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Extravagant AbjectionBlackness, Power, and Sexuality in the African American Literary Imagination$
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Darieck Scott

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780814740941

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814740941.001.0001

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Slavery, Rape, and the Black Male Abject

Slavery, Rape, and the Black Male Abject

(p.126) 3 Slavery, Rape, and the Black Male Abject
Extravagant Abjection

Darieck Scott

NYU Press

This chapter concludes the set of readings in line with the attempt to derive a theoretics of the relation between blackness and abjection, and provide the bridge into considerations of male rape thematics as a specific representation of that relation. In Toni Morrison's Beloved (1987), a secondary character known as Paul D has to confront the active, living past in the person of the corporeal ghost Beloved. His sexual relationship with the ghost and the consequences of this liaison for his relationship with Sethe hinge on his working through the mostly repressed memory of his sexual violation while laboring on a chain gang. Foregrounding Paul D's traumatized remembering of the experience of “breakfast” (forced fellatio) on the chain gang, the chapter explores alternate possibilities for the figure of black manhood that eventuate from the scene and its highly elliptical rendering. The scene troubles the dominant trope of black masculinity, “emasculation” (the parallel to “rape of black women”) by attributing emasculation to the rape of men by other men. Its mode of rendering figures at once the sexual exploitation of men and silence about it—a silence enforced by the anger and disbelief that black audiences manifest toward this scene and that suggests that the horror the scene seems to provoke also signals a repressed memory of homoerotic domination. Paul D's road to healing, then, in embracing abjection in his quest to define “manhood,” opens other, less-defended modes of being male in the world.

Keywords:   male rape, black men, Beloved, Toni Morrison, black manhood, masculinity, emasculation, sexual exploitation, abjection

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