The Transgenerational Ghost of Slavery Haunting America: Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing
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This thesis explores the literary representation of transgenerational trauma in novels written by African-American authors. Trauma has often been represented in literature through the use of ghost stories. Since Toni Morrison’s award-winning novel Beloved (1987), many other authors have used the ghost as a vehicle to represent enduring (transgenerational) trauma in American society. In Beloved, the title character rises from the dead, representing the country’s past coming back to haunt it. More recently, Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) similarly deals with the collective trauma America suffered during – and after – slavery using ghosts to embody said trauma. This study aims to show different ways in which the figure of the ghost is used as a literary device to represent the trauma and disremembering that is woven into life and art in the United States. To do so, the study will engage with work in the academic field of trauma theory. Caruth, Schwab, and Craps, among others, argue that trauma can be unconsciously transferred to the next generation. Morrison and Ward illustrate this literary representation of transgenerational trauma in their novels with ghosts.