the place of the aesthetic in feminist literary history
The repeated line in the concluding chapter of Toni Morrison's Beloved, "It was not a story to pass on" is, we know, purposely ambiguous.1 Its meaning is all the more elusive because written language lacks the powers of emphasis and gesture we use in oral communication. The stories of slave oppression and emancipation that echo in this novel have been passed orally from mouth to ear within communities, some turned into written accounts and others never so, perhaps because they are too dreadful or too incendiary or, equally possibly, because they never arrive at a person or site with access to forms of writing and print. This terrible story of maternal passion, of troubled hauntings and the effect of bodily dispossessions on the human psyche is not a story to pass on to others? Or, not a story to pass by, to ignore?
Ballaster, R. (2016)., Passing judgement: the place of the aesthetic in feminist literary history, in J. Batchelor & G. Dow (eds.), Women's writing, 1660-1830, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 21-42.
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