“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” Toni Morrison, writer, professor and essayist on issues
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
Toni Morrison, writer, professor and essayist on issues including race, gender and forces of life, won the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Beloved is regarded by many as Morrison’s best work, and once you have spent some time in the text, it is easy to understand why. Morrison works to help the reader grasp the psychological devastation wreaked by the institution of slavery by close observation of a community of ex-slaves creating lives in Ohio in the second half of the 19th century.
This text is meaty and evocative, and also quite difficult to read alone. The work also offers endless possibilities in terms of discussion of the formation of self, claiming of self, mother/child relationships, the fury of love, the permeable boundaries between the living and the not living, as well as the more predictable (but no less provocative) issues of race, gender and role of history.
But what you need to know– along with the history and context which will be provided as part of the Salon–is that the writing is so gorgeous. Morrison tackles the most painful aspects of human experience with an honesty and lyricism that will leave you breathless. If this is your first reading of the book, try not to read around too much until you have read the whole book: many reviews and commentary give away the central traumatic event that Morrison reveals carefully and purposefully in her own time. I think Morrison is very purposeful in the way she tells this story—we will discuss the framing and the narrative progression and her purpose there. You are strongly encouraged to read the whole novel before the study begins– and then we will consider it section by section.
This study is appropriate for first-time readers of Beloved as well as those who have previously read and studied Beloved in the Salon.