Historical Distance and Textual Intimacy: How Newness Enters Toni Morrison's A Mercy

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ToniMorrison’sA Mercy (2008) encourages a meditation onliterature’sinteractionwithhistory.Focusingonthewayinwhich“noveltime”operateshere to challenge the serial, diachronic conception of history, I seek in AMercy a space to negotiate the historical distance between periods, events, andpeoples. The shifting tenses of narrating voices introduced by the novel, alongwith the linkages that memories create between times, prompt thespreading-out of seventeenth-century American history into a textual networkof elastic ligaments and a kind of dialogism. Moreover, challenging the logicof ethnic division and racial segregation, A Mercy elucidates the proximity ofdifferent races in early American history. It enacts cross-color intimacy as anew way of conceiving the origins of American culture. Morrison’swritingabout history in A Mercy is not simply a return to the past or a retrieval of therepressed. By evoking a lost age and digging out from what has disappearedlogics and ideas that resist existent historical lines and racial categorizations,the novel fosters in its textual present an intermediary agency for negotiatingthe structure of history, thereby ushering in new historical epistemes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-155
Number of pages21
JournalConcentric: Literary and Cultural Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011 Sept

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