A Web Case Book on
Toni Morrison

slave princess
Title Page || Critical Approaches || Essays || Historical Context || Toni Morrison || Case Book Teams

Selected Bibliography:

Bibliography of Criticism
on Beloved

(pdf version available)

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Quick Links to Introduction for Each Perspective:





New Criticism & Deconstruction

Essays on Beloved by Toni Morrison

Morrison, Toni. Beloved. 1987.

Psychological Approach Essays

"Two Decades of Terrible Twos: A Psychoanalytical Analysis of Beloved" by Aubrie Cox

Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a slave narrative of a feat not uncommon to the times: a mother killing her own child to keep her from the horrors of enslavement. In Beloved, however, the child returns. First, she, only known as “Beloved,” is a ghost haunting the house where her mother and sister live. Read the full essay . . .

"Psychological Criticism of Toni Morrison’s Beloved" by Shelby Larrick

When reading Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, it is easy to see how readers would question the actions of her characters. Some characters display behavior that would seem barbaric and cruel to the average individual. However, when delving deeper, it is easier to see how the severities of the characters’ actions are built on the psychological repression of their pasts. These pasts are filled with the traumas of slavery, and each character has suffered in his, or her, own way. However, the collective suffering can all be traced back to one character’s actions. Morrison’s main character, Sethe, has caused a great deal of pain to herself and to those around her. . . . All of Morrison’s characters have difficulty recovering from their pasts, and their relationships with Sethe do nothing to help them find their peace of mind. By looking at each character’s connection to Sethe, we as readers gain an understanding of their actions, and Sethe’s influence on such actions.
Read the full essay . . .

Reader-Response Approaches

"A Response to Beloved" by Giuliana Selvaggio

Reader’s response is a reaction to literature, when reading literature like Beloved that is intricate and deep the reaction is similar. Latent themes and levels of ambiguity are techniques that the author uses to conjure up emotion and correlation that relate to our own personal experiences. With every new perspective and with every reading of ambiguous literature, we allow ourselves to grow and draw deep conclusions. Read the full essay . . .

"Nommo Barriers: Finding Bonds in the Chaos" by Gordon Gilmore

I am doing a reader response critique of the novel, yet I find that some analysis of the manner in which it is written is needed for me to show why I reacted to it in the way that I did.  Some people found problems with the method in which New Criticism handled books and other works of fiction.  They, first of all, found that the style of critique was too formulaic to really work with, and second of all, found that the style some things were written in did not really conform to the way in which New Criticism was looking to analyze them. These things seem especially apparent in texts such as Beloved. Read the full essay . . .

Historical Approach Essays

"Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Institutionalized Trauma, Selfhood, and Familial and Communal Structure" by Klay Baynar

Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved is, in fact, a historical novel.  It is based on a documented event involving fugitive slave, Margaret Garner, who was arrested for killing one of her children rather than returning her daughter to the dismal life of a slave.  Readers might ask themselves why an African American woman would choose to focus her writing on a devastating act of violence within an African American family as opposed to focusing on the white aggression that ran rampant throughout the time period of the novel.  However, by focusing Beloved on the infanticide committed by a newly freed black mother, Morrison is able to communicate a strong message, the importance of which spans from the Reconstruction era in the antebellum South to racially charged issues in modern America. Read the full essay . . . 

Feminist Approach Essays

"When a Man Becomes a Woman (And Vice Versa)" by Kerry Dueker

The novel Beloved seems to dwell on conventional definitions of what it means to be a man and a woman through both of the aforementioned characters. Due to the fact that they consistently violate their own viewpoints, this phenomenon becomes worthy of study. Thus, it is necessary to examine these characters through their own lenses of masculinity and femininity/maternity, how they fall short of their own standards, and why they deviate from their own views so often within the text.  Read the full essay . . .

New Criticsm & Deconstruction Approach Essays

"Binaries in Beloved" by Patrick Steadman

This essay examines the binaries present in Beloved to demostrate how they create a more complex novel. It analyzes the binary aspects of Beloved in terms of character and theme. Such binaries include: Beloved Paul D, Beloved and Sethe, Beloved and Denver, Beloved and Beloved, female and male, and positive and negative portrayals of the past. Read the full essay . . .

"'Rememory' through Repetition and Revision—Storytelling and Jazz Techniques as Narrative in Toni Morrison’s Beloved" by Allison Lingren

Sethe and Denver are burdened with histories and ‘rememories’ that keep them chained to the past. Both women relive these memories frequently, though Sethe would like to forget her past and Denver clings to the few stories of her early life that she’s been given. However, neither woman can find a way to revisit these memories and then be at peace with them. This struggle is magnified by the verb tense used throughout the majority of the novel—unable to escape their haunting pasts, the prose of their present is also written in past tense. Read the full essay . . .

Who is Beloved? by Joel Booster

Who was Beloved? Was she the allegorical bride of vengeful love to her mother, or was she the reflection of past pain and hardship to a community of former slaves? These questions are both answered and not answered numerous times throughout the text. It seems as though Morrison, through her quest to explore the lives and experiences of the freed slave, mis-stepped in her narrative, leaving the reader without a clear picture of who or what Beloved is supposed to be. The ambiguity of such a question is neither addressed, nor accepted by Morrison in her book. Because of the disjointed amount of narrative and first person descriptions of Beloved and her effects on the family and community to which she set upon, Morrison does not allow for any clear answers to be built up, because she herself tears them down. Read the full essay . . .


Title Page || Critical Approaches || Essays || Historical Context || Toni Morrison || Case Book Teams

© 2007 English Department, Millikin University