Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Corpus Linguistic Analysis of Postcolonial Trauma Narrative

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Nazibrola Beridze-Gabaidze


The attempt to identify a distinct trauma novel has been a recent literary critical task. For such a recent literature, there is already an emergent canon of writers and works, and even an implicit aesthetic for the trauma novel. This cluster of trauma fictions opens with Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987).

Whitehead (2004) argues, that the narrative of trauma literature departs from the conventional linear sequence. Eaglestone’s (2004) formulation of the features of the genre suggests it is marked by interruptions, temporal disorder, refusal of easy readerly identification, disarming play with narrative framing, disjunct movements in style, tense, focalization or discourse, and a resistance to closure that is demonstrated in compulsive telling and retelling.

Beloved, a novel about the murderous legacies of slavery in America, elevated Toni Morrison to major cultural pre-eminence: the book won the Pulitzer Prize and in 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The novel was intended to give some inner consciousness and humanity to the historical record of atrocities inflicted against African and African–American people as a consequence of institutional slavery. The book helped establish some of the basic narrative and tropological conventions of trauma fiction. It was soon regarded as a formative text in literary trauma studies, which has produced a torrent of academic commentary.

Morrison tries to throw the reader into the midst of ‘compelling confusion’ at the opening of each chapter, a discordance that only slowly works to provide the places and spaces. The dynamics of the narrative of the original text are characterized by the variability of emotions and confusing interchangeability of the past and the present, which requires observation from the reader.

The protagonist of the novel, Sethe, provides an interesting parallel to the mythical Medea, as both characters resort to murder in search of a solution. A parallel can also be drawn to Otar Chladze's novel "Avelum" – within the context of the impact of pain and historical trauma of the past.

This study presents a parallel corpus linguistic analysis of the original and the translation of Morrison’s Beloved. The aim of this research is to ask: Does E. Machutadze’s (2020) Georgian translation manage to keep the original text structure so that the aesthetic of the trauma novel is not lost? The findings suggest that the purpose of the ambivalent structuring of the original is lost in the translation. The translator tries to help Georgian reader to comprehend the text utilizing grammatical transformations. The Georgian translation loses the sociolinguistic markers of speech. Tony Morrison's dialectical language, African-American speak and sociolect is not to be found in the Georgian translation. Translation theorists refer to this translation strategy as "domestication" (L. Venuti, domestication).

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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Colonial, Postcolonial, Decolonial and Neocolonial Experiences