Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Open Access)
Colby College. English Dept.
Héctor Nicolás Ramos Flores
In an introductory chapter, I synthesize a genealogy of African Diasporic thinkers that challenge traditionally conceptualized bounds of realism and modernism both aesthetically and intellectually. In the chapters that follow, I look closely at Morrison’s Beloved and Butler’s Kindred, as well as the scholarly discussions surrounding the elements in these novels that stretch the bounds of conventionally defined realism. In both novels the linearity of time and concreteness of space is challenged: in Beloved, the ghost of Sethe’s child continues to haunt her family after her death and then physically manifests as Beloved, crossing a mysterious bridge between worlds, in order to arrive. This bridge has been interpreted as connecting the realms of life and death, but also as representative of the Middle Passages, hence challenging of spatial boundaries as well as time boundaries. In Kindred, a connection to her white enslaver ancestor transports Dana back to the nineteenth century and across the country. I maintain that the way these novels stretch the bounds of realism do not confine them to a particular speculative genre, but rather highlight some of the silenced and injurious realities that Black Americans have faced and continue to endure, as well as the strategies of resilience and healing that Black folks have developed in response. In this sense, the two novels share modalities and strategies, but the aspects of Black American life and the time of slavery that they confront and explore differ. In Beloved, I argue that the ways that institutional enslavement seizes people’s self-ownership, especially within a capitalist political economy that values and protects property ownership, especially white male property at the expense of Black lives, results, for many of the characters, in a perpetual struggle for possession over the self, others, materials, and ideas, that is both reclamatory and harmful. In Kindred, I argue that because different conceptions of reality coexist in the same moment, the inability of these perspectives to be understood or even seen by each other arises as an oppressive phenomenon in the context of vast power imbalances, calling for Dana and other characters to engage in a type of translation of their experiences in order to survive enslavement and oppression, and also to be believed and supported.
Neo slave narratives, The time of slavery, Beloved, Kindred, African Diaspora, Realism
Recommended CitationFawell, Stephanie, "Beyond Realism: Reading the Ongoing Wounds of Enslavement in Beloved and Kindred" (2021). Honors Theses. Paper 1303.