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Lecture 08 - Memory and Desire

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Eighth lecture for my students in English 140, UC Santa Barbara, Summer 2012. Course website: http://patrickbrianmooney.nfshost.com/~patrick/ta/su12/index.html

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Lecture 08 - Memory and Desire

  1. 1. Lecture 8: Memory and Desire English 140 UC Santa Barbara Summer 2012 16 August 2012 Thomas Satterwhite Noble, Margaret Garner: A Modern Medea (1867)
  2. 2. Notes on Identity“Of that place where she [Sethe] was born (Carolinamaybe? or was it Louisiana?) she remembered onlysong and dance. Not even her own mother.” (37; ch.3)“She and Baby Suggs had agreed without saying sothat it [the past] was unspeakable; to Denver’sinquiries Sethe gave short replies or ramblingincomplete reveries.” (69; ch. 6)“words whispered in the keeping room had kept hergoing. Helped her endure the chastising ghost;refurbished the baby faces of Howard and Buglarand kept them whole in the world because in herdreams she saw only their parts in trees.” (101; ch. 9)
  3. 3. “Beloved, inserting a thumb in her mouth alongwith the forefinger, pulled out a back tooth. Therewas hardly any blood, but Denver said, ‘Ooooh,didn’t that hurt you?’ “Beloved looked at the tooth and thought, This isit. Next it would be her arm, her hand, a toe.Pieces of her would drop maybe one at a time,maybe all at once. Or on one of those morningsbefore Denver woke and after Sethe left she wouldfly apart. It is difficult keeping her head on herneck, her legs attached to her hips when she is byherself. Among the things she could not rememberwas when she first knew that she could wake upany day and find herself in pieces.” (159; ch. 14)
  4. 4. [Denver:] “What did you come back for?” Beloved smiled. “To see her face.” (88; ch. 8)“‘But this ain’t her mouth,’ Paul D said. ‘This ain’t itat all.” (184; ch. 17)“Now she [Denver] is crying because she has noself. Death is a skipped meal compared to this.She can feel her thickness thinning, dissolvinginto nothing. She grabs the hair at her temples toget enough to uproot it and halt the melting for awhile. Teeth clamped shut, Denver brakes hersobs. She doesn’t move to open the doorbecause there is no world out there.” (145; ch. 12)
  5. 5. Naming and NomenclatureBeloved, to Paul D: “And you have to call memy name.” (137; ch. 11)“Is that where the manhood lay? In the namingdone by a whiteman who was supposed toknow?” (146; ch. 12)“Clever, but schoolteacher beat him [Sixo]anyway to show him that definitions belongedto the definers – not the defined.” (225; ch. 19)
  6. 6. Slavery“Everything rested on Garner being alive. Without hislife each of theirs fell to pieces. Now ain’t that slaveryor what is it?” (259; ch. 24)“anybody white could take your whole self for anythingthat came to mind. Not just work, kill, or maim you, butdirty you. Dirty you so bad you couldn’t like yourselfanymore. Dirty you so bad you forgot who you wereand couldn’t think it up. And though she [Sethe] andothers lived through and got over it, she could neverlet it happen to her own.” (295-6; ch. 26)“But suddenly she [Baby Suggs] saw her hands andthought with a clarity as simple as it was dazzling,‘These hands belong to me. These my hands.” (166; ch.15)
  7. 7. Freedom“After Delaware and before that Alfred, Georgia,where he [Paul D.] slept underground and crawledinto sunlight for the sole purpose of breaking rock,walking off when he got ready was the only way hecould convince himself that he would no longerhave to sleep, pee, eat or swing a sledge hammerin chains.” (49; ch. 3)“A woman, a child, a brother – a big love like thatwould split you wide open in Alfred, Georgia. Heknew exactly what she meant: to get to a placewhere you could love anything you chose – not toneed permission for desire – well now, that wasfreedom.” (191; ch. 18)
  8. 8. “Sethe had had twenty-eight days — the travelof one whole moon — of unslaved life. […] Daysof healing, ease and real-talk. Days of company:knowing the names of forty, fifty other Negroes,their views, habits; where they had been andwhat done; of feeling their fun and sorrow alongwith her own, which made it better. One taughther the alphabet; another a stitch. All taught herhow it felt to wake up at dawn and decide whatto do with the day.” (111; ch. 9)
  9. 9. Love and desireDesire itself is movementNot in itself desirable;Love is itself unmoving,Only the cause and end of movement,Timeless, and undesiringExcept in the aspect of timeCaught in the form of limitationBetween un-being and being.................................................Quick now, here now, always–Ridiculous the waste sad timeStretching before and after. – T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,” p. 122 (lines 161-8, 173-5)
  10. 10. Absence“They [Sethe and Paul D] were a twosome,saying ‘Your daddy’ and ‘Sweet Home’ in a waythat made it clear both belonged to them andnot to her. That her own father’s absence wasnot hers. Once the absence had belonged toGrandma Baby – a son, deeply mournedbecause he was the one who had bought herout of there. Then it was her mother’s absenthusband. Now it was this hazelnut stranger’sabsent friend. Only those who knew him (‘knewhim well’) could claim his absence forthemselves.” (15; ch. 1)
  11. 11. “Rememory” “I was talking about time. It’s so hard for me tobelieve in it. Some things go. Pass on. Some thingsjust stay. I used to think it was my rememory. Youknow. Some things you forget. Other things younever do. But it’s not. Places, places are still there. Ifa house burns down, it’s gone, but the place – thepicture of it – stays, and not just in my rememory, butout there, in the world. What I remember is a picturefloating around out there outside my head. I mean,even if I don’t think it, even if I die, the picture ofwhat I did, or knew, or saw is still out there. Right inthe place where it happened.” “Can other people see it?” asked Denver.
  12. 12. “Oh, yes. Oh, yes, yes, yes. Someday you bewalking down the road and you hear something orsee something going on. So clear. And you think it’syou thinking it up. A thought picture. But no. It’swhen you bump into a rememory that belongs tosomebody else. Where I was before I came here,that place is real. It’s never going away. Even if thewhole farm — every tree and grass blade of it dies.The picture is still there and what’s more, if you gothere — you who never was there — if you go thereand stand in the place where it was, it will happenagain; it will be there for you, waiting for you. So,Denver, you can’t never go there. Never. Becauseeven though it’s all over — over and done with —it’s going to always be there waiting for you. That’show come I had to get all my children out. No matterwhat.” (43-44; ch. 3)
  13. 13. She [Baby Suggs] did not tell them to cleanup their lives or to go and sin no more. She didnot tell them they were the blessed of the earth,its inheriting meek or its glorybound pure. She told them that the only grace they couldhave was the grace they could imagine. That ifthey could not see it, they would not have it.(103; ch. 9)
  14. 14. Media creditsThomas Satterwhite Noble’s Margaret Garner:A Modern Medea is out of copyright because it thwas completed in the 19 century. Source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_Satterwhite_Noble_Margaret_Garner.jpg

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