henderson gives her own reading of “This is not a story to pass on” at the end of the article. Do you agree with her PASSED ON–not ignored or forgotten reading?)
4. Henderson labels Sethe’s milk being stolen to “A grotesque parody of Madonna and child” and connects the situation to Helene Cixous’s “ecriture feminine” (Henderon 89). Can this idea of “women’s writing” or non-phallocentric language be applied to Toni Morrison as an author, even though her books aren’t explicitly feminist? How do you think Morrison would respond to being called a “woman writer” in this context?
5. The article largely focuses on postmodern themes such as the relationship between the self and the other, what history is, and who is allowed to be a historian. I personally read Beloved as a postmodern novel, but there are many aspects that could also make it a piece of modernist literature (the nonlinearity, the chunks of stream of consciousness, etc). Where do you think Beloved fits? Would the text be received/interpreted differently if it was modernist vs postmodernist? How do the inclusions of religion in the story fit into a modernist/postmodernist reading?
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