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The Timeless Toni Morrison

The Past and The Present in Toni Morrison’s Fiction. A Tribute to Toni Morrison on Occasion of Her 85th Birthday


Edited By Agnieszka Łobodziec and Blossom N. Fondo

The book presents a cultural study of Toni Morrison’s fiction, focused on her representations of the past and present, along with the relationship between the two. The authors analyze Morrison’s texts not solely as aesthetic, autonomous objects but as manifestations of a cultural and creative practice closely related to actuality. They examine various incorporations of history in Morrison’s writings. The contributions search out thematic continuities as well as discernable ruptures in the texts while noting futuristic tendencies in Morrison's novels and the texts’ envisagement of the human race.

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Biting Iron, Forever Smiling: the Iron-Bit, the Wounded Mouth, and Un-Silencingin Toni Morrison’s Beloved (Irina Popescu)


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Irina Popescu UC Berkeley

Biting Iron, Forever Smiling: the Iron-Bit, the Wounded Mouth, and Un-Silencing in Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Abstract: In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, the iron bit, an instrument usually made of metal and placed inside the mouth of a horse in order to help a rider control and direct his animal, was also placed in the mouths of plantation slaves. Serving to prevent all communication between slaves, while ensuring their productivity and limiting their potential for resistance, the bit imposed silence. As both Sethe and Paul D remind us, this instrument of torture left the tongue numb and the mouth forever smiling, an ironic reconstruction of the wounded slave body, creating a face of content amidst the most depraved conditions. This paper will address the bit as a physical torture device both silencing and restructuring the mouth into a smile and as a figurative, metaphorical device employed inside the novel to explore how the process of telling and the instrument of telling (the mouth) gain the power to un-silence the past. This paper will be divided into the three parts, each exploring how the iron bit, as an object circulating throughout the novel, both reveals a history of violence and helps the characters bear witness to their own traumas. The first part examines Paul D and Sethe’s descriptions of the iron bit, focusing specifically on descriptions of the wounded mouth, in order to understand the bit as a physical torture mechanism...

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