1st Edition

Objects and Intertexts in Toni Morrison’s "Beloved" The Case for Reparations

By Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem Copyright 2021
    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    280 Pages
    by Routledge

    Objects and Intertexts in Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”: The Case for Reparations is an inspired contribution to the scholarship on one of the most influential American novels and novelists. The author positions this contemporary classic as a meditation on historical justice and re-comprehends it as both a formal tragedy— a generic translation of fiction and tragedy or a “novel-tragedy” (Kliger)—and a novel of objects. Its many things—literary, conceptual, linguistic— are viewed as vessels carrying the (hi)story and the political concerns. From this, a third conclusion is drawn: Fadem argues for a view of Beloved as a case for reparations. That status is founded on two outstanding object lessons: the character of Beloved as embodiment of the subject-object relations defining the slave state and the grammatical object “weather” in the sentence “The rest is…” on the novel’s final page. This intertextual reference places Beloved in a comparative link with Hamlet and Oresteia. Fadem’s research is meticulous in engaging the full spectrum of tragedy theory, much critical theory, and a full swathe of scholarship on the novel. Few critics take up the matter of reparations, still fewer the politics of genre, craft, and form. This scholar posits Morrison’s tragedy as constituting a searing critique of modernity, as composed through meaningful intertextualities and as crafted by profound “thingly” objects (Brown). Altogether, Fadem has divined a fascinating singular treatment of Beloved exploring the connections between form and craft together with critical historical and political implications. The book argues, finally, that this novel’s first concern is justice, and its chief aim to serve as a clarion call for material— and not merely symbolic—reparations.


    This book is freely available to read at https://taylorandfrancis.com/socialjustice/?c=language-literature-arts#

    Acknowledgments xiii
    Foreword: Too Many, Too Quiet, Too Long;
    or, “Anything is better than the silence”

    1 Remembering Is Not Forgetting; or, History Is in the
    Texts of It [The Form of Beloved] 1

    2 Tragedy and Its Props; or, History Is in the Things
    of It [The Craft of Beloved] 33

    3 Literary Memory and the Amnesiac Nation; or,
    “The rest is weather” [Object Lesson, I] 73

    4 Bodies [sic] Matter; or, “Certainly no clamor for a
    kiss” [Object Lesson, II] 110

    5 The Powers of Intertextuality, the Specter of
    Reparations; or, Three Tragedies and a Critique of
    the American Slave State [The Object of Beloved] 151

    Afterword: First Things, Lost Things; or,
    The Purloined Name and the Necessity of
    (Postcolonial) Failure 188

    Coda: Impossible Things; or, “I’ve had enough of
    shitty news” 202

    Bibliography 231
    Index 243


    Maureen E. Ruprecht Fadem completed her Ph.D. in English at The Graduate Center of CUNY. She is Associate Professor of English at CUNY/Kingsborough and Affiliate Professor of Arts and Letters in Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies. Maureen’s research is on Anglophone writing of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries with specializations in Irish, Asian, and African American literatures. Her research fields include Irish studies, Partition studies, and Postcolonial Studies; within those areas she looks at questions of reparations, of literary poetics, and of race, gender, and class. Maureen’s first book, The Literature of Northern Ireland: Spectral Borderlands appeared from Palgrave in 2015. In 2019, a second book-length study titled Silence and Articulacy in the Poetry of Medbh McGuckian was brought out by Rowman & Littlefield. In late 2020, Routledge, Inc. will bring out Maureen’s co-edited collection, in which she has two chapters, The Economics of Empire: Genealogies of Capital and the Colonial Encounter. Recent articles include "A Consciousness of Streets: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Partition" (Synthesis, 2016) and "Drawing the Border, Queering the Nation: Nation Trouble in Breakfast on Pluto and The Crying Game" (Gender Forum, 2016). In 2021, Maureen will commence new research for a three-volume comparative study of modes of realism in the contemporary literatures of partition and for a second edited collection called Imperial Debt, Postcolonial Reparations. She lives in Brooklyn.

    "Fadem's surprising and singular book works closely with Morrison's Beloved to show the reader how the call for justice is made. That call does not arrive as a manifesto or a platform, but through a searing set of intertextual moments that make clear how hard and how necessary the appeal to truth is by those who struggle still with the reverberating history of enslavement. The novel makes the case for reparations through an emphatically literary means and form, developing a poetics worthy of racial justice. Drawing on prior genres of tragedy, Morrison is shown to develop a new lineage and a new vision, one in which the last vestiges of slavery vanish from the earth. This book shows us the power of literary form as it struggles with intertextual allies, the power of poetics to lay claim to a future of truer reparations." Judith Butler, UC Berkeley


    "This book represents a timely and cutting edge addition to the field of Morrison scholarship. Adopting a critical standpoint rarely employed in interpreting Beloved--a focus on the object versus the image, the conventional way of approaching Morrison’s texts--it offers a groundbreaking understanding of the 1987 novel as a postmodern tragedy. Looking at Beloved from an interdisciplinary and intersectional perspective, Fadem's analysis contributes to the political progressive struggle underway in the contemporary U.S. regarding social justice and reparations." Mar Gallego, University of Huelva