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Sacraments of MemoryCatholicism and Slavery in Contemporary African American Literature$
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Erin Michael Salius

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780813056890

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813056890.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 22 September 2021

Toni Morrison’s Sacramental Rememory

Toni Morrison’s Sacramental Rememory

Chapter:
(p.13) 1 Toni Morrison’s Sacramental Rememory
Source:
Sacraments of Memory
Author(s):

Erin Michael Salius

Publisher:
University Press of Florida
DOI:10.5744/florida/9780813056890.003.0002

Chapter 1 considers two novels by Toni Morrison which are widely celebrated for undermining Enlightenment rationalism: Beloved and A Mercy. As critics often note, Morrison’s concept of rememory—an antirealist trope, premised on the supernatural irruption of the past in the present—achieves this by imagining an alternative history of slavery. Yet a complete picture of these novels requires an account of the way that Morrison structures rememory—quite remarkably and with palpable historical reservations—as a Catholic sacrament. The chapter therefore addresses a significant gap in scholarship on Morrison (who identifies as Catholic), but never does it imply that her religious vision is uncritical or pure. Rather, it suggests that the sacramental aspects of rememory are in constant tension with the sharp critique of Catholicism evident in both novels. That critique builds upon the sociological study of slave religion that Orlando Patterson developed in Slavery and Social Death, particularly his pioneering claim that “the special version of Protestantism” which arose in the American South as slave religion was, in key respects, theologically “identical” to Catholicism.

Keywords:   Rememory, Toni Morrison, Beloved, A Mercy, Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death, Catholicism, Protestantism, Slave religion

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