Introduction:
Raisingthe Dead
Anything dead coming back to life hurts.
—Amy Denver, in Beloved
In thelate fallof 1987 Toni Morrison published Beloved. Itis astory not
aboutslavery,Morrisonasserts,butaboutaninfanticidethatrefusesto
remain in the past and imbues the present with a haunting so pro-
found that memory is jolted from its moorings in forgetfulness. Much
of the critical response to the novel involved the representation of Be-
loved,her risingfrom thedead andthe plausibilityof sucha resurrec-
tion.1 Reviewers and critics were enthralled by Morrison’s ‘‘ghost
story’’butalsoweresometimesskepticalofherreversalofatrenchant
Western paradigm: that those who die do not come back, that the line
between ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘them’’ is finite and, therefore, never porous.2 As
Marilyn Atlas’s review of the novel’s critics found, ‘‘Beloved simply
makes some reviewers extremely uncomfortable, forcing confronta-
tionsnotusuallyrequiredbyliterature.Thesecriticsdonotwanttore-
flect upon these particular human issues and they are unable to see
how exploring these new details from new perspectives permanently
expands the tradition of American literature, and allows valuable
characters into the world, ones they can see no value in examining.’’3
Moreover, critics claimed that Morrison’s Beloved was an amazing de-
parture for American literature.4 What seemed like a departure for
most,however,wasactuallyaphenomenondeeplyrootedinthenovel
of the Americas. Following an American tradition stemming from
Alejo Carpentier’s and Arturo Uslar Pietri’s intellectual work in the
late 1940s expounding on what has now erroneously been coined
‘‘magical realism,’’ Morrison uses the ‘‘fantastic’’ to comment on the
experienceof‘‘being’’marginaltothehistoricalrecordofaculturethat
refuses to recognize difference as its own creation.5
WhydidMorrison’sBelovedseemsodifferentfromHawthorne’sor
Poe’s ghosts? Although Beloved appeared to follow a familiar trajec-
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