Added: October 25, 2008 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Pamela E. Barnett

Title: Figurations of Rape and the Supernatural in Beloved

Subtitle: -

Journal: PMLA

Volume: 112

Issue: 3

Year: May 1997

Pages: 418-427

ISSN: 0030-8129 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | U.S. History | Representations Literature / Toni Morrison


Link: JSTOR (Restricted Access)


Author: Pamela E. Barnett, College of Arts & Sciences, Trinity Washington University

Abstract: »The title character in Toni Morrison's Beloved embodies the history and memory of rape. In fact, her supernatural form is the shape-shifting witch, derived by African Americans from the succubus, a female rapist and nightmare figure of European myth. Beloved functions like a traumatic, repetitive nightmare: in addition to representing characters' repressed memories of rape, she attacks Sethe and Paul D. Morrison also uses the succubus figure to represent the effects of institutionalized rape during slavery. Beloved drains Sethe of vitality and Paul D of semen, and these violations represent dehumanization and commodified reproduction. Finally, by portraying a female rapist figure and a male rape victim, Morrison foregrounds race, rather than gender, as the crucial category determining the domination or rape of her African American characters.« (Source: PMLA)


  History and Collective Memory: "The Serious Work of Beating Back the Past" (p. 419)
  "Like a Bad Dream": Beloved and Supernatural Assault (p. 421)
  "Mossy Teeth, an Appetite": Sexual Violence, Sucking, and Sustenance (p. 422)
  "The Last of the Sweet Home Men": Manhood and Naming (p. 423)
  Reinventing the Discourse of Gender and Rape (p. 425)
  Notes (p. 425)
  Works Cited (p. 426)

Reprint: Barnett, Pamela E. »Figurations of Rape and the Supernatural in BelovedToni Morrison's Beloved. Edited by Harold Bloom. Philadelphia 1998.

Wikipedia: Toni Morrison: Beloved (novel)