"Embodied Haunting: Aesthetics and the Archive in Toni Morrison's Beloved" in Madness in Black Women's Fictions: Aesthetics of Resistance and the Practice of Diaspora, ed. Caroline Brown and Johanna Garvey. Palgrave Macmillan. 2017.
Derrida’s concept of archive fever presumes that to know history is to burn up in the feverish pursuit of past. The archive, thus, testifies at once to the violence of forgetting and the desire to know—a desire which is aligned as much with the past as it is with the future. Taking Derrida’s concept as a lens through which to examine the archive’s disavowal of black female subjectivity, this essay argues that Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved (1987) presents a history of slavery in which the erasure of enslaved mothering within the archive is reimagined as a transformative space to reclaim subjectivity within literature. In Beloved, Morrison enters the archive’s troubled space of deferred longing through a recuperation of the historical figure ofMargaret Garner—an escaped slave who killed her daughter to prevent her daughter’s re-enslavement. Through the novel’s depiction of the troubled mother/daughter relationship of Sethe and Beloved—the creative reenactment of Garner and her daughter—Morrison transforms the archive’s erasure of Garner’s story into a literary testimony to trauma. The novel enigmatically records the violence of corporeal dispossession through the dis/embodied ghost of Beloved, who returns from the dead as a shapeshifting corporeal form. Beloved’s uncanny appearing/disappearing acts mimic and subvert the archive’s competing drives to erase and record. In the vein of magical realism, Morrison’s aesthetic portrayal of a dis/embodied ghost demonstrates the maddening attempt to know history in spite of the archive’s fraught absences.
"The Professor Was Not Always Right": H.D., Freud, and a New Theory of Trauma, Modernism/modernity. (in preparation)
This article takes as a premise that Freud’s time spent with H.D.—primarily in analysis during 1933 and 1934—was a shaping influence in his rearticulation of trauma theory in Moses and Monotheism, which he was concurrently writing. In this article, I examine letters, biographies, memoirs, and archival material from the Freud Museum of London alongside Moses and H.D.’s Trilogy to offer original research on the poet’s influence on Freud. In Moses, Freud reinvents an ancient story of Jewish exile as one of creativity and departure—a story which is enigmatically echoed in Freud’s own present moment through his forced departure from Vienna. In this double move to tell both Moses’s story and to testify to his own, Freud poses broader speculations about the ability of psychoanalysis to heal historical wounds. His move to place creativity and storytelling at the center of survival is a cue from H.D. In turn, this article uncovers a historical account that provides new insight into contemporary trauma theory’s most pressing questions about the role narrative plays in the survival of trauma.