By Marni Gauthier
This ebook indicates how a political and cultural dynamic of amnesia and fact telling shapes literary structures of historical past. Gauthier makes a speciality of the works of Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Michelle Cliff, Bharati Mukherjee, and Julie Otsuka.
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Additional resources for Amnesia and Redress in Contemporary American Fiction: Counterhistory
Amnesia and Redress both arises from and writes against a postmodernism whose “ultimate aim,” according to Himmelfarb, “is to liberate us all from coercive ideas of reality and truth” (161). This she attributes directly to the work of Foucault, who, along with White and Derrida, forms the trio of primary culprits who have “postmodernized” history (160). Perhaps because Foucault insists on the relationship of truth to power, which is at the heart of the double-edged crisis of historical ideology and methodology, critics have misappropriated him in this way.
My analysis of a heterogeneity of localities that express a national hybrid culture bears on the politics of canon formation in the last decades, which has resulted in the reversal of the positions of margin and center within the academy. The segregation of American literary studies crystallizes this view: our students enroll either in courses in the white male canon (such as “American INTRODUCTION 25 Masterpieces”) or in ethnic literature courses; departments of English, ethnic studies, and women’s studies are autonomous, though all three study literary, historical, and cultural texts that often overlap.
Referring to Beloved to illustrate particularism, Sommer points out that “Toni Morrison holds back readers who demand to know a story but will not witness it” (9). Likewise, the historical fiction to which I turn my attention invites readers to perceive rather than to merely consume the story. By digging, as Sommer puts it, “a trench between telling and what is told” (163), these novels demand the reader’s imaginative stepping into the narrative and thereby—through unique readerly experiences of the past—transmute obscure histories into memories.