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To Hope against Hope: Post-Civil Rights Children Running Lickety-Split in Toni Morrison's Tar Baby

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Authors
Yoon, Seongho
Issue Date
2008
Publisher
서울대학교 미국학연구소
Citation
미국학, Vol.31 No.2, pp. 265-291
Keywords
Toni MorrisonTar Babypost-Civil Rightspost-integrationperformativemasqueradepre-Reagan
Abstract
Given the trajectory of Toni Morrison's life-long interest in the Civil Rights movement and its persistent impact on her work, this article aims at reconsidering Morrison's Tar Baby (1981) by relocating it as a post-Civil Rights fiction. With a focus on the range of critical concerns it is most likely to demonstrate about the existing scholarship on the novel, this article tack1es the critical problems predicated upon the question of how and why I read the novel as a post-Civil Rights fiction and provides compelling entries into the issues which the act of relocating brings to light. While polarized over the issue of how to form a viable black identity around 1980, Son and Jadine, the two leads on the central stage of Tar Baby, stand in for post-Civil Rights children faced with a set of new challenges, possibilities, and choices that are not grasped any more under the rubric of male/female, separatist/integrationist, and communal/individual divides when the Civil Rights movement has visibly eroded, the movement strategy of protest as a means of advancement is giving way to a less confrontational quest for achievement, and there seems to be no longer any community unified by a euphoric sense of common mission. This post-integration and pre-Reagan era is staged for a masquerade in which each character is compelled to don and doff his or her masks alternately by learning to choose a performative identity over an alternative subjectivity as the reconfiguration of the tar baby folk tale well demonstrates. Hardly providing any vision that can lead to a clear mandate for a future, Tar Baby thus does not necessarily privilege the "post" by pointing to a movement beyond a specific paint as the prefix may signal. Rather, it narrativizes a past and a "post" of the movement in the manner of palimpsest that can both revitalize the present moment and call forth a future while the novel is consistently skeptical of the notion of a movement "beyond." Such a paradox-both desirous of a movement "beyond" and dismissive of it- is at the heart of the anxieties the post-Civil Rights children cannot choose but feel.
ISSN
1229-4381
Language
English
URI
http://hdl.handle.net/10371/88626
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Researcher Institutes (연구소)American Studies Institute (미국학연구소)미국학미국학 Volume 31 Number 1/2 (2008)
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