Original Research

Identity, difference and healing: Reading Beloved within the context of John Caputo’s theory of hermeneutics

B. du Plooy, P. Ryan
Literator | Vol 26, No 1 | a217 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v26i1.217 | © 2005 B. du Plooy, P. Ryan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 July 2005 | Published: 31 July 2005

About the author(s)

B. du Plooy, Department of English, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
P. Ryan, Department of English, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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John Caputo’s interest in the human struggle towards healing/wholing is obvious in his contribution on the work of Foucault: “On not knowing who we are: Madness, hermeneutics, and the night of truth in Foucault” (Caputo, 1993:233-262). While basing his reading of madness as a form of human suffering on the work of Foucault, Caputo moves beyond Foucaultian theory – “in a direction that, while it was not taken by Foucault, is perhaps suggested by him” (Caputo, 1993:234) – by envisioning a hermeneutics of response and redress and a therapeutics of “healing gestures” (Caputo, 1993:234). In this article we investigate the applicability of Caputo’s theory of progressive Foucaultian hermeneutics to Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”, a work of historical fiction. (Morrison is an African-American author and Nobel laureate.) We do this investigation by reading the novel’s three major characters (Sethe, Beloved and Denver) as symbolic representations of Caputo’s three kinds of hermeneutics, of which the third, represented by the character Denver, is constitutive of a therapeutics of healing.


Beloved By Toni Morrison 1988; John Caputo; Theory Of Progressive Hermeneutics; Foucaultian Hermeneutics; Toni Morrison; Therapeutics Of Healing Wholing


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