Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The American Jeremiad of the Disenfranchised (?)

Well, it's 2012 and i have a few things on my mind, mainly, American literature. I've recently been thinking about the American Jeremiad and how, I believe at least, it has been reinscribed by minority writers as a space of productive melancholia. So, what is the American Jeremiad? The Jeremiad is a sermon that accounts for the calamities of the present time as justifiable due to the sins of a community or a nation, but also imagines the possibilities of change. Jeremiad is named after the Biblical prophet, Jeremiah, who was also known as the weeping prophet. The jeremiad is often used as a rhetorical figure to perpetuate the American myth of progress. Yet, the jeremiad, which is inextricably linked to the ideology of American exceptionalism, is based on a paradox that constitutes America as a nation. That is, the paradox of community and the individual, oscillating between the two, but also constructing an exclusionary community based on the auspices of democracy. I will suggest that the American Jeremiad of the minority is characterized by failed mourning that maintains the possible return of the object of loss. The spectre, or the ghost, represents this American Jeremiad of the minority. Spectre, as Derrida defines it in Spectres of Marx, "is some "thing" that remains difficult to name." Toni Morrison's Beloved attempts to name the unnameable, which is paradoxically named Beloved, by either returning to or finding oneself faced with the irrevocable past. But, I would like to argue, that this space can be productive, a means by which to reinscribe spaces of oppression as sites of subversion and resistance. Beloved is about the traumas of African American slavery, and the healing power of "rememory" as the protagonist, Sethe calls it. However, this return, as Sethe discovers can be life-threatening as Beloved attempts to strangle her. Sethe who had attempted to kill her children, and successfully killed her youngest daughter, Beloved, in order to safe them from slavery is haunted by the return of her daughter. The return both seals and opens wounds. It returns without warning, yet can only be removed, in the novel at least, by a community. The imaginary reconstruction of the past is never total; it reveals gaps and fissures that remain unbridgeable.
The American Jeremiad of the minority, perhaps minority isn't the proper term to use, maybe disenfranchised in more encompassing, evokes another type of lamentation that threatens our present, but asks of us to give it voice, even if it remains at times inaudible.


  1. I honestly don't know anything about it.So,it is very informative for me.

  2. I prefer Fiction. I did enough Literature in O'levels :P

  3. Thanks for the sweet comment Izdiher! Most poeple may not know anything about it either, unless they're in American studies.

    Ovais, fiction is literature! :P Do you mean you prefer if i were to write fiction to non-fiction?
    I also prefer fiction! (: