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Spaces of Expression and Repression in Post-Millennial North-American Literature and Visual Culture

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Edited By Izabella Kimak and Julia Nikiel

The essays included in this book offer an overview of literary works, films, TV series, and computer games, which reflect current social and political developments since the beginning of this century. The contributions intend to x-ray the most crucial aspects of contemporary North-American literature and culture. Addressing a variety of media, the authors of the essays probe the many ways in which repression and expression are the primary keywords for understanding contemporary American life and culture.

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Affect and Memory in Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child (Patrycja Antoszek)

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Patrycja Antoszek

Affect and Memory in Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child

Abstract: The article discusses the problem of repressed affect in Toni Morrison’s novel God Help the Child. Drawing on the psychoanalytical theory of affect, the article comments on the ways in which Morrison’s novel deals with the problems of individual traumas and the oppressive power of memory.

Keywords: affect, memory, trauma

After nearly five decades of her literary activity, critics and readers of Toni Morrison’s fiction have become accustomed to the moral ambiguity and complexity of her prose. In his 1991 essay, Anthony C. Hilfer advised critics to avoid simplified or “moralistic” interpretations and warned them against “unified critical analysis” of Morrison’s novels (qtd. in Otten 651). As Terry Otten observed later, “Morrison works the gray areas, avoiding the comfortable absolutism and resolution that can satisfy or reassure most readers. There is an underlying strain of cruelty and violence that can erupt in her most sympathetic and victimized characters and compel them to inflict frightful destruction on seemingly innocent people” (651). A common practice in Morrison’s novels is to give voice to marginal subjects, previously excluded from the dominant discourse, to challenge accepted norms of conduct and proper behavior, and to allow for the articulation of uncomfortable truths and alternative desires. In God Help the Child, published in 2015, Morrison in her characteristic, uncompromising way confronts her readers with the darkest aspects of human experience. As in her other novels,...

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